John Irving Books In Order

Standalone Novels In Publication Order

  1. Setting Free the Bears (1968)
  2. The Water-Method Man (1972)
  3. The 158-Pound Marriage (1974)
  4. The World According to Garp (1978)
  5. The Hotel New Hampshire (1981)
  6. The Cider House Rules (1985)
  7. A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)
  8. A Son of the Circus (1994)
  9. A Widow for One Year (1998)
  10. The Fourth Hand (2001)
  11. Until I Find You (2005)
  12. Last Night in Twisted River (2009)
  13. In One Person (2012)
  14. Avenue of Mysteries (2015)

Short Story Collections In Publication Order

  1. Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (1993)

Picture Books In Publication Order

  1. A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound (2003)

Non-Fiction Books In Publication Order

  1. The Imaginary Girlfriend (1996)
  2. My Movie Business (1999)

Standalone Novels Book Covers

Short Story Collections Book Covers

Picture Book Covers

Non-Fiction Book Covers

John Irving Books Overview

Setting Free the Bears

It is 1967 and two Viennese university students want to liberate the Vienna Zoo, as was done after World War II. But their good intentions have both comic and gruesome consequences, in this first novel written by a twenty five year old John Irving, already a master storyteller. From the Paperback edition.

The Water-Method Man

Fred ‘Bogus’ Trumper is a wayward knight errant in the battle of the sexes and the pursuit of happiness. He also happens to have a complaint more serious than Portnoy’s. Yet he stubbornly clings to the notion that he’ll make something of his life, and is about to commit himself to a second marriage that bears remarkable resemblance to his first. ‘The Water Method Man’ is a work of cosummate artistry and comic invention, bizarre imagery and sharp social and psychological observation.

The 158-Pound Marriage

‘Irving looks cunningly beyond the eye catching gyrations of the mating dance to the morning after implications.’ The Washington Post The darker vision and sexual ambiguities of this erotic, ironic tale about a m nage a quatre in a New England university town foreshadow those of The World According to Garp; but this very trim and precise novel is a marked departure from the author’s generally robust, boisterous style. Though Mr. Irving’s cool eye spares none of his foursome, he writes with genuine compassion for the sexual tests and illusions they perpetrate on each other; but the sexual intrigue between them demonstrates how even the kind can be ungenerous, and even the well intentioned, destructive.’One of the most remarkable things about John Irving’s first three novels, viewed from the vantage of The World According to Garp, is that they can be read as one extended fictional enterprise…
. The 158 Pound Marriage is as lean and concentrated as a mine shaft.’ Terrence Des Pres

The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp is a comic and compassionate coming of age novel that established John Irving as one of the most imaginative writers of his generation. A worldwide bestseller since its publication in 1978, Irving’s classic is filled with stories inside stories about the life and times of T. S. Garp, novelist and bast*ard son of Jenny Fields a feminist leader ahead of her time. Beyond that, The World According to Garp virtually defies synopsis. ‘Nothing in contemporary fiction matches it,’ said critic Terrence Des Pres. ‘Irving’s blend of gravity and play is unique, audacious, almost blasphemous…
. Friendship, marriage and family are his primary themes, but at that blundering level of life where mishap and folly something close to joyful malice perpetually intrude and disrupt, often fatally. Life, in Irving’s fiction, is always under siege.’ Time magazine commented: ‘Irving’s popularity is not hard to understand. His world is really the world according to nearly everyone.’ This Modern Library edition includes a new Introduction by the author. The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editons of impor tant works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library’s seventy fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoringas its emblem the running torchbearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world’s best books, at the best prices. From the Hardcover edition.

The Hotel New Hampshire

Quirky, bizarre, tragic, fiendishly funny, ‘The Hotel New Hampshire‘ is anything but a conventional family saga, though a family saga it certainly is. The Berry family are different. Love abounds both healthy and incestuous. It is the overwhelming desire of the Berry father to run a hotel, which he does, with dubious success, in both a former girls’ school in New Hampshire, and in Vienna. It is the Berry children who grab the readers’ attention, sympathies and love all five of them: Frank the eldest, Franny the weirdest, John the narrator, Lily the writer and Egg the youngest. When Irving, or rather John, writes ‘Frank’s queer, Franny’s weird, Lily’s small and Egg is Egg’ the initiated reader can do no other than shout a deafening ‘yes, I know what you mean!’ From there on, the reader is held spellbound as the family Labrador, Sorrow, is first stuffed then becomes the cruel victim of a plane crash; and as John and Franny realise their incestuous desires. Stunningly readable, mercilessly involving, ‘The Hotel New Hampshire‘ is peopled with characters and bears that you’ll never forget.

