50 Memorable Books from 50 Years of Books to Remember


A representative selection from over 1,500 titles on annual lists of Books to Remember from 1956 to 2005. Compiled by Francie Einenkel and Susan Chute, Librarians, The New York Public Library.

  1. Beowulf by Unknown

Beowulf is an Old English heroic epic poem of unknown authorship, dating as recorded in the Nowell Codex manuscript from between the 8th and the early 11th century, set in Denmark and Sweden. Commo…


2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and se…


3. The Fall by Albert Camus

The Fall (French: La Chute) is a philosophical novel written by Albert Camus. First published in 1956, it is his last complete work of fiction. Set in Amsterdam, The Fall consists of a series of dr…


4. This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton

This Hallowed Ground: The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War


5. A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Death in the Family is an autobiographical novel by author James Agee, set in Knoxville, Tennessee. He began writing it in 1948, but it was not quite complete when he died in 1955. It was edited …


6. The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore by Marianne Moore

Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887 — February 5, 1972) was a Modernist American poet and writer noted for her irony and wit.


7. The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith

The Affluent Society is a 1958 book by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. The book sought to clearly outline the manner in which the post-World War II America was becoming wealthy in the pri…


8. The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

Acclaimed as the greatest German novel written since the end of World War II, The Tin Drum is the autobiography of thirty-year-old Oskar Matzerath, who has lived through the long Nazi nightmare and…


9. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by journalist William L. Shirer, is the first and most successful, large scale history of Nazi Germany in English for a general audience, first published in 19…


10. The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

The Violent Bear It Away is a novel published in 1960 by American author Flannery O’Connor. It is the second and final novel that she published. The first chapter of the novel was published as the …


11. A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

It is the story of Mr Mohun Biswas, an Indo-Trinidadian who continually strives for success and mostly fails, who marries into the Tulsi family only to find himself dominated by it, and who finally…


12. Another Country by James Baldwin

Another Country is a 1962 novel by James Baldwin. The novel tells of the bohemian lifestyle of musicians, writers and other artists living in Greenwich Village in the late 1950s. It portrayed many …


13. Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung

Memories, Dreams, Reflections (original German title Erinnerungen Träume Gedanken) is a partially autobiographical book by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and associate Aniela Jaffé. The book details …


14. The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford

The American Way of Death was an exposé of abuses in the funeral home industry in the United States, written by Jessica Mitford and published in 1963. Feeling that death had become much too sentime…


15. African Stories by Doris Lessing

Long considered Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing’s best collection of short stories


16. Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why we can’t wait is a book by Martin Luther King, Jr. about the civil rights struggle against racial segregation in the United States, and specifically in Birmingham, Alabama.


17. For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell

For the Union Dead is a 1964 poem by Robert Lowell, published in a book of the same name. It was written in response to Allen Tate’s 1928 poem Ode to the Confederate Dead. Robert Gould Shaw and th…


18. Children of Crisis by Robert Coles

Children of Crisis is an award winning series of 5 volumes by child psychiatrist and author Robert Coles published by Little, Brown and Company between 1967 and 1977; a social study of children in …


19. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One of the 20th century’s enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning car…


20. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA written by James D. Watson and pub…


21. The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer

The Armies of the Night (1968) is a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning nonfiction novel written by Norman Mailer and sub-titled History as a Novel/The Novel as History. Mailer essential…


22. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

An anti-war science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim.


23. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a massive narrative relying on eyewitness testimon…


24. The Power Broker by Robert Caro

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York is a Pulitzer Prize-winning 1974 biography of Robert Moses, “New York City’s Master Builder”, by Robert Caro. In the years since its publicat…


25. Poems: Selected and New, 1950–1974 by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Cecile Rich is an American poet, essayist and feminist. She has been called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the [20th] century.”


26. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a 1974 nonfiction narrative book by Annie Dillard. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. The book is about Dillard’s experiences at Tinker Creek, which is located in Virg…


27. A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, published in 1978, is a work by American historian Barbara Tuchman, focusing on life in 14th century Europe. To provide a central figure in her swe…


28. The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

The Stories of John Cheever is a 1978 short story collection by American author John Cheever. It contains some of his most famous stories, including “The Enormous Radio,” “Goodbye, My Brother,” “Th…


29. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is the name of both a 1981 collection of short stories and the title of a story within the collection by the American writer Raymond Carver. Plots from…


30. The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould

The Mismeasure of Man is a 1981 book written by the Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002). The book is a history and critique of the methods and motivations underlying biological det…


31. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) is the debut novel by Isabel Allende. Initially, the novel was rejected by several Spanish-language publishers, but became an instant best …


32. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), by Milan Kundera, is a philosophic novel about a man and his two women and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. …


33. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison…


34. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic is a nonfiction book written by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Randy Shilts, published in 1987. It chronicles the discovery and s…


35. Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris


36. The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

The Making of the Atomic Bomb, a book written by Richard Rhodes, won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. The 900-page bo…


37. Citizens by Simon Schama

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution is a book by the historian Simon Schama. It was published in 1989, the bicentenary of the French Revolution, and like many other works in that year, w…


38. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day (1989) is the third published novel by Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of The Day is one of the most highly-regarded post-war British novels. It won the B…


39. The Cunning Man by Robertson Davies

The Cunning Man, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1994, is the last novel written by Canadian novelist Robertson Davies. The Cunning Man is the memoir of the life of a doctor, Dr. Jonathan…


40. Race Matters by Cornel West

Race Matters is a 1994 social sciences book, authored by Cornel West. The book was first published on March 29, 1994 in the English language by Vintage Books. The book analyses moral authority and …


41. The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

The Moor’s Last Sigh is a 1995 novel by Salman Rushdie. Set in the Indian city of Bombay (or “Mumbai”) and Cochin (or “Kochi”), it is the first major work that Rushdie produced after the The Satani…


42. Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky

A book about Cod.


43. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1998 it won a Pulitze…


44. The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde

Audre Geraldine Lorde (February 18, 1934 — November 17, 1992) was a Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist.


45. Rising Tide by John Barry

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America


46. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible (1998) by Barbara Kingsolver is a bestselling novel about a missionary family, the Prices, who in 1959 move from Georgia to the fictional village of Kilanga in the Belgian Cong…


47. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda is a 1998 non-fiction book about the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, wr…


48. On the Bus with Rosa Parks by Rita Dove

In these brilliant poems, Rita Dove treats us to a panoply of human endeavor, shot through with the electrifying jazz of her lyric elegance.


49. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America is a novel by Philip Roth published in 2004. It is an alternate history in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindb…


Source: http://www.nypl.org/branch/books/index2.cfm?ListID=290



Categories: Literature & Fiction

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