20 (or so) Novels That Have Impacted Our Lives and Imaginations

ON OUR WEEKLY WALK AND BOOK CHAT, Jill and I started listing novels that have had a long-lasting impact on us. As we built our personal canon, we were not necessarily reflecting on the same considerations that Karen Swallow Prior, author of ON READING WELL: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, explores in her essay “How reading Makes Us More Human,” in THE ATLANTIC. But we were close!

Here’s our list (and below that, if you’re a list-aholic—or just looking for more reading recommendations—you’ll find links to three more lists to help satisfy your reading itch).

Reading (and writing) inspiration

(Okay. There are more than 20 books on this list. Mostly, because while Jill and I agreed on many authors, we almost always chose a different book from their oeuvre. But also because there are just so many books … and we got excited.)

And now, in no particular order …

THE BURIED GIANT, NEVER LET ME GO, Kazuo Ishiguro

AS I LAY DYING, William Faulkner

THE GREAT GATSBY, F. Scott Fitzgerald

MARIANNE DREAMS, Catherine Storr

THE HEART IS A  LONELY HUNTER, Carson McCullers

WOLF HALL, Hilary Mantel

ATONEMENT, Ian McEwan

THE SECRET GARDEN, A LITTLE PRINCESS, Frances Hodgson Burnett

LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL, THOMAS WOLFE

THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, J. R. R. Tolkien

STRONG POISON, HAVE HIS CARCASEGAUDY NIGHT, BUSMAN’S HOLIDAY, Dorothy L. Sayers

HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY, Audrey Neffenegger

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, PERSUASION, Jane Austen

TURN OF THE SCREW, Henry James

STAR WARS (yes, the novel),GEORGE LUCAS

LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa May Alcott

THE BONE CLOCKS, David Mitchell

JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL, Suzanna Clarke

HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Mark Twain

A HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, Gabriel García Márquez

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, Zora Neale Hurston

IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER, INVISIBLE CITIES, and anything else, says Jill, by Italo Calvino

HARRIET THE SPY, Louise Fitzhugh

More literary resources

The 50 Most Influential Books of All Time, listed on the Open Education Database (OED)

25 Books That Will Change Your Life, by Yasmeen Piper, on Book Riot

13 Women Reveal the Book That Had the Biggest Impact on Their Lives, by Charlotte Ahlin, on BUSTLE

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The photo illustrating this post is by Pouya sh, who generously made it available under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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