|A Bend in the River
||Flawed but very powerful story of post-colonialism in
|A Distant Mirror
||More than you wanted to know about the 4 horsemen in
the 14th century.
|A Frolic of His Own
||Badly in need of copy editing.
|A Hero of Our Time
||Greater than the sum of its parts, and very Russian.
|A Modern Instance
||William Dean Howells
||Excellent 19th Century American social problem novel.
|A Severed Head
||Cynical and amusing.
|Adam's Diary/Eve's Diary
||Very dry, not very rigorous.
|Among the Believers
||Aspects of the anti-Enlightenment.
|Animal Family, The
||Well written and researched, but somehow forgettable.
||Venery for health, but not to excess.
||Stick to the major works.
||A sheltered childhood.
||W B Yeats
||Fairies in the garden of a tone-deaf laureate, but
||Didactic but intriguing. I preferred the characters
before they reformed…
||Tabloid material transformed by genius.
||A popular religious text.
|Black Prince, The
||Dark, strange and brilliant.
||Remember the TV series with Fred MacMurray?
||Delightful 18th Century Anglo Irish satire.
||Like a good 3 part New Yorker article.
|Collected Poems of
||Jean Jaques Rousseau
||A fascinating document about a not very nice man with a
||An amusing materialist.
|Continental Op, The
||Bad early stories. Read The Dain Curse or Red Harvest
|Crowds and Power
||Polyymathic brilliance from the original of Iris
Murdoch’s magus figure.
|Death Comes For the Archbishop
||Good enough to overcome the anti-Catholic bias I
acquired in parochial school.
|Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
||People believe the goddamndest piffle. Carl deplores
this at tedious length.
|Devils of Loudun, The
spiritual biography of a deranged exorcist by an admirer. Bludgeoning
erudition brought to bear on the evils of intellectual pride.
|Education of Henry Adams
||Fascinating, dripping with ideas and beautifully
written, a surprise hit.
|Epitaph of a Small Winner
||Machado de Assis
||19th Century Brazil's foremost, a philosophical fantasy
narrated by the deceased protagonist.
||Solidly engaging, and occasionally startling in its
depiction of a violent, vulgar and amoral era.
|Fathers and Sons
||Short and almost perfect.
||Not bad for a 19 year old girl.
|Go Tell It on the Mountain
||An impressive meeting of the King James Bible and Freud.
|Guns, Germs and Steel
||Firstest with the mostest.
||G B Shaw
||For once a drama richer than the didactic purpose
stated in its preface.
|His Monkey Wife
|House of Mirth
||Several novels about a boy.
||The Ugly American.
||Participatory journalism by a romantic.
||Metaphysical candy fluff.
||Great! Read Villette too, which is even better!
||James Branch Cabell
||A monstrous clever fellow.
|Language, Truth and Logic
||A. J. Ayer
||Clever, clever, clever...
|Life of Charlotte Bronte
||A Gothic biography of a gothic novelist. Duty over
|Lives of A Cell, The
||Biological belles lettres.
|Man Who Loved Children, The
||Unique and wonderful book by an unclassifiable writer.
Her Letty Fox, Her Luck is also great.
|Martian Time Slip
||Phillip K. Dick
||Another head-twister from the master paranoiac.
||Not a pretty picture, but sticks to your ribs.
|Memoirs of US Grant
||Ulysses S. Grant
||Another surprise hit: terrific prose, great sincerity
|Mind of A Mnemonist
||A. J. Luria
||Fascinating study of a man whose extraordinary memory
seemed of little benefit.
||Many novels centering on a whale.
||I prefer Orlando .
|Mysteries of Winterthurn, The
||Joyce Carol Oates
||Repulsive and tin eared 19 th
century gothic pastiche.
||Didactic and sentimental.
|No Man Knows My History
||Bio of Joseph Smith, the man who found God in his hat.
|No Man’s Land
||I saw the original production with Gielgud and
||A minor 20th C. English writer with a unique style and
|Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
|Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The
||18 th century style, 19
th century psychology.
|Our Mutual Friend
||Characters you will never forget. The Master.
||Solid 19 th century novel.
||Honore de Balzac
||Oddly disappointing and sentimental. Read Droll Stories
||A. S. Byatt
||Talent misused. The 19th C. pastiche is clever, the
20th C. satire tedious.
|Professor and the Madman, The
||An ok version of a terrific true story.
