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Lifetime Reading Plan

While looking for a computer book at the library, I stumbled over a paperback that suggested a list of books that we might read during a lifetime. Although I am not much of a reader, especially of fiction as most of the following are, I think it was a great concept and goal to aim at. To be an informed member of society, it is nice to know a little about the most important pieces of literature from around the world. Some entries are for short books, others such as Shakespear's complete work are rather more ambitious. Here then is the table of contents from The New Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman & John S. Major:


  1. Anonymous, ca. 2000 B.C.E. (Scribe Sin-Leqi-Unninni, ca. 700 B.C.E.), The Epic of Gilgamesh
  2. Homer, ca. 800 B.C.E., The Iliad
  3. Homer, ca. 800 B.C.E., The Odyssey
  4. Confucius, 551-479 B.C.E., The Analects
  5. Aeschylus, 525-456/5 B.C.E., The Oresteja
  6. Sophocles, 49~406 B.C.E., Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone
  7. Euripides, 484-406 B.C.E., Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus, The Trojan Women, Electra, The Bacchae
  8. Herodotus, ca. 484-425 B.C.E., The Histories
  9. Thucydides, ca. 470/460-ca. 400 B.C.E., The History of the Peloponnesian War
  10. Sun-tzu, ca. 450-38o B.C.E., The Art of War
  11. Aristophanes, 448-388 B.C.E., Lysistrata, The Clouds, The Birds
  12. Plato, 428-348 B.C.E., Selected Works
  13. Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.E., Ethics, Politics, Poetics
  14. Mencius, ca. 400-320 B.C.E., The Book of Mencius
  15. Attributed to Valmiki, ca. 300 B.C.E., The Ramayana
  16. Attributed to Vyasa, ca. 200 B.C.E., The Mahabharata
  17. Anonymous, ca. 200 B.C.E., The Bhagavad Gita
  18. Ssu-ma Ch'ien, 145-86 B.C.E., Records of the Grand Historian
  19. Lucretius, ca. 100-ca. 50 B.C.E., Of the Nature of Things
  20. Virgil, 70-19 B.C.E., The Aeneid
  21. Marcus Aurelius, 121-180, Meditations


  1. Saint Augustine, 354-430, The Confessions
  2. Kalidasa, ca. 400, The Cloud Messenger and Sakuntala
  3. Revealed to Muhummad, completed 650, The Koran
  4. Hui-neng, 63~713, The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch
  5. Firdausi, ca. 940-1020, Shah Nameh
  6. Sei Shonagon, ca. 965-1035, The Pillow-Book
  7. Lady Murasaki, ca. 976-1015, The Tale of Genji
  8. Omar Khayyam, 1048-?, The Rubaiyat
  9. Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321, The Divine Comedy
  10. Luo Kuan-chung, ca. 1330-1400, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms
  11. Geoffrey Chaucer, 1342-1400, The Canterbury Tales
  12. Anonymous, ca. 1500, The Thousand and One Nights
  13. Niccolo Machiavelli, 1469-1527, The Prince
  14. François Rabelais, 1483-1553, Gargantua and Pantagruel
  15. Attributed to Wu Ch'eng-en, 550-1592, Journey to the West
  16. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, 1533-1592, Selected Essays
  17. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1547-1616, Don Quixote


  1. William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, Complete Works
  2. John Donne, 1573-1631, Selected Works
  3. Anonymous, published 1618, The Plum in the Golden Vase (Chin P'ing Mei)
  4. Galileo Galilei, 1574-1642, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
  5. Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679, Leviathan
  6. René Descartes, 1596-1650, Discourse on Method
  7. John Milton, 16o~1674, Paradise Lost, Lycidas, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, Sonnets, Areopagitica
  8. Molière, 1622-1673, Selected Plays
  9. Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662, Thoughts (Pensés)
  10. John Bunyan, 1628-1688, Pilgrim's Progress
  11. John Locke, 1632-1704, Second Treatise of Government
  12. Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  13. Daniel Defoe, 1660-1731, Robinson Crusoe
  14. Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745, Gulliver's Travels
  15. Voltaire, 1694-1778, Candide and other works
  16. David Hume, 1711-1776, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  17. Henry Fielding, 1707-1754, Tom Jones
  18. Ts'ao Hseh-ch'in, 1715-1763, The Dream of the Red Chamber (also called The Story of the Stone)
  19. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, Confessions
  20. Laurence Sterne, 1713-1768, Tristram Shandy
  21. James Boswell, 1740-1795, The Life of Samuel Johnson
  22. Thomas Jefferson and others, Basic Documents in American History, edited by Richard B. Morris
  23. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, The Federalist Papers, 1787, edited by Clinton Rossiter


