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The novel that changed your life.

John Simkin

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Many of the novels metioned so far I have not read properly, only skimmed or know the outline of the story. However the opening post from John Simkin instantly brought back John Steinbecks "Travels with Charlie" (autobiography) and the news coverage of the the harassment of the children going to school in Ireland.

How littlepeople change!

I did read all I could get hold of in my school library by Jack London, and remember very vividly a short story from his "Alaskan period" about an over the hill boxer.

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  • 3 years later...
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When I finished reading The War of The Worlds (H.G. Wells) at the age of 10, I asked my father to get me a few Jules Verne novels and he returned home with a set of six books. I read all of them in 3 weeks because my interest in the science - fiction was growing rapidly, which led me to 1984 (Orwell) through my English teacher.

In later years, I became more interested in the Romantic Literature, especially the Victorian fiction.

Edited by Cigdem Eksi
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I am an only child and until I married I had no other family except my parents so I was an avaricious reader. I don't know about "changing" my life but the books that had the most affect on me were in order of reading age: Little Women, Anya Seton's "Katherine" which turned me on to history, Lady Chatterly's Lover, Zola's Nana, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Clockwork Orange, 1984, Animal Farm, Wild Swans. Not sure what that makes me - a romantic socialist perhaps?

You mentioned Anya Seton. Her book, Green Darkness, was the best novel I ever read. It was total escapism. The occult, historical and romantic novel about a girl who falls in love with a monk -- I read its 800 pages 3 times, different years. Seton wrote it in mostly Old English. (I took a course in Old English in college.) I have never read Katherine but will in the future. You should see how backlogged my reading is. My house looks like a library.

I still have the first printing of Green Darkness, but the illustration on the front cover has been ripped off. I loved that drawing, but they later put the book out as a paperback and used an inferior cover. Someday, I'll buy the original with cover on the Internet.

There were other books that amazed me: Marilyn by Norman Mailer (a bad word around here). Currently, everyone is putting the book down. Mailer didn't do enough research on it. The Publisher asked Mailer for 10,000 words on Monroe, but he greatly exceeded that number. I loved the book and the first time I read it, I cried at the end.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was another book I couldn't put down. Nabokov spoke English as a second language. It was so well-written.

I loved Rosemary's Baby. Short and succinct. The movie followed it exactly (except for one scene.) Ira Levin told a simple story about a pregnant woman, living in the Dakota, hounded by witches and no one believes her.

I also loved Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion. Quite a writing style. I read it twice to fully understand it. And went on to read her Book of Common Prayer.

And the poet I loved the best: Sylvia Plath.

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The Warren Commission Report.

The rest in chronological order, followed by the approximate age at which I read them:

On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Ian Fleming (11)

Against the Fall of Night/Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke (15)

The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway (15)

The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald (15)

Ulysses, Joyce (17)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John Le Carre (22)

Legends of the Fall, Jim Harrison (31)

In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, James Lee Burke (45)

At least three more that escape me at this late hour.

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While my writing pholosophy has always been to write non-fiction because what happens to real people is more interesting than anything you could possibly make up, sometimes good fiction says something more important than what's real. So here's my top ten, or twelve novels, in no particular order. - BK

Candide by Voltaire.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn by Mark Twain

The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina

Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

A Confederacy of Dunes by John Kennedy Toole

The Carlos Contract by David Atlee Phillips

Notes from the Underground - Dostovesky

The Man Who Would Be King by Kipling

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The novel that changed my life was Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon.

I was 21, and I devoured its (allegedly difficult) 760 pages in a couple of days straight. It was infinitely more compelling than revising for Law finals.

At last count, I've read Gravity's Rainbow eight times forwards, and twice backwards. :rolleyes:

It was the right book at the right time for me, and ended any possiblity of a legal career since, although I got my degree, I knew the world was far more multi-layered than the blinkers of the law allowed...

I'd like James Richards to come up with a picture of Thomas Pynchon.

His book V takes place in London at the time of the V2 missile blitz.


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Thomas Pynchon wrote an amazing article about George Orwell's 1984. It appeared in the Guardian (3rd May, 2003). Unfortunately, the Guardian has removed it from its website. However, you will find it in the Penguin 2003 edition of the book.


The article includes the following passage:

There is a photograph, taken around 1946 in Islington, of Orwell with his adopted son, Richard Horatio Blair. The little boy, who would have been around two at the time, is beaming, with unguarded delight. Orwell is holding him gently with both hands, smiling too, pleased, but not smugly so - it is more complex than that, as if he has discovered something that might be worth even more than anger - his head tilted a bit, his eyes with a careful look that might remind filmgoers of a Robert Duvall character with a backstory in which he has seen more than one perhaps would have preferred to.

Winston Smith "believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945 . . ." Richard Blair was born May 14, 1944. It is not difficult to guess that Orwell, in 1984, was imagining a future for his son's generation, a world he was not so much wishing upon them as warning against. He was impatient with predictions of the inevitable, he remained confident in the ability of ordinary people to change anything, if they would. It is the boy's smile, in any case, that we return to, direct and radiant, proceeding out of an unhesitating faith that the world, at the end of the day, is good and that human decency, like parental love, can always be taken for granted - a faith so honourable that we can almost imagine Orwell, and perhaps even ourselves, for a moment anyway, swearing to do whatever must be done to keep it from ever being betrayed.


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  • 3 weeks later...

A few more :

Farewell Gulsari - Chingiz Aitmatov

The Last Day Of A Condemned Man - Victor Hugo

One Man's Destiny - Michail Sholokhov

The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

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  • 1 year later...

It's been a while since this thread has been tapped, but I'll put in my two cents regarding the subject matter.

My answer would be The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. Although I read the English translation from German it still seemed to retain the idiosyncratic style that Grass is famous for. The subject matter is ultimately what moved me of course and the way that he approached it.

A plot summary can be found at:


Others that had an impact were: Family Happiness by Tolstoy and Something Fresh P.G Wodehouse.


Edited by Otto B Cornejo
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