Joyce Carol Oates' 10 Favorite Books

Joyce Carol Oates was kind enough to provide her 10 favorite books to the authors of The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books.


Crime and Punishment

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Seachanges says:

I reread this book on the beach last summer and felt as enthralled by it as the first time round. There are different views on this book, ranging from "It nearly finished me. It was like having an illness" (Robert Louis Stevenson, in admiration) to Peter Kemp of the Sunday Times, who dismisses the book as so much hysteria and hallucination. I loved it again, especially the mood swings and the writerís craft to evoke these fantastic scenes of poverty and degeneration in St. Petersburg, and uses these as the background for a fantastic literary detective story.



by James Joyce

Laura Marello says:

Ulysses is in my top five... it's an interesting story about intertwined lives of people in Dublin during one day in June. It uses a lot of language play, and the chapter's themes resemble those in Homer's Odyssey. There is love, humor, and misunderstandings. Incidentally, Ulysses was banned in America when it first came out, and people smuggled it into the country under their coats. It is now considered one of the five most important books of modernism, along with Proust, Thomas Mann, and Virginia Woolf. If you like Ulysses, you'd probably also like Joyce's other books.

This book also appears on Best of Irish Writers, Then and Now


The Sound and the Fury

by William Faulkner

Anne Charnock says:

Here's a real challenge. It's an early example of fractured narrative, wielded to great effect in conveying the dysfunctional relationships within the Compson family — high-born Southerners fallen on hard times. Three sections are written from the point of view of different family members and the fourth by an omniscient narrator. Faulkner writes in stream of consciousness with frequent time slips. Infamously, he opens the novel with the meandering thoughts of mentally disabled Benji. Gradually, you piece together the family's traumas, their disgrace and the cruelties inflicted not only within the family but also on their servants. The latter part of the book is written more conventionally. Personally, I feel the transition in "readability" is too sharp between the first two and last two sections. Don't expect a neat and tidy ending.


The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

by Emily Dickinson

Eric Mueller from Los Angeles, CA says:

This is the only complete set of Dickinson's poetry— over 1,500 poems in all. It's interesting to watch how she matured and changed as a poet.


The Red and the Black

by Stendhal

Anita Treso from Ryde, Isle of Wight says:

Although first published in 1830 in French, The Red and the Black is still resonant today. Aspects of feeling different from your family, aspirations for your future, love and passion and hate and passion are all written in an easy to read language. Stendhal also wrote A Life of Napoleon in his defense, but I found his novel much more gripping and interesting. Chapters open with quotations to set the scene. If you love reading 19th century literature, this is a MUST.


Women in Love

by D. H. Lawrence

Laura Marello says:

I read this in high school and still can't forget it 30 years later. (Well, 35.) Lawrence creates interesting characters and interesting relationships. He is all about romantic relationships, Britain at the turn of the century, the class system, industrialism. It's interesting stuff.


Moby-Dick: or, The Whale

by Herman Melville, introduction by Nathaniel Philbrick

Katrina Naugle says:

Oh my bejeezus, Herman Melville has a great sense of humor. I put off reading this book 'cause I thought it was slow-going; turns out, I just wasn't catching his dry, witty sense of humor, and once I did, he just kept getting better and more clever! Ishmael is a truly funny character, in a dark way, which makes me wonder why they haven't made a movie yet (don't get any ideas! Don't ruin it! Just kidding — a little).


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

Miss Hannah says:

Though the cover says Mark Twain, this book is written by Huck with hilarious results. Huck is not a great writer. His spelling is awful and his grammar not much better. Proofreading is something he never heard of. He simply writes it as he lives and feels it. He starts out with the fun and excitement of a boy on a great adventure. But he finds himself betraying what he thinks is right, to be true to what he feels is right. Lying to save Jim. Helping him escape. He finds himself changing, growing up. Trapped and having to consider the consequences of fighting his way out of the trap. It's not all fun and games for anymore. He's very intelligent, but his position makes him vulnerable. He's a child, he's aiding a fugitive, he's a fugitive himself, and he's uneducated. Throughout the story, Twain makes sure we don't forget that, though we watch him grow before our eyes. One of the funniest, most thought-provoking books I've ever read.