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Tom Wolfe, RIP

We have lost a giant – one of the very best reporters and writers in American history.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Tom Wolfe, the best-selling alchemist of fiction and nonfiction who wrote “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” “The Right Stuff” and countless other novels and works of journalism, died of pneumonia in a New York hospital yesterday. He was 88 years old.

I first met Mr. Wolfe through “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Then I read everything else. Being in his company was pure pleasure, and inspiring. Try ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp by John Irving (1978). I first found this book when I was stuck in a miserable first marriage and living in Pittsburgh, a city that seemed to hate me. To say this book rescued my life is an understatement.  A wild and wooly tale of a writer and the characters in his life, the book is filled with joy and surprise after surprise.

The Zoo Story

The Zoo Story (1958), The American Dream (1961), and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), three plays by Edward Albee. Albee is American dramaturgy’s master of black comedy and social satire. In The American Dream he lambasts that concept in a one-act farce featuring an over-the-top dysfunctional family and a murder.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). Beautiful and high-spirited Janie Crawford wants love and adventure. But, as Hurston shows in her finest novel, living in an all-black town is no shield against the sexism that dictates her young life. Forced to marry one controlling old geezer, she deserts him only to end up with another.

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958). Two years before Nigeria won its independence from Britain, Achebe published this clear-eyed novel set in the years leading up to colonial rule.

This Side of Paradise

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920). Fitzgerald’s first novel, it is widely considered one of the definitive expressions of the "Lost Generation." It focuses on the coming of age of Amory Blaine, a handsome, wealthy Princeton student, who exemplifies the young men and women of the 20s who grew up to find "all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken."

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré (1974). This is the first novel in Le Carré’s Karla trilogy featuring aging, meticulous, self-effacing British spy George Smiley. Smiley is called out of forced retirement to root out a traitorous “mole” placed in the London headquarters of British intelligence by Soviet spymaster Karla.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). Tomboy Scout and her brother Jem are the children of the profoundly decent widower Atticus Finch, a small-town Alabama lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white woman.

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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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