In response to:
#10 The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes) by Jonathan Littell:
I have listed this harrowing account of evil as I was surprised by the description of Europe’s worst nightmare by a young American author, who, besides, wrote in French. This is a giant of a book, and the horror is not imagined, it was so.
#9 The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy:
A quintessential account of a horrific murder by a master of controversy. Somehow this book talked to me, and, yes, I felt for the Black Dahlia.
#8 The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke
Part from “inventing” the Space Elevator Arthur Clarke – who also predicted accurately the geostationary communication satellites – showed in this novel how to marry technology and spiritualism, a feat of fiction but also a lesson for living. I read it as an adolescent, and am still reading it.
#7 The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Well, it’s a classic. When I first read it – a few years back! – my English was still hesitant, and I struggled. A few years later (still well before the films) I fully appreciated what a masterpiece of language and adventures this was.
#6 The Magus by John Fowles
The mystery of youth, John Fowles’s first novel and to my mind his best. I travelled to that greek island in a dream, one of the inspirations for “The Page” (not a plug!)
#5 The Stand by Stephen King
Read it four times, and this is not the last time. One of the great novels of the second half of the last century, I am still in wonder. I cried for Fanny. I would have nuked the evil too.
#4 The Plague (La Peste) by Albert Camus
A unique allegory of what it was like in Europe under the fascist boot. Written in 1947, it is the account of ordinary courage and its opposite by a man of high values and principles. I think it’s as valid a read today as it was then.
#3 Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Pynchon’s greatest book, set at the end of WWII in London and Northern Germany. This book typifies for me the absurdity of the last (hopefully) European civil war, a shower of rockets, the ruins of cities, yet humour and love. I fell for that mischievous Dutch girl, yes I did…
#2 A La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust
My bible of introspection. The language is unique, the mix of longing, eroticism and splendour is irresistible.
#1 La Chartreuse de Parme by Stendhal
The greatest love story of all times! To my mind one the summits of Western literature. Period.