The Cider House Rules

This acadamy award winning screenplay by John Irving was written over a fourteen year period and is the companion screenplay to the Miramax film, co starring Michael Caine, who won the Acadmy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dr. Wilbur Larch. The Cider House Rules is set in rural Maine in the first half of this century. It tells the story of Homer Wells, an orphan who is raised and mentored by Wilbur Larch, the doctor at the orphanage. Dr. Larch teaches Homer eveything about medicine. Yet though his capacity for kindness is saintly, Larch is also an ether addict. He and Homer come into conflict, which is typical of many father son relationships, but in this case, their conflict is intensified by their disagreements about abortion. The result is Homer leaves the only family he has ever known. Homer’s new life provides more excitement than he could have imagined, especially when he falls in love for the first time. But, when forced to make decisions that will change the course of his future, Homer finally realizes that he can’t escape his past. The Cider House Rules is ultimately about the choices we make and the rules that are meant to be broken.

A Prayer for Owen Meany

In the summer of 1953, two eleven year old boys best friends are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn t believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God s instrument. What happens to Owen, after that 1953 foul ball, is extraordinary and terrifying.A Prayer for Owen Meany was first published in 1989. This Modern Library edition includes a new Introduction by the author.

A Son of the Circus

A Son of the Circus IS COMIC GENIUS…
. GET READY FOR IRVING’S MOST RAUCOUS NOVEL TO DATE.’ The Boston Globe’Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla, reared in Bombay by maverick foes of tradition, educated in Vienna, married to an Austrian and long a resident of Toronto, is a 59 year old without a country, culture or religion to call his own…
. The novel may not be ‘about’ India, but Irving’s imagined India, which Daruwalla visits periodically, is a remarkable achievement a pandemonium of servants and clubmen, dwarf clowns and transvestite who*res, missionaries and movie stars. This is a land of energetic colliding egos, of modern media clashing with ancient cultures, of broken sexual boundaries.’ New York Newsday’HIS MOST DARING AND MOST VIBRANT NOVEL…
The story of circus as India is told with gusto and delightful irreverence.’ Bharati Mukherjee The Washington Post Book World’Ringmaster Irving introduces act after act, until three or more rings are awhirl at a lunatic pace…
. He spills characters from his imagination as agilely as improbable numbers of clowns pile out of a tiny car…
. His Bombay and his Indian characters are vibrant and convincing.’ The Wall Street Journal’IRRESISTIBLE…
Irving’s gift for dialogue shines.’ Chicago TribuneFrom the Paperback edition.

A Widow for One Year

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‘ Irving’s instincts are so basically sound, his talent for storytelling so bright and strong that he gets down to the truth of his time.’ The New York Times Book Review

Twenty years after The World According to Garp, John Irving gives us a new novel about a family marked by tragedy. Ruth Cole is a complex, often self contradictory character a ‘difficult’ woman. By no means is she conventionally ‘nice’, but she will never be forgotten.

Ruth’s story is told in three parts, each focusing on a critical time in her life. When we first meet her on Long Island, in the summer of 1958 Ruth is only four.

The second window into Ruth’s life opens on the fall of 1990, when Ruth is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career. She distrusts her judgment in men, for good reason.

A Widow for One Year closes in the autumn of 1995, when Ruth Cole is a forty one year old widow and mother. She’s about to fall in love for the first time.

Richly comic, as well as deeply disturbing, A Widow for One Year is a multilayered love story of astonishing emotional force. Both ribald and erotic, it is also a brilliant novel about the passage of time and the relentlessness of grief.

The Fourth Hand

The Fourth Hand asks an interesting question: How can anyone identify a dream of the future? The answer: Destiny is not imaginable, except in dreams or to those in love.’While reporting a story from India, a New York television journalist has his left hand eaten by a lion; millions of TV viewers witness the accident. In Boston, a renowned hand surgeon awaits the opportunity to perform the nation’s first hand transplant; meanwhile, in the distracting aftermath of an acrimonious divorce, the surgeon is seduced by his housekeeper. A married woman in Wisconsin wants to give the one handed reporter her husband s left hand that is, after her husband dies. But the husband is alive, relatively young, and healthy. This is how John Irving s tenth novel begins; it seems, at first, to be a comedy, perhaps a satire, almost certainly a sexual farce. Yet, in the end, The Fourth Hand is as realistic and emotionally moving as any of Mr. Irving s previous novels including The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and A Widow for One Year or his Oscar winning screenplay of The Cider House Rules. The Fourth Hand is characteristic of John Irving s seamless storytelling and further explores some of the author s recurring themes loss, grief, love as redemption. But this novel also breaks new ground; it offers a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Until I Find You

Until I Find You is the story of the actor Jack Burns his life, loves, celebrity and astonishing search for the truth about his parents.

