People ask me for book recommendations quite frequently and I have half a dozen ways of putting them off to avoid the matter, usually resorting to some commonly accepted classic but occasionally offering something that I like myself. This last thing is a problem for a small bookseller. Typically I don’t have a copy of a book I would recommend because I’ve already done that too recently and haven’t had time to restock the shelf. But worse. too often my taste in letters does not match that of the customer. When I later ask, ‘How did you like it?’ and they answer, ‘It was okay.’ it’s a dagger in my bookseller’s heart.

These are unusual times and I have taken the chance here to recommend some books. They are all easily available at biblio.com or abebooks.com and if you research a title for just a few minutes at goodreads.com you will likely eliminate any clunkers.

My standard here is that these are all books I’ve read more than once and would happily read again. It does not purport to be a list of the best books ever written or any such thing. There are many more books I’ve read once that I would never read again, (some admittedly great), and many more I’ve never finished. And, of course, there are countless fine books I have not yet managed to read, so I really don’t know them yet except by reference. I still have the best of intentions in that regard and high hopes. I have discovered new titles just in the past year that I’m already rereading because they enlarged my world and enlightened me, pleasured me, and offered comfort.

You will notice there is a predominance of fiction, but there is history and biography too. I offer no reason here for my loving these particular works. They stand on their own merits. Any comment I might make could only miss the mark. However, there are some wonderful book reviewers out there and its worth the time to find the ones who tend to like what you might enjoy. An example of that for me was Noel Perrin. His A Reader’s Delight had me discover William Dean Howell’s Indian Summer as well as Eric Newby’s Love and War in the Apennines. If you are trapped at home, there is much of that kind available. You can grow old just reading reviews, so it will help if you find a kindred mind to point the way. Which is also to say, you are unlikely to like all of these titles here. Books are a personal matter.

(Note: this list is constructed during the Covid 19-epidemic, with my shop temporarily closed, and cannot be completed simply for the fact that my memory has too many lapses. I’ll add a few more titles as they occur.)

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Uncle Silas by H. E. Bates
  • The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
  • Boswell’s London Journal by James Boswell
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  • Green Mantle by John Buchan
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • Witness by Whittaker Chambers
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
  • Miss Marple: The Collected Short Stories by Agatha Christie
  • Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
  • Youth (three stories) by Joseph Conrad
  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Great Expectation by Charles Dickens
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas
  • The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Between The Woods and The Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney
  • Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
  • Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Golden Bough by James Fraser
  • The Collected Poems of Robert Frost
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
  • The Holy Bible (King James Version)
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Greek Myths by Robert Graves
  • Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
  • Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm
  • The Log of a Forty-niner by Richard L. Hale
  • The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay.
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  • Indian Summer by William Dean Howells
  • The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  • Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo
  • Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  • Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett
  • Modern Times by Paul Johnson
  • Dubliners by James Joyce
  • Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Elmer Kelton Country, by Elmer Kelton
  • The Time it Never Rainer by Elmer Kelton
  • Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Collected poems of Rudyard Kipling
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  • My Father’s House by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr.
  • Mr. Revere and I, by Robert Lawson
  • Ben and Me by Robert Lawson
  • The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis
  • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Le Morte de Arthur by Thomas Malory
  • The Last Gentleman Adventurer by Edward Beauclerk Maurice
  • Rising From the Plains by John McFee
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Happy Days by H.L. Mencken
  • Prejudices (collected) by H.L Mencken
  • Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Michell
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • A Gift of Fire by Richard Mitchell
  • Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
  • Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby
  • The Habit of Being by Flannery O’Connor
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  • Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Works of William Shakespeare
  • Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
  • Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
  • With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz
  • Sketches of America’s Past by Eric Sloan
  • A Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith
  • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  • The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Gulliver’s Travel by Jonathan Swift
  • Tschiffely’s Ride by A. F. Tschiffely
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Autobiography of Anthony Trollope
  • Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Collected Short Stories of Mark Twain
  • Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  • The White Hills by Cornelius Weygandt
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
  • Essays of E. B. White
  • One Man’s Meat by E. B. White
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  • Our Town by Thornton Wilder
  • The Virginian by Owen Wister
  • Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe
  • From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe
  • The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats