Cannery Row, John Steinbeck. 1945
This little book may be my favourite; it contains all the elements I appreciate and it illustrates so well Steinbeck’s comment, “Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”
I particularly like the Penguin edition with brilliant introduction by Susan Shillinglaw. The introduction is long but don’t skip it.