Friday, May 26, 2017

If there were world enough and time

I realized a while ago that precious few things make me happier than a quiet afternoon in a sunny room with a cup of tea and an insurmountably large stack of books. What follows is a list of what I would want to read right now if there were world enough and time: things I haven't read (including some embarrassing admissions!) but would be happy to start tomorrow. Obviously, this is the work of a lifetime, not an afternoon. But why am I posting this? I honestly want to hear from others what on this list they think deserves priority; what has moved or affected them the most; and what they think I might be missing that I need to read. Comments, here or on Facebook, are welcome!

Abelard: Historia calamitatum
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah
Rotten English, ed. Dora Ahmad
Shahab Ahmed: What is Islam?
Ammianus Marcellinus
Apollonius Rhodius: Argonautica
Aquinas: Summa Theologica
Sherwood Anderson: Winesburg, Ohio
Hannah Arendt:
·      On Violence
·      The Human Condition
·      The Life of the Mind
Ariosto: Orlando Furioso
Aristotle: Politics
Kate Atkinson: Life After Life
·      The Blind Assassin
·      The Handmaid’s Tale
Augustine: Confessiones
Averroes: The Harmony of Religion and Philosophy
Beaumarchais: Le barbier de Séville - Le mariage de Figaro - La mère coupable
Simone de Beauvoir: Le deuxième sèxe
Beckett: the trilogy
Aphra Behn: Oroonoko
Bellow: The Adventures of Augie March
Ann Blair: Too Much to Know
Boethius: Consolatio philosophiae
the full stories of Borges
James Boswell: Life of Johnson
Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
Fernand Braudel: La Méditerranée
Browning: The Ring and the Book
Burckhardt: Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italie
Stephen Burt: The Poem Is You
Judith Butler: Gender Trouble
Samuel Butler: Erewhon
Byron: The Corsair
Caesar: De bello gallico
Callimachus: Hymnoi, Aetia
Italo Calvino:
·      Se una notte
·      Le città invisibili
Canetti: Auto-da-fé
Pascale Casanova: World Republic of Letters
Willa Cather:
·      O Pioneers!
·      My Ántonia
the poems of Cavafy
Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Voyage au bout de la nuit
Aimé Césaire:
·      Cahier d’un retour au pays natal
·      Une tempete
Chateaubriand’s autobiography
François Cheng:
·      Cinq méditations sur la mort
·      L’éternité n’est pas de trop
Chrétien de Troyes
Cicero: Ad Atticum, Ad familiares, De amicitiae, Sermones
·      Life and Times of Michael K
·      Disgrace
Antoine Compagnon: La troisième république des lettres
Congreve: The Way of the World
the poetry of William Cowper
Dante: Purgatorio and Paradiso
David Brion Davis: The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture
Natalie Zemon Davis: “The Return of Martin Guerre”
Daniel Defoe:
·      Journal of the Plague Year
·      Robinson Crusoe
Helen DeWitt: The Last Samurai
Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
·      David Copperfield
·      Bleak House (finish)
·      The Pickwick Papers
·      Le neveu de Rameau
·      Jacques le fataliste
Annie Dillard: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Emma Donoghue: Room
·      The Gambler
·      The Idiot
·      The Possessed
Dove: Sonata Mulattica
Theodore Dreiser:
·      Sister Carrie
·      An American Tragedy
the poetry of Du Fu as translated by Stephen Owen
Durkheim: Suicide
Carter Eckert: Park Chung Hee and Modern Korea: The Roots of Militarism, 1866-1945
·      Adam Bede
·      Daniel Deronda
Erasmus: Encomium moriae
Frantz Fanon: Les damnés de la terre
Abolqasem Ferdowsi: Shahnameh
Fielding: Tom Jones
Gustave Flaubert
·      Bouvard et Pécuchet
·      Salammbo
·      La tentation de Saint Antoine
Eric Foner: Reconstruction
·      Where Angels Fear to Tread
·      The Longest Journey
A Room With a View
·      Surveiller et punir
·      L’histoire de la sexualité
Franklin: Autobiography
·      Moses and Monotheism
Johannes Fried: The Middle Ages
Froissart’s chronicles
Garcia Lorca: Poema del cante jondo
·      Faust
·      Die Leiden des jungen Werthers
Amitav Ghosh: the Ibis Trilogy
Gibbon: Decline and Fall
Carlo Ginzburg: Il formaggio ed i vermi
Goffman: On the Run
Nikolai Gogol: Dead Souls
·      The Vicar of Wakefield
·      She Stoops to Conquer
Graves: Goodbye to All That
Mark Greif: The Age of the Crisis of Man
Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
Hazlitt’s essays
Seamus Heaney: Aeneid Book VI
Heidegger: Sein und Zeit
Henrik Ibsen:
·      A Doll’s House
·      Hedda Gabler
Herodotus: Historiai
Hofstadter: Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
Raphael Holinshead
·      Epodes
·      Epistuale
·      Saturae
Huxley: Brave New World
Washington Irving:
·      The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
·      Rip van Winkle
Isidore of Seville
Henry James:
·      The Princess Casamassima
·      The Golden Bowl
·      The Americans
·      Daisy Miller
Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings
Frederic Jameson:
·      The Political Unconscious
·      The Antinomies of Realism
Ha Jin: Waiting
Ben Jonson: Volpone
Joyce: Finnegans Wake
Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love
Franz Kafka:
·      Der Prozess
·      Das Schloss
Suzanne Keen: Empathy and the Novel
Kierkegaard: Either/Or
Phil Klay: Redeployment
Arthur Koestler
Anna Komnene: The Alexiad
Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Rachel Kushner: The Flamethrowers
Thomas Kyd: The Spanish Tragedy
Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: Montaillou, village occitan
Lamb’s essays
Langland: Piers Plowman
Leopardi: Canti
Lesage: Gil Blas
Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook
Gottfried Ephraim Lessing: Nathan der Weise and “Laocoon”
Livy: Ab urbe condita
Lotus Sutra
Lucan: Pharsalia
Martianus Capella: De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii
Edgar Lee Masters: Spoon River Anthology
Naguib Mahfouz: the Cairo Trilogy
·      Buddenbrooks
·      Doktor Faustus
·      Tod im Venedig
Marquez: Cien años de soledad; Amor en el tiempo de colera
Mauss: The Gift
James McBride: The Good Lord Bird
Maureen McLane: Mz N: the serial
Melville: Benito Cereno
Rana Mitter: A Bitter Revolution
the poetry of Mira Bai
Mizumura Minae: The Fall of Language in the Age of English 
·      Le misanthrope
·      Le bourgeois gentilhomme
Montaigne: Essais (in full)
Montesquieu: L’esprit des loix
Morrison: Song of Solomon
Haruki Murakami:
·      Kafka on the Shore
·      1Q84
Musil: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften
Nabokov: Speak, Memory
V.S. Naipaul: A House for Mr. Biswas
Irène Némirovsky: Suite française
Friedrich Nietzsche:
·      The Birth of Tragedy
·      Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen
·      Menschliches, Allzumenschliches
·      Die fröhliche Wissenschaft
·      Also sprach Zarathustra
·      Jenseits von Gut und Böse
·      Zur Genealogie der Moral
The diaries of Anaïs Nin
Oe: A Personal Matter
·      The English Patient
·      Divisadero
the Orchid Pavilion poems
José Ortega y Gasset
George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia
Ovid: Metamorphoses
Ozick: The Puttermesser Papers
Annabel Patterson: The International Novel
The diary of Samuel Pepys
Petrarch’s Latin poems and Canzoniere
Plutarch: Bioi paralleloi
Alexander Pope:
·      Essay on Man
·      Dunciad
Prince Hall
Procopius: The Secret History
·      Sodom et Gomorrhe
·      La prisonnière
·      Albertine disparue
·      Le temps retrouvé
Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh: The Path
Aleksandr Pushkin: Yevgeny Onegin
·      V.
·      Gravity’s Rainbow
Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel
Racine: Phèdre
Rawls: A Theory of Justice
Erich Maria Remarque: Im Westen nichts Neues
·      Pamela
·      Clarissa
Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies
Marilynne Robinson: Gilead (2004)
The Song of Roland
Roman de la Rose
·      American Pastoral
·      The Plot Against America
·      Goodbye, Columbus
the poetry of Rumi
Salman Rushdie: finish Midnight’s Children
Edward Said: Orientalism
Jacopo Sannazaro: Arcadia
George Saunders: 10th of December
Scanlon: What We Owe to Each Other
Sebald: Die Ringe des Saturn
The Second Shepherds’ Play
the letters of Madame de Sévigné
Shelley: Frankenstein
Philip Sidney: The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia
William Shakespeare:
·      Merry Wives of Windsor
·      Love’s Labour’s Lost
·      All’s Well that Ends Well
·      Pericles
·      The Two Noble Kinsmen
·      Henry VIII
·      Timon of Athens
·      Antony and Cleopatra
·      the long poems
Sima Qian: Shiji
Walter Scott
Tracy K. Smith: Life on Mars
Wole Soyinka: Death and the King’s Horseman
Muriel Spark: finish The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Jonathan Spence: The Question of Hu
Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Queene
Spinoza: Ethics
Ilan Stavans: Quixote
Swift: “The Battle of the Books”
Tacitus: Historiae
Tanizaki: The Makioka Sisters
Donna Tartt
·      The Secret History
·      The Goldfinch
Taylor: A Secular Age
Tennyson: The Idylls of the King
the Thousand and One Nights
Tibullus: Elegiae
Tocqueville: De la démocratie en Amérique
Torquato Tasso: Gerusalemme liberata
Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century and Other Essays
·      The Way We Live Now
·      Barchester Towers
·      Tom Sawyer
·      A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
·      The Innocents Abroad
the poetry of François Villon
Walcott: Omeros
·      Salome
·      Lady Windermere’s Fan
Joy Williams: Breaking and Entering; The Changeling
Tennessee Williams: The Glass Menagerie
August Wilson: Fences
Edmund Wilson: To the Finland Station
Winckelmann: Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life
Yi Toegye
Marguerite Yourcenar: Mémoires d’Hadrien
Zhu Xi
·      L’assommoir
·      Germinal

Stefan Zweig: Brief einer Unbekannten


  1. My favorites on this list, just for the joy and/or the sweeping social portrayals: Germinal, My Antonia, Cicero's letters and philosophical works (let's give the speeches a rest!), Summa (want to read it together?!), Augustine Confessions (my first love in Latin, read it after 10 intense weeks on basic Latin).

    Winesburg, Ohio goes in its own category. Just amazing, must've read it 6-7 times at different stages of my life, from HS to college student to teacher.

    Cavafy - such a joy. Use a bilingual edition and see what you can get from the Greek knowing ancient - you'll be surprised and edified.

    Additions: Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried. More of Wilson's plays, especially Joe Turner. Deeper dive into Rilke even if you've gone deep before.

    A childhood favorite I still think is underloved, a beautiful meditation on Brooklyn and art - Chaim Potok, The Chosen and especially My Name is Asher Lev.

    1. Oh also, on the nonfiction side:

      Wittgenstein (later - Philosophical Investigations) was way more influential for me than Kuhn - but a good side-by-side read too. For science and history, something by J.D. Bernal, a scientist in the BCP in the 30s who give S that oh-so-rare thing, a materialist history of science and one that understands the abstraction as a necessity for the development of the disciplines, not taking it as obviously good in its own.

    2. Finally (sorry!) - oh read Butler if you must, I know it's academically important, but god was it painful and unenlightening and needlessly complex in its language - emphasis on needlessly. There's better, so much better stuff to read than Butler, no matter what it is you're looking to her for.