Bruce Feiler is an award-winning author and NPR commentator. His most recent book, Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses (Harper Perennial, $15), is now available in paperback.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Modern Library, $10). The book that made me proud to be alive. I read it while commuting an hour and a half from a Japanese homestay to my first job after college. It both took me out of the world where I was and placed me deeper inside it. The story manages to have epic sweep and impossibly observed domestic moments, and to make you feel as if your life does as well.
Light in August by William Faulkner (Vintage Books, $13). The book that made me proud to be a Southerner. It even has the phrase “fur piece” in the opening paragraph. Who would dare! It dignifies white trash, ennobles poor blacks, and makes you believe, as Faulkner said in his Nobel acceptance, that humans will not merely endure. They will prevail.
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Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike (Ballantine Books, $13). The book that made me proud to be a writer. The first volume put him on the map. The description of the heart attack in the fourth may be the best scene I’ve ever read. But the third installment of the Rabbit series is by far my favorite: selling Toyotas, sex on gold coins. I would fight anyone to the death over the notion that Harry Angstrom is fictional. He is real.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy (Bantam Books, $8). The book that best describes the corner of the world where I grew up, the Low Country of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. It’s overwritten, indulgent, exasperating, but rollicking, hilarious, breathtaking fun. If a book can be judged by how many times you stop reading and just enter a phrase, none tops“The coinage of sand dollars.”
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage Books, $13). The book that made me decide never to see movies of books I like. Ishiguro knows his hero’s boss is an anti-Semitic Nazi sympathizer; the reader knows. But the hero himself doesn’t know. The alliance between author and reader is wicked—and indelible.
Quarantine by Jim Crace (Picador USA, $13). The best book about the desert—and he’s never even been there. I’ve read a hundred books about the desert; all of them say it’s quiet. It’s noisy. I went to hear Crace read in New York City and asked him how he got his description so accurate. “I made it up,” he said.
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