By Walker Percy
What’s it about: the improbably named Binx Bolling, a young man from a moneyed Southern family, and his search for…love? …happiness? …. meaning? while living at the movies in post Korean War New Orleans.
Why should you read it: this modern classic of 20th Century American fiction deftly balances existential and spiritual themes with a thrilling plot as Binx involves his fragile cousin Kate in his mad search.
Winner of the 1961 National Book Award and rated #60 of the 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library and on Time Magazine's 100 Best English Language Novels 1923-Present.
"What do you seek -- God? you ask with a smile.
I hesitate to answer, since all other Americans have settled the matter for themselves and to give such an answer would amount to setting myself a goal which everyone else has reached -- and therefore raising a question in which no one has the slightest interest. Who wants to be dead last among one hundred and eighty million Americans? For, as everyone knows, the polls report that 98% of Americans believe in God and the remaining 2% are atheists and agnostics -- which leaves not a single percentage point for a seeker. For myself, I enjoy answering polls as much as anyone and take pleasure in giving intelligent replies to all questions.
Truthfully, it is the fear of exposing my own ignorance which constrains me from mentioning the object of my search. For, to begin with, I cannot even answer this, the simplest and most basic of all questions: Am I, in my search, a hundred miles ahead of my fellow Americans or a hundred miles behind them? That is to say: Have 98% of Americans already found what I seek or are they so sunk in everydayness that not even the possibility of a search has occurred to them?
On my honor, I do not know the answer."
Google Books version here.