The World According to Garp

By John Irving,

Book cover of The World According to Garp

Book description

A masterpiece from one of the great contemporary American writers.

'A wonderful novel, full of energy and art, at once funny and heartbreaking...terrific' WASHINGTON POST

Anniversary edition with a new afterword from the author.

A worldwide bestseller since its publication, Irving's classic is filled with stories inside stories about the…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

4 authors picked The World According to Garp as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This was my second reading of this zany, idiosyncratic novel that I first read as an adolescent.  It recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary in print and feels as relevant today as ever, especially in its theme of cultivating a “tolerance of intolerance” as we move through the world. 

What hit me hardest this time around, that I missed the first time, is that this is really a book about anxiety, and our relationship to it.  Young Garp loves to swim in the ocean, but is repeatedly warned by his anxious mother to “Watch out for the undertow!”  What he hears…

What I love about The World According to Garp is how it blends the humorous and serious.

Its quirky, engaging characters and how they react to the pressures of life made me laugh out loud. But I also admire the humanity of it with its serious messages about love and relationships.

As someone who also wanted to be a writer, I identified with the protagonist’s struggles and dreams.

I also identified as a man who loves and is surrounded by strong women and how they can often surprise you and help you see the world in new ways. 

From John's list on mixing humor with serious topics.

I first read Garp in my early 20s, back when I was single, working at a grocery store in Chicago, pining for the love and companionship of someone I hopefully would one day meet. I reread it last year, now in my early 30s, in love with someone who I now share a home with in New York. Garp is a perfect example of what life, and stories about it, feel like to me—how our time on Earth is spent holding on to things we can only lose. In my 20s, Garp stirred up dreams of domestic artistic bliss but…

From Jeremy's list on for building community.

My book, The Molecule of More, explains how the brain divides everything into anticipation and appreciation – looking for things we don’t yet have, versus taking joy from what we possess right now. Irving’s bizarre, deep, profane, and life-changing novel is an eloquent and hilarious case for seeking joy less in what might happen tomorrow than in what we have in the here and now. I read it when I was 19 and it helped me understand nothing less than how I should live my life. (I re-read it a few years ago, in my 50s. Yup, I was…

From Michael's list on finding your place in the world.

Want books like The World According to Garp?

Our community of 9,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like The World According to Garp.

Browse books like The World According to Garp

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in feminists, women, and family?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about feminists, women, and family.

Feminists Explore 23 books about feminists
Women Explore 541 books about women
Family Explore 3,351 books about family