literary speed dating meme

I'm late to the meme table, but since it's Julie's I kinda have to play. (Or I'll never hear the end of it.) But I'll just say in advance that this kind of question (or your top 5 songs/films ever, etc) is incredibly difficult for me -- all the more so since I handle books professionally. There are novels that I didn't like much on first reading but then decided to teach them and grew to really appreciate, even enjoy them. I have different kinds of preferences depending on the time of year and available braincells to process things. And the whole wrinkle of speed dating -- picking books that would maybe say something about me and be recognizable to someone else? that's extra difficult. And only 3??

But I guess here's what I'd bring:
  • George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
  • Emma Donoghue, Hood
  • Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
The first because it's the book that converted me to GE, who is still probably my favorite 19thc novelist. (I'll defend Middlemarch any day, Julie!) It's rich and powerful and dramatic and full of interesting psychological investigations -- the complex interiors of her characters are what draw me in every time, along with the beautiful complexities of her language.

Emma Donoghue is my favorite contemporary lesbian novelist -- she's trained academically (an Oxbridge PhD I think) and has done a huge array of projects -- several novels, some plays, short stories, two scholarly studies, an edited anthology, etc etc. I think she's brilliant. This book in particular is incredibly moving, following a bereaved lesbian in the days immediately after her partner's sudden death.

And the final choice signals that yes, I do read fantasy and SF, but I'm incredibly picky about it. Plus this book is itself para-academic in its setting, the Oxford and Cambridge of the future in an alternative alchemical universe. It's Milton inspired, so if you're an English major you'll get the references -- but if you're not you'll just enjoy a damn good story. And it's the first in a trilogy -- so there's more, when you're finished with it! Plus I love a plucky female hero/ine in my novels and in my relationships...