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100 Books Everyone Should Read

February 7, 2010

I posted this list on Facebook and on last year in February, but thought I should dust it off and see where we stand now… Have you read any of them? Do you have suggestions we should add and change the title to the 134 Books Everyone Should Read?
100 Books Everyone Should Read

… the new classics (to steal from myself), if you will…

It is heavily-influenced by my personal collection, which tends to embrace authors of (any) color. Toni Morrison is my favorite author and as such received multiple mentions. You’ll all be okay.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
American Pastoral, Philip Roth
Annie Allen, Gwendolyn Brooks
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
At Canaan’s Edge, Taylor Branch
The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest Gaines
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Best American Short Stories series, various authors
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Amy Tan
Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
The Complete Works of August Wilson, August Wilson
The Crucible, Arthur Miller
A Curtain of Green, Eudora Welty
Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat
The Food Lover’s Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Ntozake Shange
The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs
The Fundamentals of Play, Caitlin Macy
A Gathering of Old Men, Ernest Gaines
Getting Mother’s Body, Suzan-Lori Parks
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Terry McMillan
The Human Stain, Philip Roth
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
Invisible Life, E. Lynn Harris
The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie, Maya Angelou
Krik? Krak!, Edwidge Danticat
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Later, At the Bar: A Novel in Stories, Rebecca Barry
A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
LOST (a TV show, but the most well-written one of all times)
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
Lush Life, Richard Price
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
A Million Little Pieces, James Frey
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
Monster, Walter Dean Myers
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
Native Son, Richard Wright
Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
The Old Order, Katherine Anne Porter
On Beauty, Zadie Smith
Paradise, Toni Morrison
Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch
Pillar of Fire, Taylor Branch
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
Race Matters, Cornell West
A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard
Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
She Got Up Off the Couch, Haven Kimmel
A Small Place, Jamaica Kinkaid
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Sons, Alphonso Morgan
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar
A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Ulysses, James Joyce
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
What Looks Like Crazy on An Ordinary Day, Pearl Cleage
White Noise, Don DeLillo
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor

Please, share. Who have I excluded? Which books are you anxious to read now? etc.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Cordell permalink
    February 17, 2010 1:49 PM

    You know I am going to love nearly any suggestions for books that you offer. I agree with you on many of those suggestions. I might have a few to add but I am going to have to say that to put E Lynn Harris and the trash Memoirs of a Geisha trash on the list is WRONG…Harris has his place but not on a MUST read list and as for Geisha…such an offensive Cinderella-story dribble. However, I think the other 98 are pretty much on point. Lost not so most though but I see your point there.

    • February 17, 2010 2:05 PM

      Really? Invisible Life was a very good story. It might not be the most well-written book, but with an overall story as good – and affecting – as what Harris put together, I have to put it on the list. I think people should read it.

  2. February 24, 2010 1:55 PM

    Interesting…of the ones I’ve read I’d whole heartedly concur with ‘The Great Gatsby’ (few books have captured the fragility of dreams and wretchedness of the human condition as that book) ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. They are actually in my top 10 books of all time and I’ve just finished re-reading them as part of my (rarely made) NY resolution to visit my favourite 10. Ditto ‘Things Fall Apart’. As far as Zadie Smith goes, she’s one of my favourite authors so any of hers would do but I’d have chosen ‘The Autograph Man’. I think brevity suits Toni Morrison more so ‘The Bluest Eye’ ‘Sula’ and ‘A Mercy’ are her best (of which I’ve read so far) IMO. Haven’t read R.Wright’s ‘Native Son’ but ‘Black Boy’ is outstanding. ‘Nervous Conditions’, ‘Time Travellers Wife’ and ‘Of Mice and Men’…again excellent choices although I’d vehemently refute the greatness of ‘Catcher In The Rye’ -one of the most self-inflated, naval-gazing and overrated books of all time. I’d almost say the same for ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’- it’s like the heavily – made up, meretricious younger sister to the more demure and naturally beautiful older sibling (and thus to me superior in every way) ‘Purple Hibiscus’. I like Miss Adichie’s work before and since ‘Half of a Yellow…’ but that book remains a blip to me. Ishmael Beah…wow kudos for mentioning that one. I felt the book could have been more expository in some parts but it’s an important work. I must make a thing to read Ulyssus’…

    Have to comment on the absence of Russian fiction bar Nabakov. No Tolstoy or Gorkey? Also would like to give special mention to Diana Evans ’26A’ one of the most beautifully tragic novels ever; Sefi Atta’s great coming of age story ‘Everything Good will come’ and Catherine O’Flynn’s superb ‘What was Lost’.

    Buchi Emecheta and Rosa Guy deserve to make it on there. I’ve spent quite a bit of my teens and young adulthood with them.

    I’ll probably be back on here soon because I’m a literary junkie and there’ll be more I’d kick myself for not mentioning.

  3. February 24, 2010 2:05 PM

    I’d also concur ‘Lost’ in its heyday was a fantastically written show…until the writers got a little too self-indulgent.

    Great fiction is all about characterisation and old ‘Lost’ did a fantastic job of fleshing out its protagonists. Unlike the lightweight ‘Heroes’ it was a show that never underestimated the intelligence of its viewers and was therefore unabashedly cerebral.

    I must also mention Marilynne Robinson…rightly hailed as one of the greatest living American authors. I tend to prefer African and European authors especially where contemporary fiction is concerned. Robinson however is a happy exception. She writes with such subtlety and insight – truly world-class. Quite unlike some of her more heavy-handed contemporaries. ‘Gilead’ and in particular ‘Home’ are two extraordinary books…they just creep up and blindside you with their magnificence.

    Another exceptional American writer – at least judging from the one book of hers I do know- is Lionel Shriver. ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ is excellent.

    I must read ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ because it keeps coming up as a recommendation on various lists.

    Shalom x

  4. February 24, 2010 2:21 PM

    How could I forget Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’? 🙂

    Told you I’d be back…

  5. Derrick Johnson permalink
    August 26, 2012 4:45 AM

    Thanks to you I just discovered Alphonso Morgan…Amazing! Where has this author been all my life? Has he written anything else?

    • August 28, 2012 3:31 PM

      Alphonso has a new book coming soon, Americano, and is featured in Keith Boykin’s short story collection, 4 Colored Boys…

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