In order to become a Literary Man, the following books are considered “Must Reads.” They are presented here in order of increasing difficulty, such that the first – THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA – might be the best book to start with, and the last – IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME – might be the ur-novel, which one tackles only after years of literary battle. They’re also loosely arranged in like-minded clusters, so that novels about being young, drunk, and reckless tend to appear together, and metaphysical novels about lost civilizations and paradises, for whatever reason, also tend to appear together (amazon links are forthcoming).

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway

CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London

OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck

THE STRANGER by Albert Camus

A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND by Flannery O’Connor

JESUS’ SON by Denis Johnson

FEAR IN LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS by Hunter S. Thompson

SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut

TAPPING THE SOURCE by Kem Nunn

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES by Cormac McCarthy

DELIVERANCE by James Dickey

I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down by William Gay

THIS SIDE OF PARADISE by F. Scott Fitzgerald

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde

ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY by Jay McInerney

NETHERLAND by Joseph O’Neill

LESS THAN ZERO by Bret Easton Ellis

THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt

DUNE by Frank Herbert

LOST HORIZON by James Hilton

FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Thurston

HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf

THE LOST STEPS by Alejo Carpentier

DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess

REMAINDER by Tom McCarthy

THE CONTORTIONIST’S HANDBOOK by Craig Clevenger

THE BIRD IS GONE: A MANIFESTO by Stephen Graham Jones

THE CASTLE by Franz Kafka

LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL by Thomas Wolfe

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy

INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison

APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O’Hara

THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton

THE MOON AND SIXPENCE by W. Somerset Maugham

A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens

ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren

MAN GONE DOWN by Michael Thomas

FICCIONES by Jorge Luis Borges

100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel GARCIA MARQUEZ

ALMANAC OF THE DEAD by Leslie Marmon Silko

THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner

SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey

CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller

HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Z. Danielewski

DARKNESS VISIBLE by William Styron

BELOVED by Toni Morrison

MOBY-DICK by Herman Melville

PORTRAIT OF A LADY by Henry James

The King James Bible by God

WOODCUTTERS by Thomas Bernhard

THE OBSCENE BIRD OF NIGHT by Jose Donoso

UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry

CEREMONY by Leslie Marmon Silko

THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis

IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME by Marcel Proust

ULYSSES by James Joyce