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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

    A Tale of Two Cities

    A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859). It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.... These well-known and loved lines begin Dickens's novel set during the bloodiest moments of the French Revolution. When former aristocrat Charles Darnay learns that an old family servant needs his help, he abandons his safe haven in England and returns to Paris.

    A Voice Through a Cloud

    A Voice Through a Cloud by Denton Welch (1950). “Though Welch has the abilities of a novelist,” John Updike wrote, “misfortune made him a kind of prophet.” In this autobiographical novel, Welch describes the bicycle accident that left him partially paralyzed at age twenty, the painful treatments he suffered, and the loneliness he endured.

    Absalom, Absalom!

    Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936). Weaving mythic tales of biblical urgency with the experimental techniques of high modernism, Faulkner bridged the past and future. This is the story of Thomas Sutpen, a rough-hewn striver who came to Mississippi in 1833 with a gang of wild slaves from Haiti to build a dynasty.

    Aesop's Fables

    Aesop’s Fables (c. sixth century b.c.e.). Though their origins are vague—Aesop may have been born a slave in Asia Minor in 620 b.c.e.—these tales use talking animals to personify human virtues and vices. Fables such as “The Hare and the Tortoise,” “The Lion and the Mouse” and “The Fox Who Lost His Tail” show that “slow and steady wins the race,” “appearances can be deceiving,” and “misery loves company.”

    Ahab’s Wife

    Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (1999). “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last” reads the opening line of this novel, which imagines the life of the woman married to the obsessive captain from ­Moby-Dick. And what a life it was—running away from home, posing as a boy to get aboard a whaling ship, tragedy at sea, cannibalism, and then domestic life in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

    Airships

    Airships by Barry Hannah (1978). Barry Hannah can make readers laugh about the grimmest subject while never for a second losing sight of the essential horror.

    All Quiet on the Western Front

    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (1929). Remarque drew on his military experience to craft this seminal antiwar novel. At the outset of World War I, Paul Baumer and his fellow Germans are gung-ho. As the senseless bloodbath continues, hope turns to disillusionment, and death comes to seem a welcome reprieve in this gritty and poignant tale.

    All the King's Men

    All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946). In perhaps the most famous American political novel, Warren tracks the unsentimental education of Jack Burden, an upper-class, college-educated lackey to Willie Stark, the populist governor of Louisiana (whom Warren modeled on Huey Long).

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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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