Jorge Luis Borges Selects 74 Books for Your Personal Library

borges personal library

“Jorge Luis Borges 1951, by Grete Stern” by Grete Stern (1904–1999). Licensed under Pub­lic Domain via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

Jorge Luis Borges’ terse, mind-expand­ing sto­ries reshaped mod­ern fic­tion. He was one of the first authors to mix high cul­ture with low, merg­ing such pop­u­lar gen­res as sci­ence fic­tion and the detec­tive sto­ry with heady philo­soph­i­cal dis­cours­es on author­ship, real­i­ty and exis­tence. His sto­ry “The Gar­den of the Fork­ing Paths,” which describes a nov­el that is also a labyrinth, pre­saged the hyper­tex­tu­al­i­ty of the inter­net age. His tone of iron­ic detach­ment influ­enced gen­er­a­tions of Latin Amer­i­can authors. The BBC argued that Borges was the most impor­tant writer of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

Of course, Borges wasn’t just an author. When not writ­ing fic­tion, Borges worked as a lit­er­ary crit­ic, occa­sion­al film crit­ic, a librar­i­an, and, for a spell, as the direc­tor of the Bib­liote­ca Nacional in Buenos Aires. His tastes were famous­ly eclec­tic. He did not think of much of canon­i­cal writ­ers like Goethe, Jane Austen, James Joyce and Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez. He favored the 19th sto­ry­tellers like Edgar Allan Poe and Rud­yard Kipling.

In 1985, Argen­tine pub­lish­er Hys­pamer­i­ca asked Borges to cre­ate A Per­son­al Library — which involved curat­ing 100 great works of lit­er­a­ture and writ­ing intro­duc­tions for each vol­ume. Though he only got through 74 books before he died of liv­er can­cer in 1988, Borges’s selec­tions are fas­ci­nat­ing and deeply idio­syn­crat­ic. He list­ed adven­ture tales by Robert Louis Steven­son and H.G. Wells along­side exot­ic holy books, 8th cen­tu­ry Japan­ese poet­ry and the mus­ing of Kierkegaard. You can see the full list below. A num­ber of the select­ed works can be found in our Free eBooks and Free Audio Books col­lec­tions.

1. Sto­ries by Julio Cortázar (not sure if this refers to Hop­scotch, Blow-Up and Oth­er Sto­ries, or nei­ther)
2. & 3. The Apoc­ryphal Gospels
4. Ameri­ka and The Com­plete Sto­ries by Franz Kaf­ka
5. The Blue Cross: A Father Brown Mys­tery by G.K. Chester­ton
6. & 7. The Moon­stone by Wilkie Collins
8. The Intel­li­gence of Flow­ers by Mau­rice Maeter­linck
9. The Desert of the Tar­tars by Dino Buz­za­ti
10. Peer Gynt and Hed­da Gabler by Hen­rik Ibsen
11. The Man­darin: And Oth­er Sto­ries by Eça de Queirós
12. The Jesuit Empire by Leopol­do Lugones
13. The Coun­ter­feit­ers by André Gide
14. The Time Machine and The Invis­i­ble Man by H.G. Wells
15. The Greek Myths by Robert Graves
16. & 17. Demons by Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky
18. Math­e­mat­ics and the Imag­i­na­tion by Edward Kas­ner
19. The Great God Brown and Oth­er Plays, Strange Inter­lude, and Mourn­ing Becomes Elec­tra by Eugene O’Neill
20. Tales of Ise by Ari­wara no Nar­i­hara
21. Ben­i­to Cereno, Bil­ly Budd, and Bartle­by, the Scriven­er by Her­man Melville
22. The Trag­ic Every­day, The Blind Pilot, and Words and Blood by Gio­van­ni Pap­i­ni
23. The Three Impos­tors
24. Songs of Songs tr. by Fray Luis de León
25. An Expla­na­tion of the Book of Job tr. by Fray Luis de León
26. The End of the Teth­er and Heart of Dark­ness by Joseph Con­rad
27. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gib­bon
28. Essays & Dia­logues by Oscar Wilde
29. Bar­bar­ian in Asia by Hen­ri Michaux
30. The Glass Bead Game by Her­mann Hesse
31. Buried Alive by Arnold Ben­nett
32. On the Nature of Ani­mals by Claudius Elianus
33. The The­o­ry of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
34. The Temp­ta­tion of St. Antony by Gus­tave Flaubert
35. Trav­els by Mar­co Polo
36. Imag­i­nary lives by Mar­cel Schwob
37. Cae­sar and Cleopa­tra, Major Bar­bara, and Can­dide by George Bernard Shaw
38. Macus Bru­tus and The Hour of All by Fran­cis­co de Queve­do
39. The Red Red­maynes by Eden Phillpotts
40. Fear and Trem­bling by Søren Kierkegaard
41. The Golem by Gus­tav Meyrink
42. The Les­son of the Mas­ter, The Fig­ure in the Car­pet, and The Pri­vate Life by Hen­ry James
43. & 44. The Nine Books of the His­to­ry of Herodotus by Her­do­tus
45. Pedro Páramo by Juan Rul­fo
46. Tales by Rud­yard Kipling
47. Vathek by William Beck­ford
48. Moll Flan­ders by Daniel Defoe
49. The Pro­fes­sion­al Secret & Oth­er Texts by Jean Cocteau
50. The Last Days of Emmanuel Kant and Oth­er Sto­ries by Thomas de Quincey
51. Pro­logue to the Work of Sil­ve­rio Lan­za by Ramon Gomez de la Ser­na
52. The Thou­sand and One Nights
53. New Ara­bi­an Nights and Markheim by Robert Louis Steven­son
54. Sal­va­tion of the Jews, The Blood of the Poor, and In the Dark­ness by Léon Bloy
55. The Bha­gavad Gita and The Epic of Gil­gamesh
56. Fan­tas­tic Sto­ries by Juan José Arreo­la
57. Lady into Fox, A Man in the Zoo, and The Sailor’s Return by David Gar­nett
58. Gul­liv­er’s Trav­els by Jonathan Swift
59. Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism by Paul Grous­sac
60. The Idols by Manuel Muji­ca Láinez
61. The Book of Good Love by Juan Ruiz
62. Com­plete Poet­ry by William Blake
63. Above the Dark Cir­cus by Hugh Wal­pole
64. Poet­i­cal Works by Eze­quiel Mar­tinez Estra­da
65. Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
66. The Aeneid by Vir­gil
67. Sto­ries by Voltaire
68. An Exper­i­ment with Time by J.W. Dunne
69. An Essay on Orlan­do Furioso by Atilio Momigliano
70. & 71. The Vari­eties of Reli­gious Expe­ri­ence and The Study of Human Nature by William James
72. Egil’s Saga by Snor­ri Sturlu­son
73. The Book of the Dead
74. & 75. The Prob­lem of Time by J. Alexan­der Gunn