|Psychopathology of Everyday Life
||The book that introduced the "Freudian slip" into
popular culture. Ponderously Teutonic but fascinating.
||Exquisite style and charming story. 18th C.
|Rats, Lice and History
||Our friend the plague. Fascinating.
||A potboiler by a genius
|Remains of the Day
||Honest but forgettable.
||A comic masterpiece.
||Journalism re South American Indians and oil politics.
|Seven Years in Tibet
||Someone was ready when opportunity knocked.
|Six Character in Search of an Author
||No doubt a novel exercise in it’s day. Seems dated now.
|Some Buried Caesar
||Classic murder mystery.
||Excellent travel book on Australia , In Patagonia is
|Souls of Black Folks
||W.E.B. Du Bois
||Sad but true.
|Sylvie and Bruno
||Twee. Odd. Twee.
|Ballad of the Sad Café, The
||Disappointing Southern Gothic.
|Beast in the Jungle, The
||Short and almost perfect.
||Italy's Sir Walter Scott. Scene of ruffians carousing
atop a wagonload of plague victims astonishing.
|Death of Ivan Illich, The
||Short and almost perfect.
||A Jane Austen plot and a very elaborate prose style.
Not everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it.
|Girls of Slender Means, The
||Elegant! read "The Comforters", "Memento Mori" and
"Ballad of Peckham Rye" while you’re at it.
|Good Soldier, The
||Ford Madox Ford
||A painful gem. Also read his modernist masterpiece
Parade's End .
||A better if more modest work than the trilogy.
|Killer Inside Me, The
||The author is a very sick man.
||Bleak and powerful.
||Matthew G Lewis
||Torture, incest, rape, necrophilia, transvestism,
Satanic posession and clerical incelibacy: how can you go wrong!
|Old Regime and the French Revolution , The
||Alexis de Toqueville
||A very smart guy, with some very deep insights.
|Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The
||18 th century style, 20
th century psychology.
||All in the family, Greek style.
|Sea and the Jungle, The
||H M Tomlinson
||Terrific travel book, and a real vocabulary builder.
|Things They Carried, The
||Smile when you say that.
|Warden, The / Barchester Towers
||A 2 piece comic gem.
|Theory of the Leisure Class
||Absolutely brilliant! One of the great satires, and a
profoundly insightful work of sociology at the same time!
||A disturbing theological puzzle.
||Very minor James.
||An utterly prosaic business man goes to another planet,
and for 500 years is believed a liar.
|Travels With A Donkey
||Robert Louis Stevenson
||One of the prose masterworks of the 19th C. Absolutely
||Intellectually scintillating, stylistically superb,
another pick hit!
||Music to the ears.
|Undiscovered Self, The
highly implausible political speech which proposes direct experience of
God as the only alternative to Soviet style totalitarianism, style
good, content incoherent.
||John Dos Passos
||Unique modernist masterpiece and sociological document
|Valleys of the Assassins
||An English broad with serious chutzpah (and a good
prose style) wanders around Persia in the early 1930's.
|Voyage of the Beagle
||Everyone loved this: excellent plain style, fascinating
observations, and a delightfully modest narrator.
|Voyages of Dr Dolittle
||Wonderful, and thankfully not bowdlerized in my copy!
|Wapshot Chronicle, The
||Perhaps the finest American stylist of the post WWII
era. A very funny book.
|Wide Sargasso Sea
||Skip this and read "After Leaving Mr Mackenzie".
|Wind in the Willows, The
||Poetically wonderful, albeit with some disturbing
political angles when read as an adult.
|Winter Notes on Summer Impressions
||Witty, Burkean pan-Slavism, believe it or not.
|Woman in White, The
||Great 19th C. mystery. The Moonstone is also terrific.
||Stephen J. Gould
||Pretty unreadable. His essay collections are much
|You Must Remember This
||Joyce Carol Oates
||Surprisingly good sex scenes.
||Fin de Siecle S&M in a military academy. Skip
this and read The Man Without Qualities .
||William Pene Du Bois
||Delightful text and pictures.
|44: The Mysterious Stranger
||For devotees of textual variants.
|20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
||A great novel virtually devoid of psychology.
|A Coffin for Dimitrios
||The pattern tale of Balkan suspense.
