April 5th, 2011 / 8:17 pm

Another Kind of Reading List

I always enjoy the reading lists posted here because I like to see what other people read but I rarely see a lot of the books I like to read. Half the time I haven’t heard of most of the books people are talking about. I am finally done unpacking my new apartment, seven months after the move, and I looked at my bookshelves and thought I would make a list of some of my favorite books, the ones I like to read over and over, the ones I read to relax and think and day dream. Some are “literary,” and some are “mass market,” but I don’t really think about books in those terms. I like good stories and these books all tell damn good stories. What are some of the books you love but rarely find on other people’s reading lists?

Good in Bed, Jennifer Weiner
In Her Shoes, Jennifer Weiner
The Pact, Jodi Picoult
Daughter of the Empire, Raymond Feist & Janny Wurts
Servant of the Empire, Raymond Feist & Janny Wurts
Mistress of the Empire, Raymond Feist & Janny Wurts
Angel Eyes, Eric von Lustbader
Requiem for a Glass Heart, David Lindsey
Mercy, David Lindsey
Mind Prey, John Sanford
Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
Hannibal, Thomas Harris
Invisible Life, E. Lynn Harris
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
Cider House Rules, John Irving
First Wives Club, Olivia Goldsmith
All the Vince Flynn books
Captains and Kings, Taylor Caldwell
The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon
A Home at the End of the World, Michael Cunningham
Liquor, Poppy Z. Brite
Soul Kitchen, Poppy Z. Brite
Stephen L. Carter, The Emperor of Ocean Park
Purple HIbiscus, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
Tumbling, Diane McKinney-Whetstone
To Feel Stuff, Andrea Seigel
The Brutal Language of Love, Alicia Erian
All things Michener
Perfect Victim, Christine McGuire and Carla Norton
The Winner, David Baldacci
Absolute Power, David Baldacci
Waiting to Exhale, Terri McMillan
Kiss the Girls, James Patterson
Million Dollar Baby, FX Toole
JPod, Douglas Coupland
Generation X, Douglas Coupland
Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
Sweet Valley HIgh 1- 95 or so
The Girls of Canby Hall
Liar’s Game, Eric Jerome Dickey
The Wishbones, Tom Perrota
Shopgirl, Steve Martin
A Fine Balance, Rohinton MIstry
The Lover, Marguerite Duras
Macho Sluts, Pat Califia
Daddy, Pat Califia
Doc and Fluff, Pat Califia
On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction, Karl Iagnemma
Like Normal People, Karen Bender
American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
Neuromancer, WIlliam Gibson
Push, Sapphire
The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger
Sexual Healing, Jill Nelson
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
Skull Session, Daniel Hecht
Break Any Woman Down, Dana Johnson
The Millionaires, Brad Meltzer
Fall on Your Knees, Ann-Marie McDonald
Once Were Warriors, Alan Duff
The Known World, Edward P. Jones


  1. gina

      applesauce by june arnold
      confessions of cherubino by bertha harris
      jane by maggie nelson
      matadora by sarah gambito
      the terrible girls by rebecca brown
      girly by elizabeth merrick

  2. Shannon

      The Room by Hubert Selby Jr.
      American Skin by Don DeGrazia
      The Book of Nods by Jim Carroll
      Paradoxia by Lydia Lunch
      The Art of Love by Ovid
      The Chelsea Whistle by Michelle Tea

      There are others I can’t think of at the moment.



  4. Molly Laich

      I’m reading Joy Williams “the quick and the dead” now and then next up is either “the savage detectives” by roberto bolano or “pride and prejudice,” weirdly, depending on how I feel. spring break!

  5. Molly Laich

      @zzzzzzippp that’s the kind of writer I want to be. someone you turn to when you’re smart, but drunk. not really kidding.

  6. Lincoln Michel

      The books that immediately spring to mind here are books by likely famous and frequently-listed authors but not the books those authors are famous for. So:

      The Baron in the Trees – Italo Calvino (instead of Invisible Cities or If On A Winter’s Night…)
      Invitation to a beheading – Nabokov (although Pale Fire and Lolita are untouchable)
      The Lime Works – Bernhard

  7. Janey' Smith

      These get me through it:

      1. The Complete Stories of Truman Capote
      2. My Contemporaries, Jean Cocteau
      3. The Naked Civil Servant, Quentin Crisp
      4. Dandy In The Underworld, Sebastian Horsley
      5. The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong
      6. Adventures in ‘Pataphysics, Alfred Jarry
      7. Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Greil Marcus
      8. The Late Show, David Trinidad

