A Life in Books: Russell Banks

A former Princeton professor, Banks is known for fiery historical novels such as "Cloudsplitter," about the abolitionist John Brown. His latest work, "The Reserve," is a story of love and class set in upstate New York. His picks:

1. The Odyssey by Homer. The mother of all stories, with the most human themes: fear of aging and death.

2. " Don Quixote " by Miguel de Cervantes. A book that dignifies our small attempts to behave with honor.

3. " Tristram Shandy " by Laurence Sterne. It opens wide the gates of fiction and invites everyone in.

4. " Moby-Dick " by Herman Melville. A masterpiece about our need to conquer nature even as we worship it.

5. " Huckleberry Finn " by Mark Twain. It makes art out of vernacular English.

A book you always return to: Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." It makes the reader feel young again.

A book you hope parents will read to their children: Thornton Wilder's "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," a fable about the two questions that all children ask: why are we here and why must we leave?

A Life in Books: Russell Banks | Culture