As you will observe, Borges’ list is very short on books by women writ­ers. As a counter-offer­ing, you might want to explore this list: 74 Essen­tial Books for Your Per­son­al Library: A List Curat­ed by Female Cre­atives.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Borges: Pro­file of a Writer” Presents the Life and Writ­ings of Argentina’s Favorite Son, Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges’ 1967–8 Nor­ton Lec­tures On Poet­ry (And Every­thing Else Lit­er­ary)

Jorge Luis Borges’ Favorite Short Sto­ries (Read 7 Free Online)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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Comments (29)
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  • firpo says:

    Regard­ing Cortázar’s Sto­ries, he refers to the short sto­ries you find in Bes­tiario (1951) and Las armas sec­re­tas (1959).

  • Ahmad Mubarak says:


  • lokezombie says:

    This is my favorite web­site on the inter­net you guys always put me on to great stuff. Borges was an amaz­ing writer and read­er and all around human being and get­ting a look at some of his read­ing list is real­ly inter­est­ing. I want to check out a bunch of these books now just to see if I can get in his head a lit­tle bit.

  • Jan English Leary says:

    Where are the women writ­ers?

  • Lindsey says:

    Did I miss some­one? I mean, is there not a sin­gle woman?? I love Borges, but wow is this dis­ap­point­ing.…

  • Kevin says:

    I echo Jan and Lind­sey, but we can also ask why the list lacks authors from cer­tain cul­tures and even entire entire con­ti­nents. I guess if it’s a per­son­al library, it’s the books he enjoys, not nec­es­sar­i­ly those he thinks every­one must read (although that does seem implied).

  • Lynne cresitello says:

    That he would place Robert Louis Steven­son on his list with Kierkegaard assures my atten­tion. Steven­son is the first author I ever knew because my moth­er read to me from him when I was 3 and 4 years old; she did not read to me from Kierkegaard. Yet here on this list it’s more than just eclec­tic to see them togeth­er. Also, it’s not often one expects to find both Hen­ry and William James on the same list. He’s eas­i­ly for­giv­en for seem­ing not to appre­ci­ate any women writ­ers, but it is more lam­en­ta­ble per­haps for him I’d say than for myself.

