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8 Most Overrated Books Of All Time

A few weeks ago, I put together a list of underrated books, ones that haven’t received the attention or acclaim that I think they deserve. Now, I know literary appreciation isn’t a zero sum game, but it got me thinking: it stands to reason that, if there are books out there that aren’t feeling enough of the love, there must be some that are feeling too much of it. Right? So, here, I present a counterpoint: 8 of the most overrated books of all time, as determined by me.

8 Most Overrated Books Of All Time - Text Overlaid on Image of Jeering Crowd - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Pssst: this is not to say that these books are “bad” necessarily, or that they’re not worth reading. I’m just saying that they get TOO MUCH hype, at the expense of other great books that deserve a bit of that limelight. So, y’know, don’t @ me.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

This might be my most controversial choice, so I’m getting it out of the way early: The Great Gatsby. Why, oh why, do we hold this story of a wealthy borderline stalker in such high esteem? It’s not as though there aren’t other great Jazz Age novels out there (there are). And yet, this is the one that we force teenagers to read and analyse in high school, and salivate over in creative writing courses. Reader, it’s not that great. Read my full review of The Great Gatsby here.

The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan

The Narrow Road To The Deep North - Richard Flanagan - Book Laid On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The premise and setting of The Narrow Road To The Deep North aren’t bad. The unflinching account of the life of a surgeon in a POW camp is admirable, even jaw-dropping in parts. But damn, if this wasn’t one of the most overwritten books I’ve ever read! Flanagan’s editor really needed to have a stern word: he could’ve cut off the whole first third of the book, like a gangrenous limb, and it would’ve been a much better read. I still can’t quite believe that it beat out We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves for the Booker Prize in 2014… Read my full review of The Narrow Road To The Deep North here.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Even now, fifteen years after its release, I still feel like every time I turn around I bump into someone saying that The Book Thief is AMAZING, that it is HEARTBREAKING, that it will CHANGE MY PERSPECTIVE on WWII… piffle. It’s narrated by Death, which is a pretty cool way. of telling a story, but other than that…? The main message is that Nazis are bad and literacy is good. I thought we could take that as read! The same goes for All The Light We Cannot See, too. The recent boom in WWII historical fiction really irks me. It feels like they’re only rehashing what has already been beautifully accounted in books like Diary Of A Young Girl. The Book Thief would be a fine read for teenagers who are just starting to learn about this chapter in history, but it got way too much hype overall. Read my full review of The Book Thief here.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

In my experience, every single reader who lists Fahrenheit 451 as their favourite book read it for the first time as a teenager. Everyone who, like me, read it as an adult had much the same reaction as I did: a huge feeling of underwhelm. This book is like dystopian-lite: dystopian fiction for people who haven’t read much (or any) dystopian fiction. The idea of firefighters who burn books is a good one, but there’s better-imagined and better-written books out there now that are far more worthy of our time and attention. Read my full review of Fahrenheit 451 here.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Let me sum up The Sun Also Rises for you: a guy with a malfunctioning doodle convinces himself that he has no hope of happiness or sexual satisfaction, so he traipses across Europe with his drunk friends feeling sorry for himself. Ugh! It’s so woefully repressed (and grossly colonial in places). It’s not even a good example of Hemingway’s whole “show, don’t tell” fly-on-the-wall writing ethos. Papa was a brilliant short story writer, but I wish I could forget all about this novel entirely. Read my full review of The Sun Also Rises here.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I actually quite liked Don Quixote. It was a whopping great book, but I read it slowly, bit by bit, and found it quite enjoyable. I think it’s overrated as a comic novel, though, and that’s why I include it here in this list of the most overrated books of all time. Everyone kept telling me “Oooh, Don Quixote! It’s so funny! It’s so funny!”. Yeah, except that it’s the story of a man with a severe, undiagnosed, and untreated delusional disorder. No one tries to help him, no one steps in when he’s clearly a danger to himself and others – they treat him like a circus attraction. My heart broke for Don Quixote, and I barely got a chuckle out of this book. “Comic” my arse… Read my full review of Don Quixote here.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The Fault In Our Stars - John Green - Book Laid On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

