Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.Read about the other entries on the list.
Nobody captured the desperation of lives lived on the periphery quite like Selby did. His full-tilt prose was as provocative as he was empathetic. Although it's impossible to elect just one masterpiece from his work, this 1964 tale, with its cast of hopeful losers and souls warped by disadvantage and environment, is surely a contender for the Great American Novel.
Last Exit to Brooklyn is among Richard Price's five most essential books.