Books

Select literature recommendations and commentaries from my canon for a zealous reader, in no particular order.

The only inclusion heuristic I followed was this: would I consider rereading the work? If the initial read didn’t strongly incite a repeat experience, I hadn’t included the work here.

The links proceed to a more detailed commentary.

Contents

Fiction

Prose

  1. Dickens - Bleak House.
  2. Dickens - Tale of Two Cities. A suspenseful historical narrative and a character study, amidst the French/British conflict during the French revolution period.
  3. Dickens - Great Expectations. The imagery, the Gothic elements are among the finest.
  4. Dickens - Oliver Twist. One of the earlier, more lighthearted works; broody juxtaposition of the innocent and the wicked; fantastic imagery.
  5. Dickens - Hard Times
  6. Herman Melville - Moby Dick
  7. Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness (and more)
  8. Victor Nabokov - Lolita
  9. Tolstoy - War and Piece (Война и Мир)
  10. Tolstoy - Анна Каренина. Arguably a good starting point for someone new to Tolstoy.
  11. Tolstoy - Kreutzer Sonata (Крейцерова соната)
  12. Tolstoy - Смерть Ивана Ильича (Death of Ivan Ilich). Per the title, not too uplifting, but quality Tolstoy among his later, shorter efforts.
  13. Gogol/Гоголь, tales: Вий, Нос, Шинель, Коляска, Невский Проспект
  14. Edgar Allan Poe - Short stories - a smaller set of short stories commented. See also the wiki for my expansive Poe short commentaries. Many, many masterfully crafted stories of varied genre.
  15. Edgar Allan Poe - The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym - though lesser acclaimed, one of the most captivating (sea) adventure novels I’ve read.
  16. Haruki Murakami - The Wind-up Bird Cronicle. Russian translation. The most epic and complex of all of Murakami’s works.
  17. Haruki Murakami - Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Russian translation.
  18. Mikhail Bulgakov - Master and Margarita (Мастер и Маргарита) - one of my all time favourite magic realism masterpieces.
  19. Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged
  20. Ayn Rand - Fountainhead. A philosophical predecessor to Atlas Shrugged, albeit shorter and more confined, for someone new to the author.
  21. Ayn Rand - Virtue of Selfishness. A series of essays especially helpful as a philosophical refresher years after having read the fiction epics.
  22. Gabriel García Márquez - Cien años de soledad
  23. Gabriel García Márquez - Memorias de mis Putas Tristes
  24. Gabriel García Márquez - Cronica de una Muerte Anunciada. The magic realism also plays a notable role in this shorter tale.
  25. Joseph Heller - Catch 22
  26. Dostoevsky - Crime and Punishment (Приступление и Наказание).
  27. Dostoevsky - Demons (Бесы)
  28. Dostoevsky - Idiot (Идиот)
  29. Dostoevsky - Notes from the Underground (Записки из подполья)
  30. Dostoevsky - Brothers Karamazov (Братья Карамазовы)
  31. Dostoevsky - Double (Двойник)
  32. Dostoevsky - Poor Folk (Бедные Люди)
  33. Dostoevsky - White Nights (Белые Ночи). Sentimental, romantic, profoundly poetic.
  34. Dumas - The Count of Monte Cristo
  35. Dumas - The Three Musketeers
  36. Frank Herbert - Dune
  37. Douglas Adams - Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Whimsical, satirical, nonsensical fantasy/science fiction full of humor, insofar as the first three books concerned.
  38. F Scott Fitzgerald - Great Gatsby. The only imposed high-school book I read to completion, and over the course of a night.
  39. J D Salinger - Catcher in the Rye. Nearly real-time, first-person narrative in considerably simple language, by what seems an unreliable, capricious, yet honest narrator.
  40. Kafka - The Castle (Zamek). Polish translation.
  41. Kafka - The Trial (Процесс). Russian translation.
  42. Kafka - Metamorphosis. Portuguese translation. Part satire, part horror story, part I don’t know what.
  43. Kafka - In the Penal Colony and other short stories (virtually anything).
  44. Erico Verissimo - Incidente em Antares. Brazilian magic realism classic, set within Rio Grande do Sul. Spans much of the Brazilian history from the 19th - 20th century.
  45. Jorge Amado - Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos
  46. Isabel Allende - La Casa de los Espíritus. Magic Realism classic similar to Cien Años de Soledad and Incidente em Antares; spans decades of family and national history.
  47. Isabel Allende - Eva Luna. A warm tale of pathos and great imagery.
  48. Mario Benedetti - La Tregua
  49. Mario Benedetti - Gracias por el Fuego
  50. Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (Аркадий и Борис Стругацкие) - various.
  51. Lewis Carroll - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. A beautiful fable of allegory and satire. Read in the original as well as Victor Nabokov’s Russian adaptation titled Аня в стране чудес.
  52. Stanislaw Lem - Solyaris. A rare case that I prefer Tarkovsky’s loose film adaptation to the source, but the philosophical novel is unquestionably solid.
  53. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Haven’t read in decades, but would willingly reread whenever back in the mood for the genre.
  54. Ernest Hemingway - Old man at the sea. A gripping one-day read that inspires much thought.
  55. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Classic Gothic narrative that raises a series of ethical and moral issues. Evocative use of language and nature, though the word ‘ardent’ appears a time too often. :)
  56. James Joyce - Portrait of an artist as a young man. Exemplary specimen of post-modern prose.
  57. James Joyce - Dubliners. Sketches into the middle-class, early 20th century Ireland; exquisite prose. I personally prefer this to Portrait.
  58. James Joyce - Ulysses.
  59. Jorge Luis Borges - Ficciones. The earliest short story anthology mixing magic realism, the metaphysical, the paradoxical, the mathematical; food for endless thought.
  60. Jorge Luis Borges - El Aleph. Another fascinating short-story compilation adhering to the themes of infinity, immortality, randomness, literary history, theology and metaphysics.
  61. Juan Rulfo - Pedro Páramo. A magic realism source of inspiration for the later authors of the Latin American boom; non-linear, non-traditionally narrated journey through an abandoned town.
  62. Julio Cortázar - Final del Juego (short stories) - plethora of timeless Cortázar classic shorts here; many quiet short.
  63. Julio Cortázar - Las armas secretas (short stories) - far longer (and thus fewer) short stories of superb quality, including the Jazz inspired Perseguidor/Pursuer.
  64. Julio Cortázar - Todos los fuegos el fuego (short stories) - much experimental narration, demanding the reader’s close attention.
  65. Julio Cortázar - Rayuela (Hopscotch) - the quintissential Cortázar novel, which I might speculate to be the closest Spanish-language counterpart to Ulysses (that I’ve yet to read).

