I’m a sucker for books like Michiko Kakutani’s Ex Libris: 100 Books to Read and Reread. Admittedly, the books recommended in this volume are diverse and not always appealing to my reading tastes. But rest assured, there is something for everyone in this book. Of course, some of these choices are a little bizarre. I did enjoy the mini-essays about each book.

How many of these books have you read? GRADE: A-


Introduction –13

Americanah by Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie — 21

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander — 24

Muhammad Ali Books: –27

The Greatest: My Own Story by Muhammad Ali

The Muhammad Ali Reader, edited by Gerald Early

King of the World by David Remnick

The Tribute: Muhammad Ali, 1942-2016 by Sports Illustrated

Experience by Martin Amis –30

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson — 33

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt — 35

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — 39

Collected Poems by W. H. Auden –42

Continental Drift by Russell Banks — 44

Books by Saul Bellow — 46

The Adventures of Augie March


The Actual: A Novella

The Image by Daniel J. Boorstin — 48

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges — 50

The Moth Presents: All These Wonders, edited by Catherine Burns — 53

The Plague by Albert Camus — 56

The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro. — 58

Pursuits of Happiness by Stanley Cavell — 60

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast — 62

Books by Bruce Chatwin — 65

In Petagonia

What Am I Doing Here

The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark — 69

Books About Foreign Policy and the World — 72

The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce

A World in Disarray by Richard Haass

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat –76

Underworld by Don DeLillo — 79

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao — 81

Books by Joan Didion — 84

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

The White Album

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers — 88

The Collected stories of Deborah Eisenberg — 91

The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot — 93

Books by Joseph J. Ellis — 95

Founding Brothers

American Cration

Revolutionary Summer

American Dialogue

The Founders on American Democracy — 98

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton

George Washington’s Farewell Address

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison — 103

As I Lay Dying — William Faulkner — 106

The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante — 108

Books by David Finkel — 111

The Good Soldiers

Thank You for Your Service

Books About 9/11 and the War on Terror — 114

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

Anatomy of Terror by Ali Soufan

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald — 119

Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan — 122

The Letters of Gustave Flaubert, 1830-1857 — 126

Sinatra! The Song Is You by Will Friedwald — 128

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez — 131

The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner — 133

The Peripheral by William Gibson — 137

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz — 139

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand — 141

The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter — 143

The Odyssey by Homer — 145

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren — 148

The Liar’s Club by Mary Kart — 151

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. — 155

On Writing by Stephen King — 158

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston — 161

The Language of the Third Reich by Victor Klemperer — 164

Books About Democracy and Tyranny —167

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt

The Sixth Extinction by Eliabeth Kolbert — 171

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri — 174

Books by Jaron Lanier — 177

You Are Not a Gadget

Dawn of the New Everything

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle — 180

Abraham Lincoln Books — 182

The Speeches of Writings of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher

Lincoln at Gettysburg by Gary Wills

Lincoln by Fred Kaplan

Lincoln’s Sword by Douglas Moore

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez — 186

Blood Meridian, or, the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy — 189

Atonement by Ian McEwan — 191

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville — 194

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore — 197

Books by Toni Morrison — 201

Song of Solomon


Books by Vladimir Nabokov — 203

The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Dmitri Nabokov

Speak, Memory

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi — 206

A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul — 209

Born a Crime Trevor Noah — 211

Books by Barack Obama — 214

Dreams from My Father

We Are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama, edited by E. J. Dionne, Jr., & Joy-Ann Reid

There There by Tommy Orange — 218

1984 by George Orwell — 220

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy — 223

Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon — 225

Life by Keith Richards with James Fox — 227

The Life of Picasso by John Richardson — 231

Books About Work and Vocation — 234

Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow

The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Steltzner with William Patrick

The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson 241

American Pastoral by Philip Roth — 243

The Harry Potter Novels by J. K. Rowling — 245

Books by Salman Rusdie — 248

Midnight’s Children

The Moor’s Last Sigh

Books by Oliver Sacks — 251

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales

An Anthropologist on Mars

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak — 253

Books by Dr. Seuss — 255

Horton Hears a Who!

