Featured List

Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits has received the first major review for her diary/essay collection and it’s a rave. 

The Folded Clock offers all the thrill of that trespass, in a work so artful that it ­appears to be without artifice,” Eula Bliss writes in the New York Times Book Review. “This diary is a record of the interior weather of an adept thinker. In it, the mundane is rendered extraordinary through the ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

A Dance to the Music of Time

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (1951–75). Powell’s panoramic series of twelve freestanding novels, grouped in four “movements,” charts the careers of four public-school friends from 1921 to 1971 against the backdrop of rapidly changing London.

A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family by James Agee (1957). A Pulitzer Prize–winning work of autobiographical fiction tells the story of a Knoxville, Tennessee, family torn asunder by the father’s accidental death in 1915. In stunningly gorgeous prose, Agee chronicles the family’s life before and after the tragedy (as well as the larger community they live in), to depict the fragility of happiness, of family, and of life itself.

A Doll's House

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (1879). The original desperate housewife, pampered Nora Helmer commits forgery for the money she needs to take her sick husband on a lifesaving trip. When her husband discovers her deceit, he is appalled.

A Fan's Notes

A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley (1968). A cross between Charles Bukowski and John Kennedy Toole, this harrowing, hilarious autobiographical novel portrays a raw and likable barstool dreamer. He is a slovenly, all-American misfit headed for the psychiatric institution, who fills his head with all-American fantasies of fame, wealth, and beautiful women.

A Far Cry from Kensington

A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark (1988). Like all of Spark’s work, this novel is hard to define. Metaphysical farce? Literary mystery? At bottom it is a dark, elegant, hilarious tale centered on the zaftig widow Mrs. Hawkins. She spends her days and evenings giving advice to her eccentric rooming house mates and her coworkers in book publishing.

A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929). Based on Hemingway’s experiences during World War I, this romantic tragedy recounts the story of Frederic Henry, an American volunteer in the Italian ambulance corps who meets and eventually falls in love with a maternal yet alluring English nurse, Catherine Barkley.

A Handful of Dust

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (1934). Leading lives of empty desperation, Waugh’s characters kill the days of their lives with petty concerns, silly parties, and unfulfilling affairs. A withering satire of England’s declining aristocracy, the novel showcases Waugh’s caustic eye and comic wit.

A Harlot High and Low

A Harlot High and Low by Honoré de Balzac (1847). Balzac claimed a crime lay behind every great fortune. Here his master criminal from Père Goriot, Vautrin, tests that hypothesis by orchestrating the rise of the poet, dandy, and social parasite Lucien de Rubempré. Vautrin is in love with him. So is Esther, a reformed prostitute. Vautrin counts on Esther’s feelings as the linchpin of his complex scheme.

A Heart So White

A Heart So White by Javier Marías (1994). Juan knows only this about his shady, twice-widowed father: before marrying Juan’s mother, he had wed her older sister, who committed suicide shortly after the ceremony.

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New List

Jonathan Lethem

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860–61).
2. The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925).
3. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (1940).
4. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830).
5. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (1951–75).
6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865).
7. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch (1973).
8. New Grub Street by George Gissing (1891).
9. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67).
10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).

Classic List

Norman Mailer

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).
3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).
4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880).
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813).
6. The U.S.A. trilogy by John Dos Passos (1938).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830).
9. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (1900).
10. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1964).

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