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The Man and His Bookshelf: Christopher Hitchens

A non-exhaustive list inspired by author, writer and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens’s book recommendations.

Balliol College Library, University of Oxford. Hitchens studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the college between 1967 and 1970. Photo: Balliol College Library Facebook page

Literature, Rhetoric, and Criticism (800)

Watership Down by Richard Adams, 1972

Daughter of Fortune by Elizabeth Allende, 1998

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, 1955

Martin Amis’s novels, particularly The Rachel Papers, 1973, Success, 1978, and Money, 1984

Collected Poems by W.H. Auden, 2004

Austen’s Persuasion, 1818

J.G. Ballard’s Crash, 1973; High Rise, 1975; Empire of the Sun, 1984

Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy, 1991–95

Nothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes, 2008

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, 1953

John Buchan’s Greenmantle, 1916

Cain by Lord Byron, 1821

The Fall by Albert Camus, 1957

The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s by Humphrey Carpenter, 2002

Chaucer’s The Canterbury’s Tales, 1400

Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope, 2002

Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, 1866 

Middlemarch by George Eliot, 1871–72

Put Thou Thy Tears into My Bottle by James Fenton, 1969

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

The Ship by C.S. Forester, 1940

The Liar by Stephen Fry, 1991

I, Claudius, 1934, and The Greek Myths, 1955, by Robert Graves

Greek and Roman mythologies, including Aeneas, Apollo and Cassandra, Homer’s Iliad, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Romulus and Remus

Graham Greene’s novels Brighton Rock, 1938; The Power and the Glory, 1940; The End of the Affair, 1951

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, 1961

Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, 1940 

Huxley’s Brave New World, 1932

Ulysses by James Joyce, 1904

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, 1916

On the Road by Jack Kerouac, 1957

Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, 1894; Kim, 1901; and My Boy Jack, 1916

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, 1940

Faggots by Larry Kramer, 1978

Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems, 2003

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, 1928

The Golden Notebook, 1962; The Temptation of Jack Orkney and Other Stories, 1978; and The Day Stalin Died, 2002, by Doris Lessing

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, 1939 

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, 1924

Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel, 2009

Ian McEwan’s novels, particularly The Cement Garden, 1978; The Comfort of Strangers, 1981; Atonement, 2001

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, 1949

Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1667

Lolita, 1955, and Pale Fire, 1962, by Vladimir Nabokov

Edmund Burke by Conor Cruise O’Brien, 2002

Orwell’s early social novels about English life, particularly A Clergyman’s Daughter, 1935; Coming Up For Air, 1939; Keep The Aspidistra Flying, 1936

Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, 1938

Orwell’s Animal Farm, 1945

Orwell’s 1984, 1949

All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays by George Orwell (edited by George Packer), 2008

The War Poems of Wilfred Owen, 1994

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, 1957

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963

Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (French: À la recherche du temps perdu), also translated as Remembrance of Things Past, 1913

Salman Rushdie’s novels Shame, 1983; The Satanic Verses, 1988; The Moor’s Last Sigh, 1995 

The Complete Works of Shakespeare, fifth edn., 2003

Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, 1939

Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897

The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín, 1996

Tolstoy’s War and Peace, 1869 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, 1876

Julian, 1964, and Lincoln, 1984, by Gore Vidal

Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, 1928; Brideshead Revisited, 1945; the Sword of Honour Trilogy, 1952–61

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891, and The Importance of Being Ernest, 1895

P.G. Wodehouse’s stories (‘read for fun!’) particularly The Inimitable Jeeves, 1923; Carry On, Jeeves, 1925; Very Good, Jeeves, 1930; and Sunset at Blandings, 1977

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, 1987

The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, 2000

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, 1924

Christopher Hitchens at his home in Washington D.C., in 2010. Photo: The Financial Times

History and Geography (900)

London Under, 2012, by Peter Ackroyd

Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2006 

Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2010

Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum, 2003

The Benn Diaries by Tony Benn, 2005

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor, 2003

What is History? by E. H. Carr, 1961

The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield, 1935

The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940 by Isaac Deutscher, 2003

Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes, 2002

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel, 1946

The Meaning of Hitler by Sebastian Haffner, 1978

World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made by Irving Howe, 1976

 (Two volumes, 1998) I Will Bear Witness 1933–1941 and 1942–1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years by Victor Klemperer

Move Your Shadow: South Africa Black and White by Joseph Lelyveld, 1985

Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World by Kanan Makiya, 1994

Bosnia: A Short History by Noel Malcolm, 2002

The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz, 1953

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford, 1960

George Orwell: Diaries, 2010

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama, 1989

Orientalism by Edward Said, 1978

Memoirs of a Revolutionary by Victor Serge, 1963

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1962

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1973

Portrait of an Age by G. M. Young, 1936

Science (500)

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, 1859

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, 2011

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen Hawking, 1988

The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose, 2004

Cosmos by Carl Sagan, 1980

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, 1995

Philosophy (100) and Religion (200)

Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life by Theodor Adorno, 1951

Content and Consciousness by Daniel C. Dennett, 2010

Reason, Faith and Revolution by Terry Eagleton, 2009

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris, 2004

Leviathan: The Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civill by Thomas Hobbes, 1651

The philosophy of David Hume, in particular A Treatise of Human Nature, 1739–40; An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 1751; and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779

On The Nature of Things (De rerum natura) by Lucretius, First-century BC

The Holy Bible: King James Version, 1611

A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch, 2009

Milton’s Areopagitica, 1644

Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, 1886

Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity by William Paley, 1802

The Two Faces of Islam by Stephen Schwartz, 2002

The writings of Voltaire, including Letters on the English, 1733; Candide, 1759; and Treatise on Tolerance, 1763

Politics and Economics (300)

Spectrum: From Right to Left in the World of Ideas by Perry Anderson, 2005

The Clinton Tapes: Conversations With A President, 1993–2001 by Taylor Branch, 2010

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, 1988

The Essential Chomsky by Noam Chomsky, 1998

The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way by Peter Hitchens, 2009

Karl Marx’s notable works A Communist Manifesto, 1848, and Das Kapital, 1867–83

Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origins, Growth and Dissolution by Leszek Kołakowski, 1976

Writers and Politics: Essays and Criticism by Connor Cruise O’Brien, 1965

The writings of Thomas Paine, including The Rights of Man, 1791, and The Age of Reason, 1794

Leon Trotsky’s writings, including Stalin – An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence, 1940; In Defence of Marxism, 1942

The United States Declaration of Independence (Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston), 1776

Christopher Eric Hitchens died on 15 December 2011 from complications related to oesophageal cancer. Photo: Brooks Kraft/Corbis


Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22 (London: Atlantic, 2010)

Christopher Hitchens, And Yet…:Essays (New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2015)

Christopher Hitchens on Hatred, the Left, and His Favourite Authors – P. G. Wodehouse (1993), The Film Archives, 9 June

John Lloyd, ‘Life before Death’, Financial Times, 31 August 2012

Ian McEwan, ‘Christopher Hitchens, Consummate Writer, Brilliant Friend’, New York Times, 16 December 2011

Open Culture, ‘Ailing Christopher Hitchens Creates a List of Essential Books for an 8-Year-Old Girl to Read’, 7 September 2012

‘Paxman interviews Christopher Hitchens – Newsnight archives’, BBC Newsnight, 15 October 2015

Peter Whitby, ‘Christopher Hitchens obituary’, Guardian, 16 December 2011

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