John Green might’ve won himself a legion of fans with his stories of teenage love and melodrama, but come on. The Fault In Our Stars was just a blatant attempt to make me cry, and I reject that outright. It was so transparent, I found myself rolling my eyes at every plot point. The “love interest”, Augustus, is so high on his own fumes, it was infuriating. If the protagonist, Hazel, had been just a few years older and just a little less sheltered, she would have kicked him to the curb long before any of the rest of it. Read my full review of The Fault In Our Stars here.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley's Lover - DH Lawrence - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Lady Chatterley’s Lover has the distinction of being one of the most banned, censored, and challenged books of fiction in the history of English literature. On that basis, I naturally expected it to be very smutty. I’m sorry to report that there was barely any filth at all! A couple of heaving bosoms, a few c-bombs, and that’s it! I have no idea what all the fuss was about… Read my full review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover here.

And there we have it, my list of the most overrated books of all time. All of them are hills I’m willing to die on, so give it your best shot 😉 And don’t forget to add your suggestions in the comments below!

Book Reviews By Category

American

The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
The Age Of Innocence – Edith Wharton
All The King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
Beloved – Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
Daisy Jones And The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
Fleishman Is In Trouble – Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos
The Grapes Of Wrath – John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
Less – Andrew Sean Greer
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Luster – Raven Leilani
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
The Nickel Boys – Colson Whitehead
Nothing To See Here – Kevin Wilson
Of Mice And Men – John Steinbeck
The Old Man And The Sea – Ernest Hemingway
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Pizza Girl – Jean Kyoung Frazier
Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
The Swans Of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Thank You For Smoking – Christopher Buckley
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig

Australian

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham
The Dry – Jane Harper
Dyschronia – Jennifer Mills
Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia – Anita Heiss (ed.)
The Helpline – Katherine Collette
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
My Brilliant Career – Miles Franklin
The Narrow Road To The Deep North – Richard Flanagan
The Natural Way Of Things – Charlotte Wood
The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
Terra Nullius – Claire G. Coleman
Too Much Lip – Melissa Lucashenko
Tracker – Alexis Wright
The Trauma Cleaner – Sarah Krasnostein
True History Of The Kelly Gang – Peter Carey
The Yield – Tara June Winch

Books In Translation

Adèle – Leïla Slimani
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The Anomaly – Hervé Le Tellier
Before The Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman
Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata
Days At The Morisaki Bookshop – Satoshi Yagisawa
Dear Child – Romy Hausmann
Death At Intervals – José Saramago
The Elegance Of The Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
The Factory – Hiroko Oyamada
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler – Italo Calvino
Like Water For Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises – Fredrik Backman
The One-Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
One Hundred Years Of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
She Came To Stay – Simone de Beauvoir
Story Of O – Pauline Réage
The Story Of The Lost Child – Elena Ferrante
The Story Of A New Name – Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay – Elena Ferrante
The Vegetarian – Han Kang

Children’s

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
Watership Down – Richard Adams
The Wind In The Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Classic

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Clarissa – Samuel Richardson
Crime And Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Emma – Jane Austen
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
The Life And Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – Laurence Sterne
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Sanditon – Jane Austen
Sense And Sensibility – Jane Austen
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
Sybil – Benjamin Disraeli
The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

Fantasy

The Colour Of Magic – Terry Pratchett
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
A Game Of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
Lanny – Max Porter
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

Graphic Novel

Good Talk – Mira Jacob

Horror

American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
Anatomy – Dana Schwartz
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Flowers In The Attic – VC Andrews
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things – Iain Reid
Interview With The Vampire – Anne Rice
Lakewood – Megan Giddings
Misery – Stephen King
My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
Tampa – Alissa Nutting
We Have Always Lived In The Castle – Shirley Jackson – Coming Soon!

