A lot of Americans hate JD Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye because it was forced down their throats as a ‘classic’ at school. I missed all that, and had never even heard of the book until I was about 18; discovering it then was like being struck by lightning.
I remember how absolutely, physically thrilling it was to read something so pitch-perfect. I have re-read it many times, always with the same mixture of pleasure and envy. (“How dare Salinger be a better magician than I’m ever going to be!”) I feel the same way about Gulliver’s Travels, Midnight’s Children, most of Shakespeare, Descartes’ Discourse on Method, The Story of Ferdinand (which, as far as I know, is the only great work of literature to have been written in less than an hour), and The Tale of Peter Rabbit.