Poems - epic and large-scale narrative

  1. The Iliad. English prose translation by Martin Hammond.
  2. The Odyssey. English verse translation by Robert Fagle. Primary sources are more gratifying than anthologies and retellings.
  3. Virgil - The Aeneid. English prose translation by W.F. Jackson Knight.
  4. Chaucer - The Canterbury Tales (Middle English).
  5. Dante Alighieri - Divine comedy. Spanish prose translation read. Allegorically stocked, structurally beautiful, theologically heavy.
  6. Alexander Pope - Rape of the Lock. A humorous and satirical ‘mock-epic’ poem, a genre I wasn’t aware of prior to this find.
  7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A solidly written Middle Age alliterative poem about Sir Gawain (of King Arthur’s court)
  8. Beowulf (C. W. Kennedy translation of the original West Saxon, alliteration maintained).
  9. Edmund Spenser - Faerie Queene - Books 1 - 3. English language poetry at some of the finest.
  10. Edmund Spenser - Epithalamion. Not strictly a narrative poem, but rather a nuptial song abundant in Greco-Roman allusion. Along with the Faerie Queene, one of the most beautiful and skillful works of poetry I’ve read.
  11. Christopher Marlowe - Hero and Leander. Incomplete (Marlowe only penned two cantos), yet enchanting erotic poem in similar spirit to Venus and Adonis.
  12. John Milton - Paradise Lost. Milton’s epic retelling of the Biblical story of creation, the fall of Satan and other angels from Heaven, with plenty of other allusions. Blank verse, highly engaging in most parts, short of a handful of slightly dull moments mid-course (as in every epic poem I’ve read), and profoundly philosophical.
  13. Shakespeare - Venus and Adonis. An unceasing erotic discourse.
  14. Alexander Pushkin - Руслан и Людмила/Russlan and Ludmila. Longest of Pushkin’s narrative poems, folkloric, immortal verses memorized by many, quintissential Pushkin.
  15. Alexander Pushkin - Poltava/Полтава. One of my favorite battle poems. Concerns the early 18th-century conflict between Ukraine (allied with Sweden) and the remaining Russian Empire led by Peter the Great.
  16. Alexander Pushkin - Бахчисарайский Фонтан (Fountain of Bachczisaraj …, however that Latinizes) - Though I’ve read most of Pushkin’s longer poems, this one in particular draws me to reread.
  17. Alexander Pushkin - Анджело/Angelo. A narrower-scope, yet poetically enhanced retelling of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
  18. Alexander Pushkin - Евгений Онегин
  19. Lewis Carroll - The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits. Witty and beautiful nonsense poetry, in a way, when in the mood for such (I often am).
  20. Edgar Allan Poe - Al Aaraaf. Esoteric, the longest, yet one of my favourites of Poe’s poems and of the 19th century.
  21. Samuel Taylor Coleridge - The Rhyme of an ancient mariner. Reads like a ballad, a classic specimen of sea fantasy, inspiration for Poe and Melville.
  22. John Keats: The Eve of St Agnes.
  23. Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Christabel. Though supposedly unfinished, evocative, Gothic, treading some taboo topics.
  24. Persey Shelley - Adonais. An elegy to John Keats, had to read this one twice. Wow.
  25. Persey Shelley - Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude. A challenging, but a rewarding read in blank verse.
  26. T S Eliot - Wasteland
  27. T S Eliot - Four Quartets