When he is four years old, Jack travels with his mother Alice, a tattoo artist, to several North Sea ports in search of his father, William Burns. From Copenhagen to Amsterdam, William, a brilliant church organist and profligate womanizer, is always a step ahead has always just departed in a wave of scandal, with a new tattoo somewhere on his body from a local master or scratcher.

Alice and Jack abandon their quest, and Jack is educated at schools in Canada and New England including, tellingly, a girls school in Toronto. His real education consists of his relationships with older women from Emma Oastler, who initiates him into erotic life, to the girls of St. Hilda s, with whom he first appears on stage, to the abusive Mrs. Machado, whom he first meets when sent to learn wrestling at a local gym.

Too much happens in this expansive, eventful novel to possibly summarize it all. Emma and Jack move to Los Angeles, where Emma becomes a successful novelist and Jack a promising actor. A host of eccentric minor characters memorably come and go, including Jack’s hilariously confused teacher the Wurtz; Michelle Maher, the girlfriend he will never forget; and a precocious child Jack finds in the back of an Audi in a restaurant parking lot. We learn about tattoo addiction and movie cross dressing, sleeping in the needles and the cure for cauliflower ears. And John Irving renders his protagonist s unusual rise through Hollywood with the same vivid detail and range of emotions he gives to the organ music Jack hears as a child in European churches. This is an absorbing and moving book about obsession and loss, truth and storytelling, the signs we carry on us and inside us, the traces we can t get rid of.

Jack has always lived in the shadow of his absent father. But as he grows older and when his mother dies he starts to doubt the portrait of his father s character she painted for him when he was a child. This is the cue for a second journey around Europe in search of his father, from Edinburgh to Switzerland, towards a conclusion of great emotional force.

A melancholy tale of deception, Until I Find You is also a swaggering comic novel, a giant tapestry of life s hopes. It is a masterpiece to compare with John Irving s great novels, and restates the author s claim to be considered the most glorious, comic, moving novelist at work today.

From the Hardcover edition.

Last Night in Twisted River

In 1954, in the cookhouse of a logging and sawmill settlement in northern New Hampshire, an anxious twelve year old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear. Both the twelve year old and his father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County to Boston, to southern Vermont, to Toronto pursued by the implacable constable. Their lone protector is a fiercely libertarian logger, once a river driver, who befriends them.

In a story spanning five decades, Last Night in Twisted River John Irving s twelfth novel depicts the recent half century in the United States as a living replica of Coos County, where lethal hatreds were generally permitted to run their course. From the novel s taut opening sentence The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long to its elegiac final chapter, Last Night in Twisted River is written with the historical authenticity and emotional authority of The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is also as violent and disturbing a story as John Irving s breakthrough bestseller, The World According to Garp.

What further distinguishes Last Night in Twisted River is the author s unmistakable voice the inimitable voice of an accomplished storyteller. Near the end of this moving novel, John Irving writes: We don t always have a choice how we get to know one another. Sometimes, people fall into our lives cleanly as if out of the sky, or as if there were a direct flight from Heaven to Earth the same sudden way we lose people, who once seemed they would always be part of our lives.

From the Hardcover edition.

In One Person

His most political novel since The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving’s In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself worthwhile. Advance praise for John Irving s In One Person: This tender exploration of nascent desire, of love and loss, manages to be sweeping, brilliant, political, provocative, tragic, and funny it is precisely the kind of astonishing alchemy we associate with a John Irving novel. The unfolding of the AIDS epidemic in the United States in the 80s was the defining moment for me as a physician. With my patients deaths, almost always occurring in the prime of life, I would find myself cataloging the other losses namely, what these people might have offered society had they lived the full measure of their days: their art, their literature, the children they might have raised. In One Person is the novel that for me will define that era. A profound truth is arrived at in these pages. It is Irving at his most daring, at his most ambitious. It is America and American writing, both at their very best. Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone and My Own Country In One Person is a novel that makes you proud to be human. It is a book that not only accepts but also loves our differences. From the beginning of his career, Irving has always cherished our peculiarities in a fierce, not a saccharine, way. Now he has extended his sympathies and ours still further into areas that even the misfits eschew. Anthropologists say that the interstitial whatever lies between two familiar opposites is usually declared either taboo or sacred. John Irving in this magnificent novel his best and most passionate since The World According to Garp has sacralized what lies between polarizing genders and orientations. And have I mentioned it is also a gripping page turner and a beautifully constructed work of art? Edmund White, author of City Boy and Genet: A Biography

