By Nadine Gordimer
Set in South Africa during the apartheid regime, this novel is about the dawning of a young white woman's political consciousness. The heroine, Rosa Burger, starts out rejecting the life of principle and activism that her parents have pursued and ends up...well, I won't spoil it for you. All the author's usual virtues are on display here: cool intelligence, an alarmingly acute understanding of human nature, a capacity to write about Big Issues without preachiness or the least sacrifice to her art. When I first read this, at 14, I thought for about a minute that I'd like to be Rosa when I grew up. Then I read it again and realized no, it was Nadine Gordimer I wanted to be.