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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.