Nice Work by David Lodge (1988). Opposites attract in this third volume of Lodge’s campus trilogy that includes Changing Places (1975) and Small World (1984). A British government program aimed at bridging the gap between the academy and industry pairs a leftist feminist academic and a hard-driving businessman.
Night by Elie Wiesel (1958). In this harrowing memoir of the Holocaust, Wiesel describes his journey from a religious Jewish childhood in Hungary to the Nazi concentration camps. Subsisting on bread and soup, forced to watch prisoner executions, the fifteen-year-old narrator struggles to support his father, who eventually dies one night in the cot below his.
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (1984). Nineteenth-century London, St. Petersburg, and Siberia are the three rings of Carter’s surrealist circus starring Fevvers, a trapeze artist with wings.
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (1936). Following the painful end of an eight-year lesbian relationship, Barnes crafted this avant-garde novel that explores love, desire, and obsession in rich lyric prose.
Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger (1953). Salinger gave his story collection the title Nine Stories, and that simple, enumerative title is just right, for the stories can be counted off like beads on a string: “For Esme with Love and Squalor,” “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” and “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut,” whose last line, “I was a good girl, wasnI?” never fails to break the reader’s heart.
Ninety-two in the Shade by Thomas McGuane (1973). McGuane has always been fascinated by people who seek a truer life by living on the edge. Here he tells the story of a refugee from America’s consumer society who returns to Key West, where he lives in an old airplane fuselage and tries to realize his dream of becoming a skiff guide in the tropical waters.
Norwood by Charles Portis (1966). The comic conversation and surreal adventure that distinguish Portis’s fiction shine in this first novel about Norwood Pratt, a war hero with country music dreams who’s stuck in a small Texas town. Seeking escape, Norwood decides to find an old Marine buddy who owes him seventy dollars.
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1864). Aloof, unhappy, and tortured by his own “hyperconsciousness,” Dostoevsky’s narrator prefers to remain underground, away from normal life, because at least there he can be free.