Posted by: dougery | August 2, 2012

Literary Pillars (Happy 88th, B-day, William Gass)

Tuesday was William Gass’s 88th birthday. I know this because I read it on the internet and confirmed it by reading about it on a different part of the internet. That same internet informed me that aside from being a Writer of Some Renown, Gass is famous for something called the “50 Literary Pillars,” a list he compiled of some books he thought were kind of important to writing, thought, and thought on writing.

Now I’ve a read some things, here and there, but then again there is a lot of there. Like, a ton of there. So this list (spoiler alert, I made my own list a la Gass) doesn’t pretend to be all encompassing. These 50 books, and I’m going to narrow that down even further to ‘these 50 stories which are mostly novels,’ are the ones I see as most important to my reading history. This is not the same thing as the 50 best novels I have ever read. There are a few on here that I actually thoroughly dislike. But they are all important to me in one way or another. Here they are, in alphabetical order by author lastname. If you’re looking for something to read you could do a lot worse than these.

King James Bible
Winesburg, Ohio,
The Master and Margarita,
Invisible Cities,
In Cold Blood
, Capote
Don Quixote, Cervantes
Heart of Darkness, Conrad
House of Leaves, Danielewski
Inferno, Dante
The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky
Geek Love, Dunn
Middlemarch, Eliot
Sound and the Fury, Faulkner
The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary, Flaubert
The Magus, Fowles
Lord of the Flies, Golding
The Tin Drum, Grass
Red Harvest, Hammett
Catch-22, Heller
Ulysses, Joyce
“The Penal Colony,” Kafka
The Long Walk, King
Darkness at Noon, Koestler
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Le Carre
The Monk, Lewis
Magic Mountain, Mann
Blood Meridian, McCarthy C.
Remainder, McCarthy T.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, McCullers
Moby-Dick, Melville
Perdido Street Station, Mieville
Martin Dressler, Millhauser
Paradise Lost, Milton
The Man Without Qualities, Musil
Pale Fire, Nabokov
The Third Policeman, O’Brien
Gravity’s Rainbow, Pynchon
Housekeeping, Robinson
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling
Blindness, Saramago
Hamlet, Shakespeare
The Hunter, Stark
Tender Buttons, Stein
Anna Karenina, Tolstoy
Infinite Jest, Wallace
All the King’s Men, Warren
Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf



  1. Interesting thanks – I’d never heard of Gass before. Am proud to say I have read quite a few of the books on your list though…

    • good on ya! I’ve found that provided a long enough public transportation commute each day, one can take a pretty big bite out of the classics of western civ. And some genre-y goodness, too. Cheers.

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