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Colum McCann's 6 favorite books from his youth
The National Book Award-winning author names six works that left a mark on his Irish youth, but that he hasn't read since
 
McCann's latest book is now available in paperback.
McCann's latest book is now available in paperback. (Amazon.com)

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (Penguin, $17). My teenage years were soaked in Kerouac. My father had been on a trip to America and brought me back a whole library of the Beat generation. It all seemed so wonderfully foreign to a young Dublin boy. I wanted to go on a road trip with Neal Cassady. The expanse of the American West became implanted in my imagination.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Perigee, $10). This book is perfect for a teenager stepping into the literary experience. It's extraordinarily rich and brimming with symbolism, yet quite accessible. While stepping through the island, I was part Ralph, part Piggy, part Simon. I haven't returned to it as an adult because I'm afraid I would not like it as much, or that its meaning would be duller now.

The Tokyo-Montana Express by Richard Brautigan (out of print). This book cleaved me open when I was 17. I had no idea that the literary form could be so raucous and experimental. It was a whole new way of storytelling.

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (Signet, $8). Confession time: I used to borrow my father's copy of this 1973 novel from his nightstand! I would search for the naughty parts, which were many and varied. I wonder if I would think them quite as salacious now.

Peig by Peig Sayers (Oxford, $11). Every teenager in Ireland had to read this Irish-language book about a rural seanchaí, or storyteller. The very mention of the book still induces groans among adults, but that's because it was, unfortunately, force-fed to us by our teachers.

The Collected Stories by Dylan Thomas (New Directions, $17). Dylan Thomas was a hero to me from an early age, and I adored his experimental short stories. The language was so rich and dark and playful. It mesmerized me. I still go back to Thomas's poems regularly, but I haven't gone back to the stories because I fear that I would see them differently. Every now and then we need to freeze ourselves in a sort of literary aspic.

Colum McCann's sixth novel, TransAtlantic, is now in paperback.

 

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