In no particular order, this is a list of my favourite writers/books. Of course, it is incomplete.
Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, Pale Fire and Speak, Memory and literary lectures
Simone de Beauvoir
Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook
Peter Handke’s The Weight of the World
Nadine Gordimer’s The Pickup
Rilke’s Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Pascal Quignard’s The Roving Shadows
John William’s Stoner
Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea
Patrick Leigh Fermor
Jay Griffith’s Wild: An Elemental Journey
Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s War and War
Mahmoud Darwish’s Memory for Forgetfulness
Carlos Fuentes’s Diana: The Goddess Who Hunts Alone
Ruth Reichl’s Endless Feast
Teju Cole’s Open City
Jenny Erpenbeck’s The Visitation
Gabriel Josipovici’s What Ever Happened to Modernism? and The Lessons of Modernism
Virginia Woolf’s later novels and diaries
Jospeh Heller’s Something Happened
WG Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn
Don DeLillo’s Underworld
Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia
Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Kate Zambreno’s Heroines
Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych
James Joyce’s Ulysses
Richard Power’s The Time of our Singing
Will Ferguson’s Hokkaido Highway Blues
Asked to name their favourite non-cookbook food books, leading chefs nominated:
- Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure – Joseph Wechsberg
- The Art of Eating – M. F. K. Fisher
- Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris – A. J. Liebling
- The Horse of Pride: Life in a Breton Village – Pierre-Jakez Helias
- The Food of Italy and The Food of France – Waverley Root
- Giving Good Weight – John McPhee
- The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine – Rudolph Chelminski
- The Gumbo Tales – Sara Roahen
The first two would appear high on my list but I would also add:
- Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
- The Perfect Egg – Aldo Buzzi
- On Food And Cooking – Harold McGee
- The Man Who Ate Everything – Jeffrey Steingarten
- Comfort Me With Apples – Ruth Reichl
- Where shall we go for dinner? – Tamasin Day-Lewis
- Sushi and Beyond – Michael Booth
Voracious readers have regular dilemmas about what book to read next. At Of Books and Bicycles, the perplexity is of genre or category. Always the question of whether to read deeply to explore a category or individual writer thoroughly, or widely to embrace a wide selection of genres. The categories that provide amusement at the moment are:
- Philosophy to deepen my reading of Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard; also to explore Kant to whatever extent I am capable.
- Literary criticism of the novel: contemporary texts like James Wood, Harold Bloom, Susan Sontag, Geoffrey Hill and Denis Donoghue; also earlier writing by Guy Davenport, Maurice Blanchot, Cyril Connolly and William Empson.
- Fiction and non-fiction classics of all periods, with less emphasis on contemporary, and guided loosely by Bloom’s Western Canon.
- Books about books, with the work of Alberto Manguel and Michael Dirda top of my list.
- Natural history, inspired by my deep enjoyment of Roger Deakin.
- A sprinkling of science, certainly all the output of cosmologist Paul Davies.
- Psychology, working my way slowly through Freud’s essays and lectures.
- Travel classics like Wilfred Thesiger, William Dalyrymple, Patrick Leigh Fermor.
- Culinary-lit, particularly M. F. K. Fisher and Ruth Reichl
This is hardly comprehensive and is subject to whimsy.