Feature

Gregory Maguire's 6 favorite books filled with imagination

The author recommends works by Frank O’Hara, Louise Fitzhugh, and more

Gregory Maguire is the author of Wicked, the revisionist Wizard of Oz tale adapted into a long-running Broadway musical. His new novel, The Oracle of Maracoor, continues the adventures of Rain, granddaughter of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White (1958)

In the 1970s, teen geek readers swore either by J.R.R. Tolkien or T.H. White. I chose White's tragicomedy of the education, rise, and death of King Arthur. The story is audaciously retold, as if the Arthurian cycle were not already one of our foundational myths. It probably inspired me to risk my own appropriation of Oz. Buy it here.

Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More to Life by Maurice Sendak (1967)

A Sealyham terrier, Jennie, adventures into the trippy afterlife to find that mortal appetites are eternal after all. The gray-tint, cross-hatched drawings evoke George Cruikshank and Samuel Palmer, but the mordancy is vintage Sendak. Buy it here.

Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara (1964)

Before text messaging was invented, O'Hara reveled in staccato rhythm with immediacy and delight. Single phrases can sting with accuracy: "the smog of desire"; "democratic and ordinary and tired"; "a dead dog bloated as a fraise"; "all I want is a room up there / and you in it"; "joy seems to be inexorable." Buy it here.

The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam (1991)

Gardam's novels only get richer with rereading. The queen of unreliable narrators, an expert in denial, narrates this wrenching — and wrenchingly funny — tale of the mental collapse and recovery of a matron in a prosperous London suburb. Buy it here.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)

Harriet taught me how to write. I launched my own spy notebook in middle school; 55 years later I am still at it, snooping to see how life works. Eleven-year-old Harriet is bright, edgy, uncompromising, and driven — like nearly everyone else we want to hang out with. Buy it here.

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston (1954)

Set in a Cambridgeshire manor house surrounded by a flooded river, this gentle novel of a haunting dating from the Great Plague was my first experience of literary atmosphere for its own sake. I read it at age 8. Twenty-five years later the author served me tea in the garden of her home, the setting of her transporting fantasies. I'm still haunted. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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