the Chuck Jones Essential Reading List

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“The author, O. Henry, taught me about the value of the unexpected. He once wrote about the noise of flowers and the smell of birds—the birds were chickens and the flowers, dried sunflowers rattling against a wall.”
— Chuck Jones

And so follows Chuck Jones’ list of Essential Books every literate, English-speaking person should read (at least once, probably more often). Click on the title to purchase the book. We have included either a brief summary of the book or its first paragraph when available directly below the title:

A Spy in the Family – Alec Waugh

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

A Travel Abroad – Mark Twain

A Treasury of Science – Harlow Shapely

Animal Architecture – Karl von Frisch.

Anything by Robert Parker

Babbitt – Sinclair Lewis

Cabbages and Kings – O’Henry

Career in C Major – James Cain

Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier

Damon Runyon short stories (at least three)

Double Indemnity – James Cain

Elmer Gantry – Sinclair Lewis

Farewell, My Lovely – Raymond Chandler

For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

Gamesmanship – Stephen Potter

Major Barbara – G.B. Shaw

My Life and Hard Times – James Thurber

Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

Roughing It – Mark Twain

Seventeen – Booth Tarkington

Short Stories of Somerset Maugham (at least two)

Silent Snow, Secret Snow – Conrad Aiken

Sir Niguel – A. Conan Doyle

Stalky and Company – Rudyard Kipling

The Autobiography of Lincoln Stephens

The Bar Sinister – Richard Harding Davis

The Crock of Gold – James Stephens

The Elements of Style – Strunk/White

The Gnome King of Oz – L. Frank Baum

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

The History of Mr. Polly – H.G. Wells

The Jungle Books – Rudyard Kipling

The Killers -- Ernest Hemingway

The Little Drummer Girl – John le Carre

The Moonstone -- Willkie Collins

The Poems of Robert Frost

The Red Pony – John Steinbeck

The Short Stories of Ring Lardner

The Short Stories of Saki (H.H. Monroe)

The Spy that Came in from the Cold – John le Carre

The Touch of Nutmeg – John Collier

The Varming – Owen Johnson

The White Company – A. Conan Doyle

Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome

Treasure Island – R.L. Stevenson

Turnabout – William Faulkner

Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh

Words at Play – Willard Espy