Tom Bissell's Top Ten List

Reader Bio

Tom Bissell (born 1974) is a journalist, critic, and fiction writer, critic and journalist who covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His books of fiction include God Lives in St. Petersburg: and Other Stories (2005) and Short Stories and Poems (2011). His works of nonfiction include Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia (2003), The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam  (2007), Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (2010) and Magic Hours: Essays On Creators and Creation (2012).

All comments by Tom

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-72). Modern novelistic consciousness, I think, begins with this book.

 

 

 

2. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922). Despite its longueurs - and boy does it have some - nobody has ever written more definitively about place and more seductively about consciousness.

 

 

3. Stonerby John Williams (1965). The best "quiet" book I've ever read, and the most heartbreaking.

 

 

 

4. Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (1985). The best example of how monstrous violence can be made beautiful.

 

 

 

5. London Fields by Martin Amis (1990). The apocalypse as stand-up comedy as murder mystery.

 

 

 

6. Of a Fire on the Moon by Norman Mailer (1971). His most neglected great book.

 

 

 

7. The Widow's Children by Paula Fox (1976). The most intense novel I've ever read--and the best ending.

 

 

 

8. Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuscinski (1982). The work that showed me how nonfiction can be as artful and beautiful as fiction.

 

 

 

9. Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone (1973). Has the single greatest death scene I've ever read, and I read it, probably, every couple of weeks to remind me what prose can do.

 

 

 

10. Snowblind: A Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade by Robert Sabbag (1998). An impossibly stylish and gripping real-life thriller about life in the cocaine trade.

 

 

New List

Joyce Carol Oates

1. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872).
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
6. Independent People by Halldór Laxness (1934).
7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).

 

Classic List

Charles Palliser

 

1. Adolphe by Benjamin Constant (1816).
2. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (1939).
3. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824).
4. Anton Reiser by Karl Philipp Moritz (1785-90).
5. The Golovlyev Family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (1876).
6. The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (1947).
7. The Tale of Genji by Shikibu Murasaki (c. 1001–1010 c.e.).
8. The Dukays by Lajos Zilahy. (1949)
9. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1896).
10. The Maias by Eca de Queiroz (1888).

 

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