By Knut Hamsun
Okay, if you've weathered Paula Spencer, then you're ready for Hunger, written by a Norwegian man in 1890. This narrator is also getting through life—but barely. He is starving and cold and trying to write but unable to write, from hunger and from cold. Almost nothing happens in this book, plotwise. A lot of things almost happen—he almost has money, he almost meets a woman—but the only thing that endures are his abject, obsessive, superstitious thoughts, which are modern and hilarious. In fact, rereading this book now, it occurs to me that Hunger has probably had a big influence on my own writing. Maybe too big.