How would you interpret the phrase “the psychology of fiction”? In their feature in the Scientific American, Keith Oatley and Ingrid Wickelgren posit that the emotions fiction evokes are real, despite the “unreal” qualities of the stories and characters. They highlight 10 books that have a seemingly universal power to sway the reader’s mind.
The 10 novels:
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Mrs. Dalloway: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid
Do check out their feature; scroll over each title to learn more about the novel.
I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, Anna Karenina, and Beloved. I have The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Middlemarch on my shelves. I agree that some of these books have affected me emotionally; indeed, Beloved is the first novel I read that pursued me. A wonderful professor, Dr. Michael Wenthe, taught me the book while I was in college. For my related assignment I rewrote the scene in the forest when Sethe begins to choke from Denver’s perspective. Then in graduate school I spent three class session teaching Beloved to an advanced and very engaging group of students. And just this week I edited a chapter of Dr. Anton Trinidad’s dissertation which is partly about the emotional effects on readers after experiencing Beloved.
To this list I would add 1984 by George Orwell and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I would also add The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, one of my all-time favorite books (though not a novel).
Any other suggestions for this list?