The Irresistibles: Lyrical, Luscious Reads

From a hilarious futuristic novel to a comedy of manners about a late-life love affair, you’ll want to read these literary standouts over and over again.
The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

The Original of Laura

304 pages; Knopf
Vladimir Nabokov, that unrivaled perfectionist, wanted his wife, Vera, to destroy his final novel if he failed to finish it before he died. She couldn't, or wouldn't (this was, after all, the woman who had once stopped him from incinerating the draft of his masterpiece, Lolita), and bequeathed that unnerving task to their son, Dmitri. After decades of agonized indecision, Dmitri Nabokov, now 75, has published The Original of Laura, with detachable facsimiles of the handwritten index cards that his father shuffled endlessly—cards with marginal notes and tantalizing, meticulously crossed out phrases, on which the master plotted another intricate tale of seduction (pouty, indifferent girl, corpulent aging sensualist), artistry, and loss.
— Cathleen Medwick