Doyald’s Personal Reading List

These are favorite books, though not in order of preference. Some are thoughtful and require careful reading, Berlin and Steiner for example. I like books about books, though Babitz is unmitigated frothy, hip language. I didn’t include Nabokov, a favorite, his college lectures on literature are fascinating. Nor is Tennessee Williams included, first a poet, then a playwright. Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet is in the Roshamon genre, four tales, one by Justine, and each of her three lovers. 

I have two dictionaries on Yiddish: The Joys of Yiddish, and More Joys of Yiddish, which I find indispensible. Then any tale by Alice Munro, her For the Love of a Good Woman is superb. I like Katherine Ann Porter, and Flannery O’Conner. Paul Theroux and Jan Morris are two of the finest travel writers, and V. S. Naipaul, a Nobel Laureate that I avidly read. His Argentina and the Ghost of Evita is a remarkable account of culture and machismo. Then there’s Maughm, one of the great storytellers that no one reads anymore. 

Every young man should read The Catcher in the Rye, and Franny & Zooey by Salinger, then excessive, compulsive Thomas Wolfe who devoured life, his Look Homeward Angel a great read. Alan Moorehead’s The Blue Nile and The White Nile are great adventure accounts about the discovery of the two rivers. So is his Darwin and the H.S.M. Beagle. 

Some advice. Don’t struggle with a book that you don’t like, there are too many good ones to enchant. Maybe a later reading of it will click—then you need The Oxford Classical Dictionary.

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude—Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
Three generations in a Columbian village 

2. On Photography—Susan Sontag 
Thoughts on images by one of our finest thinkers 

3. The Proud Tower—Barbara Tuchman 
The events that led to WWI 

4. The Seven Sisters—Anthony Sampson 
History of the companies that developed the Middle East oil fields 

5. Growth of the Soil—Knut Hamsen 
A Nobel Prize winner’s take on injustice and farm life 

6. The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin 
One of England’s Poet Laureates. Precise, magical language 

7. The Sun King—Nancy Mitford 
The History of Louis xiv, Versailles and lots of gossip 

8. Conquest of Mexico—William Prescott 
Cortez’s foray into Mexico; adventure, betrayal, wise kings and monks 

9. Language and Silence—George Steiner 
Artists who abandon their art. Heavy going. Enlightening.

10. Madame Bovary—Gustav Flaubert 
An elegant tale about vanity. An easy reading classic.

11. Collected Stories of Paul Bowles 
One of America’s finest short story writers. Penetrating. Bizarre, exotic.

12. Let it Come Down—Paul Bowles 
A tale of love and madness in the desert

13. Four Essays on Liberty—Isaiah Berlin 
Heavy going about liberty. Vital.

14. Slow Days and Fast Company—Eve Babitz 
A wicked tale of Hollywood, Rolling Stone, and groupies

15. The Greek Way to Civilization—Edith Hamilton 
An introduction to art, history, culture and politics

16. Axle’s Castle—Edmund Wilson 
Literary criticism. American writers who fled to Paris after WW1

17. Stories of Three Decades—Thomas Mann 
Formal, classic stories of the human condition

18. Patterns in Nature—Peter S. Stevens 
A learned, insightful account of form and texture in nature. Vital.

19. The Elements of Style—Prof. Strunk and E. B. White 
How to write clearly by two no-nonsense teachers.

20. The Elements of Typographic Style—Robert Bringhurst 
A poet’s expert take on typography, beautifully designed. A classic, vital book.