American author, filmmaker, actor and political activist Norman Mailer burst onto the scene with 1948’s The Naked and the Dead, a novel based on his personal experiences of WWII. Quickly hailed as one of the country’s most promising young writers, Mailer spent the next six decades in the limelight – achieving notoriety not just for his literary achievements, but for his chauvinism, political outspokenness, and combative public persona.

For J. Peder Zane’s 2007 book The Top Ten – which also brought us the bookshelves of Stephen King and Tom Wolfe – Mailer provided a glimpse into his own literary influences in a list of his ten all-time favorite novels. Including classics by Tolstoy, Flaubert and Dostoyevsky, Mailer wrote:

“I find that the books I think of as great were read when I was still a young and unpublished writer, with the exception of Buddenbrooks and Labyrinths.”

Read on for his favorites, and complement with the reading lists of Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe and Philip Roth.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (also rec’d by Bruce Springsteen, Ernest HemingwayPhilip Roth & Susan Sontag)

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (also rec’d by David BowieErnest HemingwayKim Gordon & Philip Roth)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (also rec’d by David LynchJoan Didion & Philip Roth)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (also rec’d by Bruce Springsteen & Ernest Hemingway)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (also rec’d by Nora Ephron)

The U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (also rec’d by Bob DylanBruce SpringsteenPatti SmithRay BradburySteve Jobs & Tilda Swinton)

The Red and the Black by M. de Stendhal (also rec’d by JFK)

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (also re’d by Ernest Hemingway)

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (also rec’d by Daniel Radcliffe)

(via The Top Ten)

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