    Appre­ci­at­ed post. Thank you. lsc

  • maria says:

    I think it was some­thing per­son­al, not an “offi­cial” list of books peo­ple should read. Being per­son­al, it does­n’t have any­thing to do with polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect­ness or to how (in)complete it is.
    Ask­ing why there are not women it’s like ask­ing why is there Aenei­da and not also Odis­ea by Homer? It’s just a mat­ter of taste. Taste is some­times ran­dom, and taste some­times does­n’t have a cer­tain gen­der.

  • Eric Bourland says:

    »>The Nine Books of the His­to­ry of Herodotus by Her­do­tus


  • Lindsey says:

    I fail to under­stand how Borges’ declin­ing to include *one* book, like the Odyssey, is in any way com­pa­ra­ble to his inabil­i­ty to rec­om­mend a sin­gle female author. It’s clear this list rep­re­sents his per­son­al taste… what I am sur­prised by is the fact that some­one as famous­ly wide­ly-read as Borges could­n’t come up with a sin­gle female writer to be excit­ed about. Like, not even one. No George Eliot, no Gertrude Stein, no Ale­jan­dra Pizarnik, no Clarice Lispector—not even Sap­pho or Emi­ly Dick­in­son. That’s not just pick­ing the Aeneid over the Odyssey—that’s ignor­ing a huge pop­u­la­tion of huge­ly influ­en­tial and inno­v­a­tive lit­er­ary land­scap­ers.

    I am, how­ev­er, very hap­py to see so many Latin Amer­i­can and Span­ish lan­guage writ­ers I nev­er knew before. Adding those to my list.

  • ĐURO MARIČIĆ says:

    Očigled­no da je JOSE LUIS BORGES slabo poz­navao rusku književnost.

  • Gira says:

    Great List.

    I think it’s mat­ter of good taste to pre­fer Aenei­da over Odyssey. Also it’s not sur­pris­ing that there is a lack of female authors, I don’t think that some­one like JLB would mod­i­fy his per­son­al taste only to sat­is­fies medi­oc­rity or polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. I can’t imag­ine any ‘best of list’ — in any field that have some­thing to do with cre­ativ­i­ty — with females. Of course you can push it just for the sake of your polit­i­cal agen­da, but that’s some­thing else.

  • Nicolás says:

    First, great post. Thank you.
    Sec­ond, just a detail: Borges died July 14th, 1986, not 1988.

  • Nicolás says:

    I mean June.
    My bad.

  • Dick Tam says:

    Just a mat­ter of fact, he likes the work of Silv­ina Ocam­po, claim­ing her as one of the great­est poets in the Span­ish lan­guage.

  • Isela says:

    He also liked the work of Vir­ginia Woolf. He trans­lat­ed her nov­el Orlan­do (into Span­ish), which is con­sid­ered a fem­i­nist clas­sic.

  • I am also puz­zled by the lack of female authors. Sure­ly in the his­to­ry of books and read­ing — there can be found a num­ber of tal­ent­ed, wor­thy female authors that could be includ­ed on his list. I am a “fan” of Mr. Borges. He direct­ly influ­enced my pas­sion for book col­lect­ing and he inspired me to grow my per­son­al library. He said, “I have always imag­ined Par­adise to be a kind of Library.” His list was unfin­ished at the time of his death so we can only won­der how he may have com­plet­ed the list. I choose to believe there were to have been women in some of the remain­ing posi­tions…

  • Eduardo Aparicio says:

    I find that shock­ing too, Maria. I’m sur­prised he did­n’t even list Vir­ginia Woolf, and yet he trans­lat­ed A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN into Span­ish. I have a copy, which he was gra­cious enough to auto­graph for me in Chica­go, back in 1980, as part of his US tour.

  • f staal says:

    Nobody knows (except Borges) the rea­sons behind his selec­tion of these books, and there could be many. To me, it looks like a list of writ­ings that he thought, at the time he was asked (very late in his life) informed or moved him. Please stop try­ing to make him, or his choic­es, con­form to YOUR ear­ly 21st cen­tu­ry ide­al of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. He was human and there­fore unique; not per­fect, not God. His edu­ca­tion and thus *some* of his sen­si­bil­i­ties were part the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, a very dif­fer­ent time than now. We are all prod­ucts of out times and you can be sure that many of our con­tem­po­rary ideals and cus­toms will look sil­ly, obso­lete, or bar­bar­ic in anoth­er hun­dred years.

  • P. Kubala says:

    I did­n’t know he did­n’t like Marquez…where have you read that? I seem to remem­ber an inter­view in which he says that he does­n’t read Var­gas Llosa, but he does read Mar­quez. I can’t imag­ine Borges not lik­ing One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, which is bor­ge­sian in many ways

  • Carlo Martinez says:

    Borges refers to all of them short sto­ries of JC.

