By Philip Roth
I found it so hard to pick only one Roth novel, but this has astonishing character studies. It's the story of Swede Levov, a golden boy who marries a former Miss New Jersey. It's a perfect-seeming life—except his daughter becomes a terrorist who plants a bomb that kills someone at a nearby post office. Swede tracks her down and finds her living in a hovel with a piece of fabric over her mouth because she doesn't want to breathe in and kill microbes. It's the most incredibly dramatic scene about a father trying to reason with his daughter, who's completely lost to him.