In 1992’s The Pleasure of Reading, editor Antonia Fraser collected essays and reading lists from over 40 leading writers. Among them was poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, who wrote of her formative years:
“When I hit high school, I read Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, and developed what was, in those days before rock stars, a standard passion for Mr. Darcy and Heathcliff. These reading choices were approved of by adults, who liked anything called a classic.
Other reading choices were not. In grade nine, for instance, I joined a paperback book club which was in the business of parting teenagers from their allowances, and received a satisfying helping of verbal trash through the mail every month. Donovan’s Brain stands out: it was about an overgrown and demented brain which was being kept alive in a glass jar by scientists – a brain which was trying to take over the world. In addition to colouring my view of politicians, this prepared me for the reading of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, later on.”
Read on for the list of books Margaret Atwood named as favorites, and for a deeper look at her process, check out her Masterclass on creative writing.
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Fall of the Imam by Nawar El Sadawi
Kamouraska by Anne Hébert
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
The Wars by Timothy Findley