The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, $16). My all-time favorite book, this 1997 novel manages to move between the ordinary and the sublime with such effortlessness that you forget which is which. Deep and funny and riveting. Also, be warned: It contains a scene that, though in no way gratuitous, is the most sadistic and disturbing in all of literature.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, $13). A more personal, distilled, and gently comic Murakami still hits you right in the stomach. And it feels good.
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Look at Me by Jennifer Egan (Anchor, $14). A recent novel that’s very funny and very strange and impossible to put down. Like Pullman, Egan delves into young people’s sexuality with great sensitivity. Look at Me is also a brilliant satire of American values and a prescient look at what this narcissistic country is up against (besides itself!).
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Vintage, $13). The funniest book I’ve ever read. It is a love story and a romp and a political allegory and more enjoyable than any of those things.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (Laurel-Leaf, $21). This is a trilogy, but, like The Lord of the Rings, it really functions as one book. Supposedly young adult fiction, Pullman’s books take on human sexuality and the Roman Catholic Church with a boldness I’ve never seen before. Also, they are blistering page-turners.
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