About The Author
Born in Wexford, John Banville (pictured at Foyles in 2009) is an acclaimed novelist and screenwriter. He originally intended to be painter or an architect, but made the decision to travel, particularly to Italy and Greece, instead of attending university, and lived in the United States in the late sixties.
He published a collection of short stories, Long Lankin, in 1970 while he was working as a sub-editor at The Irish Press. He has since written seventeen novels, plus a further six (including Vengeance, published in August) under his crime writing pseudonym, Benjamin Black. he has been a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books since 1990.
His fiction includes two trilogies: the 'Revolutions trilogy' (Doctor Copernicus, Kepler and The Newton Letter) focused on great scientific figures in history, while The Book of Evidence, Ghosts and Athena made up an unnamed triptych exploring the power of art. Doctor Copernicus won the James Tait Black Memorial Award and Kepler the Guardian Fiction Prize; The Book of Revolutions was shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize.
His 2005 novel, The Sea, in which an art historian tries to come to terms with the deaths throughout his life of the people he loved, won, amongst many other accolades, the 2005 Man Booker Prize. It is the book which perhaps best illustrates the frequent comparisons of his writing with that of Vladimir Nabokov (although Banville cites Henry James as his primary influence).
Also amongst his most admired titles is The Untouchable (1997), written from the point of view of a gay art historian and double agent was broadly based on the lives of Louis MacNeice and Anthony Blunt.
In 2007 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was honoured with the Franz Kafka Prize in 2011.
His latest novel is Ancient Light, in which Alexander Cleave, an actor who believes his best days are behind him, remembers his first unlikely affair as a teenage boy in a small town in 1950s Ireland. He fell in love with the mother of his best friend, Billy Gray, in an affair characterised by the impetuousness and passion of young love.
But his reminiscences also bring to mind the dark and troubling memory of the suicide of his daughter ten years ago, his grief at which remains terrifyingly powerful.
Here John Banville shares twenty of his favourite books, ones which have made a deep impression upon him and to which he frequently returns.