A list by Miceal O Coileain
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Miceal O Coileain
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Roberto Bolaño
A great example of Bolano's ability to captivate with his writing, hundreds of pages of complex, compelling terror.
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True History of the Kelly Gang
Peter Carey
The son of an Irish convict father, Ned Kelly stole horses as a child, murdered policemen, robbed banks, and took up as a “bushranger”—the Australian term for runaway convicts who evaded British authorities in the open continent. His notoriety grew until Kelly became a Robin Hood–like symbol of Iris...show more
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The Stories of John Cheever
John Cheever
A brilliant, and now much overlooked, observer of the fraught American lifestyle of the 50s-70s. An outstanding use of language as well ... the stories excellent, but The Wapshot books truly magnificent.
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The Riddle of the Sands
Erskine Childers
“A yachting story, with a purpose,” Erskine Childers wrote to a correspondent while he was composing The Riddle of the Sands at the beginning of the twentieth century. The purpose was political: to alert an unprepared England to the threat posed by German ambitions. It was by no means the only examp...show more
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The Hunt for Red October
Tom Clancy
Published by the US Naval Institute Press in 1984, The Hunt for Red October became an unexpected but modest hit for the generally under-the-radar publisher, whose mission is to promote an understanding of sea power and other issues of national defense. But soon, abetted in no small part by President...show more
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The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I've read thousands of books in my life, but this is the one I keep coming back to. First read when I was a very young child, I still read it. Timeless.
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Son of the Morning Star: Custer and The Little Bighorn
Evan S. Connell
The work of an idiosyncratic but engaging storyteller, Son of the Morning Star is discursive, elegant, and unflinching. The Christian Science Monitor called it “the story of Gen. George Armstrong Custer as Flaubert would have written it”; it’s a nice compliment, but the book is better than that, bec...show more
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Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
In the course of roughly a hundred pages, Heart of Darkness will journey, with a strangely leisurely intensity, into realms of depravity best encoded in the dying cry of Kurtz, the delusional, despicable character at its enigmatic core: “The horror! The horror!” Although this extraordinarily concent...show more
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The Hours
Michael Cunningham
Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway, set on a single June day in London, is punctuated by the tolling of Big Ben, the bell inside the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament. Its regular marking of the time—“First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable”—reminds Clarissa Dalloway of bot...show more
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A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities may have the most famous opening of any novel ever written, the frequent application of its words outside the novel’s specific context giving it an edge over the nearest competition, Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice. Echoing the dichotomies invoked in its opening sentences,...show more
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The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco
One of those books that effortlessly, and without malice, shows you how little you know. Foucault's Pendulum is even better.
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The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury was Faulkner’s fourth novel. In it, he bravely indulged the experimental impulse that, under the guidance of his editors, he had kept in check in his previously published work, creating one of the landmarks of modern—and modernist—fiction. The book comprises four sections, thr...show more
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Tender Is the Night
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tender Is the Night—the last of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s four completed novels, and the author’s favorite—sprawls among dozens of characters and settings across Western Europe before and after World War I. Although its messy, heartbreaking story of mental illness, alcoholism, and the disintegration of ...show more
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Sentimental Education
Gustave Flaubert
What a great, wonder of a book! So rich in detail and teeming with imagination. I'll never forget this book and how I felt when I read it, over 40 years ago.
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Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert
Shallow, impetuous, dishonest, and shortsighted, Emma Bovary is not exactly a likeable heroine. She lies constantly, spends other people’s money without reservation, and has little to no affection even for her own child. Yet by the novel’s end she has become so real that we can almost feel her prese...show more
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Independence Day
Richard Ford
Any Richard Ford book is brilliant, this one is but an example.
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The French Lieutenant's Woman
John Fowles
The story John Fowles tells in his third novel begins on the English seaside at Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1867. Yet it is told by a wry, erudite narrator who lets readers know he is writing exactly one hundred years later. In a tour de force of storytelling that is transporting, intriguing, and breatht...show more
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The Recognitions
William Gaddis
Thank God you included this book on your list! I was scrolling slowly through the list in hopes that you did. The most underrated book of modern times, my unquestioned best book ever read. It introduced me to the possibilities of language, the scenery and emotions that can be conveyed by a natura...show more
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One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel so strange, so rich, so perfect in its singularity and timeless in its tenor, one can scarcely believe it was written as recently as 1967. At its start we are treated to an inkling of the author’s narrative conjuring: “Many years later, as he faced the firing...show more
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The Best and the Brightest
David Halberstam
When he returned home from his Pulitzer Prize-winning stint as a wartime correspondent in Vietnam for the New York Times, David Halberstam turned his attention to the question of how America had gotten so hopelessly entangled in Southeast Asia. The Best and the Brightest, an absorbing chronicle of o...show more
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