Feature

Kathryn Harrison's book recommendations

The best-selling author recommends works by Charles Dickens, Rohinton Mistry, and more

Kathryn Harrison's new memoir, On Sunset, revisits her Los Angeles childhood and the grandparents who raised her on family stories. Below, the novelist and author of the best-selling memoir The Kiss names six of her favorite epic novels.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (1995).

Set in India in 1975, A Fine Balance follows the chaotic fortunes of four people thrown together during a state of emergency declared by a corrupt and faltering government. Equal parts antic comedy and tragedy, Mistry's novel is a better introduction to the subcontinent than the best travel guide.

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (1949).

Nothing extraordinary happens in the Makioka sisters' lives. But their family's effort to make successful matches for the potential spinsters reveals a pre–World War II Japan that no longer exists: exalted and hobbled by decorum, a world that idle gossip had the power to destroy.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850).

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." Dickens answered the first line of the novel he identified as his favorite child with a bildungsroman fueled by fascination both for its inimitable characters and for their varied influences on the protagonist, an orphan forging his own identity.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1878).

This book is as remarkable for its portrait of 19th-century Russia as it is for its heroine — one of the few to step out of her story and into literary history. The novel takes in all of Russia, from the bejeweled occupants of the boxes of St. Petersburg's opera house to the destitute in their tubercular hovels.

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin (1791).

This semi-autobiographical family saga of Qing-dynasty China begins by questioning the division between truth and fiction. Among its attractions: a sentient stone, doomed love, rampant corruption, wives fighting with concubines, loss, ruin, and a great deal of family subterfuge.

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1958).

Like The Makioka Sisters, The Leopard is a nuanced portrait of a nation and culture poised for a sea change. Set in Sicily in the 1860s, it's a melancholy narrative, one driven by loss, as it follows the attempts of Don Fabrizio, prince of Salina (modeled on Lampedusa's great-grandfather), to navigate the collapse of the old feudal order.

Recommended

The daily gossip: Amandla Stenberg defends controversial DM to film critic, Vincent Kartheiser and Alexis Bledel are divorcing, and more
Amandla Stenberg
Daily gossip

The daily gossip: Amandla Stenberg defends controversial DM to film critic, Vincent Kartheiser and Alexis Bledel are divorcing, and more

Everything you need to know before watching She-Hulk
She-Hulk.
Briefing

Everything you need to know before watching She-Hulk

The daily gossip: August 17, 2022
Kid Cudi
Daily gossip

The daily gossip: August 17, 2022

The daily gossip: August 16, 2022
Florence Pugh
Daily gossip

The daily gossip: August 16, 2022

Most Popular

Elon Musk urges Grimes not to get 'elf ear surgery'
Elon Musk and Grimes
lend me your ears

Elon Musk urges Grimes not to get 'elf ear surgery'

Giuliani appearing before grand jury in GA election probe
Rudy Giuliani.
testimony time

Giuliani appearing before grand jury in GA election probe

Alaska primary: Murkowski, Palin advance in new Top 4 voting system
Sarah Palin, Donald Trump
2022 Primaries

Alaska primary: Murkowski, Palin advance in new Top 4 voting system