Saturday, February 15, 2014

22 Essential Books

Open Culture has a list of 22 essential books according to F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
The Life of Jesus, by Ernest Renan
A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
The Old Wives’ Tale, by Arnold Bennett
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett
The Red and the Black, by Stendahl
The Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant, translated by Michael Monahan
An Outline of Abnormal Psychology, edited by Gardner Murphy
The Stories of Anton Chekhov, edited by Robert N. Linscott
The Best American Humorous Short Stories, edited by Alexander Jessup
Victory, by Joseph Conrad
The Revolt of the Angels, by Anatole France
The Plays of Oscar Wilde
Sanctuary, by William Faulkner
Within a Budding Grove, by Marcel Proust
The Guermantes Way, by Marcel Proust
Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
South Wind, by Norman Douglas
The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley: Complete Poetical Works

My guess is that this list is too dated to be useful as a resource of must-read books these days. It's interesting to see what a prominent literary figure of that day found "essential". I've read the 4 in bold print.


  1. I have only read the plays of Oscar Wilde, from the list, but considering how much I've loved each of them, the must be worth it too. Your blog is what I visit for the bookish updates, thanks for the list!

    1. thx :) i am such a sucker for lists lol

  2. I always am interested in these essential reads lists too. The Russians always appear and I need to read more of their works. Fitzgerald himself is one of my fav authors. The Great Gatsby is one of finest books ever written IMO.

    1. when i was in high school i started reading books from one of those "great books" lists as preparation for college. then after i had kids i bought a couple of books that explained the whole "great books" concept and had annotated lists, and i read as many of those as i could. i never made it through some of them -some of the ancient greeks, for example- but i understood why most of the books were considered "great".

      the great gatsby does pack a punch, doesn't it! it was on a lot of those lists.

  3. I've been meaning to read Ibsen's A Doll's House for years, somehow I never manage to get to it. I enjoyed War and Peace and am grateful for the other Russian literature that it encouraged me to read Doestoyevsky, and Gogol especially.

    1. doll's house is public domain and free. that's always nice. i'd much rather see than read a play, but i can't remember the last time i saw anybody put on this one.

      russian lit is fun, i think. i learned so much about how foreign languages deal with names from reading the notes in russian books explaining translation choices.

  4. The Maltese Falcon and War and Peace are what I read from this list. I always enjoy your lists and usually find at least one book I need to read.


    1. i think the choices on this list are interesting: that of conrad's work it names victory; that of faulkner's books it lists sanctuary. i'd love to know why these particular ones were picked.