Memoir & Autobiography

American Sniper – Chris Kyle
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
Becoming – Michelle Obama
Calypso – David Sedaris
Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim – David Sedaris
Educated – Tara Westover
Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee
The Family Law – Benjamin Law
Finding Nevo – Nevo Zisin
The Happiest Refugee – Anh Do
Hunger – Roxane Gay
I Am, I Am, I Am – Maggie O’Farrell
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
I Love Dick – Chris Kraus
In Order To Live – Yeonmi Park
Julie And Julia – Julie Powell
Know My Name – Chanel Miller
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls – David Sedaris
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
Reading Lolita In Tehran – Azar Nafisi
Reckoning – Magda Szubanski
Shrill – Lindy West
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered – Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
We’re Going To Need More Wine – Gabrielle Union
When You Are Engulfed In Flames – David Sedaris
The White Mouse – Nancy Wake
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Wow, No Thank You – Samantha Irby
The Year Of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs
Year Of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
Yes Please – Amy Poehler

Mystery & Thriller

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Chain – Adrian McKinty
The Cry – Helen Fitzgerald
The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers
The Lake House – Kate Morton
The Likeness – Tana French
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
Notes On A Scandal – Zoë Heller
The Nothing Man – Catherine Ryan Howard
The Plot – Jean Hanff Korelitz
Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
Room – Emma Donoghue
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Secrets Of Strangers – Charity Norman
See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
The Thirty-Nine Steps – John Buchan
True Story – Kate Reed Petty – Coming Soon!

Non-Fiction

Any Ordinary Day – Leigh Sales
Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
Bi – Julia Shaw
The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge
A Brief History Of Time – Stephen Hawking
The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer
The Five – Hallie Rubenhold
Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly
The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
Religion For Atheists – Alain de Botton
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
Stiff – Mary Roach
Strangers Drowning – Larissa MacFarquhar
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck – Mark Manson
Sybil – Flora Rheta Schreiber
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

Plays

The Importance Of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
The Vagina Monologues – Eve Ensler
Waiting For Godot – Samuel Beckett

Poetry

The Divine Comedy – Dante

Romance

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
Bridgerton: The Duke And I – Julia Quinn
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
The Fiancee Farce – Alexandria Bellefleur
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
Happy Endings – Thien-Kim Lam
Heartburn – Nora Ephron
I Kissed Shara Wheeler – Casey McQuiston
If The Shoe Fits – Julie Murphy
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang
Love In The Time Of Serial Killers – Alicia Thompson
The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory
Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Reputation – Lex Croucher
The Roommate – Rosie Danan
The Silent Treatment – Abbie Greaves
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Well Met – Jen DeLuca

Science Fiction

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
The Martian – Andy Weir
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Power – Naomi Alderman
Under The Dome – Stephen King
Under The Skin – Michel Faber
Vox – Christina Dalcher

Short Stories

Australia Day – Melanie Cheng
Delta Of Venus – Anaïs Nin
Her Body And Other Bodies – Carmen Maria Machado
The Lottery And Other Stories – Shirley Jackson
Willful Creatures – Aimee Bender

True Crime

The Arsonist – Chloe Hooper
Bad Blood – John Carreyrou
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark – Michelle McNamara
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
The Library Book – Susan Orlean
Murder In Mississippi – John Safran
Say Nothing – Patrick Radden Keefe
The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule
Trace – Rachael Brown
We Keep The Dead Close – Becky Cooper

Young Adult

The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
All The Things We Never Said – Yasmin Rahman
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
Divergent – Veronica Roth
Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
Girl Online – Zoe Sugg
A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder – Holly Jackson
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
If I Stay – Gayle Forman
The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project – Lenore Appelhans
The Maze Runner – James Dashner
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post – Emily M. Danforth
Paper Towns – John Green
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Sadie – Courtney Summers
They Both Die At The End – Adam Silvera
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

Book Reviews By Title

A

The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Adèle – Leïla Slimani
The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Age Of Innocence – Edith Wharton
Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
All The King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
All The Things We Never Said – Yasmin Rahman
American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
American Sniper – Chris Kyle
Amongst Women – John McGahern
An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
Anatomy – Dana Schwartz
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
The Anomaly – Hervé Le Tellier
Any Ordinary Day – Leigh Sales
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
An Artist Of The Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Arsonist – Chloe Hooper
As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
Australia Day – Melanie Cheng

