Issue #38, Summer 2010

David Shields on the top 122 literary works of all time

David Shields

David Shields on the top 122 literary works of all time

CNF asked David Shields, author of REALITY HUNGER: A MANIFESTO (Knopf), for his top ten, must-read-if-you-want-to-write, can't-live-without, desert-island books. Here's what he sent us:

A
Henry Adams
, The Education of Henry Adams
Renata Adler, Speedboat
James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Hilton Als, The Women
W.H. Auden, A Certain World
Augustine, Confessions

B
Nicholson Baker
, A Box of Matches, U and I
James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot, Nothing to be Frightened Of
Roland Barthes, S/Z
Jo Ann Beard, The Boys of My Youth
Samuel Beckett, Proust
Alan Bennett, Writing Home
Sandra Bernhard, Without You I’m Nothing
Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein’s Nephew
John Berryman, The Dream Songs
Grégoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest, Report on Myself
Jorge Luis Borges, Other Inquisitions
Joe Brainard, I Remember
Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America

C
Sophie Calle
, Exquisite Pain
Albert Camus, The Fall
Anne Carson, Plainwater
Terry Castle, “My Heroin Christmas”
John Cheever, Journals
Robert Clark, The Angel of Doubt
E.M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist
J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello
Billy Collins, The Art of Drowning
Bernard Cooper, Maps to Anywhere
Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave
Douglas Coupland, Generation X

D
John D’Agata, Halls of Fame
Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Alphonse Daudet, In the Land of Pain
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Thomas DeQuincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
Joan Didion, “Sentimental Journeys”
Annie Dillard, For the Time Being
Marguerite Duras, The Lover
Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage

E
Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes

F
Brian Fawcett, Cambodia
F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up
E.M. Forster, Commonplace Book
Joe Frank, In the Dark
Amy Fusselman, The Pharmacist’s Mate, 8

G
Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces
Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments, The End of the Novel of Love
Simon Gray, The Smoking Diaries
Spalding Gray, Morning, Noon, and Night

H
Barry Hannah, Boomerang
Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights
Kathryn Harrison, The Kiss
John Haskell, I Am Not Jackson Pollock
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom-House”

J
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

K
Frank Kafka, “Letter to His Father”
David Kirby, The House on Boulevard St.
Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat

L
Charles Lamb, The Essays of Elia
Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings
D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature
Denis Leary, No Cure for Cancer
Michel Leiris, Manhood
Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip
Jonathan Lethem, The Disappointment Artist
Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing

M
Ross McElwee, Sherman’s March
Rosemary Mahoney, Down the Nile
Rian Malan, My Traitor’s Heart
David Markson, This Is Not a Novel, Reader’s Block, Vanishing Point, The Last Novel
Carole Maso, The Art Lover
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Daniel Mendelsohn, The Elusive Embrace
Leonard Michaels, Shuffle
Michel de Montaigne, The Essays of Montaigne
Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

N
Vladimir Nabokov, Nikolai Gogol
V.S. Naipaul, A Way in the World
Maggie Nelson, Bluets
Friederich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

O
George Orwell, “Such, Such Were the Joys”

P
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
Don Paterson, Best Thought, Worst Thought
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

R
Jonathan Raban, For Love & Money
James Richardson, Vectors
Alain Robbe-Grillet, Ghosts in the Mirror
François La Rochefoucauld, Maxims
Rick Reynolds, Only the Truth Is Funny
Chris Rock, Bring the Pain
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions

S
W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants
Wallace Shawn, My Dinner with André
Sarah Silverman, Jesus Is Magic
Lauren Slater, Lying
Zadie Smith, Fail Better
Gilbert Sorrentino, “The Moon in Its Flight”
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Jean Stafford, A Mother in History
Stendhal, On Love
Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy
Jean Stein, Edie

T
Melanie Thernstrom, The Dead Girl
Jean Toomer, Cane
Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War
George W.S. Trow, My Pilgrim’s Progress, Within the Context of No Context

V
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (prologue)

W
D.J. Waldie, Holy Land
Joe Wenderoth, Letters to Wendy’s
Geoffrey Wolff, The Duke of Deception

Author Bio

David Shields

David Shields is the author of 10 books, including Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, from which this piece is excerpted; The Thing About Life Is... read more

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