Necessary Books


DG’s Short Bibliography of Necessary Books

Like everything else around here, the Necessary Books page is a work in progress. Think of it as a self-help site for those of us failed by a college education system that has forgotten the usefulness of a sound cultural training in one’s own tradition, that has forgotten that knowing yourself is the first step in coming to terms with another.

(Asterisks indicate that the author has written other helpful books or essays which you can track down yourselves. Many of these books are out of print, but you can order most of them through the NC Bookstore.)


  • The Shaping of the Modern Mind, Crane Brinton
  • The Western Intellectual Tradition, Bronowski and Mazlich
  • Mappa Mundi: The Structure of Western Thought Douglas Glover
  • What Ever Happened to Modernism? Gabriel Josipovici
  • The Condition of Man, Lewis Mumford*
  • The Great Chain of Being, Arthur Lovejoy
  • A Short History of Ethics, Alisdair MacIntyre
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond (a review of this here)
  • Ecstasies, Carlo Ginzburg*
  • Night Battles, Carlo Ginzburg
  • Dreamtime, Hans Peter Duerr
  • Preface to Plato, Eric Havelock
  • Orality and Literacy, Walter J. Ong
  • The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi
  • Essays, Thomas Mann (esp. the essay on Schopenhauer)
  • The Sovereignty of Good, Iris Murdoch
  • Minima Moralia, Theodor Adorno*
  • Prisms, Theodor Adorno (esp. the essay on Kafka)
  • A Guide to Philosophy in Six Hours and Fifteen Minutes, Witold Gombrowicz
  • The Greeks and the Irrational, E. R. Dodds
  • Origins of the Modern Mind, Merlin Donald
  • Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson*
  • The Ruin of Kasch, Roberto Calasso*
  • The Conquest of America, Tzvetan Todorov*
  • The Logic of Writing and the Organization of Society, Jack Goody*
  • After Babel, George Steiner*
  • Cosmopolis, Stephen Toulmin
  • The Postmodern Condition, Jean-Francois Lyotard*
  • Illuminations, Walter Benjamin”
  • The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker*



Dictionary of the History of Ideas:

Rhetoric and Devices:

  • A Handbook to Literature, Thrall, Hibbard and Holman
  • A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, Richard A. Lanham
  • A Dictionary of Literary Devices, Bernard Dupriez

On Writers, Writing and Reading:


  • Notes Home From a Prodigal Son, Douglas Glover
  • The Enamoured Knight, Douglas Glover
  • Attack of the Copula Spiders, Douglas Glover
  • Rhythm in the Novel, E. K. Brown
  • Lectures on Literature, Vladimir Nabokov*
  • The Dialogic Imagination, M. M. Bakhtin*
  • The Theory of Prose, Viktor Shklovsky*
  • Doubling the Point, J. M. Coetzee
  • Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, René Girard*
  • Cassandra (including essays called “The Conditions of Narrative”), Christa Wolf*
  • The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera*
  • The Freedom of the Poet, John Berryman*
  • The ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound*
  • The Enemies of Promise and The Unquiet Grave by Palinurus, Cyril Connolly
  • Art and the Artist, Otto Rank
  • The Art of the Novel, Henry James
  • The Time of the Assassins, Henry Miller
  • The Goncourt Journals, the brothers Goncourt
  • Writing a Novel, John Braine
  • The Lion and the Honeycomb, R. P. Blackmur
  • The Gaze of Orpheus and The Siren’s Song, Maurice Blanchot
  • The Rhetoric of Fiction, Wayne Booth
  • Novels in the Making, William E. Buckler
  • Dickens at Work, Butt and Tillotson
  • And I Worked at the Writer’s Trade, Malcolm Cowley
  • The Notebooks for The Idiot, Dostoevsky
  • Literary Theory, Terry Eagleton
  • The Notebooks of Henry James, Mathiessen and Murdock
  • The Bright Book of Life, Alfred Kazin
  • Robert Liddell on the Novel, Robert Liddell
  • The Craft of Fiction, Percy Lubbock
  • The Theory of the Novel, George Lukacs
  • Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster
  • Introduction to Poetics, Tzvetan Todorov*
  • Story Writing, Edith Ronald Merrilies
  • Call me Ishmael, Charles Olson*
  • Meditations on Quixote, Ortega y Gasset*
  • Labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz*
  • The Sense of an Ending, Frank Kermode*
  • The Theory of the Novel, Philip Stevick
  • Prose Style, James R. Bennett
  • Essays Literary and Critical, Robert Louis Stevenson (the essay “On Style in Literature”)
  • Poetics and  Rhetoric, Aristotle
  • On Sublimity, Longinus
  • Toward a New Novel, Robbe-Grillet
  • “The Emotion of Multitudes,” essay by W. B. Yeats (in the Collected Works)
  • Fiction and the Figures of Life, William Gass*
  • The Writing of Fiction, Theodore Goodman
  • Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness, Leon Surmelian
  • English Prose Style, Herbert Read
  • Morphology of the Folk Tale, V. Propp
  • Shakespearean Design, Mark Rose
  • Witold Gombrowicz’s diaries, Volume 1 & 2*