Reading List

Dickens was my first literary love and as an English major I was drawn to 19th- and early 20th-century British literature. I’ve always had a soft spot for historical fiction — favorites are Tracy Chevalier and Ken Follett — and I love the Laurie R. King Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes series (first book: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice). I’m also always up for a good fantasy series!
This list was begun in September 2010, when I started my Peace Corps service in Ukraine. The middle of the list is wacky because I took the Literature GRE in April 2012 and so spent eight months making my way, slowly and painfully, through as much of the canon as possible. I did an MA in “Issues in Modern Culture” (20th-century literature) in ’14-’15 and recorded everything I read for that in a separate list below.
Please contribute your thoughts and recommendations in the comments! (* = recommended reads)

Currently Reading:

  • Sarah Waters, Fingersmith
  • Marc-Uwe Kling, Das Känguru Manifest (aloud w/ F)

What I’ve read so far (most recent at the bottom; * = recommendation):

  • *Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
  • Milan Kundera, The Joke
  • *Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
  • *Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
  • Matthew Gallaway, The Metropolis Case (reviewed for Full Stop)
  • *Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby (featured in my essay, “On Escapism: Nicholas Nickleby” for Full Stop)
  • *Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
  • *E.L. Doctorow, All the Time in the World (reviewed for Full Stop)
  • *Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  • *E.M. Forster, Maurice
  • *J.W. von Goethe, Faust (featured in my essay, “Goethe’s Faust in Music” for Full Stop)
  • J.W. von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
  • Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • *Alice Walker, The Color Purple
  • Joanne Harris, Chocolat
  • Pete Hamill, Snow in August
  • William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
  • Myrlin A. Hermes, The Lunatic, the Lover, & the Poet
  • E.L. Doctorow, The March
  • *Beowulf
  • *Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (selections)
  • *Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur (selections)
  • Anonymous, Everyman
  • Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus
  • *John Milton, Paradise Lost (not the full text, but a big chunk that was in the Norton Anthology)
  • John Dryden, All For Love
  • *Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
  • Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism
  • *Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock
  • *Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal
  • [parts of] Samuel Johnson, The Preface to Shakespeare
  • *Sarah Gruen, Water for Elephants
  • Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure
  • *George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan (not the full text, but a big chunk that was in the Norton Anthology)
  • *Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Andriy Kurkov, The Case of the General’s Thumb (reviewed for Full Stop)
  • *Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
  • Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
  • *Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • *Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter
  • Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
  • *Michelle Fillion, Difficult Rhythm: Music & the Word in E.M. Forster
  • *Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • D.H. Lawrence, Sons & Lovers
  • Phyllis Weliver, The Musical Crowd in English Fiction, 1840-1910
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • *Ken Follett, Fall of Giants
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
  • Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
  • *Wendy Moffat, A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster
  • *Tracy Chevalier, Remarkable Creatures
  • *J.R.R. Tolkein, The Hobbit (re-read before seeing the film)
  • *Ken Follett, Winter of the World (sequel to Fall of Giants)
  • Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching (for CELTA course)
  • *Mark Forsyth (The Inky Fool), The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
  • *Toni Morrison, Beloved
  • *Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
  • *Christopher Isherwood, The Berlin Stories
  • Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
  • *Mark Forsyth (The Inky Fool), The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, New Arabian Nights
  • *John Adams, Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life
  • *Daniel Bergner, What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire (every woman AND man should read this)
  • *Tracy Chevalier, The Last Runaway
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
  • *André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name
  • *Geraldine Brooks, March
  • *George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones
  • *Mary Sharratt, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen
  • *George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings
  • *George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords
  • George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows
  • *Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • *George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire: A Dance with Dragons
  • Andrew Ladd, What Ends (reviewed for Full Stop)
  • *Ian McEwan, Atonement
  • *Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess
  • Nikolai Gogol, Diary of a Madman
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
  • *P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberley
  • *Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
  • Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
  • *Ken Follett, Edge of Eternity (Book 3 of the Century Trilogy)
  • *Laurie R. King, A Monstrous Regiment of Women
  • *Laurie R. King, A Letter of Mary
  • Damon Galgut, Arctic Summer
  • Chrissy Wellington, A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey
  • *Elie Wiesel, Night
  • *Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth
  • Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
  • Monica Ali, Brick Lane
  • Alice Becker-Ho, The Essence of Jargon (reviewed for Full Stop)
  • Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife
  • Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
  • George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin
  • *Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
  • *Laurie R. King, The Moor
  • *Paula McLain, Circling the Sun
  • Laurie R. King, O Jerusalem
  • *Diane Chandler, The Road to Donetsk (reviewed for Blackbird Digital Books)
  • *Mona Eltahawy, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution
  • *Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
  • *Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire
  • *Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay
  • *Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
  • *Anthony Doerr, All the Light you Cannot See
  • Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • *Ken Follett, World Without End
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, tr. Louise and Aylmer Maude, Amy Mandelker
  • *Leila Aboulela, The Kindness of Enemies
  • Stephanie Burgis, Masks and Shadows
  • *Laurie R. King, Justice Hall
  • *Kristin Cashore, Graceling
  • Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, tr. Mirra Ginsburg
  • *Karen Kondazian, The Whip
  • *Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
  • *Alexander Chee, The Queen of the Night
  • *Zadie Smith, White Teeth
  • 2017 (or so):
  • *Kristin Cashore, Bitterblue
  • Tahmima Anam, A Golden Age
  • *Rose Tremain, The Gustav Sonata
  • Jo Anne Normile, Saving Baby (recommended by Sarah)
  • *Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard
  • *Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
  • Philippa Gregory, Changeling (I like an easy YA historical fiction novel once in a while)
  • *Laurie R. King, The Game
  • *Laurie R. King, Locked Rooms
  • *Walter Moers, Die 13 1/2 Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär (F and I took 1.5 years to read this together, swapping paragraphs to improve my German)
  • Dave Boling, Guernica
  • *Jessie Burton, The Muse
  • Elizabeth Chadwick, The Summer Queen
  • *Zadie Smith, Swing Time
  • *Robin Hobb, The Rain Wild Chronicles (4-book series)
  • *Tracy Chevalier, New Boy
  • *Danielle Steel, The Duchess
  • *Rachel Sieffert, A Boy in Winter
  • *Karen Köhler, Wir haben Raketen geangelt
  • *Darragh McKeon, All that is Solid Melts into Air
  • Toni Morrison, Jazz
  • 2018:
  • *Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach
  • *Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing – for Now Read This: the inaugural PBS NewsHour-New York Times Book Club
  • Alison Weir, Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen
  • *Dave Eggers, The Monk of Mokha
  • *Ken Follett, A Column of Fire
  • *Philippe Sands, East West Street
  • *Tamora Pierce, Song of the Lioness Quartet
  • John Boyne, The Absolutist (for mini book club with friends)
  • Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning
  • *VE Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic
  • Sebastian Faulks, Where My Heart Used to Beat (for mini book club)
  • *Laurie R. King, The Language of Bees
  • Philipp Meyer, American Rust
  • Andrew Sean Greer, Less
  • *Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
  • Jan Weiler, Maria, ihm schmeckt’s nicht!
  • 2019:
  • Robin Hobb, The Liveship Traders trilogy
  • Marc-Uwe Kling, Die Känguru-Chroniken (aloud with F)
  • *Volker Kutscher, Der nasse Fisch
  • Marina Lewycka, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
  • *Pat Baker, The Silence of the Girls
  • *Deborah Frances-White, The Guilty Feminist
  • *Madeline Miller, Circe
  • *Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
  • Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear
  • Scarlett Peckham, The Duke I Tempted
  • *Brandon Sanderson, The Final Empire (“Mistborn” series #1)
  • *Elin Hilderbrand, Summer of ’69
  • *LM Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
  • *Laurie R. King, The God of the Hive
  • Laurie R. King, The Pirate King
  • Tracy Chevalier, A Single Thread
  • Adam Fletcher, Make Me German: Wie ich einmal loszog, ein perfekter Deutscher zu werden, tr. Oliver Thomas Domzalski
  • Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension (“Mistborn” series #2)
  • *Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages (“Mistborn” series #3)
  • Aja Gabel, The Ensemble
  • *Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Zoe Castile, Stripped (Happy Endings Book 1)
  • *Mark Sullivan, Beneath a Scarlet Sky
  • *Margaret Atwood, The Testaments
  • 2020:
  • Erin Morgenstern, The Starless Sea
  • *Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
  • *Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein, Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir
  • *Lynne Murphy, The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English
  • *Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists and Dear IjeaweleOr A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
  • *Benedict Wells, Vom Ende der Einsamkeit
  • *Deborah Feldman, Unorthodox
  • Tara Westover, Educated – well-written but painful to read
  • *Jojo Moyes, The Giver of Stars
  • *Tamora Pierce, Tempests and Slaughter: The Legend Begins (The Numair Chronicles, Book 1)
  • *Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle

MA “Issues in Modern Culture” reading:

  • *Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, tr. Geoffrey Wall (re-read — liked it better the second time)
  • Baudelaire, Paris Spleen (weird prose poems)
  • *Baudelaire, Tableaux du Paris (verse poems about a day Paris)
  • Henry James, In the Cage and The Turn of the Screw
  • John Carlos Rowe, “Spectral Mechanics: Gender, Sexuality, and Work in In the Cage” (in The Other Henry James)
  • 3 theory essays by Henri Lefebvre, Roland Barthes, & Maurice Blanchot, for a seminar called “Epiphany & the Everyday”
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim (I didn’t really read the latter…)
  • *Edgar Allan Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”; “The Mystery of Marie Roget“; “The Purloined Letter”
  • *Arthur Conan Doyle, Valley of Fear
  • *Raymond Chandler, “The Simple Art of Murder”
  • Selected poetry by Jules Laforgue and T.S. Eliot
  • *Henry James, “London” from English Hours
  • Henry James, New York chapters from The American Scene
  • Ezra Pound: “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” + Cantos I, XIC, LXXIV, LXXX, LXVI
  • J.G. Ballard, Crash
  • *Tom McCarthy, Remainder
  • Henry Green, Nothing
  • Henry Green, Doting
  • Walter Pater, excerpts from Studies in the History of the Renaissance
  • Ford Madox Ford, The Soul of London
  • *Ford Madox Ford, “On Impressionism”
  • James Joyce, Ulysses
  • *James Joyce, Dubliners
  • *Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
  • *Susan Sontag, On Photography
  • *Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • *Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  • FilmCitizen Kane
  • *Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Harold Rosenberg, “American Action Painters”
  • *Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia” (for Contexts essay)
  • Samuel Beckett, Happy Days
  • *Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
  • *Music: selections by Bob Dylan & The Velvet Underground (for “Inventions of Rock” Contexts seminar)
  • *Wallace Stevens, selected poems
  • Sigmund Freud essays:
    • *”‘Civilized’ Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness” (1908)
    • “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love” (1912)
    • “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920)
  • Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Metaphysics of Sexual Love”
  • Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark
  • Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight
  • Opera (Music Drama): Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde
  • Elizabeth Bowen, Death of the Heart
  • Elizabeth Bowen, “Making Arrangements”
  • Robert Browning, “Porphyria’s Lover”
  • *D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love
  • *Vladimir Nabokov, (The Annotated) Lolita (fantastic seminar discussion made me want to read it again)
  • *André Gide, The Immoralist (tr. David Watson)
  • Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter — not a good translation)
  • *Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • Chinua Achebe, Arrow of God
  • Excerpts from modern gay fiction:
    • *Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar
    • Andrew Holleran, Dancer from the Dance
    • *Oscar Moore, A Matter of Life and Sex
    • Edmund White, The Farewell Symphony
  • *Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man (possible “Modern Sex” essay text)
  • *E.M. Forster, Maurice (possible “Modern Sex” essay text)
  • *Selected poetry by Elizabeth Bishop
  • Robert Lowell, most of the poems in Life Studies
  • Selected poetry by Sylvia Plath
  • *Selected poetry by Allen Ginsberg
  • Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon (let’s be honest, I only read ~125 pages)
  • Selected poetry by Frank O’Hara
  • *Tom Stoppard, Travesties
  • *Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
  • Selected poetry by Adrienne Rich
  • J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace
  • *Derek Walcott, Omeros Book I
  • Herman Melville, Billy Budd
  • *Willa Cather, My Àntonia
  • *Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
  • Re-read for “Authors” exam:
    • Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, tr. Geoffrey Wall
    • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
    • Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark
  • Benjamin Britten opera libretti:
    • Death in Venice
    • Billy Budd
  • Billy Collins poetry, from The Trouble with Poetry and Sailing Alone Around the Room
  • J.M. Coetzee, Life and Times of Michael K.
  • Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • *Toni Morrison, Beloved (re-read…it’s so good)
  • *Dave Eggers, What Is the What

17 thoughts on “Reading List

  1. Kate

    I loved “One Hundred Years of Solitude” when I read it, I’m glad its on your list to read eventually! And by the way, after seeing your reading list (and Michelle’s, and other PCVs) I made one of my own 🙂 Just wanted to give you credit for the idea I borrowed 🙂

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