A film adaptation of Zoe Heller’s novel Notes on a Scandal will be released later this month. A longer version of this list of her favorite books appears in the December edition of O magazine.
Burgers Daughter by Nadine Gordimer (Penguin, $15). Set in South Africa during the apartheid regime, this novel is about the dawning of a young white womans political consciousness. All the authors usual virtues are on display here: cool intelligence, an alarmingly acute understanding of human nature, a capacity to write about the Big Issues without preachiness or the least sacrifice to her art.Buy Burgers Daughter at Amazon
The Moronic Inferno by Martin Amis (Penguin, $14). Amis is better known for his novels, but if I were going to be dropped on a desert island, this small, dazzling collection of his journalism about America is what I would choose to take with me. The pieces here, which range from portraits of Saul Bellow and Gloria Steinem to essays on AIDS and Palm Beach, are some of the most gloriously smart and funny things he has written.Buy it at Amazon
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (Mariner, $8). The heroine of this excellent, not-quite-coming-of-age novel is a moody 12-year-old tomboy, stuck in a tiny Southern town, who fantasizes that she can escape the confines of childhood and of home by running away with her brother and his new wife. I happened to be 12 myself when I first picked up this novel. It felt as if someone had read my rather hysterical journal and transformed it into lucid literary prose.Buy it at Amazon
Persuasion by Jane Austen (Tor, $4). I worship all of Austens novels. But if I have to choose one over the others, I plump for the autumnal pleasures of Persuasion. This is the last work Austen completed before her death, in 1817, and it is rather more tender and melancholy in tone than the novels that preceded it. I read it once or twice a year, whenever I feel in need of a good cry.Buy it at Amazon
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (Vintage, $15). If you want to get a fair idea of what is meant by the phrase "English humor," Mitfords largely autobiographical 1930s comedy about the lives and loves of the aristocratic Radlett family is as good as any.Buy it at Amazon
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (New York Review, $13). This 1929 novel about five British children from colonial Jamaica who get waylaid by pirates offers a wonderfully sharp and unsentimental portrait of childhood, a subtle disquisition on innocence and power, and a startlingly beautiful piece of half-Victorian, half-modern prose. Buy it at Amazon