Recommended Reading List

Enlightened Reader

Recommended Reading List

Below is a list of important works and writers compiled by the faculty of the English Department. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but if you read the works on this list, you will be moderately well read. You will also discover how much more there is to read. For many authors, we have listed specific works, though other works are equally valuable. For poets, we have just said "poetry," which means that it's fun to browse through the collected works of poets and read at random—or to start at the beginning and read to the end. The works are listed alphabetically within periods. Of course this arrangement is unsatisfactory, but there is no fully satisfactory way to arrange such a list. As you read, remember that literature is meant to teach and delight. So enjoy.

Photo by Susánica Tam, copyright, used with permission under this Creative Commons License.

British and American Literature

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Bacon, Francis— Essays

Chaucer, Geoffrey—Parlement of Foules, Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde
Donne, John—poetry
Herbert, George—poetry
Langland, William—Piers Plowman
Malory, Thomas—Le Morte Darthur
Marlowe, Christopher—"Hero and Leander," Tragical History of Dr. Faustus
Marvell, Andrew—poetry
Milton, John—"Lycidas," Paradise Lost
More, Thomas—Utopia
Shakespeare, William—sonnets, Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Hamlet, Richard II, Henry IV (part 1), Winter's Tale, Tempest, King Lear, Troilus and Cressida
Sidney, Philip—"Apology for Poetry," Astrophel and Stella
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Spenser, Edmund—Faerie Queene (Books I and II)
Webster, John—Duchess of Malfi

Eighteenth Century

Addison, Joseph, and Richard Steele—selections from The Spectator or The Tatler
Barbaud, Anna Letitia--poetry
Behn, Aphra—Oroonoko, Poems on Several Occasions, The Rover
Burney, Frances—Evelina
Cavendish, Margaret—poetry
Crevecoeur, J. Hector St. John de—Letters from an American
Defoe, Daniel—Robinson Crusoe
Dryden, John—Mac Flecknoe, Absalom and Achitophel, Essay of Dramatic Poesy
Equiano, Olaudah—The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Foster, Hannah Webster—The Coquette
Fielding, Henry—Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones
Johnson, Samuel—Rasselas, essays from The Rambler or Idler
Locke, John—An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Pope, Alexander—"Rape of the Lock," "Essay on Criticism"
Radcliffe, Ann—The Mysteries of Udolpho
Richardson, Samuel—Pamela
Sheridan, Richard—The Rivals
Smith, Charlotte--poetry
Smollett, Tobias—Roderick Random, Humphrey Clinker
Sterne, Laurence—Tristram Shandy
Swift, Jonathan—Gulliver's Travels
Tocqueville, Alexis de—Democracy in America
Wollstoncraft, Mary—A Vindication of the rights of Woman

Nineteenth Century

Arnold, Matthew—poetry
Austen, Jane—Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice
Blake, William—poetry
Bronte, Charlotte—Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily—Wuthering Heights
Brown, William Wells—Clotel, or, The President's Daughter
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett—Sonnets from the Portuguese
Browning, Robert—dramatic monologues, esp. Dramatis Personae
Byron, George Gordon, Lord—poetry
Chopin, Kate—The Awakening
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor—poetry
Collins, Wilkie—The Moonstone, The Woman in White
Cooper, James Fennimore—The Prairie, Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen—Red Badge of Courage
Darwin, Charles—On the Origin of Species
Dickens. Charles—Any, esp. Great Expectations, Dombey and Son, Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House
Dickinson, Emily—poetry
Douglass, Frederick—Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
Eliot, George—Middlemarch, Adam Bede
Emerson, Ralph Waldo—essays
Fuller, Margaret—Woman in the Nineteenth Century
Gaskell, Elizabeth—Cranford
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins—"The Yellow Wallpaper"
Hawthorne, Nathaniel—The Scarlet Letter, short stories
Hopkins, Gerard Manley—poetry
Howells, William Dean—The Rise of Silas Lapham, A Hazard of New Fortunes
Jacobs, Harriet—Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
James, Henry—Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors
Keats, John—poetry
Melville, Herman—Moby Dick, Confidence Man
Poe, Edgar Allan--stories
Sedgewick, Catharine Maria—The Linwoods, Hope Leslie
Shelley, Percy Bysshe—poetry
Shelley, Mary—Frankenstein
Stoker, Bram—Dracula
Stowe, Harriet Beecher—Uncle Tom's Cabin
Tennyson, Alfred Lord—poetry, esp In Memoriam, "The Lady of Shalott"
Thackeray, William—Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David—Walden, "Civil Disobedience"
Trollope, Anthony—The Way We Live Now
Twain, Mark—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Washington, Booker T.—Up from Slavery
Whitman, Walt—Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar—The Picture of Dorian Gray
Wordsworth, William—"Preface to the Lyrical Ballads," poetry