  8. Colin Winnette

      Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

  9. sm

      Three essays and one story from lit journals. I have read these over and over and over again:

      Envy by Kathryn Chetkovich (Granta)
      The Company She Keeps by Halina Duraj (Hayden’s Ferry)
      The Fourth State of Matter by Jo Ann Beard (New Yorker)
      Just Another Abortion Story by Leslie Pietrzyk (The Gettysburg Review)

  10. Tim Ramick

      Mobile – Michel Butor
      The Anathemata – David Jones
      The Tin Woodman of Oz (Woot!) – L. Frank Baum
      Cinders – Jacques Derrida
      Parmenides – Plato

  11. andrea

      oh hello, thanks.

  12. Chicgoods54


  13. mimi

      By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
      Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

  14. Anonymous


  15. kb

      Tom Brown Jr, the kind of mystical-ish tracker / wilderness survival guy.

  16. Dawn.

      Fuck yeah The Devil Wears Prada. Own it.

      Also: Michelle Tea Michelle Tea Michelle Tea. Anything written by Michelle Tea.

      Currently reading: The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall.

  17. Cole Anders

      This feels dangerous.


      Cooking in a Bedsitter, Katherine Whitehorn

      I Am Elijah Thrush, James Purdy

      Loving, Henry Green (also Living, and Concluding).

      all Matthew Stadler’s novels

      Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

      Weiter leben. Ruth Kluger

      Scented Gardens for the Blind, Janet Frame

      that biography of Virginia Woolf I like

      that volume of all Bernhard’s autobiographies, in English


      NYRB publishes all my used-book discoveries, including: Barbara Comyns (but they only published the lesser The Vet’s Daughter, not the amazing Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead); Gillian Rose, Love’s Work; Elizabeth David, cookbooks.

      Sure, they could easily like the same novels I like, but Gillian Rose’s cancer memoir? Elizabeth David’s cookbook from the 70s?

      They are following me from in front, the way Chief Half-oat’s family gets followed by the oil companies in Catch-22.

  18. DK

      I third it! I’m currently reading “The Intuitionist,” by Colson Whitehead, and have been recommending it to everyone I know because it never makes reading lists for some odd reason.

      George Saunders’ “The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil” is another one that’s been overlooked.

  19. jesusangelgarcia

      Keep feeling like I need to return to Pale Fire at some point. I never could get into that one. I never finished it. But Invitation and Lolita, yes.

      Names I don’t see around much: Jeanette Winterson, everything pre-Powerbook, and Richard Powers (one of DFW’s favorites, I believe).

  20. jesusangelgarcia

      Is it OK to fourth Coming Through Slaughter? Not nearly enough Ondaatje mentions. His prose levitates. Another structurally strange one I still remember from way back: Patchen’s Journal of Albion Moonlight.

  21. Anonymous
  22. Amy McDaniel

      Thanks for this, Roxane. So glad to see A Fine Balance on your list. I too often feel that I don’t relate to what’s on these lists.

      I was just thinking yesterday of how I never see Julian Barnes on anyone’s list. I like almost everything I’ve read by him that’s fiction (not so into his essays). Recent favorites are his short story collection, The Lemon Table, and his novel, Arthur and George. But his older work, like The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters and Flaubert’s Parrot, are awesome too. They are experimental in a way that is really fun (though not frivolous) and unforced.

      The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
      Remains of the Day, When We Were Orphans, An Artist of the Floating World, and A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
      Brick Lane, Monica Ali
      A Golden Age, Tahmima Anam
      A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
      Middlemarch (my new favorite)
      David Copperfield (I feel like Bleak House gets more cred but I like Copperfield better)
      A Bend in the River, VS Naipaul
      Blindness, Jose Saramago (heavy-handed as an allegory, maybe, but really electric and unsettling)
      Emma and Northanger Abbey (I see other Austen usually on lists but these two are my faves)
      The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton

      Something on a lot of lists is Ways of Seeing by John Berger, but I also love Sense of Sight and About Looking, both of which are a bit more straightforward essays.

      Also in nonfiction, I always hear people mention The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, but An Anthropologist on Mars is the superior book. I love Steven Pinker’s nonfiction, too, especially The Language Instinct.

