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Be Well-Read In 2017 With This List Of Classic Literature

What does it mean to be “well-read”?

There are probably as many definitions as there are readers. Stuff-shirt types might say well-read means having absorbed the classic Great Books of Western culture. Writer P.J. O’Rourke reads everything – from high-toned new literature to trashy romance novels – because he learns something from every book he consumes.

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If you’re looking to move closer to “well-read” in 2017, the following list is a decent starting point. It was assembled by lawyer-turned-writer Cristina Hartmann and is designed to expose the reader to a broad spectrum of fiction, from the classics to pop culture favorites and masterworks from other cultures. As with all such lists, this one is very subjective. Feel free to tweak it as you see fit! (And, no, you don’t get to check-off a book because you’ve seen the movie.)

Remember, well-read is a moving target. I’m always most impressed with readers who have read the classics and the best of recent books – both fiction and non-fiction.

I love Hartmann’s observation that if you feel well-read, you probably aren’t. It’s a never-ending task. So don’t stop here!

Western Core Classics:

The Odyssey, Homer

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

Dystopian Futures:

Nineteen-Eighty-Four, George Orwell

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Fantasy and Sci-Fi:

The Lord of the Rings series, J.R.R. Tolkien

The Foundation series, Issac Asimov

Neuromancer, William Gibson

Great American Novels:

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Bonfire of Vanities, Tom Wolfe

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Heavy Duty Lit:

Ulysses, James Joyce

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

Pop Literature:

A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James

Immigrant Stories:

Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez

Non-Western Classics:

Ramayana – An ancient Hindu epic

Romance of the Three Kingdoms – An ancient Chinese epic

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

To Live, Yu Hua

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe


Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

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