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Maxine Hong Kingston

Our newest Top Ten list comes from one of America’s most celebrated writers, Maxine Hong Kingston, who has used Chinese-American experiences to depict the human condition through several works of nonfiction and one novel.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants who operated a California gambling house in the 1940s and later a laundry, Kingston often blends autobiography and mythology in her work. Her first book – “The Woman Warrior” (1976) which won the National Book ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

    A Clockwork Orange

    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962). The linguistic virtuosity of this futuristic tale—told in nadsat, a russified English—lures us into an unwilling complicity in the drug-fueled bouts of ultraviolence committed by Alex and his droogs (comrades).

    A Confederacy of Dunces

    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980). “The funniest novel of the twentieth century,” said Donald Harington of this sprawling picaresque, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize after Toole’s suicide. Its blustering, bumfuzzled antihero is Ignatius J.

    A Dance to the Music of Time

    A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (1951–75). Powell’s panoramic series of twelve freestanding novels, grouped in four “movements,” charts the careers of four public-school friends from 1921 to 1971 against the backdrop of rapidly changing London.

    A Death in the Family

    A Death in the Family by James Agee (1957). A Pulitzer Prize–winning work of autobiographical fiction tells the story of a Knoxville, Tennessee, family torn asunder by the father’s accidental death in 1915.

    A Doll's House

    A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (1879). The original desperate housewife, pampered Nora Helmer commits forgery for the money she needs to take her sick husband on a lifesaving trip. When her husband discovers her deceit, he is appalled.

    A Fan's Notes

    A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley (1968). A cross between Charles Bukowski and John Kennedy Toole, this harrowing, hilarious autobiographical novel portrays a raw and likable barstool dreamer. He is a slovenly, all-American misfit headed for the psychiatric institution, who fills his head with all-American fantasies of fame, wealth, and beautiful women.

    A Far Cry from Kensington

    A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark (1988). Like all of Spark’s work, this novel is hard to define. Metaphysical farce? Literary mystery? At bottom it is a dark, elegant, hilarious tale centered on the zaftig widow Mrs. Hawkins. She spends her days and evenings giving advice to her eccentric rooming house mates and her coworkers in book publishing.

    A Farewell to Arms

    A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929). Based on Hemingway’s experiences during World War I, this romantic tragedy recounts the story of Frederic Henry, an American volunteer in the Italian ambulance corps who meets and eventually falls in love with a maternal yet alluring English nurse, Catherine Barkley.

    A Handful of Dust

    A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (1934). Leading lives of empty desperation, Waugh’s characters kill the days of their lives with petty concerns, silly parties, and unfulfilling affairs. A withering satire of England’s declining aristocracy, the novel showcases Waugh’s caustic eye and comic wit.

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    New List

    Joyce Carol Oates

    1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).
    2. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
    3. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929).
    4. The poems of Emily Dickinson (1830–86).
    5. The stories of Franz Kafka (1883–1924).
    6. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830).
    7. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence (1915).
    8. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence (1920).
    9. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
    10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).




     

    Classic List

    Mary Gaitskill

    1. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
    2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).
    3. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (1962).
    4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853).
    5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).
    6. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927).
    7. Gusev by Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
    8. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (1904).
    9. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842).
    10. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (1831).

     





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