B

Bad Blood – John Carreyrou
Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
Becoming – Michelle Obama
Before The Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Bi – Julia Shaw
Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Bridgerton: The Duke And I – Julia Quinn
A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman

C

Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman
The Call Of The Wild – Jack London
Calypso – David Sedaris
Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger
The Chain – Adrian McKinty
The Children Act – Ian McEwan
Clarissa – Samuel Richardson
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Colour Of Magic – Terry Pratchett
Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata
Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
Crime And Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Cry – Helen Fitzgerald
The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time – Mark Haddon

D

Daisy Jones And The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Days At The Morisaki Bookshop – Satoshi Yagisawa
Dear Child – Romy Hausmann
Death At Intervals – José Saramago
Delta Of Venus – Anaïs Nin
Divergent – Veronica Roth
The Divine Comedy – Dante
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim – David Sedaris
The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham
The Dry – Jane Harper
Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
Dyschronia – Jennifer Mills

E

Educated – Tara Westover
Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
The Elegance Of The Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
Emma – Jane Austen
The End Of The Affair – Graham Greene
Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

F

The Factory – Hiroko Oyamada
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Family Law – Benjamin Law
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer
The Fiancee Farce – Alexandria Bellefleur
Finding Nevo – Nevo Zisin
The Five – Hallie Rubenhold
Fleishman Is In Trouble – Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Flowers In The Attic – VC Andrews
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Frankissstein – Jeanette Winterson

G

A Game Of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos
The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins
Girl Online – Zoe Sugg
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo
The Golden Bowl – Henry James
The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder – Holly Jackson
Good Talk – Mira Jacob
The Grapes Of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia – Anita Heiss (ed.)
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

H

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Happiest Refugee – Anh Do
Happy Endings – Thien-Kim Lam
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
Heartburn – Nora Ephron
The Heat Of The Day – Elizabeth Bowen
The Helpline – Katherine Collette
Her Body And Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado
Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix
The Hours – Michael Cunningham
Hunger – Roxane Gay
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty

I

I Am, I Am, I Am – Maggie O’Farrell
I Kissed Shara Wheeler – Casey McQuiston
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
I Love Dick – Chris Kraus
I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark – Michelle McNamara
If I Stay – Gayle Forman
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler – Italo Calvino
If The Shoe Fits – Julie Murphy
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things – Iain Reid
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
The Importance Of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
In Order To Live – Yeonmi Park
Instructions For A Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell
Interview With The Vampire – Anne Rice

J

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
Julie And Julia – Julie Powell

K

Kim – Rudyard Kipling
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Know My Name – Chanel Miller

L

Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
The Lake House – Kate Morton
Lakewood – Megan Giddings
Lanny – Max Porter
Less – Andrew Sean Greer
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls – David Sedaris
The Library Book – Susan Orlean
The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – Laurence Sterne
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Like Water For Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
The Likeness – Tana French
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Lolly Willowes – Sylvia Townsend Warner
Lord Of The Flies – William Golding
The Lottery And Other Stories – Shirley Jackson
Love In The Time Of Serial Killers – Alicia Thompson
Luster – Raven Leilani

M

The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project – Lenore Appelhans
The Martian – Andy Weir
The Maze Runner – James Dashner
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
Milkman – Anna Burns
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post – Emily M Danforth
Misery – Stephen King
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Money – Martin Amis
Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Murder In Mississippi – John Safran
Murphy – Samuel Beckett
My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
My Brilliant Career – Miles Franklin
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises – Fredrik Backman
My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
Mythos – Stephen Fry

N

The Narrow Road To The Deep North – Richard Flanagan
The Natural Way Of Things – Charlotte Wood
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Nickel Boys – Colson Whitehead
Nineteen Nineteen – John dos Passos
Normal People – Sally Rooney
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Notes On A Scandal – Zoë Heller
The Nothing Man – Catherine Ryan Howard
Nothing To See Here – Kevin Wilson

O

Of Mice And Men – John Steinbeck
The Old Man And The Sea – Ernest Hemingway
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
The One-Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
One Hundred Years Of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory
Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

