Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

I don't have that much time. Just tell me: what are the books I must read?

Okay, I realize that when people ask me for book suggestions, they aren't necessarily asking for a lifetime reading project. They are really asking what handful of books—usually novels—they have to read to be considered moderately well read.

Again, there's no single answer. But I'll go out on a limb with a medium-length list of accessible novels I think would go toward giving you a feel for the breadth of modern literature, starting with a few of the more readable older works to put them in context, in rough date order:

I'm sure other readers would have dozens more they think should go on this list and I can already think of more to add myself. But it's a start.

If the nearly one thousand items of The Greatest Literature of All Time are too daunting for you to contemplate, this list of forty-odd might provide a reasonable—and doable—list of reading goals.

Return to FAQs