Below I’ll give you my selections for the best John Irving books by a few categories. I will cover these and other great books more in depth later.
- 1. A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel (2012)
- 2. The World According to Garp (1990)
- 3. Avenue of Mysteries (2016)
- 4. The Cider House Rules (1997)
- 5. In One Person: A Novel (2013)
- 6. Last Night in Twisted River: A Novel (2010)
- 7. Setting Free the Bears: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) (1997)
- 8. The Hotel New Hampshire (2018)
- 9. Until I Find You (2006)
- 10. Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1997)
- 11. A Son of the Circus: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) (1997)
- 12. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel (2008)
- 13. The Fourth Hand (2002)
- 14. The Imaginary Girlfriend: A Memoir (2002)
- 15. A Widow for One Year (1999)
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1. A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel (2012)
A PBS Great American Read Top 100 PickI am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn’t believe in…
2. The World According to Garp (1990)
20th anniversary edition with a new afterword from the author — “A wonderful novel, full of energy and art, at once funny and horrifying and heartbreaking.”- The Washington PostThis is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields–a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes–even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with ”lunacy and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and…
3. Avenue of Mysteries (2016)
John Irving returns to the themes that established him as one of our most admired and beloved authors in this absorbing novel of fate and memory.In Avenue of Mysteries, Juan Diego—a fourteen-year-old boy, who was born and grew up in Mexico—has a thirteen-year-old sister. Her name is Lupe, and she thinks she sees what’s coming—specifically, her own future and her brother’s. Lupe is a mind reader; she doesn’t know what everyone is thinking, but she knows what most people are thinking. Regarding what has happened, as opposed to what will, Lupe is usually right about the past; without…
4. The Cider House Rules (1997)
First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is set in rural Maine in the first half of the twentieth century. The novel tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch—saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud’s, ether addict and abortionist. This is also the story of Dr. Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. “ [Irving] is among the very best storytellers at work today. At the base of Irving’s own moral concerns is a rare and lasting regard for human kindness.” “…
5. In One Person: A Novel (2013)
“His most daringly political, sexually transgressive, and moving novel in well over a decade” (Vanity Fair). Winner of a 2013 Lambda Literary AwardA New York Times bestselling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a “sexual suspect,” a phrase first used by John…
In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an anxious twelve-year-old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve-year-old and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County—to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto—pursued by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them. In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River depicts the recent half-century in the United States as…
It is 1967. Two Viennese university students, Siggy and Hannes, roam the Austrian countryside on their motorcycles—on a quest: to liberate the bears of the Vienna Zoo. But their good intentions have both comic and gruesome consequences in this first novel from John Irving, already a master storyteller at twenty-five years old….
8. The Hotel New Hampshire (2018)
“The first of my father’s illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.” So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times encountered by the family Berry. Hoteliers, pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (the animal trainer and vaudevillian, that is), and playthings of mad fate, they “dream on” in a funny, sad, outrageous, and moving novel by the remarkable author…
9. Until I Find You (2006)
is the story of the actor Jack Burns – his life, loves, celebrity and astonishing search for the truth about his parents. When he is four years old, Jack travels with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist, to several North Sea ports in search of his father, William Burns. From Copenhagen to Amsterdam, William, a brilliant church organist and profligate womanizer, is always a step ahead – has always just departed in a wave of scandal, with a new tattoo somewhere on his body from a local master or “scratcher.”Alice and Jack abandon their quest, and Jack is educated at schools in Canada and…
10. Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1997)
Here is a treat for John Irving addicts and a perfect introduction to his work for the uninitiated. To open this spirited collection, Irving explains how he became a writer. There follow six scintillating stories written over the last twenty years ending with a homage to Charles Dickens. This irresistible collection cannot fail to delight and charm….
“His most entertaining novel since Garp.” “A Son of the Circus is comic genius . . . get ready for [John] Irving’s most raucous novel to date.” “Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla, reared in Bombay by maverick foes of tradition, educated in Vienna, married to an Austrian and long a resident of Toronto, is a 59-year-old without a country, culture, or religion to call his own. . . . The novel may not be ‘about’ India, but Irving’s imagined India, which Daruwalla visits periodically, is a remarkable achievement—a pandemonium of servants and clubmen,…
12. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel (2008)
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa….
13. The Fourth Hand (2002)
While reporting a story from India, New York journalist Patrick Wallingford inadvertently becomes his own headline when his left hand is eaten by a lion. In Boston, a renowned surgeon eagerly awaits the opportunity to perform the nation’s first hand transplant. But what if the donor’s widow demands visitation rights with the hand? In answering this unexpected question, John Irving has written a novel that is by turns brilliantly comic and emotionally moving, offering a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change. “A rich and deeply moving tale . . ….
14. The Imaginary Girlfriend: A Memoir (2002)
“The Imaginary Girlfriend is a miniature autobiography detailing Irving’s parallel careers of writing and wrestling. . . . Tales of encounters with writers (John Cheever, Nelson Algren, Kurt Vonnegut) are intertwined with those about his wrestling teammates and coaches. With humor and compassion, [Irving] details the few truly important lessons he learned about writing. . . . And in beefing up his narrative with anecdotes that are every bit as hilarious as the antics in his novels, Irving combines the lessons of both obsessions (wrestling and writing) . . . into a somber reflection on the importance of living…
15. A Widow for One Year (1999)
In , we follow Ruth Cole through three of the most pivotal times in her life: from her girlhood on Long Island (in the summer of 1958) through the fall of 1990 (when she is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career), and at last in the autumn of 1995, when Ruth is a forty-one-year-old widow and mother (and she’s about to fall in love for the first time). Both elegiac and erotic, is a multilayered love story of astonishing emotional force….
Best John Irving Books Worth Your Attention
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Avenue of Mysteries
Author(s): John Irving
ID: 2172031, Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, Year: 2015, Size: 2 Mb, Format: epub
Food & freedom: how the slow food movement is creating change around the world through gastronomy
Author(s): Irving, John;Petrini, Carlo
ID: 2571827, Publisher: Rizzoli Ex Libris, Year: 2015, Size: 2 Mb, Format: epub
A Study Guide for John Irving's ''The World According to Garp''
Author(s): Gale;Cengage Learning
ID: 2591930, Publisher: Gale, Cengage Learning, Year: 2015, Size: 545 Kb, Format: epub
Please note that this booklist is not errorless. Some books are really record-breakers according to Washington Post, others are written by unknown authors. On top of that, you can always find additional tutorials and courses on Coursera, Udemy or edX, for example. Are there any other relevant books you could recommend? Drop a comment if you have any feedback on the list.