In the Fall of 1994, the legendary American writer David Foster Wallace was teaching an introductory English class at the University of Texas at Austin. His syllabus for the course included a reading list of 8 works of prose fiction described as “cheap, mass-market paperbacks.” Of these books – including work by Jackie Collins, Stephen King and C.S. Lewis – he issued prospective students a warning:

Don’t let any potential lightweightish-looking qualities of the texts delude you into thinking that this will be a blow-off-type class. These ‘popular’ texts will end up being harder than more conventionally ‘literary’ works to unpack and read critically.

Find the reading list for Wallace’s English 102 class below, and complement with the bookshelves of Philip Roth and Chuck Palahniuk.


Where Are The Children? by Mary Higgins Clark

Rock Star by Jackie Collins

The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy

Black Sunday by Thomas Harris

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Carrie by Stephen King

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty

(via Open Culture)

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