Featured List

Tom Perrotta

     “Disappointment plagues the characters in [Tom] Perrotta’s novels,” writes Laura Miller in the New Yorker, “from the disaffected parents in Little Children to the divorced sex-education instructor in The Abstinence Teacher. Their marriages lack passion, their spouses cheat, their kids demand too much from them. They thought ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

Enemies, A Love Story

Enemies, A Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1972). Herman Broder, who survived World War II by hiding in a hayloft for three years, marries the woman who hid him, and he now lives a life of duplicity in 1949 Brooklyn—having an affair, pretending to be a traveling book salesman while really ghostwriting for a rabbi.

Essays

Essays by Michel de Montaigne (1533-92). Reflections by the creator of the essay form, display the humane, skeptical, humorous, and honest views of Montaigne, revealing his thoughts on sexuality, religion, cannibals, intellectuals, and other unexpected themes. His most celebrated pieces include "On Solitude," "To Philosophize Is to Learn How to Die," and "On Experience."

Eugénie Grandet

Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac (1833). Part of Balzac’s almost endless La Comédie humaine, Eugénie Grandet is his masterwork on the virus of greed and miserliness. Felix Grandet, a French millionaire, tyrannizes his family with his frugality, going so far as to personally measure the ingredients for each day’s meals.

Everybody Pays

Everybody Pays by Andrew Vachss (1999). A master of the amped-up, neonoir style, whose work reflects a deep concern with child abuse and a taste for raw vengeance, Vachss offers here forty-four stomach-churning stories featuring prostitutes and pederasts, neo-Nazis and savage punks, hit men and kidnappers, who inhabit a world where merciless street justice provides the only brake on evil.

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953). Books are dangerous. They fill heads with ideas, make people think, question, causing harmful confusion. This is the ideology that informs Bradbury’s dystopia, whose citizens have traded independence for safe conformity, curiosity for the pleasures of wall-sized televisions.

Far from the Madding Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874). Set in his fictional Wessex countryside in southwest England, this novel was Hardy's breakthrough work. Though it was first published anonymously in 1874, its quick and tremendous success persuaded Hardy to give up his first profession, architecture, to concentrate on writing fiction.

Fear of Flying

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973). This iconic feminist novel of fantasy, liberation, and “the zipless fuck” kicked up plenty of dust in the early 1970s. The unpublished writer and unhappily married Isadora Wing yearns to fly free and receives her epiphany through an affair and the discovery of her own sexuality and power.

Fight Club

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996). An aimless insomniac, who makes his living helping an insurance company avoid paying valid claims, relieves his boredom by attending therapy groups for people suffering from deadly illnesses. His life takes a deadly turn when he and a friend start a fight club, where men gather to beat one another senseless.

Finnegan's Wake

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (1939). In H. C. Earwicker’s dream, he is seen exposing himself in Dublin’s Phoenix Park and thrown in jail. This dream is Joyce’s famously impenetrable book, whose first sentence is a continuation of the last (making it, technically, impossible to begin or end).

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New List

Francine Prose

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839). (See below.)
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
6. The stories of Mavis Gallant (1922– ).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).

 

Classic List

Amy Bloom

 

1. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).
2.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
3. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman (1995–2000).
4.The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1995).
5.The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003).
6. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (1978).
7. The Plot Against Americaby Philip Roth.
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998).
9. Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier (1951).
10. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997).

 

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