P

Paper Towns – John Green
Party Going – Henry Green
A Passage To India – E.M. Forster
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
Pizza Girl – Jean Kyoung Frazier
The Plot – Jean Hanff Korelitz
Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
The Power – Naomi Alderman
Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher

Q

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

R

Reading Lolita In Tehran – Azar Nafisi
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Reckoning – Magda Szubanski
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Religion for Atheists – Alain de Botton
Reputation – Lex Croucher
Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld
Room – Emma Donoghue
The Roommate – Rosie Danan
The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

S

Sadie – Courtney Summers
Sanditon – Jane Austen
Say Nothing – Patrick Radden Keefe
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Scoop – Evelyn Waugh
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Secrets Of Strangers – Charity Norman
See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Sense And Sensibility – Jane Austen
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
She Came To Stay – Simone de Beauvoir
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian – Monica Lewycka
Shrill – Lindy West
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
The Silent Treatment – Abbie Greaves
A Single Man – Christopher Isherwood
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered – Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Stiff – Mary Roach
Still Alice – Lisa Genova
Story Of O – Pauline Réage
The Story Of The Lost Child – Elena Ferrante
The Story Of A New Name – Elena Ferrante
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule
Strangers Drowning – Larissa MacFarquhar
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck – Mark Manson
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
The Swans Of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin
Sybil – Benjamin Disraeli
Sybil – Flora Rheta Schreiber

T

A Tale For The Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
Tampa – Alissa Nutting
The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
Terra Nullius – Claire G. Coleman
Thank You For Smoking – Christopher Buckley
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
They Both Die At The End – Adam Silvera
The Thirty-Nine Steps – John Buchan
Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay – Elena Ferrante
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Too Much Lip – Melissa Lucashenko
Trace – Rachael Brown
Tracker – Alexis Wright
The Trauma Cleaner – Sarah Krasnostein
Tropic Of Cancer – Henry Miller
True History Of The Kelly Gang – Peter Carey
True Story – Kate Reed Petty – Coming Soon!
Turn Of The Screw – Henry James

U

Ulysses – James Joyce
Under The Dome – Stephen King
Under The Skin – Michel Faber
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

V

The Vagina Monologues – Eve Ensler
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
The Vegetarian – Han Kang
Vox – Christina Dalcher

W

Waiting For Godot – Samuel Beckett
Watership Down – Richard Adams
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
We Have Always Lived In The Castle – Shirley Jackson – Coming Soon!
We Keep The Dead Close – Becky Cooper
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
We’re Going To Need More Wine – Gabrielle Union
Well Met – Jen DeLuca
When You Are Engulfed In Flames – David Sedaris
The White Mouse – Nancy Wake
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Willful Creatures – Aimee Bender
The Wind In The Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Wow, No Thank You – Samantha Irby
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

X

Y

The Year Of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs
Year Of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
The Yield – Tara June Winch

Z

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig

Book Reviews By Author

A

Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
The Power – Naomi Alderman
The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Money – Martin Amis
Flowers In The Attic – VC Andrews
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project – Lenore Appelhans
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Emma – Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen
Sanditon – Jane Austen
Sense And Sensibility – Jane Austen

B

A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises – Fredrik Backman
The Elegance Of The Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
She Came To Stay – Simone de Beauvoir
Murphy – Samuel Beckett
Waiting For Godot – Samuel Beckett
The Fiancee Farce – Alexandria Bellefleur
The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow
Willful Creatures – Aimee Bender
The Swans Of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
Religion for Atheists – Alain de Botton
The Heat Of The Day – Elizabeth Bowen
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
Fleishman Is In Trouble – Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
Trace – Rachael Brown
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
The Thirty-Nine Steps – John Buchan
Thank You For Smoking – Christopher Buckley
The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Milkman – Anna Burns

C

If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler – Italo Calvino
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
True History Of The Kelly Gang – Peter Carey
Bad Blood – John Carreyrou
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Australia Day – Melanie Cheng
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Terra Nullius – Claire G. Coleman
The Helpline – Katherine Collette
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
We Keep The Dead Close – Becky Cooper
Reputation – Lex Croucher
The Hours – Michael Cunningham

