Colm Tóibín recommends 6 of his favorite books
The acclaimed author recommends works by Ford Madox Ford, Marilynne Robinson, and more
Irish novelist Colm Tóibín is the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, The Master, and House of Names. His recent book about the fathers of Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, and James Joyce — Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know — is now out in paperback.
The Past by Tessa Hadley (2015).
This novel tells the story of an English family regrouping after many years and deciding to spend an extended holiday together in the old family house. It is a deeply engrossing book that handles scenes and multiple characters with the drama, originality, and subtlety that have become hallmarks of Hadley's work.
Against the Clock by Derek Mahon (2018).
These luminous, melancholy, and graceful poems are works of great technical assurance and fully contemporary. They both enjoy and deplore the world, all the time seeking a timeless space where the soul might thrive.
Home by Marilynne Robinson (2008).
This middle novel of a trilogy set in the American Midwest revolves around two elderly clergymen and their families. From this modest material, Robinson creates panorama as well as moments of exquisite intimacy. Glory, at 38, has come home to tend to her elderly father. Robinson handles the intricacies of her mind with real tenderness.
Amongst Women by John McGahern (1990).
McGahern's story centers on the life of Michael Moran, a widower in the Irish midlands in the mid–20th century. It has a great timeless quality — like something Jane Austen could have written, or George Eliot.
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915).
The genius of this novel is in the tone of voice and the structure. The book has a lovely, breathless, natural feel, like someone trying to put a shape on experience that is both deeply sad and almost comic, or at least infused with irony and a sort of dark laughter. It dramatizes the change from a moment when character in England could be trusted to a moment when all truth had to be questioned and when deception itself became an art.
The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro (2012).
The fourth volume of Caro's epic biography of Lyndon Johnson tells the story of Johnson's tenure as vice president and then, after Kennedy's assassination, as president. The book has a sweeping, magisterial power, with Caro displaying an extraordinary grasp of the shape of the story. It also contains a fascinating amount of detail.