Thursday, March 13, 2014

Boylan's Top 60

Yesterday I commented somewhat disparagingly on Stephen King's must-read list of 96 titles and promised to provide one of my own. Well, here it is, but only 60 names long. Since 96 seemed an arbitrary number for King, I decided 60 would do it for me. Fewer, and I'd miss a couple of essential ones; many more, and I'd be throwing in titles just for the hell of it. 

These, then, are the books, mostly from the Western canon ('coz that's my canon) that, in my experience, will best equip a would-be writer--assuming he or she can write in the first place--to become a writer of style, range, and depth. And if that isn't what you want to become, what's the point in wanting to be a writer at all? Money!?

1. Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
2. Honoré de Balzac, Old Goriot
3. Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
4. John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor
5. Giorgio Bassani, The Heron
6. Samuel Beckett, Watt
7. Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron
8. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
9. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
10. Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
11. Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers
12. Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
13. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
14. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
15. Peter De Vries, The Blood of the Lamb
16. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
17. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
18. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
19. George Eliot, Middlemarch
20. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
21. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
22. Henri-Alban Fournier (Alain-Fournier), The Great Meaulnes
23. Jaroslav Hacek, The Good Soldier Svejk
24.Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge
25. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
26. James Joyce, Ulysses
27. Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
28. Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
29. Milan Kundera, The Joke
30. Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Leopard
31. Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons
32. Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli
33. Primo Levi, If This Is a Man
34. Jack London, Martin Eden
35. Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan
36. Guy de Maupassant, Tales of the Goose
37. Alberto Moravia, Women of Rome
38. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
39. Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
40. Flann O'Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds
41. Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman
42. Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
43. John Cowper Powys, Autobiography
44. Marcel Proust, Swann's Way
45. Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March
46. Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses
47. Stendhal, The Red and the Black
48. Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
49. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
50. Bram Stoker, Dracula
51. Italo Svevo, Confessions of Zeno
52. Junichiro Tanizaki, The Makioka Sisters
53. William Thackeray, Vanity Fair
54. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
55. Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych
56. John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
57. Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
58. H. G. Wells, The Time Machine
59. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

60. Voltaire, Candide