Twentieth Century

Albee, Edward—Zoo Story, American Dream, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Anderson, Sherwood—Winesburg, Ohio
Auden, W.H.--poetry
Baldwin, James—If Beale Street Could Talk, Giovanni's Room
Beckett, Samuel—Waiting for Godot, Krapp's Last Tape
Bishop, Elizabeth—poetry
Cather, Willa—My Antonia, O Pioneers!
Chestnutt, Charles—The House Behind the Cedars
Conrad, Joseph—Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim
DeLillo, Don—White Noise, Underworld
Dos Passos, John—USA Trilogy
Dreiser, Theodore—Sister Carrie
DuBois, W.E.B.—The Souls of Black Folk
Eliot, T.S.—"The Waste Land" and other poems
Ellison, Ralph—Invisible Man
Erdrich, Louise—Love Medicine
Faulkner, William—As I Lay Dying, Light in August
Freud, Sigmund—On the Interpretation of Dreams
Fitzgerald, F. Scott—The Great Gatsby
Forster, E.M.—Passage to India
Frost, Robert—poetry
Garcia, Cristina—Dreaming in Cuban
Ginsberg, Allen—"Howl," "Kaddish"
Haley, Alex—Autobiography of Malcolm X
Hansberry, Lorraine—A Raisin in the Sun
Hardy, Thomas—The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure
Heller, Joseph—Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest—The Sun Also Rises
Hughes, Langston—poetry
Hurston, Zora Neale—Their Eyes Were Watching God
Joyce, James—Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kerouac, Jack—On the Road
Kushner, Tony—Angels in America
Larsen, Nella—Quicksand, Passing
Lawrence, D.H.—The Rainbow, Women in Love
Lewis, Sinclair—Babbit
Lowell, Robert—poetry
Mamet, David—Glengary Glen Ross
Miller, Arthur—The Crucible, Death of a Salesman
Moore, Marianne—poetry
Morrison, Toni—Beloved, The Bluest Eye
Pynchon, Thomas—Crying of Lot 49, V, Gravity's Rainbow
Silko, Leslie Marmon--Ceremony
Steinbeck, John—Grapes of Wrath
Stevens, Wallace—poetry
Vonnegut, Kurt—Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice—The Color Purple
West, Nathaniel—Day of the Locust
Wharton, Edith—The House of Mirth
Whitehead, Colson—The Intuitionist
Wilder, Thornton—Our Town
Williams, Tennessee—Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie
Williams, William Carlos—poetry
Wilson, August—plays
Woolf, Virginia—Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Waves, "A Room of One's Own"
Wright, Richard—Native Son, Black Boy
Yeats, W.B.--poetry

World Literature

Achebe, Chinua—Things Fall Apart
Akhmatova, Anna--poetry
Aeschylus—Oresteia, Prometheus Bound
Apuleius—The Golden Ass
Aristophanes—Lysistrata, The Clouds
Augustine—The Confessions
Balzac, Honoré—Père Goriot, Lost Illusions
Baudelaire, Charles—poetry
Bhagavad Gita
The Bible
Camus, Albert—The Stranger
Cervantes—Don Quixote
Chekhov, Anton—plays and stories
Chrétien de Troyes—"Knight of the Lion," "Knight of the Cart," "Percival--The Story of the Grail"
Dante—Divine Comedy
De Laclos—Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Dostoevsky, Fyodor—Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov
Dumas, Alexandre (père)—The Count of Monte Cristo
Euripides—Bacchae, Helen, Hippolytus
Flaubert, Gustave—Madame Bovary
Garcia-Marquez, Gabriel—100 Years of Solitude
Goethe, J.W.—The Sorrows of Young Werther
Gogol, Nikolai—Plays, Petersburg Tales
Homer—The Iliad, The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor—Notre-Dame de Paris
Kafka, Franz—stories, The Trial
The Koran (Qur'an)
Lazarillo da Tormes
Mann, Thomas—Buddenbrooks, Death in Venice
Maupassant, Guy de—Contes
Merimée, Prosper. "Carmen"
Montaigne, Michel de—Essays
Neruda, Pablo--poetry
Njal's Saga
Plato—Euthyphro, Apology, Symposium, Crito
Pushkin, Alexander, Eugene Onegin
Quest of the Holy Grail, Death of King Arthur
Rilke, Rainer Maria—Duino Elegies
Romance of the Rose
Sophocles—Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus
Stendhal—The Red and the Black
Thucydides-- History of the Peloponesian War
Tolstoy, Leo—Anna Karenina, War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan—Fathers and Sons
Virgil—Eclogues, The Aeneid
Zola, Emile—Germinal

History of Criticism and Theory

Ancient texts

Plato's allegory of the cave (Republic, Book 10), "The Ion", Aristotle's Poetics

Medieval and Renaissance

Texts by Boccaccio (last two books of The Genealogy of the Pagan Gods), Dante (the letter to Can Grande, which might not actually be by Dante), Philip Sidney (Apology for Poetry), Christine de Pisan, Augustine (The Interpretation of Scripture), Hugh of St. Victor, Thomas Aquinas, and Moses Maimonides

Enlightenment thinking on aesthetic judgment and taste

David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Edmund Burke, Germaine de Stael

Romantic views of art, truth, and history

G.W.F. Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Johann Goethe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

Modern views of language and culture

Martin Heidegger, Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude Levi-Strauss, Victor Shklovsky, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Cleanth Brooks, Mikhail Bakhtin, Roman Jakobson, Roland Barthes

On race and ethnicity

W.E.B. DuBois, Frantz Fanon, bell hooks, Henry Louis Gates

On gender

Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler

On political economy and culture

Marx & Engels, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Raymond Williams

As with all human endeavors, this list is a work in progress. Have a suggestion you'd like to see included? Send it here!


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