Until I Find A Widow for One Year Trying to Save Piggy Sneed
October 18, 2007 10:18 AM   Subscribe

In what order should I read all of John Irving's novels?

I am becoming a John Irving fan and I want to read more, if not all, of his books. So far, I have read Until I Find You, A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules. I enjoyed all of these immensely. To give you an idea of my tastes, I would probably rank Until first, followed by Meany (I'm know a blasphemer for not putting this one first), followed by Cider.

My questions to the John Irving fans: In your opinions, what are his best works? Should I read them all and, if so, in what order?
posted by Crushinator to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oops. I know I'm a blasphemer, not I'm know a blasphemer. It's been a long week.
posted by Crushinator at 10:24 AM on October 18, 2007

You should read Hotel New Hampshire next followed by The World According to Garp, IMO.
posted by lannanh at 10:24 AM on October 18, 2007

Well, if you're going to read them all, I'd save "The World..." until close to last, because it's a widely held opinion that it's the second best after "Prayer," and some of those in the middle are pretty bad.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:30 AM on October 18, 2007

I'd also save Garp and "A Widow for One Year" for later, and barrel through all that early stuff now, none of which I cared for.
posted by padraigin at 10:39 AM on October 18, 2007

Should I read them all and, if so, in what order?

Hell no. I'd recommend Garp and Hotel New Hampshire and then call it good. Under no circumstances should you attempt A Son of the Circus.
posted by Skot at 10:57 AM on October 18, 2007

I was going to say exactly what Skot just said.
posted by mzurer at 11:16 AM on October 18, 2007

Don't read The Fourth Hand either. And only read the first section of Setting Free the Bears.
posted by leesh at 11:18 AM on October 18, 2007

rats, I just picked up The Fourth Hand after reading Prayer.. and Cider...
posted by GurnB at 11:30 AM on October 18, 2007

Garp was great - either enjoy it now or save the best for last.

I barreled through A Son of the Circus, but wouldn't recommend it. The Fourth Hand was better but still disappointing.

Other than that you've read my favorites - Cider House and Owen.
posted by langeNU at 11:38 AM on October 18, 2007

I'd skip The Hotel New Hampshire and the books before Garp. Vienna, bears, prostitutes, done.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:50 AM on October 18, 2007

For others considering doing the same thing:
1. Read Owen Meany.
2. Stop.
posted by booth at 12:39 PM on October 18, 2007

And, see, Hotel New Hampshire is by far my favorite.

There are two issues here, I think. One is that Irving keeps covering the same themes. That bugs some people — I guess they can only take so much wrestling and incest — and so you'll hear lots of negative reviews of perfecly good books. Unfortunately, the other issue is that some of his books are just no good at all, so you can't just ignore all the naysayers.

What you do is, you wait until someone tells you "X is my favorite John Irving book," and then you read X. You'll get someone to discuss the book with when you're done, you'll have someone to blame if you don't like it, and you'll never have to read the truly awful books, which are so bad that nobody could ever claim them as their favorite.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:45 PM on October 18, 2007

Did everyone hate The Water Method Man? Because I thought it was sort of interesting...
posted by yodelingisfun at 1:54 PM on October 18, 2007

Best answer: Read all of his books except for The Water- Method Man (Seriously, please don't)

I suggest reading "The World According to Garp" immediately. I was given this novel for my fifteenth birthday by my best friend. All she said to me was “A man gets called a dildo” Little did I know I was about to read a masterpiece. Watch the film too.

"A Widow for One Year" Read the book then you should watch the film which pales in comparison except for Jeff Bridges.

"The Hotel New Hampshire" A better book but also a great film with Rob Lowe and Jodie Foster as the incesty bro and sis.

"A Son of the Circus" A doctor who collects dwarf blood as a hobby plus a murder mystery with many quirky storylines.

"The 158-Pound Marriage" One of the main characters hides in a dead cow. Awesome!

"Setting Free the Bears" should be last. If you end with one of his better novels, you may be angry that you have nothing left (excluding his non-fiction) to read by him like I was.

I left "The Fourth Hand" of the list because I bought it the day it came out, read it quickly, sighed, and it has sat on my shelf collecting dust since.

Sorry for the length but John Irving is best! Seriously, get to the bookstore right now.
posted by janedoe at 2:28 PM on October 18, 2007

Garp is my favorite, followed by Hotel New Hampshire then Ciderhouse, then Owen Meany. The rest are a blur.
posted by Gucky at 4:48 PM on October 18, 2007

I guess they can only take so much wrestling and incest

See, there's wrestling and incest -- and then there's incest and wrestling.

And bears.

Yeah, his early work is repetitive, almost as if they're successive drafts for Garp with completely different characters and plots yet somehow the same. Hotel is the only other part of this sequence that's any good, yet I didn't find it as transcendent as Garp.

After Garp he seemed to have exorcised that part of him and managed to tackle deeper themes and more complex characters.
posted by dhartung at 5:46 PM on October 18, 2007

Door in the Floor only deals with the first part of A Widow for One Year.
posted by brujita at 9:40 PM on October 18, 2007

Best answer: I've read all of them, and it sounds like everyone's got it:

Definitely read (I've included ones you've already read for the benefit of others):
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The World According to Garp
Until I Find You
The Cider House Rules

Probably read:
A Widow for One Year
Hotel New Hampshire

Probably don't read:

The Water Method Man
The 158 Pound Marriage
The Fourth Hand

Really: don't read. Trust me.
A Son of the Circus
Setting Free the Bears
posted by JMOZ at 8:50 AM on October 19, 2007

Response by poster: Everyone's suggestions are really helpful. I was actually considering not reading Garp because I spoke to someone recently who really didn't like it. Now it's back at the top of my list. I'm definitely going to read Garp, Widow and Hotel and see how I feel after that. Thanks, guys!
posted by Crushinator at 1:21 PM on October 19, 2007

Just to add another voice to the choir, John Irving is my favorite author, and I actually like seeing the same themes (with variation) repeat themselves from book to book.

My favorite is "Widow for One Year" and my least-favorite is "Water Method Man".
posted by nekton at 10:53 AM on October 25, 2007

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