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A Good Place To Start

A Prayer for Owen Meany 12
The World according to Garp 7
The Cider House Rules 3

A Bad Place To Start

The World according to Garp 3
A Son of the Circus 3
The Fourth Hand 2
Setting Free the Bears 2
A Widow for One Year 1
The Hotel New Hampshire 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

John Irving

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

kalessin January 30th, 2006 04:43 PM PST

A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorite books of all time.

Marian January 31st, 2006 10:37 AM PST

I've read most of John Irving's novels and I plan to read them all. But I will tell anyone who asks (and some who don't ask): If you are going to read only one John Irving novel, make it THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. For me, CIDER HOUSE stands above all the rest; it's the one I'd put in a time capsule marked "important 20th c. American novel."

I believe there are lots of people who feel the same way about A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, and I understand why.

A couple of additional thoughts:

Do not try to start with the early novels. Those are best, I think, for people who are already fans and want to see how he wrote before he hit his stride.

GARP is probably the most accessible of the novels and it gives you the John Irving view of the world, where the other novels give you a view of one part or aspect of the world.

You don't have to read them chronologically -- you could do just the opposite! -- but do try to read SON OF THE CIRCUS before you read THE FOURTH HAND. The latter is not a sequel to the former, but it does allude to a key event in CIRCUS, and you'll feel smart for picking up on that.

LucyStoner December 29th, 2006 02:24 PM PST

Owen Meany definitely first. The first chapter is uproarious ecstasy.

Garp? Much, much, much later.

mis_nomer June 16th, 2007 12:04 PM PST

I've read a bunch of Irving's novels (http://mis_nomer.blogspot.com/search/label/irving) and while I've enjoyed every one of them, I liked A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules the best.

I would suggest starting with The Cider House Rules I started with that book and it kept me coming back for more.

drunken dime January 6th, 2008 01:19 PM PST

I enjoyed reading "Owen Meany" -- but I'm not sure what the point was, or if there even was one. But maybe I'm too literal-minded.


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