  • Dubi says:

    It is unrea­son­able to crit­i­cize Borges for not includ­ing any women writ­ers onto his list. I would­n’t read it as a misog­y­ny, or belit­tling of women. As wise as he was, he was a man from oth­er times. Besides, he — as any­body else — had a right to his per­son­al tastes, that are not pushed onto any­body else.
    Ana­lyz­ing female char­ac­ters in the Odyssey saga using 21st cen­tu­ry’s fem­i­nist points of view is a lack of his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, and the same is valid for ana­lyz­ing Borges’s “best books” list using these points of view.

  • Mauricio Suarez says:

    The real Borges list (Hys­pamer­i­ca para Orbis (1985)) in span­ish is:
    1 Joseph Con­rad Con la soga al cuel­lo. El corazón de las tinieblas
    2 Julio Cortázar Cuen­tos
    3 Oscar Wilde Ensayos y diál­o­gos
    4 William Blake (1757–1827) Poesía com­ple­ta
    5 Hen­ri Michaux Un bár­baro en Asia Un bar­bare en Asie (1933)
    6 Anón­i­mo INDIA Bha­gavad-Gita Poe­ma de Gil­gamesh
    7 Gus­tave Flaubert La tentación de San Anto­nio La Ten­ta­tion de saint Antoine (1874)
    8 Gus­tav Meyrink El Golem The Golem (Der Golem) (1914)
    9 Robert Louis Steven­son Short sto­ries Las nuevas noches Árabes. New Ara­bi­an Nights (1882) Markheim “Markheim” 1885 JLB/BP9b
    10 William Wilkie Collins (1824–1889) La piedra lunar (vol.I) The Moon­stone (1868)
    11 William Wilkie Collins (1824–1889) La piedra lunar (vol.II) The Moon­stone (1868)
    12 Mar­cel Schwob Vidas imag­i­nar­ias Vies imag­i­naires (“Imag­i­nary Lives”) (1896)
    13 Fray Luis de Leon Can­tar de Cantares. Exposi­ción del Libro de Job (1855)
    14 Her­man Melville Ben­i­to Cereno. Bil­ly Budd, .Bartleby,el escri­bi­ente
    15 Ari­wara No Nar­i­hi­ra JAPON Cuen­tos de Ise 伊勢物語 (Ise Mono­gatari) (794 to 1185 ?)
    16 Hen­ry James Short sto­ry La lec­ción del mae­stro The Les­son of the Mas­ter (1888). La figu­ra en la alfom­bra The Fig­ure in the Car­pet (1896). La vida pri­va­da The Pri­vate Life (1892)
    17 Vir­gil La Enei­da
    18 Snor­ri Sturlu­son (1179–1241) Saga de Egil-Skalla­grims­son Egils saga (1240 AD?)
    19 Franz Kaf­ka TWC Améri­ca Ameri­ka (1927).
    Relatos breves
    20 Arthur Machen Los tres impo­s­tores The Three Impos­tors (1895)
    21 Dino Buz­za­ti El desier­to de los tár­taros Il deser­to dei Tar­tari (1940)
    22 Fran­cis­co de Queve­do Mar­co Bru­to. Vida de Mar­co Bru­to (1644) La hora de todos (1699)
    23 G.K. Chester­ton short sto­ry La cruz azul The Blue Cross (1910) y otros cuen­tos
    24 Mau­rice Maeter­linck ensayo La inteligen­cia de las flo­res L’Intelligence des fleurs (1907)
    25 Anón­i­mo ensayo Evan­ge­lios apócri­fos
    26 Hern­rik Ibsen teatro Peer Gynt (1867) teatro Hed­da Gabler (1890)
    27 J. M. Eça de Queiroz El man­darín O Man­darim (1880)
    28 Leopol­do Lugones El impe­rio jesuíti­co
    29 Andre Gide Los mon­ederos Fal­sos Les Faux-mon­nayeurs (1925)
    30 Anón­i­mo ensayo Evan­ge­lios apócri­fos JLB/BP30
    31 H.G. Wells La máquina del tiem­po The Time Machine (1895) El hom­bre invis­i­ble The Invis­i­ble Man (1897)
    32 Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky Los demo­ni­os I
    33 Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky Los demo­ni­os II
    34 Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky Los demo­ni­os II
    35 Anón­i­mo ensayo Evan­ge­lios apócri­fos
    Robert Graves Los mitos grie­gos
    36 Edward Kas­ner + James New­man ensayo Matemáti­cas e imag­i­nación