D

Vox – Christina Dalcher
The Roommate – Rosie Danan
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post – Emily M. Danforth
The Divine Comedy – Dante
The Maze Runner – James Dashner
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Well Met – Jen DeLuca
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Sybil – Benjamin Disraeli
The Happiest Refugee – Anh Do
All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
The Brain That Changes Itself – Norman Doidge
Room – Emma Donoghue
Crime And Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

E

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
Middlemarch – George Eliot
American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
The Vagina Monologues – Eve Ensler
Heartburn – Nora Ephron
Like Water For Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo

F

Under The Skin – Michel Faber
As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
The Story Of The Lost Child – Elena Ferrante
The Story Of A New Name – Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay – Elena Ferrante
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
The Cry – Helen Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Narrow Road To The Deep North – Richard Flanagan
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
If I Stay – Gayle Forman
A Passage To India – E.M. Forster
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
My Brilliant Career – Miles Franklin
Pizza Girl – Jean Kyoung Frazier
The Likeness – Tana French
Mythos – Stephen Fry

G

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
Hunger – Roxane Gay
Still Alice – Lisa Genova
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Lakewood – Megan Giddings
Lord Of The Flies – William Golding
The Wind In The Willows – Kenneth Grahame
The Silent Treatment – Abbie Greaves
Party Going – Henry Green
Paper Towns – John Green
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
The End Of The Affair – Graham Greene
The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer
Less – Andrew Sean Greer
The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory

H

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time – Mark Haddon
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han
The Dry – Jane Harper
Dear Child – Romy Hausmann
A Brief History Of Time – Stephen Hawking
The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia – Anita Heiss (ed.)
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Notes On A Scandal – Zoë Heller
The Old Man And The Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Horrorstor – Grady Hendrix
My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
The Arsonist – Chloe Hooper
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Nothing Man – Catherine Ryan Howard
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

I

Wow, No Thank You – Samantha Irby
A Single Man – Christopher Isherwood
An Artist Of The Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

J

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder – Holly Jackson
The Lottery And Other Stories – Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived In The Castle – Shirley Jackson – Coming Soon!
Good Talk – Mira Jacob
The Year Of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs
The Golden Bowl – Henry James
Turn Of The Screw – Henry James
Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal
The One-Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
Ulysses – James Joyce

K

The Vegetarian – Han Kang
Before The Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Say Nothing – Patrick Radden Keefe
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered – Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Misery – Stephen King
Under The Dome – Stephen King
Kim – Rudyard Kipling
The Plot – Jean Hanff Korelitz
The Trauma Cleaner – Sarah Krasnostein
I Love Dick – Chris Kraus
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
American Sniper – Chris Kyle

L

Happy Endings – Thien-Kim Lam
The Family Law – Benjamin Law
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Luster – Raven Leilani
The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian – Monica Lewycka
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
The Call Of The Wild – Jack London
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos
Too Much Lip – Melissa Lucashenko

M

Strangers Drowning – Larissa MacFarquhar
Her Body And Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck – Mark Manson
One Hundred Years Of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
A Game Of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
Atonement – Ian McEwan
The Children Act – Ian McEwan
Amongst Women – John McGahern
Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
The Chain – Adrian McKinty
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark – Michelle McNamara
I Kissed Shara Wheeler – Casey McQuiston
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
Know My Name – Chanel Miller
Tropic Of Cancer – Henry Miller
Dyschronia – Jennifer Mills
Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
Beloved – Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
The Lake House – Kate Morton
Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata
Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
If The Shoe Fits – Julie Murphy

N

Reading Lolita In Tehran – Azar Nafisi
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Delta of Venus – Anaïs Nin
The Secrets Of Strangers – Charity Norman
Tampa – Alissa Nutting

O

Becoming – Michelle Obama
I Am, I Am, I Am – Maggie O’Farrell
Instructions For A Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell
The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa
The Library Book – Susan Orlean
The Factory – Hiroko Oyamada
A Tale For The Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

