Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
"This is Burgess’s masterpiece, big, bawdy, pungent, poignant, and true, a novel that takes on the 20th century’s excesses, neuroses, triumphs, and crimes with intelligence, compassion, irreverence, and, in the end, love. My paperback edition runs to 700 pages. I would happily have staggered, dazed and delighted, through 700 more."
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
"A woman spends a year by a creek in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, observing the natural world around her. Not a very racy premise. But Dillard’s giant intelligence and poetic imagination seduce from the first page, and what follows is a singular, compelling, and celebratory meditation on the Heraclitean fire."
Money by Martin Amis
"A searing, astute, tender, and appallingly hilarious audit, not just of its local time and space—the 1980s—but of the whole ludicrous human business. The voice is inimitable, the vision unique. This is the novel that forced a generation of writers into the hot-faced admission that whatever it was they’d been vaguely wanting to say, Amis had already said it. Better."
The Rabbit Novels by John Updike
"The apotheosis of American social and psychological realism. Updike’s great work is a scrupulously truthful hymn to the extraordinary phenomenon of ordinary life, full of love, sex, and sadness, written with casual omniscience and a promiscuous affection for the human animal. The sort of fiction God should read."
The Outsider by Albert Camus
"Bleak, incendiary, and painfully liberating. Officially this slim and lethal novel cleans out your intellectual attic, junking God, objective reality, and absolute moral values. Unofficially it means you can say cruel things to people for a year or so without feeling lousy about it."
Glen Duncan's book list