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
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.
One of my rare and slightly guilty indulgences is reading about food and wine. My exposure to culinary literature began after pulling a copy of M.F.K. Fisher’sThe Art of Eating from the shelf of a relative’s library. It was probably in the hungry hours before a late dinner, appetite awoken by some macadamia nuts and a glass of champagne.
Given the fact the barman understands what I want, I like, then, on my rare and deeply savoured debauches, to precede the luncheon or dinner with one double Gibson, to be served to me in a chilled champagne glass, with the lemon peel twisted once lightly over it. My favorite Bacchus gives me a little dish of salty pearl onions, impaled properly on tiny sticks, lying in a bed of snow. I never touch them, but we respect each other for this sop to custom, a compromises on his part with puting onions into the drink itself, and on mine with wishing they not appear at all.