Trying to Save Piggy Sneed

‘Supple and energetic as a stylist, Mr. Irving also knows just how to create in the reader’s mind a vivid impression of an existing world and just how to populate it.’

The New York Times Book Review

Those who have followed John Irving’s writing career will delight in his newest, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed
. Readers will leave this book feeling as if they have had a terrific conversation with Irving about why he writes and how he goes about it.’

USA Today

‘ THIS NEWEST BOOK IS A FIRST FOR IRVING: a collection of memoirs, short fiction, and essays. Trying to Save Piggy Sneed features tributes to Dickens and G nter Grass, whose novels percolate with a political and moral courage Irving admires. It also includes six short stories, a form Irving doesn’t claim as his own. Reminiscences round out the collection, from his caustic recollections of an awkward dinner with former President Reagan to the title piece, in which the death of his town’s garbage collector symbolically sparked the teenage Irving’s desire to write.’

Minneapolis Star Tribune

. Trying to Save Piggy Sneed is a welcome oasis on the long desert passage leading to John Irving’s next novel.’

The Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer

The essays on himself and other writers make the book valuable, for they tell us a great deal about Irving’s views of fiction, much in the public eye since the success of Garp in 1978.’


‘A rich, wonderful and diverse look into the creative mind of one of America’s most imaginative and passionate novelists…
. Irving again proves he has enough imagination for 10 writers.’

The Denver Post

A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound

WHEN A YOUNG BOY wakes up in the middle of the night, an unfamiliar sound conjures frightening images in his mind.

Children everywhere can now enjoy John Irving’s story about nighttime uncertainties, A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound. Originally found within Irving s ninth novel, A Widow for One Year, this atmospheric tale has been brought to life by Tatjana Hauptmann s beautifully muted illustrations.

Includes an introduction by the author.

The Imaginary Girlfriend

From a novelist known for the complexity of his novels they are also long comes an autobiography of compelling simplicity; it is also short. Dedicated to the memory of two wrestling coaches and two writer friends, The Imaginary Girlfriend is a lucid portrait of the writers and wrestlers who played a mentor role in John Irving’s development as a novelist, a wrestler and a wrestling coach. Moreover, this candid memoir portrays a father’s dedication to his children: Irving coached his sons Colin and Brendan to New England championship titles a championship that, as a competitor, he himself was denied. John Irving began writing and wrestling when he was fourteen. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, he was certified as a referee for twenty four and he coached the sport until he was forty seven. His thirty three years in wrestling are three times those he spent as a student and a teacher of Creative Writing; yet his concise autobiography details the interrelationship of the disciplines of writing and wrestling from the days when Irving was a beginner at both pursuits until his fourth wrestling related surgery at the age of fifty three. The Imaginary Girlfriend is both a work of the utmost literary accomplishment and a paradigm for living.

My Movie Business

John Irving’s memoir begins with his account of the distinguished career and medical writings of the novelist’s grandfather Dr. Frederick C. Irving, a renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, and includes Mr. Irving’s incisive history of abortion politics in the United States. But My Movie Business focuses primarily on the thirteen years John Irving spent adapting his novel The Cider House Rules for the screen for four different directors. Mr. Irving also writes about the failed effort to make his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, into a movie; about two of the films that were made from his novels but not from his screenplays, The World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire; about his slow progress at shepherding his screenplay of A Son of the Circus into production. Not least, and in addition to its qualities as a memoir anecdotal, comic, affectionate, and candid My Movie Business is an insightful essay on the essential differences between writing a novel and writing a screenplay. The photographs in My Movie Business were taken by Stephen Vaughan, the still photographer on the set of The Cider House Rules a Miramax production directed by Lasse Hallstr m, with Michael Caine in the role of Dr. Larch. Concurrently with the November 1999 release of the film, Talk Miramax Books will publish John Irving’s screenplay.

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