The 50 Books Everyone Needs to Read, 1963-2013 by Flavor Wire

The choices here are influenced by the following: the stipulation that any specific author should not be chosen for more than one year, a general focus on fiction over other genres, and the tastes/whims/glaring prejudices of Flavorwire’s literary editor.

  1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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    The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath's only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of...


  2. Herzog by Saul Bellow

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    Herzog is a novel set in 1964, in the United States, and is about the midlife crisis of a Jewish man named Moses E. Herzog. He is just emerging from his second divorce, this one particularly acrimo...


  3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

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    This book describes Malcolm X's upbringing in Michigan, his maturation to adulthood in Boston and New York, his time in prison, his conversion to Islam, his ministry, his travels to Africa and to M...


  4. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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    The Master and Margarita (Russian: Ма́стер и Маргари́та) is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, woven around the premise of a visit by the Devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union. Many critics consi...


  5. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

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    Against Interpretation and Other Essays is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag which was published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style", "Notes on 'Camp'"...


  6. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

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    This collection of essays takes the reader on a psychological tour of the intense, wayward, violent, not a little crazy America of the 1960s. Surfers, students, deadheads and druggies; Joan Baez, D...

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  7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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    Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “po...

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  8. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

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    Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. is a 1970 book by Judy Blume, typically categorized as a young adult novel, about a preteen girl in sixth grade who grew up with no religion. Margaret's mother...


  9. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor by Flannery O'Connor

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    The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do n...


  10. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

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    Invisible Cities (Italian: Le città invisibili) is a novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. It was published in Italy in 1972 by Giulio Einaudi Editore.


  11. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

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    The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest undertake...


  12. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

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    Centuries ago, the moon Anarres was settled by utopian anarchists who left the Earthlike planet Urras in search of a better world, a new beginning. Now a brilliant physicist, Shevek, determines to ...

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  13. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

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    First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early...

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  14. Speedboat by Renata Adler

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    When Speedboat burst on the scene in the late ’70s it was like nothing readers had encountered before. It seemed to disregard the rules of the novel, but it wore its unconventionality with ease. Re...

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  15. The Shining by Stephen King

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    The Shining is a 1977 horror novel by American author Stephen King. The title was inspired by the John Lennon song "Instant Karma!", which contained the line "We all shine on…". It was King's third...


  16. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

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    The Sea, the Sea is the 19th novel by Iris Murdoch. It won the Booker Prize in 1978. The Sea, the Sea is a tale of the strange obsessions that haunt a self-satisfied playwright and director as h...


  17. The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories by Angela Carter

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    From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual...

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  18. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

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    Child hero Ender Wiggin must fight a desperate battle against a deadly alien race if mankind is to survive.

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  19. Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak

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    With Papa off to sea and Mama despondent, Ida must go outside over there to rescue her baby sister from goblins who steal her to be a goblin's bride.

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  20. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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    Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on female black life during the 1930s in the Southern United States, addressing the numerous issues including their exceedingly low position ...


  21. Money by Martin Amis

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    Money tells the story of, and is narrated by, John Self, a successful director of commercials who is invited to New York by Fielding Goodney, a film producer, in order to shoot his first film. Self...


  22. Cathedral by Raymond Carver

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    Cathedral is a collection of short stories by American writer Raymond Carver published in 1984.


  23. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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    The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist dystopian novel, a work of science fiction or speculative fiction, written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985...


  24. Maus by Art Spiegelman

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    Maus: A Survivor's Tale is an autobiography by Art Spiegelman, told using the comics form. Parts of the story were originally published in the magazine RAW between 1980 to 1991. The complete story ...


  25. Beloved by Toni Morrison

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    Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison...


  26. Bad Behavior: Stories by Mary Gaitskill

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    powerful stories about dislocation, longing, and desire which depict a disenchanted and rebellious urban fringe generation that is searching for human connection. • Now a classic: Bad Behavior made...

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  27. Geek Love: A Novel by Katherine Dunn

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    Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias set out–with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes–to breed their own exhibit of human oddities....

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  28. Possession by A.S. Byatt

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    Part historical as well as contemporary fiction, the title Possession refers to issues of ownership and independence between lovers, the practice of collecting historically significant cultural art...


  29. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

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    The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Whil...


  30. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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    The Secret History, the first novel by Mississippi-born writer Donna Tartt, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1992. A 75,000 print order was made for the first edition (as opposed to the usual 10...


  31. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

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    The story centers on Quoyle, a newspaper worker from upstate New York whose father had emigrated from Newfoundland. Shortly after the suicide of his parents, Quoyle's unfaithful and abusive wife Pe...


  32. The Ice Storm: A Novel by Rick Moody

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    The year is 1973. As a freak winter storm bears down on an exclusive, affluent suburb in Connecticut, cark skid out of control, men and women swap partners, and their children experiment with sex, ...

    - Google

  33. Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth

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    Mickey Sabbath is an unproductive, out-of-work, former puppeteer with a strong affinity for whores, adultery, and the casual sexual encounter. Sabbath takes great pleasure in his status as the (pro...


  34. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

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    The lengthy and complex work takes place in a semi-parodic future version of North America. The novel touches on the topics of tennis, substance addiction and recovery programs, depression, child a...


  35. Underworld by Don DeLillo

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    Underworld is a postmodern novel written in 1997 by Don DeLillo. It was nominated for the National Book Award, is one of his better-known novels, and was a best-seller.


  36. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

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  37. Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

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    Disgrace is a 1999 novel by South African-born author J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature; the book itself won the Booker Prize in 1999, the year in which it was published. ...


  38. Pastoralia by George Saunders

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    If Americans in the future were to try to send us a message about where our culture is heading, they might simply point to the fiction of George Saunders. Living in a world that's both indelibly or...


  39. Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald

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    Austerlitz, the internationally acclaimed masterpiece by "one of the most gripping writers imaginable" (The New York Review of Books), is the story of a man?s search for the answer to his life?s ce...


  40. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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    Middlesex is a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was published in 2002 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003. The narrator and protagonist, Calliope Stephanides (later called "Cal"), an in...


  41. The Known World by Edward P. Jones

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    The Known World is a 2003 historical novel by Edward P. Jones. It was his first novel and second book. Set in antebellum Virginia, it examines issues regarding the ownership of black slaves by free...


  42. The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen

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    Hugo Whittier–failed poet and former kept man–is a wily misanthrope with a taste for whiskey, women, and his own cooking. Afflicted with a rare disease that will be fatal unless he quits smoking, H...

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  43. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

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    An engaging and funny second collection by an original voice.

    - Google

  44. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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    The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blast...


  45. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

    Image of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is a best-selling novel written by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey where Díaz was raised...


  46. Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser

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    Thirteen darkly comic stories, Dangerous Laughter is a mesmerizing journey that stretches the boundaries of the ordinary world.

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  47. Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr

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    The author reveals how, shortly after giving birth to a child she adored, she drank herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of su...

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  48. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

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    Jennifer Egan's spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an ageing former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Benni...

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  49. Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan

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    A sharp-eyed, uniquely humane tour of America’s cultural landscape—from high to low to lower than low—by the award-winning young star of the literary nonfiction world. In Pulphead, John Jeremiah Su...

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  50. Building Stories by Chris Ware

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    Presents an illustrated tale, told in various books and folded sheets, about the residents in a three-story Chicago apartment building, including a lonely single woman, a couple who are growing to ...

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  51. The Flamethrowers: A Novel by Rachel Kushner

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    Arriving in New York to pursue a creative career in the raucous 1970s art scene, Reno joins a group of dreamers and raconteurs before falling in love with the estranged son of an Italian motorcycle...

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