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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

    The White Tiger

    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (2008). The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur.

    Anna Karenina

    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877). Anna’s adulterous love affair with Count Vronsky—which follows an inevitable, devastating road from their dizzyingly erotic first encounter at a ball to Anna’s exile from society and her famous, fearful end—is a masterwork of tragic love.

    War and Peace

    War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869). Mark Twain supposedly said of this masterpiece, “Tolstoy carelessly neglects to include a boat race.” Everything else is included in this epic novel that revolves around Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.

    Jane Eyre

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847). Like Wuthering Heights, this is a romance set in the isolated moors of rural England the Brontës called home. Its title character is an exceptionally independent orphan who becomes governess to the children of an appealing but troubled character, Mr. Rochester.

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884). Hemingway proclaimed, “All modern American literature comes from . . . ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ” But one can read it simply as a straightforward adventure story in which two comrades of conve­ nience, the parentally abused rascal Huck and fugitive slave Jim, escape the laws and conventions of society on a raft trip down the Mississippi.

    To the Lighthouse

    To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927). The Ramsays and their eight children vacation with an assortment of scholarly and artistic houseguests by the Scottish seaside.

    In Search of Lost Time

    In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27). It’s about time. No, really. This seven-volume, three-thousand-page work is only superficially a mordant critique of French (mostly high) society in the belle époque.

    Stories of Anton Chekhov

    The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904). The son of a freed Russian serf, Anton Chekhov became a doctor who, between the patients he often treated without charge, invented the modern short story. The form had been overdecorated with trick endings and swags of atmosphere.

    Middlemarch

     Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72). Dorothea Brooke is a pretty young idealist whose desire to improve the world leads her to marry the crusty pedant Casaubon. This mistake takes her down a circuitous and painful path in search of happiness.

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    New List

    Top Ten African-American Works

    1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952).
    2. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987).
    3. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977).
    4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937).
    5. Native Son by Richard Wright (1945).
    6. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959).
    7. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962).
    8. Cane by Jean Toomer (1923).
    9. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid (1990).
    10. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown (1965).



     

    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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