The Cat in the Hat

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Green Eggs and Ham

The Lorax

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

The Plays of William Shakespeare — 257

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley — 261

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart — 264

White Teeth by Zadie Smith — 266

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor — 269

The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wallace Stevens 272

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt — 275

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville — 277

The Lord of the Rings — J. R. R. Tolkien — 280

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh — 283

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong — 285

The Poetry of Derek Walcott, 1948-2013 — 287

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace — 289

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren — 292

Educated by Tara Westover — 294

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead — 297

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig — 299

33 thoughts on “EX-LIBRIS: 100 BOOKS TO READ AND REREAD By Michiko Kakutani

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Pretty snobbish list. Not a single genre book with the exception of Lord of the Rings. Too many books that are a chore to read once much less reread Like Mason and Dixon by Pynchon and, The Infinite Jest and The Goldfinch. And no Mark Twain?

  2. Cap'n Bob Napier

    I bailed the moment I saw Ali’s name three or four times! And I don’t need this guy to tell me what books to read! I almost never reread, either! Nothing for me here!

  3. Michael Padgett

    I scored a paltry 15, but it is a pretty odd list. Snobbish, as Steve calls it, is a pretty accurate description. There are a good many on the list that I’ve been intending to read, sometimes for years.

  4. Deb

    I liked Steve’s comment about many of these books being a “chore” to read. Like biting off a bit chunk of stale bread. All those books about Muhammad Ali? Read one and be done. Life’s too short. And why is Bruce Chatwin’s best book, THE SONGLINES, not included? I did enjoy Roz Chast’s book (even more so the second time around, after I’d lost both my parents) and I loved Keith Richards’s LIFE (although I suspect much of its coherence was courtesy of Keef’s co-writer). But, on the whole, much of this list has a dreary, eat-your-vegetables feel to it. No thanks.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, I question the inclusion of the Harry Potter books and THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. That seems to be a sop to mass market readers. And you’re right about Bruc Chatwin’s THE SONGLINES. It is his best book!

      1. Todd Mason

        There’s not too much here that can’t be considered a sop, not too much that’s surprising. Kakutani reviews for the cocktail-party chatter sort of reader, and if these are her favorites, she’s well-suited for the job.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, panic buying is going on here at Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, BJ’s Warehouse, and most of our grocery stores. Going from the Orange Zone to the Red Zone means a lock-down.

      1. Deb

        We had very little toilet paper, paper towels, or Kleenex at our local Walmart on Thursday. I have a package of each in reserve, but how long that will last is anyone’s guess.

      2. george Post author

        Deb, Diane has “stocked up” on toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, Clorox wipes, etc. We probably have six months worth.

      3. Jeff Meyerson

        We’re back. No problem with them (paper goods) at Costco, and they even had disinfectant wipes! The Clorox ones still require you to get there early, but we got the Kirkland brand, which are just as good. Also, the store was quiet, even for Senior Hour.

      4. george Post author

        Jeff, Diane will only buy Clorox or Lysol brand wipes. She heard some story on NPR that “off brand” wipes kill bacteria but not viruses (like the coronavirus).

  5. Patti Abbott

    This sounds like a list Phil would have liked. Lots of political theory and history type books. I have read about 40 but five of them were Dr. Seuss that I read to the kids.

    1. george Post author

      Patti, my favorite Dr. Seuss book is THE CAT IN THE HAT. I believe that’s the book that put me on the path to become George the Tempter!

  6. Jeff Meyerson

    Yes, Michiko has some books you could not pay me enough to read, but I still prefer her to Marilyn Stasio (the mystery reviewer). This is definitely the kind of book I like, even if a lot of the books don’t interest me, and I put it on hold.

    I do agree with some of her choices – I liked THE NAMESAKE a lot, as well as Lahiri’s other books. I’ve always meant to read MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN. HOUSEKEEPING and King’s ON WRITING are good. I liked the Mary Karr (not Kart) memoir. The David Finkel books about the war in Iraq and the aftermath were good if depressing. I would recommend INVISIBLE MAN and IN PATAGONIA and the Didion books. Robert Caro has been on my list for decades, but his books always seem so long and there are always others ahead of him on my list. The Roz Chast was terrific, as Deb said.

  7. wolf

    A strange collection, are these really the most important books to read or what?
    I’ve probably read less than 5 – since I’m neither a Fantasy nor a Potter fan.
    And the non fiction books?
    But to each his own!

  8. L.A.

    Moby-Dick probably should be much higher on the list. I’m about to read it again with a new appreciation as an adult. Melville is a real stylist.

    1. george Post author

      L.A., I agree that MOBY-DICK should be much higher on the list. I just acquired a LARGE PRINT edition of MOBY-DICK published by Cyber Classics.


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