Four books by John Irving -- We look back at ''The World According to Garp,'' ''A Prayer for Owen Meany'' and two other novels

Beginning in 1978 with Garp, John Irving took off on a magnificent four-book run. Everybody should read at least one of these novels.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1978) A tale to make you laugh, cry, and gasp, Irving’s first masterpiece swirls around a writer named T.S. Garp. Just don’t call it autobiographical: Unlike Garp, says Irving, ”I’ve never had writer’s block.”

THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE (1981) A worthy tragicomic follow-up to Garp, featuring a brother in love with his sister, a boy named Egg, and a pet bear called State o’ Main. Its Under Toad-esque refrain ”Keep passing the open windows” is catchy.

THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1985) One of Irving’s own favorite characters is Dr. Larch, the ether-addicted abortion doctor whose protégé, the orphan Homer, resists his tutelage. Irving toiled for 13 years to make it a movie; his script won an Oscar.

A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY (1989) Over time, according to Irving, ”this is the book of mine that more people have read than any other.” It’s a heartbreaker about a man-child who speaks only in capital letters and is an instrument of God.

The Cider House Rules
  • Movie
  • 126 minutes