My New Book Challenge

I’ve been thinking for some time about a new book challenge, but I haven’t been quite able to come up with a theme. After attending an event celebrating Banned Books Week last year, I thought about reading all 100 of the most commonly banned or challenged books in the United States. I checked out the Modern Library’s lists of top 100 fiction and non-fiction books of the 20th Century. I thought about reading more from Nobel Prize winners in literature, and I didn’t want to give up on the theme of my Around the World Virtual Book Club. I went through others’ lists of books that will change your life (this one I found most interesting). In the end, I narrowed it down to 100 titles and came up with the following list, which will probably take my whole life to get through.

  1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  2. Snow by Orhan Pamuk
  3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  4. Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky
  5. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
  6. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  7. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  8. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  9. Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer
  10. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  11. The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
  12. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  13. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  14. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  15. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  16. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  17. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  18. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  19. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  20. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  21. The Apology by Plato
  22. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  23. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  24. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
  25. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  26. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  27. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  28. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
  29. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  30. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  31. The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing
  32. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
  33. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  34. Native Son by Richard Wright
  35. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  36. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  37. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
  38. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  39. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  40. The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  41. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  42. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  43. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  44. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  45. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  46. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  47. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
  48. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  49. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  50. Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  51. NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha
  52. The Stand by Stephen King
  53. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  54. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  55. Capital, Volume 1 by Karl Marx
  56. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  57. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  58. The Qu’ran (as translated by M.A. Abdel Haleem)
  59. The Awakening and Selected Stories by Kate Chopin
  60. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  61. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  62. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  63. The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara
  64. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  65. Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
  66. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
  67. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  68. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
  69. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  70. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  72. The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer
  73. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
  74. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  75. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  76. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  77. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  78. The Republic by Plato
  79. Ulysses by James Joyce
  80. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  81. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  82. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  83. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  84. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  85. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  86. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  87. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  88. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  89. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  90. The Odyssey by Homer
  91. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  92. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
  93. The Autobiography of Mark Twain
  94. Women on Top by Nancy Friday
  95. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  96. Karate-Do: My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi
  97. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  98. The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy
  99. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  100. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Post in Comments: What’s on your essential reading list?

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4 Responses to My New Book Challenge

  1. Brianna Soloski says:

    This is a solid list of essentials. I’ve actually read a good number of these, surprisingly. Lists like this tend to overwhelm me, though. I lean toward being a slow reader and there are so many books I want to read.

  2. desperatelyseekingspock says:

    I love lists! Watch out for The Exorcist, I had to put it down because it gave me nightmares. I’ll get back to it eventually.

  3. amber says:

    I just finished For Whom the Bell Tolls and loved it. Learning more about the Spanish Civil War is on my to-do list as a result. The Beatniks are on my essential reading list, I haven’t read much of their work besides poetry, so have those to read. I just started the Game of Thrones series (haven’t seen the tv show), and am already drawn into the series after only 100 pages. Thanks for sharing this list!

  4. Old Geezer says:

    What? You’ve never previously read The Catcher in the Rye?!? Anyway, if you read these in order, I predict you will never get to No. 6.

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