Book Article

Lessing Planner

Doris Lessing's path to the Nobel prize –- We look at five essential works by the 2007 Nobel winner for literature

Doris Lessing's path to the Nobel prize

That tricky Nobel committee again confounded oddsmakers by giving this year's literature prize to Doris Lessing, 87. Born in Persia, raised in Rhodesia, and currently living in London, the prolific Lessing has been a tough artist to pigeonhole even after her groundbreaking feminist novel, The Golden Notebook. ''What Lessing did that was remarkable is she accepted that women had many, many parts to their being,'' says novelist Erica Jong. ''I'd heard rumors they'd been looking at Philip Roth for this prize, and I was so relieved we didn't have to see a Nobel for his paeans to his penis.'' Here are five essential Lessing works.

The Grass is Singing (1950) Set on a forlorn African farm, Lessing's stark debut novel about an interracial love affair introduced her two great subjects: politics and the inner lives of women.

The Golden Notebook (1962) A complex portrait of a contemporary woman's fragmented sense of self.

Shikasta (1979) The first book in Lessing's allegorical sci-fi quintet, Canopus in Argos: Archives, recounts the rocky history of humankind on the planet Shikasta.

The Fifth Child (1988) This terrifying novel about a nice bourgeois family and their demon-seed son could make anyone think twice about having children.

Under My Skin (1994) Her first memoir evokes her youth in rural Rhodesia.

Originally posted Oct 19, 2007 Published in issue #961 Oct 26, 2007 Order article reprints