Some books have a subject so timeless as to be almost mythic — it's as though these stories are reinvented each time a new book appears, since the subject is right at the heart of what it means to be human. Coming of age books, if they are any good, have this mythic quality. Here are three that are at the top of the scale.
What does it mean to grow up? And why are adults so fascinated by this transition from the innocent to the knowledgeable?
It seems to me that great coming-of-age books allow us to look back at the time in our lives when we discover, almost always the hard way, that some things shouldn't be done — and if they are, they come at an astronomical price. This passage from innocence to knowledge, while sometimes painful, is often so exciting as to be unforgettable. What wouldn't we give to return to that transition, if only for a few imaginary hours?
Craig Nova's most recent novel, The Informer, was named a New Yorker Best Book of 2012. His new novel, All the Dead Yale Men, is out now in trade paperback.