Saturday, March 1, 2014

50 Must-Reads for English Majors

I was sort of inspired to do this list by Amazon's "100 Books to Read in a Lifetime." No doubt, a marketing ploy. Most of the books, I'd agree you should read before you die. Some reappear on this list. This list is rather similar but less ambitious. I've also been inspired by all the reading I've been doing in preparation for the GRE Literature in English test. The following list is made up of the books that I think all English majors should read by the time they finish college. (Note, there are some titles that I haven't read!) I'm sure I'll leave stuff out. But that's lit.

Certain works are important because of when they were created or for signaling the start or end of a movement, even if they might not stand up to today's standards - though most of these do! These are our literary accomplishments as a species - be proud and cherish them. (Including shorter works would have forced me to create an exhaustive list, which I don't really care for right now.)  So, in (possibly erroneous) chronological order:

  1. Epic of Gilgamesh
  2. Bible by God
  3. Iliad by Homer
  4. Odyssey by Homer
  5. Aeneid (like near year 1) by Virgil
  6. Beowulf (c. late-700s)
  7. The Divine Comedy (early-1300s) by Dante
  8. Piers Plowman (c. 1360) by Langland
  9. Canterbury Tales (late-1300s) by Chaucer
  10. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (late-1300s) by Pearl Poet
  11. Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595) by Shakespeare
  12. Henry IV, Part 1 (c. 1597) by Shakespeare
  13. Julius Caesar (c. 1599) by Shakespeare
  14. Hamlet (c. 1600) by Shakespeare
  15. Othello (c. 1603) by Shakespeare
  16. King Lear (c. 1604) by Shakespeare
  17. Macbeth (c. 1606) by Shakespeare
  18. Paradise Lost (1667) by Milton
  19. Pilgrim's Progress (1678) by Bunyan
  20. 1,001 Nights (1706 in English)
  21. Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Defoe
  22. Tristram Shandy (1759-67) by Sterne
  23. Lyrical Ballads (1798) by Coleridge and Wordsworth
  24. Frankenstein (1818) by Shelley
  25. The Scarlet Letter (1850) by Hawthorne
  26. Moby-Dick (1851) by Melville
  27. Great Expectations (1861) by Dickens
  28. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Carroll
  29. Anna Karenina (1877 in English) by Tolstoy
  30. The Decameron (1886 in English) by Boccaccio
  31. Jude the Obscure (1895) by Hardy
  32. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) by Wilde
  33. Heart of Darkness (1899) by Conrad
  34. Course in General Linguistics (1916) by Saussure
  35. Winesburg, Ohio (1919) by Anderson
  36. Ulysses (1922) by Joyce
  37. The Great Gatsby (1925) by Fitzgerald
  38. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Woolf
  39. The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Hemingway
  40. The Sound and the Fury (1929) by Faulkner
  41. Grapes of Wrath (1939) by Steinbeck
  42. The Stranger (1942) by Camus
  43. The Diary of Anne Frank (1947)
  44. Nineteen-Eighty Four (1949) by Orwell
  45. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by Salinger
  46. The Old Man and the Sea (1951) by Hemingway
  47. Waiting for Godot (1953) by Beckett
  48. Lolita (1955) by Nabokov 
  49. Ficciones (1962 in English) by Borges
  50. The Pleasure of the Text (1973) by Barthes
And some heavily recommended books (in no particular order):
  • Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Diaz
  • Norwegian Wood by Murakami
  • To the Lighthouse by Woolf
  • Tess of the D'urbervilles by Hardy
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut
  • The Trial by Kafka
  • Wuthering Heights by E. Bronte
  • Jane Eyre by C. Bronte
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
  • No Exit by Camus
  • The Time Machine by Wells
  • The Interpreter of Maladies by Lahiri
  • On the Road by Kerouac 
  • Things Fall Apart by Achebe
  • A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway
  • Nausea by Sartre
  • Silence by Endo
  • Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami
  • Nature by Emerson
  • As I Lay Dying by Faulkner
  • Light in August by Faulkner
  • Tender Is the Night by Fitzgerald
  • Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Hardy
  • All or most of Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway, Faulkner
I know there are other important books for English majors. (Some other works I was considering including but decided against were long poems, such as The Waste Land or The Rape of the Lock.) But I'm tired now.



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