6 April

Good Reading: A Guide for Serious Readers, 23rd (and, apparently, final) edition [1990], features a list of 101 Significant Books, A Short List of Books to Read on Vacation, A Short List of Books to Read Before Entering College, and A Short List of Books to Read After Retirement. We're only interested here in the first list, and not just because I'm young enough to remember how my 18-years-old self would've reacted to being given the second list. These Good Reading books seem surprisingly rare. For example, here in Georgia three public libraries have copies of the 23rd edition, three others have copies of the 22nd [1985], and the University of Georgia has no copies of any edition. For the purposes of this project, the final version of the Significant Books list is used. According to the list introductions found in both the 22nd and 23rd editions, the list of Significant Books was included in the first edition of Good Reading, in 1934, and has been revised "several times." The list is a good one, though it's perhaps the (best) worst example of the listmakers not bothering to list actual books in a list of books and, furthermore, having non-book entries that are incredibly vague (yes, Robert Frost did write poems, thanks). The only book included in the 22nd edition not found in the 23rd edition's list below is Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. Zola, Beauvoir, Borges, Márquez, and Woolf were added in the 23rd.

[In 2014, I found a copy of the 21st edition, from which we learn of the items added to the 22nd, as Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Spinoza's Ethics, Dickinson, Nietzsche's Will to Power, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Ellison's Invisible Man, Proust, and Yeats are not found in the earlier book. However, the items that appear in the 21st but not the 22nd are more numerous: Aristotle - Politics; Herodotus - History; Marcus Aurelius - Meditations; Cellini - Autobiography; Franklin - Autobiography; Pepys - Diary; Butler - The Way of All Flesh; Maupassant - Short Stories; Wordsworth; Huxley - Brave New World; Lewis - Arrowsmith; Sandburg - Lincoln; Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath; and Veblen - The Theory of the Leisure Class. A couple authors's selections were changed: Dickens's David Copperfield replaced Grand Expectations; while Lawrence's Women in Love replaced Sons and Lovers]

Aeschylus, The Oresteia

Aesop, Fables

Aristophanes, Comedies

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

The Bible

Confucius, The Analects

Euripides, Dramas

Homer, Iliad

Homer, Odyssey

Lao-Tzu, The Way and Its Power

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

Plato, Republic

Plato, Symposium

Plutarch, Parallel Lives

Sophocles, The Theban Plays

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War

Vergil, Aeneid

The Arabian Nights

Bacon, Essays

Boccaccio, Il Decameron

Cervantes, Don Quixote

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

Dante, Divine Comedy

Machiavelli, The Prince

Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur

Muhammad, Koran

Montaigne, Essays

More, Utopia

Omar Khayyám, The Rubáiyát

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Shakespeare, Complete Tragedies, Comedies, and Histories

Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson

Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress

Burns, Poems

Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Descartes, Discourse on Method

Donne, Poems

Fielding, Tom Jones

Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Hamilton et al., Federalist Papers

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Malthus, Principle of Population

Milton, Paradise Lost


Molière, Comedies

Paine, The Rights of Man


Rousseau, The Social Contract

Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Spinoza, Ethics

Sterne, Tristram Shandy

Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Voltaire, Candide

Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Balzac, Eugénie Grandet

Browning (Robert), Poems

Byron, Poems

Chekhov, Plays

Darwin, The Origin of Species

Dickens, David Copperfield

Dickinson, Poems

Dostoevski, The Brothers Karamazov


Eliot, Middlemarch


Emerson, Essays

Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Goethe, Faust

Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Hugo, Les Misèrables

Ibsen, Dramas

Keats, Poems

Marx, Capital

Melville, Moby Dick

Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Poe, Short Stories


Shelley, Poems

Stendhal, The Red and the Black

Thackeray, Vanity Fair

Thoreau, Walden

Tolstoi, War and Peace

Twain, Huckleberry Finn

Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Wordsworth, Poems

Zola, Germinal

Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Borges, Labyrinths

Einstein, The Meaning of Relativity

Eliot, Poems and Plays

Ellison, Invisible Man

Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Frazer, The New Golden Bough

Freud, Introduction to Psychoanalysis

Frost, Poems

García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

James, The Ambassadors

Joyce, Ulysses

Lawrence, Women in Love

Mann, The Magic Mountain

O'Neill, Plays

Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Shaw, Plays

Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Yeats, Poems