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.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- In defense of Gwyneth Paltrow
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- Republicans love this new health care plan. Too bad it's basically a tax cut for the rich.
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 17 old proverbs we should use more often
- 8 tricks to surviving the holidays without gaining weight or being grouchy
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- Chuck Hagel wasn't the problem. It's America's addiction to endless war.
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