Nick Hornby's Most Important Books

Known for books about men who act like boys ("High Fidelity," "About a Boy"), the author is back with a novel ("Slam") about a teenage boy forced to act like a man after his girlfriend gets pregnant. Here is Hornby's list of other character-building reads:

1. "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" by Anne Tyler. Simplicity, intelligence, humor. This is the book that made me want to write.

2. "Like Life" by Lorrie Moore. A strong, kinetic writer. Her humor spun me around when I read it.

3. "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens. Beyond my grasp, like Shakespeare, in that I can't figure out how a writer could do it.

4. "This Boy's Life" by Tobias Wolff. I stole much of the tone of my first memoir from this memoir, so I owe it quite a lot.

5. "Mystery Train" by Greil Marcus. The first book about music I'd ever read that wasn't ephemeral. Very inspiring.

A certifiable major book you haven't read: The most egregious? "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. It constantly nags me. Someday. Maybe.

A classic that, upon rereading, disappointed: I hate dissing books, but "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller. It wasn't as funny as I remembered it. I read it at the right time, in the right place, and I should have left it at that. When I went back, I couldn't understand its old effect on me.