I have been rereading Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, (2005.) Smiley, an American novelist most famous for A Thousand Acres, examines the novel as a form of literary expression from thirteen different perspectives. She read one hundred novels as preparation, starting with some very early works. At the end of the book she explains the merits and shortcomings of each, in her opinion. I was pleased to recognize many of the titles as books I had read. Her list included Wodehouse's comic novels about Jeeves, early English novels like Pamela and Robinson Crusoe, several books that were the best sellers of their era, some classics of yesteryear that have not held up well over time - and more.. Anyone who writes fiction should read Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. The title comes from the poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."
Smiley's list of one hundred novels inspired me to list my hundred favourites, books that have enlightened and entertained me and educated me about certain fictional devices and methods of presentation of my stories. Here is my list, in no particular order. Maybe later I will go through it and tell you why each book is important to me, and why I think you should read it too.
Lives of Girls and Women
Who Do You Think You Are, by Alice Munro.
This Nobel Prize winning author writes short stories, but in these two works the short stories all have the same protagonist and serve as chapters of each novel.
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
The Poisonwood Bible
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
P is for Peril
R is for Ricochet
T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
I have read all of Grafton's alphabet mysteries except for "X" and enjoyed them all, but these three seem to me to be the most compelling.
The Chimney Sweeper's Boy, by Barbara Vine (the late Ruth Rendell)
The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty
Longbourn, by Jo Baker (Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view)
The Ballad of Frankie Silver, by Sharyn McCrumb
(I like all of McCrumb's Appalachian historical and contemporary novels but this is my favourite.)
A Ripple from the Storm
The Four-Gated City, by Doris Lessing
Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy
Painted Fires by Nellie McClung
(My mother introduced me to this novel about a young woman immgrant to Canada from Finland and her struggles to make a life for herself.)
These are the first twenty I thought of. More to come later.