My Book Bucket List: Things to Read Before You Die

My Book Bucket List

Last year, I sat down and collected a list of classics I haven’t read as well as some of the most critically acclaimed novels of the 20th century. It started as a curiosity but ended up a sort of bucket list. Not a project for me to work on right now, but something to keep an eye on and update as I make progress over time. If I were going to make an actual project out of this I would keep the list much shorter. I read one and a half of these in December, which made me think about putting the list up here. So without further ado, these are the books I’m hoping to read someday. If you have opinions or preferences, I would love to hear them.

Notes: Obviously, I’m not including books that I’ve already read, so you won’t see To Kill a MockingbirdThe Catcher in the RyeAnimal FarmPride and Prejudice, anything by E.M. Forster or Kurt Vonnegut, and others. As I go through I will update this list. Red will indicate a book I partially read, and blue a completed book. I also reserve rights to add and subtract from this list as I see fit.

In alphabetical order by author:

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe (1958)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Doug Adams (1979)

A Death in the Family, James Agee (1957)

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (1869)

Eva Luna, Isabel Allenda (1987)

The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende (1982)

Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis (1954)

Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson (1919)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou (1969)

The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (2000)

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood (2003)

Emma, Jane Austen (1815)

Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin (1953)

The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow (1953)

Herzog, Saul Bellow (1964)

The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty (1971)

The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles (1949)

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1953)

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë (1847)

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë (1847)

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown (1970)

The Good Earth, Pearl Buck (1931)

Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs (1959)

True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey (2000)

Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather (1927)

My Ántonia, Willa Cather (1918)

Verdict: The writing feels surprisingly fresh for a 100-year-old book, but I never felt an emotional connection. Grade: B+

O Pioneers!, Willa Cather (1913)

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes (1615)

The Seagull, Anton Chekhov (1895)

The Awakening, Kate Chopin (1899)

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (1899)

Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad (1899)

Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat (1994)

Bleak House, Charles Dickens (1853)

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens (1850)

Deliverance, James Dickey (1970)

Play It as It Lays, Joan Didion (1970)

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion (1968)

I read segments of this in high school English but want to read the whole thing.

Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow (1975)

The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1880)

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)

An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (1925)

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (1938)

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (1845)

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco (1980)

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (1952)

Middlemarch, George Eliot (1871)

Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich (1984)

Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner (1936)

Light in August, William Faulkner (1932)

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1929)

The Beautiful and the Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1922)

Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)

The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford (1915)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles (1969)

Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell (1851-1853)

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)

The Overcoat, Nikolai Gogol (1842)

The Conservationist, Nadine Gordimer (1974)

The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass (1959)

I, Claudius, Robert Graves (1934)

The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene (1948)

The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene (1940)

The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition (1987)

I read half of these in about 2005 but misplaced my copy of the book. My goal is to finish.

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (1952)

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (1926)

Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse (1927)

Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith (1950)

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neal Hurston (1937)

The Lost Weekend, Charles Jackson (1944)

The Lottery and Other Stories, Shirley Jackson (1949)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson (1962)

From Here to Eternity, James Jones (1951)

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (1916)

Ulysses, James Joyce (1922)

Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka (1915)

The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis (1955)

Ironweed, A.L. Kennedy (1983)

On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1957)

Faggots, Larry Kramer (1978)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (1984)

Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence (1920)

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre (1963)

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing (1962)

The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer (1979)

Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1985)

Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham (1915)

The Razor’s Edge, W. Somerset Maugham (1944)

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy (1985)

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers (1940)

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)

Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)

Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller (1949)

Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller (1934)

Confessions of a Mask, Yukio Mishima (1949)

A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry (1995)

Verdict: I absolutely loved this book. I added it to my favorites shelf on Goodreads. Grade: A

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (1936)

Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison (1970)

Sula, Toni Morrison (1973)

Runaway, Alice Munro (2004)

Invitation to a Beheading, Vladimir Nabokov (1935)

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov (1962)

Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov (1957)

Half a Life, V.S. Naipaul (2001)

A House for Mr. Biswas, V.S. Naipaul (1961)

The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor (1982)

Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates (1999)

Them, Joyce Carol Oates (1969)

At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien (1939)

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1971)

Appointment in Samarra, John O’Hara (1934)

1984, George Orwell (1949)

Dorothy Parker: Complete Stories

The Moviegoer, Walker Percy (1961)

I began listening to an audio of this book in December of 2016 and was not into it. I’ll revisit the physical book at some point.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (1963)

The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allen Poe (1839)

The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman (1995)

Verdict: I liked this book a lot but have a few minor issues with it.

The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman (1997)

The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman (2000)

Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon (1973)

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (1966)

American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)

Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth (1969)

The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie (1988)

The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara (1974)

Hamlet, William Shakespeare (1609)

Macbeth, William Shakespeare (1606)

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf, Ntozake Shange (1976)

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818)

The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu (c. 1021)

White Teeth, Zadie Smith (2000)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark (1961)

Angle of Repose, Stegner (1971)

Verdict: I loved this book so much I added it to my favorites on Goodreads. Grade: A

East of Eden, John Steinbeck (1952)

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (1939)

Dracula, Bram Stoker (1897)

The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone (1961)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)

The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron (1967)

Sophie’s Choice, William Styron (1979)

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)

The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington (1918)

The Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)

Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackery (1848)

Walden, Henry David Thoreau (1854)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (1884)

Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (1876)

Rabbit, Run, John Updike (1960)

Possessing the Secret of Joy, Alice Walker (1992)

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace (1996)

Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (1920)

House of Mirth, Edith Wharton (1905)

Night, Elie Wiesel (1956)

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1890)

The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)

Verdict: The smarter aspects of this satire can’t make up for the plot holes and how overly long it is. Grade: C+

The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe (1979)

Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1925)

Native Son, Wright (1940)

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates (1961)


4 thoughts on “My Book Bucket List: Things to Read Before You Die

  1. I’ve read Macbeth, Hamlet and Little women all really good but i ought to try out the other books you’ve mentioned especially Moby Dick.


  2. I have quite a few of those books on my personal bucket list as well. Of the around 30 books I’ve read from your list, I would especially recommend East of Eden, Hamlet, Rebecca and Pale Fire. Good luck with your reading:)


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