The Best Books to Read After You Learn to Read

Earlier today I read a very strange list with a rather obvious title: The Forty Best Books to Read Before You Die. (I mean, it's not like you'll be reading a lot of them afterwards...) It was odd in that it included 15 books I'd read, and that it included obvious classics (Gatsby, Catch-22), children's books (Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows), Edith Wharton, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, not to mention multiple Tolkien books including The Silmarillion, which not even all Tolkien fans would list.

Nonetheless, I rather admired the listmaker's obvious disdain for following convention and listing personal favorites, and with that, here: 28 Books I Like That I Think You Might Also Like, In No Particular Order:


The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards
A beautifully told of a life on one of the Channel Islands. Rich, true, and not as simple as you might think.

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Sprawling, gorgeous, rapturous prose of a New York that never was and you wish had been.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Arthur, Merlyn, Lancelot, and their companions get as medieval as you could ever want.

Cane by Jean Toomer
It's poetry, it's prose, it's red clay and pine smoke and evening shade and like nothing else.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
Seven interlocked stories in a perfectly captured teenage life in early-80s England. Remarkable.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
Essays from a great thinker and a marvelous engineer of the English language.

The Lecturer's Tale by James Hynes
Bold, hilarious, metafictional, and innovative satire of academia, with the best explanation of privilege I know.

Being Dead by Jim Crace
Audacious, brilliantly structured, and oddly sentimental while at the same time unflinching. 

Possession by A.S. Byatt
Two Victorian poets, two modern researchers, romance, libraries, and all good things.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
A memoir of gowing up and learning her dad was gay. As good as the graphic novel form has yet produced.

Picnic, Lightning by Billy Collins
My introduction to our former Poet Laureate: whimsical, droll, and observant takes on life and language.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
A hilarious and improbable version of the coming of the Antichrist and its ludicrous results.

The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
Ideas about biology, geography, and indeed biography are spun like a kaleidoscope by my favorite science writer.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Richly drawn, psychologically sophisticated characters in a perfectly depicted milieu.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
A science-fiction apocalypse that's not quite apocalyptic and far too close to home.

Promethea by Alan Moore & J.H. Williams III
A comics series of magic, superheroes, and imagination galore structured as a grand fugue of pop culture.

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin
For all the teenaged nerds who finally met someone else with equal fervor and awkardness. A gem.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The best, funniest, most horrifying, most illuminating way for a young reader to grow up suddenly.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The modern African-American experience delivered by a father who won't stop looking at reality.

Kraken by China Mieville
A dark and unsettling urban fantasy of museums, ink, and the battle for occult dominance of London.

The Jack Tales by Richard Chase
Appalachian folk stories collected in a book that deserves to be read aloud to everyone.

Godel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
A playful, unique, and near-bottomless musing on recursion, beauty, humor, and number theory.

Watership Down by Richard Adams
Possibly the greatest adventure story ever told, and it's about rabbits. Go figure.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Poetry, metafiction, and a narrator whose unreliability passes into the realm of Baron Munchausen. Astonishing.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson
A slow buildup of monasticism and science fiction that hits like a ton of lead and sends you where you didn't expect.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Prose like baklava, too sweet and rich and layered to devour quickly, but oh so delicious.

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
A book that reads like the internet, piecemeal yet enormous, with a human center that won't be ignored.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Well, yeah. I'm not gonna leave this one out.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on March 3, 2016 8:36 PM.

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