New Hampshire native and acclaimed novelist John Irving has been presented with a lifetime achievement award honoring writers whose work fosters peace, social justice, and global understanding. Irving, 76, who has published 14 novels in his 50-year career, has earned the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, named for the late US diplomat who brokered the 1995 Bosnia peace accords. In novels such as “The World According to Garp,” “The Cider House Rules,” “In One Person,’’ and others, Irving explores the fraught complexities of gender, social issues, and faith. His work is infused with his touchstones and obsessions: New England, writing, wrestling, and bears. Here are some of his best-known books (many of which have been turned into movies):
THE WATER-METHOD MAN (1972)
Traces the life of financially and romantically troubled grad student Fred “Bogus” Trumper from his New England childhood (Exeter Academy, Irving’s alma mater, figures in here and in several of his books), through study in Vienna, Iowa, and finally New York.
THE 158-POUND MARRIAGE (1974)
A dark satire of the sexual revolution told through the tale of two couples (among them a writer and a wrestling coach) in a New England college town who try their hand at swinging.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1978)
Shadowy, comic, coming-of-age saga of writer T.S. Garp, son of feminist leader Jenny Fields, that features infidelity, boys schools, wrestling, and a trans woman bodyguard who was a former pro-football player.
THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE (1981)
Quirky saga of Win and Mary Berry, their kids, Frank, Franny, John, Lilly, and Egg, two Hotel New Hampshires (one in the namesake state and the other in Vienna), pet bears, and a pal named Freud.
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1985)
Life gets pretty thorny in early-20th-century rural Maine for Dr. Wilbur Larch, orphanage director, ether addict, and abortionist, and Homer Wells, one of his charges who is never adopted.
A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY (1989)
Set in 1950s and 1960s New Hampshire, the story of two boys, Owen Meany and Johnny Wheelwright, through the death of Johnny’s mother from an errant baseball hit by Owen and Johnny’s growing belief in the divinity of his friend.
IN ONE PERSON (2012)
Winner of a 2013 Lambda Literary Award, this novel trails bisexual narrator Billy Dean as he wrestles with his sexual identity from his Vermont boyhood through decades of crushes, compulsions, and couplings.
Paul S. Makishima can be reached at email@example.com.