Native Son by Richard Wright (1945). Set in Chicago in the 1930s, this novel tells the story of Bigger Thomas, an African American twisted and trapped by penury and racism. Bigger is on his way out of poverty when he accidently murders his employer’s daughter, a white woman.
Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (1938). Thisis the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogues his every feeling and sensation.
New Grub Street by George Gissing (1891). One of the earliest examples of English naturalism, this grim chronicle of literary life in late-Victorian London bitterly portrays its author’s own struggles to live from his writing.
Nice Work by David Lodge (1988). Opposites attract in this third volume of Lodge’s campus trilogy that includes Changing Places (1975) and Small World (1984). A British government program aimed at bridging the gap between the academy and industry pairs a leftist feminist academic and a hard-driving businessman.
Night by Elie Wiesel (1958). In this harrowing memoir of the Holocaust, Wiesel describes his journey from a religious Jewish childhood in Hungary to the Nazi concentration camps. Subsisting on bread and soup, forced to watch prisoner executions, the fifteen-year-old narrator struggles to support his father, who eventually dies one night in the cot below his.
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (1984). Nineteenth-century London, St. Petersburg, and Siberia are the three rings of Carter’s surrealist circus starring Fevvers, a trapeze artist with wings.
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (1936). Following the painful end of an eight-year lesbian relationship, Barnes crafted this avant-garde novel that explores love, desire, and obsession in rich lyric prose.
Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger (1953). Salinger gave his story collection the title Nine Stories, and that simple, enumerative title is just right, for the stories can be counted off like beads on a string: “For Esme with Love and Squalor,” “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” and “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut,” whose last line, “I was a good girl, wasnI?” never fails to break the reader’s heart.
Ninety-two in the Shade by Thomas McGuane (1973). McGuane has always been fascinated by people who seek a truer life by living on the edge. Here he tells the story of a refugee from America’s consumer society who returns to Key West, where he lives in an old airplane fuselage and tries to realize his dream of becoming a skiff guide in the tropical waters.