When I was a kid, I constantly squirrelled away oh-so-precious AA batteries. Like many bookworms, I just had to finish a story past bedtime, under the covers, with a flashlight. I’ve been planning to compile a list of must-read books since my literary-obsessed childhood and am finally doing it. List suggestions are welcome!

Classic Fiction

Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: Tender is the Night – beautifully written, of course; the actual story, less captivating
Flaubert,Gustave: Madame Bovary
France, Anatole: The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard 
Greene, Graham: The Quiet American
Hemingway, Ernest: A Farewell to Arms – tried, couldn’t get into it
James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady
Kerouac, Jack: On the Road
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia: Love in the Time of Cholera
O’Brien, Edna: The Country Girls
Proust, Marcel: In Search of Lost Time
Salinger, J. D.: The Catcher in the Rye
Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
Vonnegut, Kurt: Breakfast of Champions – brilliant, obviously

Contemporary Fiction

Adichie, Chimamanda: Americanah – freaking amazing, just read it
Adichie, Chimamanda: Half of a Yellow Sun
Chabon, Michael: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Cole, Teju: Open City
Matar, Hisham: In the Country of Men
Pirsig, Robert: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Safak, Elif: The Forty Rules of Love
Spiegelman, Art: Maus
Sweeney, Cynthia D’Aprix: The Nest – a well-told story of family, with strong characters; a rather basic plot
Tartt, Donna: The Goldfinch


Patel, Raj: The Value of Nothing
Piketty, Thomas: Capital in the Twenty-first Century

Philosophy + Reflections 

Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations
Badiou, Alain: In Praise of Love – truly a wonderful way to reimagine love
Beauvoir, Simone: The Second Sex – READING (so far, riveting; seminal work, naturally, on womanhood/feminism)
Chesterton, G. K.: In Defence of SanityThe Best Essays of Chesterton
Didion, Joan: Slouching Towards Bethlehem – not every essay is as interesting as others, but some are amazing
Montaigne, Michel: The Complete Essays – READING (so far, life-changing)
Sontag, Susan: At the Same Time: Essays & Speeches
Russell, Bertrand: A History of Western Philosophy – READING (so far, truly comprehensive)
Thoreau, Henry David: Walden – READING (so far, full of wisdom)
Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own – fantastic, thought-provoking, ever creative woman should read


Delaney, Frank: The Celts
Hochschild, Adam: Bury the Chains
King, Thomas: The Inconvenient Indian – immensely important, deeply honest First Nations portrait
Marche, Stephen: How Shakespeare Changed Everything
Morris, Ian: Why the West Rules, For Now
Rose, Sarah: For All the Tea in China 


Burns, Robert: Robert Burns Country: The Works
Eliot, T. S.: The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock
Eliot, T. S.: The Hollow Men
Eliot, T. S.: The Wasteland
Frost, Robert: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Keats, John: Completed Works
Marvell, Andrew: To His Coy Mistress
Oliver, Mary: Devotions – READING (so far, uplifting; changing the way I look at the world)
Rilke, Rainer: Sonnets to Orpheus
Tennyson, Alfred: Ulysses 


Mukherjee, Siddhartha: The Gene: An Intimate History

Short Stories

Chekhov, Anton: The House with the Mezzanine
Chekhov, Anton: The Lady with the Dog
Joyce, James: Dubliners

Society, Politics + Identity 

Abelson, Hal: Blown to Bits
Bolick, Kate: Spinster – captivating; on women’s independent identities, outside/in spite of relationships
Brown, Brene: Braving the Wilderness – starts slow (dull personal anecdotes), but valuable research/insights
Etcoff, Nancy: Survival of the Prettiest
Haag, Pamela: Marriage Confidential
Judt, Tony: Ill Fares The Land
McKeon, Michael: The Secret History of Domesticity
Noah, Trevor: Born a Crime – captivating story, amazing glimpse of pre- and post-apartheid South Africa
Perel, Esther: Mating in Captivity – READING (so far, insanely relevant, for relationships + identity)
Rushdie, Salman: The Jaguar Smile – a fascinating, alternative take on Nicaragua’s history
Saunders, Doug: Arrival City
Thompson, Clive: Smarter Thank You Think
Whitfield-Madrano, Autumn: Face Value – interesting topic, but not as deep or revelatory as you’d expect


Brynjolfsson, E.: The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Writing + Creativity 

Bradbury, Ray: Zen in the Art of Writing – READING (so far, it’s changing my life)
Lamott, Anne: Bird by Bird – absolutely brilliant, worth reading multiple times
Orwell, George: Politics and the English Language



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