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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

100 Great Books

I’ve come across several 100-great-books lists on various blogs, and I think it’s a great idea: read 100 books (fiction or nonfiction) that you feel you ought to have read already, setting an end-date of five or seven (or ten?) years from now. They don’t all have to be classics per se, but reading them can fill in the gaps where your literary education is concerned.

I decided that at least 20% of the books on my list should be translated works (which are starred on my list below). I intend to consume several of these books on CD/podcast, because let’s face it–if I don’t “read” while I knit, it’s probably going to take me well over 10 years to get through this list. I also don’t think I’m going to get around to reading any doorstoppers like Ulysses, Herodotus’ Histories, de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, or War and Peace; I’ll read them eventually, but in the meantime I’d rather read the Joyce and Tolstoy I already have on hand (Portrait of the Artist and a collection of the shorter novels and stories, respectively). I’m also thinking about making somewhat shorter lists for plays and poetry.

If you’re thinking about making a list yourself, check out the ‘best’ lists at the Modern Library, Waterstones, The Guardian, and San José State University (that one’s aptly titled ‘The Guilt List’).

1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
3. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
4. Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac *
5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (Librivox)
6. Beowulf
7. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio *
8. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges *
9. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Librivox)
11. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov *
12. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
13. Possession by A.S. Byatt
14. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
15. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
16. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
17. Cathedral by Raymond Carver
18. Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes *
19. The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever
20. The Vagabond by Colette *
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
23. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
24. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (Librivox)
25. The Divine Comedy by Dante *
26. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (Librivox)
27. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (Librivox)
28. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
29. Hard Times by Charles Dickens (Librivox)
30. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
31. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky * (Librivox)
32. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco *
33. Middlemarch by George Eliot (Librivox)
34. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
35. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
36. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
37. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert * (Librivox)
38. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
39. The Magus by John Fowles
40. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
41. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
42. Neuromancer by William Gibson
43. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
44. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (Librivox)
45. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
46. Hunger by Knut Hamsun *
47. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (Librivox)
48. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
49. Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse *
50. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
51. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
52. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
53. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka *
54. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
55. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
56. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
57. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
58. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
59. If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi *
60. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
61. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (Librivox)
62. The Giver by Lois Lowry
63. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
64. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez *
65. The Magician by Somerset Maugham
66. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
67. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami *
68. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
69. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
70. The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien
71. A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Connor
72. One Thousand and One Nights (a.k.a. Arabian Nights) *
73. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
74. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque*
75. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
76. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
77. The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry
78. Blindness by José Saramago *
79. Rob Roy by Walter Scott (Librivox)
80. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (Librivox)
81. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
82. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
83. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn *
84. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
85. The Red and the Black by Stendhal *
86. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (audio version, Forgotten Classics)
87. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (Librivox)
88. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (Librivox)
89. Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
90. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy *
91. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne * (Librivox)
92. The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas *
93. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
94. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
95. The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
96. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
97. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (Librivox)
98. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
99. Native Son by Richard Wright
100. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin *

The plan is to annotate this list periodically, blogging brief(ish) ‘book appreciations’ as I go. Feel free to leave me more recommendations –the master list is actually much longer!

First up: The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien (I just finished it this week).

3 Comments to 100 Great Books

  1. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    July 26, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I really love the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and am looking forward to her newest book coming out in September. I like it for the historical backdrop and for the romance (I have to admit). I think it's the only book I've read three times!
    Keep up the blog Camille. I am reading and enjoying!

  2. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    August 6, 2009 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    Recommendation: My Land and My People by HHDL

  3. Pare's Gravatar Pare
    December 18, 2009 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    As an immediate sequel to Suite Francaise, you should read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

    It's good, of course, but they seem like they would fit well together.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.