|Quark and the Jaguar, The
||A Nobelist, lucid on how complexity derives from
|Decline and Fall
||Cruel, funny and very well written.
||Surprisingly funny, psychologically brilliant,
politically deplorable, a masterpiece.
|Circular Staircase, The
||Mary Roberts Rinehart
||An old dark house mystery from the golden age.
|Story of My Experiments With Truth, The
||Crank diets and sexual anxiety lead to Indian
|Mysterious Island, The
||Men without women. Utopia. Darn that volcano.
|Travels With Charley
||An articulate boy and his dog.
|Iris Murdoch, A Life
||Peter J. Conradi
||So she screwed around. Read the novels instead.
|The Turn of the Screw
|The Sixth Extinction
||Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin
|A Midsummer Night's Dream
||See the film!
|Selected Letter of Gustave Flaubert
||ed/trans Francis Steegmuller
||Hard to tell if he was leading or following the trends.
|Journal of the Plague Year
||Further proof of intelligent design. Amazing.
|Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War
||Read her sources, including Canetti, instead.
||Terrifying intelligence, occasional silliness.
"Mondaugen's Story" will leave permanent scars.
|Miles, the Autobiography
||Listen to the music, and skip this narcissistic piece
|The Three Musketeers
||Best villainess in literature!
|Memoirs of a Polyglot
||Fascinating memoirs of a British upbringing in
|My Name is Red
||A colorful and intelligent novel of ideas.
|Two Years Before the Mast
||William Henry Dana
||California before the real estate boom, and well before
||Written in a hurry, presumably for money.
|The Greek Coffin Mystery
||Enough plot for 4 mysteries. Still under the shadow of
SS Van Dine.
|Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
||If one must read ephemera, it should be current. This
|Uncle Tom's Cabin
||Harriet Beecher Stowe
||A solid 19th century novel which gives the devil some
of the best tunes.
||Mary Lee Settle
||Ms. Settle seems preoccupied with her place in the
pecking order of knowingness, and occasionally writes sentences that
|Sirens of Titan
||This warped my juvenile mind, and holds up very well.
|A History of the End of the World
||The embedded text of the Book of the Apocalypse is far
more interesting than the trite commentary.
||Wolfram Von Eschenbach
||A surprisingly readable Medieval Arthurian romance.
|All the Shah's Men
||The prototypical CIA "intervention", and a truly
|Hajji Baba of Ispahan
||An hilarious amoral picaresque.
|The River of Doubt
||She never met a cliche she didn't like.
|The Bachelor of Arts
||A lovely bit of writing, doubly impressive since in the
author's second language.
||Funny, Russian, unique.
|The Birth of Tragedy
||Utterly improbable, but brilliant.
||The consequences of being too famous to submit to an
|The Cheese and the Worms
||When belonging to a book group had consequences.
|West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American
||A surprisingly uninteresting man from a very
|Coast of Utopia
||Read Isaiah Berlin's "Russian Thinkers" instead.
|Bury me standing : the Gypsies and their journey
||Fascinating look into a genuinely alien culture, and a
test case for moral relativism.
|Angle of Repose
||Why do these dual historical/contemporary narratives
seem to do better at representing the past?
|The Wisdom of Crowds
||Note recent counter evidence.
||Her usual astonishing erudition, and a plausible
representation of the mind of a political genius.
|Map of Another Town
||Neurasthenic sensibility, meticulous prose.
|The New Life
||An endless, self indulgent, post-modern binge.
||He really could write.
|The Language of Clothes
||Mildly amusing journalism.
|If Beale Street Could Talk
||Minor work by major writer.
|The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
||Abelard and Heloise
||Love letters from Abelard to himself. The pattern
intellectual male egotist.
||Depressive, morally incoherent, fascinating.
|The Buried Mirror
||The book of the TV show meets the ramblings of the
|American Lion : Andrew Jackson in the White House
||Earnest, but preoccuipied with tabloid scandal.
||Motiveless evil, and a temptation to reductionism.
|The White Tiger
||Black humor, and a consistent narrative voice.
||NY Times science journalist makes many feeble puns.
|The Wizard of Oz
||L. Frank Baum
||ICharming, but I prefer the movie.
|Cold Comfort Farm
||I saw something nasty in the woodshed.
||"...how veracious and courteous the fresh, pure
||A most unusual disquisition on the spiritual life.
|Wind, Sand, and Stars
||Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
||A pre-modern sensibility enamored of modernity.
