American novelist and short story writer James Salter, known for such works as Light Years, A Sport and A Pastime: A Novel, and Burning the Days: Recollection, recently published Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days with his wife, Kay Salter. Salter offers his recommended reading list.
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
(Collins and Harvill Press, 1960)
The only novel written, late in life, by a minor Sicilian prince, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1897-1957), who had a passive and virtually uneventful existence enriched only by his great love of books. A matchless jewel, The Leopard was rejected by a number of publishers and finally appeared a year or so after Lampedusa's death.
Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell, Jr.
(The Viking Press, 1959)
Among various lists of the most important novels of the 20th century, this brilliant book is often omitted. Half (with Mr. Bridge) of a connubial pair, Mrs. Bridge is set in mid-America, Kansas City, and is an example of what Babbitt might have been.
Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald
(Modern Library, 2002)
W. G. Sebald was killed in an automobile accident a few years ago. Austerlitz is one of his handful of unique novels. He was German but lived and taught in England and has one of the most distinctive and enthralling voices you will ever encounter, if you are lucky enough not to be bored.
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
(Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)
Biography is the liqueur of life, to be savored after the main courses, and for the person as well as the period and place—Colette, first half of the last century, France—and the marvelous way it is written. Colette by Judith Thurman, who also wrote the outstanding biography of Isak Dinesen, is one of my favorites.