We all have those novels that are close to the heart. The novels that we would run into a burning building for. The novels that we’ve read cover to cover countless times.
The novels that inspired us, shaped us and took our breath away.
Here’s my top fifteen novels of all time. These novels blew my head back, devastated me and became part of me.
I hope, if you haven’t read any of these, that you’ll head over to your nearest bookstore or library and get your hands around them posthaste!!
You’re lucky. What I wouldn’t give to be reading one of these for the first time again.
15. THE MAD AND THE BAD by Jean-Patrick Manchette
Stylized, cool as hell crime fiction with undertones of existentialism and poetry. Manchette does for crime fiction what Tarantino does for cinema.
14. REVENGE OF THE LAWN STORIES by Richard Brautigan
Absolute poetry in short stories. Brautigan is hugely underrated. There is so much melancholy, bitterness, bewilderment in these stories but there’s a lot of love there too.
13. 4:48 PSYCHOSIS by Sarah Kane
A book to break the hardest hearts. This was written while Kane was undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder in a London King Cross mental facility. Sadly she took her own life after finishing it.
12. THIS BOY’S LIFE by Tobias Wolff
This was one of the books I read while growing up that spoke to me the most. It still does. Wolff writes perfect prose that speaks directly to the reader. A haunting but triumphant memoir of growing pains.
11. BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL by Elliot Chaze
The absolute noir of noir. This novel defines noir like no other.
10. THE POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow
A novel, in my opinion, that knocks Puzo’s The Godfather off of the top spot for greatest crime saga.
9. THE SHINING by Stephen King
This needs no introduction. Quite possibly the best horror novel ever written.
8. THE GETAWAY by Jim Thompson
No one did crime fiction like Thompson. I loved the surreal ending to this novel. A crime classic!
7. 1984 by George Orwell
More relevant today than ever before. If you haven’t read this yet, I don’t know what to say.
6. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN TOWN by Charles Bukowski
This collection of stories is without a doubt the most inspiring book I’ve ever read. There’s so much beauty and ugliness in Bukowski’s prose and this collection is without a doubt the definition of what Bukowski was all about.
5. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain
A hopeless drifter and a beautiful woman. A love affair, a betrayal, money, and of course, a badly planned murder. Another absolute classic.
4. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST by Ken Kesey
Quite possibly the most perfect piece of literary ever written.
3. ASK THE DUST by John Fante
An ill-fated love story as much about California than it is the two protagonists.
2. HAM ON RYE by Charles Bukowski
One of the two novels that has travelled the world with me. This novel is heartbreaking, funny, disturbing and truly poetic. A memoir of growing up poor and beaten down.
1. THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brian
Don’t let the cover confuse you. This novel isn’t a war novel. Yes, it is set in a war zone, but it’s a novel about people and the scars we carry all our lives. It’s about what makes us human. I know it’s a hackneyed expression but while reading it I DID laugh, I did cry, I nodded my head in agreement, I fell in love and most of all I had my heart broken.
So that’s it. My top 15 books of all time. The books I couldn’t live without. I wanted to squeeze Raymond Carver in but he just lost out.
If you haven’t read any of these books, I hope you will asap!
Or if you’re looking for some “transgressive” crime noir spanning the 1920’s to the 1960’s, please check out my trilogy from Red Dog Press
Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.
He writes loosely in the noir/crime genres, though is heavily influenced by transgressive fiction and dirty realism.
His three novels are a trilogy of connected but stand alone novels that deal in themes of mental illness, trauma, betrayal and twisted love.
He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.