|The Franchise Affair
||An excellent mystery without a death.
|Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
||Journalism and self abnegation.
|The Twelve Chairs
||Ilf & Petrov
||A very funny Soviet satire. Really!
|The Viceroy of Ouida
||Not a travel book. Had he been reading "100 Years of
|The Quiet American
||Cynical, wise and sad.
|The Lost World of the Kalahari
||Laurens Van Der Post
||Lovely writing about some ambitious but incompetent
||A gem. One of the best villains in literature.
|Up From Slavery
||Booker T. Washington
||Fascinating and still topical.
modernist masterpiece, and yes, a shocking commentary on
race.Eerie to read so soon after Booker T. Washington
|Baltasar and Blimunda
||Odd, lovely, cruel, and sad.
|The Demon in the House
||Comic gem that does not obscure the egotism of
||Portugal as it once was.
||A masterpiece of unrequited love.
||Napoleon A. Chagnon
||A late career defense of the very good "Yanomamo, the
fierce people" (1964)
|Five Children and It
|The Waning of the Middle Ages
||Life was very different then, as the author makes
|The Invisible Man
||Rustic comedy abruptly turns to moral tragedy. A great
||Biblical pastiche by brilliant Portugese eccentric.
|At the Back of the North Wind
||I am decidely neither a Christian nor a mystic, but I
|A Movable Feast
||Papa engages in nostalgie de la boue, and mocks the
infinitely superior writer Ford Madox Ford.
|Night and the City
||An interesting early novel by an interesting minor
writer. Very different in tone from the excellent film.
|The Crime of Father Amaro
||Eça de Queirós
||A 19th century Portugese anticlerical masterpiece on
the level of Flaubert.
|The Great Cat Massacre
||Fine essays in cultural history.
|The Man in the High Castle
||Phillip K. Dick
||Eerie alternate history.
||Not quite the Confessions of Rousseau, but warts and
|On the Marble Cliffs
||A fascinating anti-Nazi poetic parable by a right wing
nationalist, published in Nazi Germany.
||A very funny angry young man.
|The Memoirs of Hadrian
||A brilliant and plausible entree into the mind of a
Roman emperor who is a political genius.
|The Stammering Century
||Cults and cranks of the 19th century U.S. Folly from the top down.
|Design for Living
||Brittle. Brittle. Brittle. The movie script by Ben Hecht is better.
|West with the Night
||A lost world.
|Ballad of the Whiskey Robber
||True crime as farce in post-communist Eastern Europe.
|The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
||A piece of science history turns into a tragedy of familial dysfunction.
|Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont||Elizabeth Taylor||Old age, death, and snobbery in a superb black comedy.|
|100 Years of Solicitude||Gabriel Garcia Marquez||Loved this as a stoned college boy, found it annnoyingly arbitrary this time.|
|Night and the City||Gerald Kersh||Interestingly less dark than the film, and perhaps less good, but a distinctive voice.|
|Domestic Manners of the Americans ||Mrs. Frances Trollope||Spiritual ancestors of the Trumpites anatomized.|
|That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana ||Carlo Emilio Gadda ||Modernist/surrealist murder mystery set in Fascist Italy. Unique.|
| The devil in the white city|| Erik Larson||An unfortunate collision between architetcural/cultural history and true crime. Should have been 2 shorter books.|
|A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court ||Mark Twain||Terrific piece of storytelling.|
|Naples '44||Norman Lewis||An observant young Briton's wonderfully written journal of the Allied occupation of Italy, as managed by Lucky Luciano.|
|A Study in Scarlet & The Sign of the Four||Arthur
|Into the Heart of Borneo||Redmond O'Hanlon||Recreational hell-holing. Hilarious if you like loathesome diseases and parasites.|
| The Bottle Factory Outing || Beryl Bainbridge||Polished style and black humor.|
|The Shellfish Gene ||Richard Dawkins||A clever if not entirely convincing thought experiment.|
|She||H. Rider Hggard||Masterpiece of mystical adventure.|
|Pack My Bag||Henry Green||Memoir by the modernist novelist. Worthwhile, but the fiction is better.|
|The School for Scandal||Richard Brinsley Sheridan||Wit and construction at an exalted level.|
|The Bramble Bush ||Karl N. Llewellyn||Good plain style on the why and wherefore of the Law.|