Outline (and The Country Life) by Rachel Cusk
I've lately been bingeing on Cusk novels the way I once binged on The Wire episodes. Cusk has the ability to write a character's interior life with stunning psychological acuity and an enviably light touch. At times, she's also extremely funny.
Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
This book, which had to have spurred Michael Ondaatje to write The English Patient, is intensely moving and almost perilously romantic. Oh, it leaves a mark. I think I read it eight or nine years ago and still find my thoughts drifting toward it often.
The Information by Martin Amis
Brilliant. My favorite Amis book, along with his hilarious and extraordinarily enjoyable memoir Experience.
After Rain by William Trevor
Why Trevor hasn't yet won the Nobel Prize in Literature remains a mournful mystery to me. I loved this story collection, one of the first I read by him. It too leaves a mark-the blade cuts deep but is so sharp you hardly feel it at first. But before long, you realize you might need to lie down for a while.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
I think this is one of the best novels written in recent memory, and very much my favorite book in McEwan's impressive body of work.
The Blue Flower (and Innocence) by Penelope Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald might be my desert island author. I feel an almost religious devotion to her books and wish she were still with us, writing her slim, humane, perfect novels.
The London Train by Tessa Hadley
Hadley's sentences are so fluid and graceful, her characters so sympathetic and precisely drawn that it really does seem to me as if they could walk off the page and into my living room.
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes
A playful and wry, erudite pleasure, along with his essay collection on his lifelong francophilia: Something To Declare.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
I read this during a week's spring break spent alone in Paris when I was in my late 20s. It kept me good company-such a terrific novel-it made me believe that I too could write a novel like this if I just tried hard enough. Ah, folly.
A Fortunate Age by Joanna Rakoff
An almost obscenely accomplished debut novel, written when Rakoff was in her early 30s, I think-I love it so. It was inspired by Mary McCarthy's The Group, which I still haven't read.
Endless Love (and Willing) by Scott Spencer
Spencer, like another of my favorite American writers, John Updike, is a genius, and his sentences, well, one of the seven wonders of the (literary) world. And his ability to write about desire and sex-no one is better than he is.
Open Secrets (and Runaway) by Alice Munro.
Anything by Munro, in truth. I'd probably start a fan club here in my town if I were still anywhere close to 16 years old.
The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed published by Bloomsbury at £18.99