Not Nearly All (But Some) Books From Last Century That are Totally Worth Reading

Girl Reading

With new books coming out each year, and the hunger we eternally seem to feel as we wait for the next book by our favourite author, it’s easy to forget that there are so many books already proven, read by those before us. Often when I read a book written fifty years ago I am just completely absorbed, transformed and transported by writing as fresh and innovative as anything being written today.  I then have a moment of reflection when I realise how many before me must have read and loved this book the way I am reading it now.

It makes me want to have more conversations about these books, it makes me want to recommend them to people, and to make sure they stay in our cultural awareness, our memories and remain suspended within brief moments in our day to day lives.

So here is my own small personal list of older novels that I have read and loved.  These are all books that I will read again and again, although they will never be quite as good as that first time when I read each, and was astounded by the quality and depth of writing, detail and thought – finding it difficult to imagine each time a book ever being written that is better.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin
High-Rise by J. G. Ballard
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Independence Day by Richard Ford
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Lover by Marguerite Duras
The Lady’s Not for Burning by Christopher Fry
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
Murphy by Samuel Beckett
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

And some of my favourite pre 20th Century reads:

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

And Children’s Fiction:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsberg
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

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