Karen Connelly, author of The Lizard Cage, writes about some of her favorite booksDecember 1, 2007
Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr
A brilliantly cut diamond of a novel about two Americans who go to live in an isolated village in Mexico. A complex story told in a simple and affecting way, with profound emotion and simply lovely prose.
An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin
This is a nonfiction history of how human beings could have done, and sometimes are doing, things differently. Not a history of wars, but a history of individuals and opportunities written in exuberant, probing, and always intelligent prose.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
A masterpiece of Russian literature, this is the story of what happens when the Devil comes to Moscow accompanied by a naked red-haired girl and a giant black cat. It is also a wonderful retelling of the life of Christ.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
I first read this beautiful extended essay on nature and the meaning of life when I was fourteen. It was one of the books that helped me to become a writer.
Poems by George Seferis, translated by Rex Warner
The Rex Warner translations of Seferis are the great translations of this Nobel Prize–winning Greek writer. I’ve spent a lot of time in Greece and these poems helped me to understand both the past and the present of the country. Gorgeous, surprising, lovely writing.
War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges
A powerful, intelligent book by a man who, as a journalist, was dangerously enamoured of war and its danger. But this isn’t only a “personal” book—it is a meditation on the terrible cost of war for all of us.
The Redundancy of Courage by Timothy Mo
An amazing novel about the brutal military takeover—and the ensuing guerilla insurgency—of an island close to Indonesia—which can only be Timor. The characters in this book are simply incredible, as is the story itself. I still wish this novel had won the Booker Prize, instead of only being nominated for it. And I still think about the meaning of the title . . .
Loitering with Intent by Muriel Sparks
Like candy for adults! A delightful, slightly creepy novel about a young woman novelist who is hired to be the secretary for the Autobiographical Association, with unexpected results. Sparks manages to do something very complicated—write a novel within a novel—in under two hundred pages, while showing the reader a very good time. It’s also a wonderful affirmation of the lives of women artists.
The Untouchable by John Banville
More candy! This novel is about the lives of Cambridge spies, one in particular, who leads not a double life but a quadruple one. The mystery of who reveals him as a double agent for Russia powers the book, but the real delight here is Banville’s delicious prose.
The Memory Artists by Jeffrey Moore
A humorous, inventive, often mesmerizing novel about a man who is a synesthete: his memory is unrelentingly exact, and he sees spoken words as explosions of color that often leave him bewildered. Adding to his frustration is his mother’s slow descent into Alzheimer’s. A man who remembers too much tries to help a woman who remembers too little, and the result is unexpected and surprisingly hopeful.