Mr. Pine’s Purple House by Leonard Kessler (Purple House, $17). Everyone has a list of favorite books. The real question is when they were your favorites. This story of house color among neighbors is a study of individualism and conformity, in easy-to-digest form. From ages 3 to 5, I considered it quite definitive.
My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer (Batsford, $23). Between the ages of 12 and 14, I adopted all of Fischer’s favorite chess openings, including the Najdorf Sicilian and the King’s Indian Defense. I especially liked that he included some of his losses here. Only later did I learn that much of the writing and analysis was ghostwritten by his friend and sometime second, Larry Evans.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $18). In this book everything seemed to be at stake. At 17, what could be more exciting than that?
Last and First Men/Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon (now sold separately by Dover, $10 and $12). New ideas to blow my 19-year-old mind, told on a cosmic scale, with “the universe” in the starring role. Millions of years can pass in a single paragraph and you will struggle in vain to find the name of a character.
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust (Vintage, 3 vols., $70). It took me two years to read this one; I felt I was aging with the Marcel character. It was so good when I finished it at 24 that I’ve been afraid to go back and reread it.
Bleak House by Charles Dickens (Signet, $8). Of all the truly special books, this is the one that hardly anyone still reads. There are tricks to the core narrative, so read the passages of denouement very carefully. At 43, I’ve given up, though, on the idea of a novel about everything.