P

In Order To Live – Yeonmi Park
Nineteen Nineteen – John dos Passos
True Story – Kate Reed Petty – Coming Soon!
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
Lanny – Max Porter
Julie And Julia – Julie Powell
The Colour Of Magic – Terry Pratchett

Q

Bridgerton: The Duke And I – Julia Quinn

R

All The Things We Never Said – Yasmin Rahman
Story Of O – Pauline Réage
Daisy Jones And The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things – Iain Reid
Year Of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
Interview With The Vampire – Anne Rice
Clarissa – Samuel Richardson
Stiff – Mary Roach
Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney
Normal People – Sally Rooney
Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
Divergent – Veronica Roth
Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
The Five – Hallie Rubenhold
The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule

S

Murder In Mississippi – John Safran
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Any Ordinary Day – Leigh Sales
The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger
Death At Intervals – José Saramago
See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt
Sybil – Flora Rheta Schreiber
Anatomy – Dana Schwartz
Calypso – David Sedaris
Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim – David Sedaris
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls – David Sedaris
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
When You Are Engulfed In Flames – David Sedaris
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
Bi – Julia Shaw
I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
They Both Die At The End – Adam Silvera
The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld
The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
Adèle – Leïla Slimani
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
The Grapes Of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Of Mice And Men – John Steinbeck
The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – Laurence Sterne
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Girl Online – Zoe Sugg
Sadie – Courtney Summers
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
Reckoning – Magda Szubanski

T

The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Anomaly – Hervé Le Tellier
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Love In The Time Of Serial Killers – Alicia Thompson
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Lolly Willowes – Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

U

We’re Going To Need More Wine – Gabrielle Union

V

W

The White Mouse – Nancy Wake
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
All The King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
Scoop – Evelyn Waugh
The Martian – Andy Weir
Shrill – Lindy West
Educated – Tara Westover
The Age Of Innocence – Edith Wharton
The Nickel Boys – Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
The Importance Of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
The Picture Of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Nothing To See Here – Kevin Wilson
The Yield – Tara June Winch
Frankissstein – Jeanette Winterson
The Natural Way Of Things – Charlotte Wood
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Tracker – Alexis Wright

X

Y

Days At The Morisaki Bookshop – Satoshi Yagisawa
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Z

Finding Nevo – Nevo Zisin
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Nineteen Nineteen – John Dos Passos

Nineteen Nineteen is the second book of a trilogy, now called the U.S.A. trilogy, by American writer John Dos Passos. The first book of the trilogy (The 42nd Parallel) was published in 1930, followed by Nineteen Nineteen in 1932, and the finale (The Big Money) in 1936. They were all published together in a single volume for the first time in 1938. They are widely considered the peak of Dos Passos’s career, and it was off the back of these books that Jean Paul Sartre said he considered Dos Passos to be “the greatest writer of our time”. I think all of this begs an obvious question…

NIneteen NIneteen - John Dos Passos - Book Laid Face Up on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy Nineteen Nineteen here.
(This is an affiliate link, but don’t freak out – that just means I’ll get a tiny commission from the big boys for referring you.)

… why have so few people heard of Nineteen Ninteen, or John Dos Passos?

Well, here we have yet another 20th century writer who lives in the inconceivably-large shadows of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Indeed, they were all good friends, the three of them (at least initially, but more on that in a second). Alas, in the intervening decades, Dos Passos has receded from view while the other two have continued to loom large.

Nineteen Nineteen was Dos Passos’s response to the Great War, in which – like Hemingway – he served as an ambulance driver. He’d always had communist leanings, but after the conflict he travelled with Hemingway to Spain, and that’s where things got hairy. Dos Passos found the viciousness of some of the communist revolutionaries confronting (to say the least), and his reaction led to a falling out with Hemingway, who didn’t find their approach as bothersome. Thus began another great literary feud: Dos Passos headed home to write about the everyday lives of characters affected by WWI (with special attention to the social and economic forces that shaped their lives) while Hemingway wrote letters to Fitzgerald, saying that Dos Passos was a “second-rate writer with no ear” and “also a terrible snob”. As best I can tell, they never made up.

