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  • Ken Ilgunas

Best Books Syllabus (updated)

I’d love it if someone, whose tastes are similar to my own, would give me a syllabus of decent books to read, to save me the trouble of having to sample and discard so many. With that in mind, I’ve decided to list my favorite books for those of you who may also be struggling.

This list is as unpretentious as I could make it. Many books that I respect but that didn’t agree with me (Joyce’s Ulysses for instance), didn’t make this list. The following books are simply my favorites.

Fiction 1700 – 1899 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe Middlemarch by George Eliot The Mill on the Floss by George Elliot Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Fiction 1900 – Present

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen Freedom by Jonathan Franzen Poldark series by Winston Graham Catch-22 by Joseph Heller For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway High Fidelity by Nick Hornby Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Robert Edwin Lee and Jerome Lawrence Call of the Wild by Jack London The Road by Cormac McCarthy 1984 by George Orwell Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Non-Fiction – Travel/Nature

Desert Solitaire by Ed Abbey 501 Minutes to Christ by Poe Ballantine A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson The Writing Life by Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl On Nature: Selected Essays by Edward Hoagland A Walk across America by Peter Jenkins Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez West with the Night by Beryl Markham Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner

Non-Fiction – Philosophy

Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran Tribe by Sebastian Junger But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman A Tolerable Anarchy by Jedediah Purdy Walden by Henry David Thoreau Abstract Wild by Jack Turner Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen

Non-Fiction – Memoir/Autobiography/Essays

The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen The Stars, the Snow, the Fire by John Haines Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt Denial by Jonathan Rauch Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris Naked by David Sedaris Essays from the Nick of Time by Mark Slouka

Non-Fiction – History

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz The Endurance by Alfred Lansing In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Non-Fiction – Biography

Che by Jon Lee Anderson Grant by Ron Chernow Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin The Days of Henry Thoreau by Walter Harding Henry Thoreau: Life of the Mind by Robert Richardson Saint Joan of Arc by Vita Sackville-West

Non-Fiction – Special Interest

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie Suburban Nation by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk Story by Robert McKee The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson


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