  23. Rebekah


  24. Slothrop33

      The Great Great Fire of London- Jacques Roubaud
      Geometric Regional Novel- Gert Jonke
      I Served the King of England- Bohumil Hrabal
      The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt- Willhelm Genazino
      t zero- Italo Calvino
      The Universal Baseball Association Inc., J.Henry Waugh, Prop- Robert Coover
      The Mezzanine- Nicholson Baker
      Oblivion- DFW
      A Certain Lucas- Julio Cortazar

  25. Kevin Spaide

      Darkmans – Nicola Barker
      Cakes and Ale – Maugham
      The Stars at Noon – Denis Johnson
      Keep the Aspidistra Flying – Orwell
      Jungle Lovers – Paul Theroux
      Eustace Chisolm – James Purdy
      The Seven Who Fled – Frederic Prokosch
      Sudden Times – Dermot Healy
      The Member of the Wedding – Carson McCullers

      That’s just a random list of novels I love by writers who wrote other books that are more famous – except for Darkmans. That’s probably her most famous. But what about prison memoirs? Diary of an Anarchist – Alexander Berkman. Or Janusz Bardach’s Man is Wolf to Man? There’s a story that’ll keep you reading till morning.

  26. Roxane

      I love a Fine Balance so much and I am so excited to see Blindness and the Wharton books on your list. My love for Edith Wharton is profound.

  27. William Owen

      Just finished re-reading Wonder Boys for the fourth or fifth time.
      The Passion, Sexing the Cherry, Art and Lies, and Weight by J. Winterson.
      Everything Rebecca Brown, but particularly Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary. Transmetropolitan – Warren Ellis.
      The Voice Imitator – Bernhard.
      The collected poems of George Oppen.
      The Father of the Predicaments – Heather McHugh
      Legends of the Fall – Harrison
      The Name of the Wind – Rothfuss

  28. Marco

      M John Harrison – Climbers, The Course of the Heart, Things That Never Happen
      Thomas M. Disch – 334, On Wings of Song, Getting into Death and other stories
      John Crowley – Little, Big, Engine Summer
      Alan Moore – Voice of the Fire
      James Tiptree Jr – Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
      David R. Bunch – Moderan
      Russell Hoban – The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, The Medusa Frequency
      Alan Garner – The Owl Service
      Nathanael West – Miss Lonelyhearts, The Day of the Locust
      Thomas Wolfe – You Can’t Go Home Again
      Kenneth Patchen – The Journal of Albion Moonlight
      Richard Fariña – Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me
      William Goyen – The House of Breath
      Djuna Barnes – Ryder
      Katherine Mansfield – The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield
      Sheila Watson – The Double Hook, Four Stories
      Michael Ondaatje – The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter
      Laura (Riding) Jackson – The Progress of Story
      David Malouf – An Imaginary Life, Remembering Babylon
      Patrick White – Voss, Riders in the Chariot
      Janet Frame – The Carpathians
      Cheikh Hamidou Kane – L’aventure ambiguë
      Ingeborg Bachmann – Malina, Das dreißigste Jahr, Simultan
      Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain, Doktor Faustus
      Christa Wolf – Kassandra
      Adalbert Stifter – Bunte Steine
      Theodor Fontane – Effi Briest, Der Stechlin
      E.T.A. Hoffmann – The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
      Georg Büchner – Lenz
      Agota Kristof – The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels
      Michel Tournier – The Ogre
      Albert Camus – The Plague
      Carlo Emilio Gadda – That Awful Mess on Via Merulana
      Luciano Bianciardi – La Vita Agra
      Dino Buzzati – The Tartar Steppe
      Tommaso Landolfi – Cancerqueen
      Steve Erickson – Tours of the Black Clock
      Karinthy Frygies – Journey Round my Skull
      Dashiell Hammett – The Postman Always Rings Twice
      James Crumley – The Last Good Kiss
      Derek Raymond – He Died with His Eyes Open
      José Lezama Lima – Paraiso
      Mercè Rodoreda – The Time of the Doves
      Ana Maria Matute – Olvidado Rey Gudù
      Clarice Lispector – The Hour of the Star
      Nikolai Gogol – Dead Souls

  29. Oaktown Lit

      Thank you for your list.

      I LOVE: Sistah Souljah (Nuf said?)

      Jen Lancaster (A serieries of hysterical memoirs)

      Currently Reading: Alice LaPlante, “the making of a story” (I am a MFA student)
      Lori L. Tharps, Kinky Gazpacho
      Meg Waite Clayton, The Four Ms. Bradwells

      Re-Reading: Danyel Smith, More Like Wrestling

      I love reading and writing and have two libraries in my home, yet books are everywhere!

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  31. Kathleen

      Sergei Dovlatov is back in a reprint of the English translation of The Suitcase (1986). Check it!