Plays/Drama

  1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Faust. Russian translation of Boris Pasternak.
  2. Christopher Marlowe - The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. An earlier play inspired by the Faustus story; much shorter and compacter than Goethe’s epic, yet a powerful work that well mixes the comedic with the tragic.
  3. Shakespeare - Titus Andronicus
  4. Shakespeare - Pericles, the Prince of Tyre
  5. Shakespeare - Troilus and Cressida
  6. Shakespeare - Coriolanus
  7. Shakespeare - Taming of the Shrew
  8. Shakespeare - Richard II
  9. Shakespeare - Henry IV - Part 1
  10. Shakespeare - Henry IV - Part 2
  11. Shakespeare - Henry V
  12. Shakespeare - Macbeth
  13. Shakespeare - Cymbeline
  14. Shakespeare - King John
  15. Shakespeare - The Winter’s Tale: One of the stronger tragi-comedies that I actually prefer to The Tempest.
  16. Shakespeare - Love’s Labour Lost: An early burlesque comedy featuring exorbiant use of rhymed verse and some of the most crafty and confounding language. Very worthwhile if you cherish these elements.
  17. Shakespeare - Too many others to list: King Lear, Hamlet, The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It …
  18. Bernard Shaw - Pygmalion. Sardonic, witty, early 20th-century London play that captures the motives of the Ovidian tale (of Pygmalion).
  19. Bernard Shaw - The Devil’s Disciple. One of Shaw’s earlier plays inspired by factual events during the American Revolution period; questions the underlying mechanisms that drive a human spirit.
  20. Bernard Shaw - Caesar and Cleopatra. An anachronistic and ‘Shavinian’ account of Julius Caesar’s six-month stay in Egypt and his fatherly kind of relationship with the then 16-year-old Cleopatra.
  21. Bernard Shaw - Saint Joan. A witty portrayal of Saint Joan, heavily contrasting Shakespeare’s in Henry VI - Part 1.
  22. Bernard Shaw - Major Barbara. A juxtaposition of religion, morality, money and power.
  23. Sophocles - Oedipus Rex. The beginning of the Theban cycle. Greek drama tradition at it’s finest; as dramatic of a narrative as I’ve found.
  24. Sophocles - Oedipus at Colonus. Second of the Theban cycle.
  25. Sophocles - Antigone. Immediately follows the events of Seven against Thebes.
  26. Aeschylus - Seven against Thebes. Third of the Theban cycle (before the events of Antigone).
  27. Aeschylus - Prometheus Bound. Origin drama; themes of predestination, the question of the just, the ruthless …
  28. Euripides - Trojan Women. One of the Trojan War aftermath plays featuring a mostly female cast. Ethically heavy.
  29. Euripides - Medea. The Jason and Medea story. An intense psychological battle.
  30. Euripides - Alcestis. A tragi-comedy raising the typical Euripidean ethical dilemmas and featuring a drunken Hercules.
  31. Aristophanes - Frogs. The first Greek comedy play I’ve read. Couldn’t believe 5th century BC already produced such works. The frog choir already made the read worthwhile, and that’s hardly even among the stronger elements.
  32. John Milton - Samson Agonistes. A ‘closet drama’, in the classic, Aristotelian style of tragedy, of the Old-Testament Samson, following his capture and blinding by the Philistines. Personally, I preferred reading Milton’s drama in the original over the butchered translations of Ancient Greek drama.
  33. John Webster - Duchess of Malfi. A revenge tragedy filled with jealousy, lust, greed, power abuse, and much theatrical ludicrousness common of the Elizabethan stage.
  34. William Congreve - The Way of the World (1700). Excellent showcase of pure language (witty, confounding) over plot. One of the last Restoration-period comedies.
  35. Henrik Ibsen - Doll’s House (1879) - the Peter Watts' English translation. A model for the kind of ‘social commentary’ Shaw would later produce, though reading in English, I’d rather read Shaw in the original.

Non-Fiction

  1. Marcus Aurelius - Meditations. Fairly modern Spanish translation read. A stoicism doctrine classic.
  2. Seneca - Benefits (De Beneficiis)
  3. Seneca - Letters (to Lucilius). In gradual progress.
  4. Michel de Montaigne - Essays (17th-century English translation). In gradual progress. For a comprehensive portal to just about everything, you can read this for pure entertainment, education, research, philosophical exploration, etc.
  5. Matt Ridley - Evolution of Everything
  6. Nassim Nicolas Taleb - Antifragile. Also Skin in the Game and Fooled by Randomness, although Antifragile made the greatest impact.
  7. Ron Hale-Evans - Mind Performance Hacks - this and the below work I’ve reread and reskimmed many times over.
  8. Ron Hale-Evans - Mindhacker
  9. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) - Out of Afrika. For a biographical and historical account, very well written, almost to the level of many fiction works of the genre. Concerns Blixen’s time at a Dutch-colonized Kenya at the turn of the 20th century.
  10. Haruki Murakami - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (О чем я говорю когда говорю о беге). Russian translation. About running, writing, music, habits and more.
  11. The Jazz Book - Berendt/Nuesmann
  12. Thomas Browne - Hydriotaphia: Urn-Burial, or, A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchrall Urnes Lately Found in Norfolk
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Questions, comments? Connect.