  1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832, Faust
  2. William Blake, 1757-1827, Selected Works
  3. William Wordsworth, 1770-1850, The Prelude, Selected Shorter Poems, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1800)
  4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1834, The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan, Biographia Literaria, Writings on Shakespeare
  5. Jane Austen, 1775-1817, Pride and Predudice, Emma
  6. Stendhal, 1783-1842, The Red and the Black
  7. Honoré de Balzac, 1799-1850, Père Goriot, Eugénie Grandet, Cousin Bette
  8. Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, Selected Works
  9. Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864, The Scarlet Letter, Selected Tales
  10. Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859, Democracy in America
  11. John Stuart Mill, 1806-1873, On Liberty, The Subjection of Women
  12. Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, The Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species
  13. Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, 1809~1852, Dead Souls
  14. Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849, Short Stories and Other Works
  15. William Makepeace Thackeray, 1811-1863, Vanity Fair
  16. Charles Dickens, 1812-1870, Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Hard Times, Our Mutual Friend, The Old Curiosity Shop, Little Dorrit
  17. Anthony Trollope, 1815-1882, The Warden, The Last Chronicle of Barset, The Eustace Diamonds, The Way We Live Now, Autobiography
  18. The Brontë Sisters
    1. Charlotte Brontë 1816-1855, Jane Eyre
    2. Emily Brontë 1818-1848, Wuthering Heights
  19. Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862, Walden, Civil Disobedience
  20. Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, 1818-1883, Fathers and Sons
  21. Karl Marx, 1818-1883, and Friedrich Engels, 1820-1895, The Communist Manzfrsto
  22. Herman Melville, 1819-1891, Moby Dick, Bartleby the Scrivener
  23. George Eliot, 1819-1880, The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch
  24. Walt Whitman, 1819-1892, Selected Poems, Democratic Vistas, Preface to the first issue of Leaves of Grass (1855), A Backward Glance O'er Travelled Roads
  25. Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1880, Madame Bovary
  26. Feodor Mikhialovich Dostoyevsky, 1821-1881, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov
  27. Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy, 1828-1910, War and Peace
  28. Henrick Ibsen, 1828-1906, Selected Plays
  29. Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, Collected Poems
  30. Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass
  31. Mark Twain, 1835-1910, Huckleberry Finn
  32. Henry Adams, 1838-1918, The Education of Henry Adams
  33. Thomas Hardy, 1840-1928, The Mayor of Casterbridge
  34. William James, 1842-1910, The Principles of Psychology, Pragmatism, Four Essays from The Meaning of Truth, The Varieties of Religious Experience
  35. Henry James, 1843-1916, The Ambassadors
  36. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, 1844-1900, Thus Spake Zarathustra, The Genealogy of Morals, Beyond Good and Evil, and other works


  1. Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939, Selected Works; including The Interpretation of Dreams, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and Civilization and Its Discontents
  2. George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Selected Plays and Prefaces
  3. Joseph Conrad, 1857-1924, Nostromo
  4. Anton Chekhov, 1860-1904, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, Selected Short Stories
  5. Edith Wharton, 1862-1937, The Custom of the Country, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth
  6. William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939, Collected Poems, Collected Plays, Autobiography
  7. Natsume Soseki, 1867-1916, Kokoro
  8. Marcel Proust, 1871-1922, Rememberence of Things Past
  9. Robert Frost, 1874-1963, Collected Poems
  10. Thomas Mann, 1875-1955, The Magic Mountain
  11. E.M. Forster, 1879-1970, A Passage to India
  12. Lu Hsn, 1881-1936, Collected Short Stories
  13. James Joyce, 1882-1941, Ulysses
  14. Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Olando, The Waves
  15. Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, The Trial, The Castle, Selected Short Stories
  16. D.H. Lawrence, 1885-1930, Sons and Lovers, Women in Love
  17. Tanizaki Junichiro, 1886-1965, The Makioka Sisters
  18. Eugene O'Neill, 1888-1953, Mourning Becomes Electra, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey into Night
  19. T.S. Eliot, 1888-1965, Collected Poems, Collected Plays
  20. Aldous Huxley, 1894-1963, Brave New World
  21. William Faulkner, 1897-1962, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying
  22. Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961, Short Stories
  23. Kawabata Yasunari, 1899-1972, Beauty and Sadness
  24. Jorge Luis Borges, 1899-1986, Labyrinths, Dreamtigers
  25. Vladimir Nabokov, 1899-1977, Lolita, Pale Fire, Speak, Memory
  26. George Orwell, 1903-1950, Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Burmese Days
  27. R.K. Narayan, 1906-, The English Teacher, The Vendor of Sweets
  28. Samuel Beckett, 1906-1989, Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Krapp's Last Tape
  29. W.H. Auden, 1907-1973, Collected Poems
  30. Albert Camus, 1913-1960, The Plague, The Stranger
  31. Saul Bellow, 1915-, The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, Humboldt's Gift
  32. Meksander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, 1918-, The First Circle, Cancer Ward
  33. Thomas Kuhn, 1922-1996, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  34. Mishima Yukio, 1925-1970, Confessions of a Mask, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
  35. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1928-, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  36. Chinua Achebe, 1930, Things Fall Apart


100 additional 20th-century authors, briefly annotated [including some I've heard of]:

  • Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
  • Albert Einstein, The Meaning of Relativity
  • Arthur Miller, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman
  • Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
  • Jean-Paul Satre, Being and Nothingness, No Exit
  • John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
  • Patrick White (the only Australian in the list), Voss, Riders in the Chariot
  • Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire