Rabbit is Rich by John Updike
The third book in this life series telling the story of Harry Angstrom, who is now rich (thanks to his father-in-law) but just as frivolous in thoughts and actions. His son wants in at the auto lot, but the kid is an angry, self-deceptive, loser. Updike holds America of 1979 up to scrutiny, and anyone living around that time sees that age and people he’s known and maybe a bit of himself.
Tess of the D’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
I hadn’t read one of these English classics since college. While the language is a bit unusual as per authors’ writing compared with today, the story is as compelling as anything on a bookshelf (and a far cry better than most). Poor Tess is an ignorant girl who gets herself into trouble thanks to her equally ignorant parents. But Tess is a fighter, and her will gives her strength. What is most wonderfully odd about this story is the pressures of society we see placed over people: in class, religion, community. Some of this could happen today, but the fact that Hardy shows Victorian England at its typically worst makes all the difference.
The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul
Naipaul’s most autobiographical novel follows the multidimensional story of a writer spending many years in the same Wiltshire cottage. What he sees outside his window, and on his daily afternoon walks, and who he knows in these years, gives clues to not only how he develops his writing mind, but also how we humans struggle with change, and death.