May 10, 2004
Everybody's Doing It

Lynn Sislo, Robert Tagorda, and others have provided their reading lists, selected from an arbitrary and idiosyncratic master list. Here's mine:

  • Beowulf (in college, I think)
  • Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
  • Agee, James - A Death in the Family
  • Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice (more than once, and 2-3 others, too)
  • Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot (I've seen it but wasn't impressed enough to read it)
  • Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
  • Brontė, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
  • Brontė, Emily - Wuthering Heights
  • Camus, Albert - The Stranger
  • Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop (I think so, in high school, but am not sure)
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales (I've read some of the tales, but far from all)
  • Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
  • Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
  • Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness (more than once -- I prefer The Secret Agent)
  • Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
  • Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage (maybe in high school)
  • Dante - Inferno (and the rest of the Divine Comedy, too)
  • de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote (in college)
  • Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe (probably in high school)
  • Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment (in college)
  • Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
  • Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
  • Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss (I've read Silas Marner and the two short stories, but none of the full-length novels)
  • Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
  • Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
  • Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
  • Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones (I read it very quickly in college and remember very little)
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
  • Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary (twice, but not lately)
  • Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
  • Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust (started, but never came close to finishing)
  • Golding, William - Lord of the Flies (in high school)
  • Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter (in high school)
  • Heller, Joseph - Catch 22 (maybe in high school -- if so, it made little impression)
  • Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms (ditto)
  • Homer - The Iliad (more than once, and nearly half of it also in Greek)
  • Homer - The Odyssey (more than once, and close to half also in Greek)
  • Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World (in high school or college, maybe both)
  • Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
  • James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady (I've read 6-7 novels and 20+ tales, but not these two -- not yet, anyway)
  • James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw (see previous note)
  • Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in college)
  • Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis (twice)
  • Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
  • Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird (in high school, I think)
  • Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
  • London, Jack - The Call of the Wild (probably, in high school)
  • Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain (in college)
  • Marquez, Gabriel Garcķa - One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener (a favorite)
  • Melville, Herman - Moby Dick (in college)
  • Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
  • Morrison, Toni - Beloved
  • O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
  • Orwell, George - Animal Farm (in high school)
  • Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago (maybe in high school -- if so, it made little impression)
  • Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
  • Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales (a few, but not lately)
  • Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way (in college)
  • Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
  • Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac (does seeing Roxanne count?)
  • Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
  • Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye (in high school)
  • Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
  • Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
  • Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet
  • Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion (I've seen the movie)
  • Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
  • Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony (who? what?)
  • Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • Sophocles - Antigone (more than once, and in Greek)
  • Sophocles - Oedipus Rex (ditto)
  • Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath (in high school, along with a dozen other Steinbecks, while living in Monterey)
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island (maybe in high school)
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin (in high school)
  • Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels (more than once -- a favorite)
  • Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
  • Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
  • Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace (in college)
  • Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
  • Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (in college and maybe before that in high school)
  • Voltaire - Candide
  • Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
  • Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth (I have read The Reef and 20+ short stories)
  • Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
  • Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
  • Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
  • Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
  • Wright, Richard - Native Son

Is the list slanted towards things Americans tend to read in high school and college, or have I just not read a lot since then? Mostly the former, I think. It's also a bit spotty, including two Homers and two Sophocleses, but nothing else Greek, Roman, or whatever, before Beowulf.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 10, 2004 11:01 PM

I note that 'Misty' (one of the folks who seems to be in the chain of 'passers on') has read both Iliad and Odyssey with the qualifier "unfortunately" ... outside of that, I think you're right about the skewing towards American High School required reading ... outside of Shakespeare, there's really nothing on the list which I would expect a Canadian (or at least an Albertan) to have read ...

Posted by: rogueclassicist on May 11, 2004 05:26 AM

What, no King or Grisham? Both superb story tellers. Like Poe and Dickens before them, 50 years after they die, they'll be literary geniuses. Not now though. A genius cannot appeal to the masses, not while they are alive anyway.

Posted by: Doug Purdie on May 11, 2004 04:29 PM

One of my commenters discovered that the list comes from the College Board.

Posted by: Robert Tagorda on May 11, 2004 05:24 PM

It's pitched very strongly toward middle aged English majors. I've read almost everything on the list written by an American or an Englishman for. The continental stuff is similar, but the English majors didn't read all of it (I did, but then I'm weird). For instance, there's Agee's Death in the Family -- no one reads that any more outside English departments (and a great pity, too).

I agree with your who/what comment on one. I'd recommend the Turn of the Screw to go with your current MR James reading, by the way.

Posted by: Michael Tinkler on May 11, 2004 05:36 PM

Cripes, only one Dostoevesky, and it wasn't Brothers Karamazov?! I managed to slog through Crime and Punishment, but couldn't enjoy it, since it was obvious that Raskolnikov was going to confess, and why didn't he just f***ing go ahead and get it over with?

Posted by: Anduril on May 13, 2004 12:32 PM

[Another stupid lie from the asshole who calls himself 'JadeGold' deleted here.]

Posted by: Help, I'm A Moron! on May 14, 2004 02:16 PM

Is this list just for fiction? I'm just reading the "Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini", in translation, and loving it.

Posted by: Robert Speirs on May 14, 2004 02:42 PM

[Poor 'JadeGold' seems to have some kind of obsession with me. Perhaps I gave him a well-deserved F in Latin under his real name some years ago?]

Posted by: Help, I'm A Moron! on May 15, 2004 11:02 AM

The Cranky One is right. This list is an English Majors standard fare, which is why I can claim to have read more of it than would be prudent.

By the way, "As I Lay Dying" is a must read for anyone who's ever lived in the South (you must read it forthwith). It's one of the funniest novels ever written.

Posted by: H.D. Miller on May 19, 2004 01:48 PM

Well, if you're discussing southern writers, I'd like to put in for Ferrol Sams. I recommend Run With The Horsemen for starters.

Violent change of topic: do you think JadeGuy is lonely? Maybe one of those internet dating services would do the trick.

Posted by: Slartibartfast on May 19, 2004 10:54 PM