Though he found the situation in Spain pretty challenging ethically, Dos Passos never entirely gave up his communist cause. He found new conviction when he saw the widening gulf between the rich and the poor in his home country. By the time he got back, the glittery days of the Jazz Age were long gone, and the combined forces of the crash, the Great Depression, and the rise of fascism were tearing his world apart. Depicting the truth of this state of affairs in literature became Dos Passos’s passion, and you can see that in the way he wrote Nineteen Nineteen.

It’s hardly a straight-foward novel, in that it’s a highly experimental fusion of fiction and journalism. There are four different narrative “modes”. The first is the most recognisable to contemporary readers, narrative fiction that follows the lives of a few key characters (twelve across the trilogy as a whole, but they’re not linked in any significant way). Then, there are the “Newsreel” sections; these contain collages of newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and front-page headlines (drawn almost entirely from the real-life Chicago Tribune). There are also, in the third mode, short biographies of public figures. I only recognised the names of a couple of former Presidents, but there are plenty of others, including “The Body Of An American”, which tells the story of an unknown soldier killed in WWI. And I’ve saved the weirdest mode for last, the “Camera Eye”: autobiographical stream-of-consciousness passages, which seem to be Dos Passos’s way of inserting himself and his own personal perspective into the story.

The alternative and experimental modes of Nineteen Nineteen can be discombobulating, but at least they’re all really distinct in style. You never wonder what it is exactly you’re reading, because Dos Passos has signposted it really clearly for you. I read later that his “Newsreel” and “Camera Eye” sections were inspired by modernist innovation and the emergence of “mass communication” through television and the telegraph. Can you imagine if he’d lived to see Twitter?

Dos Passos was clearly trying to Do Something Different(TM). Nineteen Nineteen is more like a creative writing class notebook than a complete novel (and this edition came complete with doodled illustrations, too). At a guess, I’d say I was able to properly comprehend maybe half of it. I struggled to follow what was going on in the narrative sections, because it was broken up by all the other stuff, so I’m not confident in giving you a complete plot summary here.

What I will say, content-wise, is that there’s a lot of sex and violence, and Dos Passos isn’t shy. I don’t mind graphic books, but I figured I’d mention it as a heads up if you do. What did bother me, though, was the recurring motif of men trying to convince their lovers to get abortions, and blaming the women for getting pregnant in the first place. Ugh!

Oh, and a passable knowledge of French would really come in handy reading this one, especially towards the end. Without it, you’re going to end up Google Translating a lot, like me.

Dos Passos does succeed in his primary objective, however, to hammer home his communist message. He has no sympathy at all for his “upwardly mobile” characters, but simultaneously he’s very kind and generous to his down-and-out victims of capitalist society.

In the end, I really felt nothing for this book. I could appreciate that Dos Passos was being really very clever and experimental and all of that, but perhaps just too much so for me to actually enjoy reading. I read later that Nineteen Nineteen has been adapted a number of times for radio and stage – don’t ask me how, I won’t be seeking them out to see for myself. I’m a firm believer, as I’ve said before, that loving a book simply means that you’ve come to it at the right time in your reading life; maybe if I’d come to Nineteen Nineteen at some other time, I’d feel differently about it. As it stands, right now, I’m a bit sick of enduring 500+ pages of old white men telling me that war and capitalism are bad. Sorry, Dos Passos (if it’s any consolation, I wasn’t that big on your frenemies Fitzgerald and Hemingway, either).

My favourite Amazon reviews of Nineteen Nineteen:

  • “First book of the Trilogy was very good. This one just drones on and on and on with few interesting characters and interminable descriptions of the labor struggle. Can’t wait to finish because I want to get on to the last installment. I know now why Dos Passos played third fiddle to Hemingway and Fitzgerald.” – JB Haller
  • “I am not a fan of the camera eye. In addition, longsentenceswithallwordsattacheddonotworkwellforme. Well written prose and interesting narrative from an historical standpoint. I took a two-book pause between its predecessor 42nd Parallel and 1919. I may take a two-decade pause until I open The Big Money, well well after I’ve read Ragtime, Manhattan Transfer, and Berlin. Alexander Platz.” – Amazon Customer
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