    37 Eugene O´Neill (1888–1953) Nobel 1936 El gran dios Brown The Great God Brown (1926)
    Extraño inter­lu­dio Strange Inter­lude (1928)
    38 Eugene O´Neill (1888–1953) Nobel 1936 A elec­tra le sien­ta el luto
    39 Gio­van­ni Papani Lo trági­co cotid­i­ano. El pilo­to ciego. Pal­abras y san­gre,
    40 Edgar Allan Poe Cuen­tos
    41 Edward Gib­bon Deca­den­cia y ruina del Impe­rio Romano
    42 Her­man Hesse Nobel 1946 El juego de los abalo­rios
    43 Enoch Arnold Ben­nett (1867–1931) Enter­ra­do en vida Buried Alive (1908)
    44 Clau­dio Eliano His­to­ria de los ani­males
    45 Thorstein Veblen Teoría de la clase ociosa
    46 Juan Rul­fo Pedro Páramo JLB/BP
    47 George Bernand Shaw Nobel 1925 César y Cleopa­tra. La coman­dante Bár­bara. Cán­di­da
    48 Eden Phillpotts (1862–1960) Los rojos Red­maine The Red Red­maynes (1922)
    49 Soren kierkegaard Temor y tem­blor
    50 Heró­do­to Los nueve libros de la his­to­ria
    51 Heró­do­to Los nueve libros de la his­to­ria
    52 Rud­yard Kipling Nobel 1907 Cuen­tos
    53 William Beck­ford Vathek
    54 Daniel Defoe Moll Flan­ders
    55 Mar­co Polo Via­jes
    56 Jean Cocteau El secre­to pro­fe­sion­al y otros tex­tos
    57 Thomas de Quincey Los últi­mos días de Emmanuel Kant y otros relatos
    58 Ramón Gómez de la Ser­na la obra de Sil­ve­rio Lan­za
    59 Adolf Gal­land (1649–1715) selec­ción Las mil y una noches según Gal­land I
    60 Adolf Gal­land (1649–1715) selec­ción Las mil y una noches según Gal­land II
    61 León Bloy La sal­vación por los judíos
    62 Juan José Arreo­la Con­fab­u­lario
    63 David Gar­nett De dama a zor­ro. Un hom­bre en el zoológi­co. La vuelta del marinero
    64 Jonathan Swift Via­jes de Gul­liv­er
    65 Paul Grous­sac n. Argenti­na ensayo Críti­ca lit­er­aria
    66 Manuel Muji­ca Lainez Los ído­los
    67 Juan Ruiz (arcipreste de Hita) (c1283-c1351) Libro de buen amor (1330 y 1343)
    68 Hugh Wal­pole (1884–1941) En la plaza oscu­ra Above the Dark Cir­cus (1931)
    69 Eze­quiel Martínez Estra­da Obra poéti­ca
    70 J. W. Dunne ensayo Un exper­i­men­to con el tiem­po
    71 Voltaire (1694–1778) Cuen­tos
    72 Attilio Momigliano ensayo Ensayo sobre el “Orlan­do Furioso”
    73 William James Las var­iedades de la expe­ri­en­cia reli­giosa (I) .
    74 William James Las var­iedades de la expe­ri­en­cia reli­giosa (II) .
    75 Alexan­der Gunn (1896–1975) El prob­le­ma del tiem­po (I)
    76 Alexan­der Gunn (1896–1975) El prob­le­ma del tiem­po (II)
    78 Fray Luis de León Exposi­ción del libro de Job (II)
    80 Anón­i­mo El libro de los muer­tos

  • Craig says:

    Can’t believe not a sin­gle trans-albi­no dif­fer­ent­ly abled LGTGQHIGHI!H. What is this world com­ing to?

  • Daniel Eduar Alonso says:

    Sor­ry Mauri­cio, I have the entire col­lec­tion in my house and that isnt the real list. The real list is the one that appears in the main arti­cle. I can send you pho­tos to probe it.
    In Cor­tazar tales he choose: Casa Toma­da, Lejana, Circe, Bes­tiario, Las puer­tas del cielo, Con­tinuidad de los par­ques, Las ménades, El ído­lo de las cícli­das, Rela­ta con un fon­do de agua, Axolotl, La noche boca arri­ba, Final del juego, Car­tas a mamá, Todos los fue­gos el fuego, La isla a mediodía y El otro cielo.
    About the lack of women writ­ers or oth­er one, the orig­i­nal plan were 100 books and he died in the process, we dont know if there was a women or Cer­vantes, Shake­speare, Homer or anoth­er one.

  • Urania Ombo says:

    Not one sin­gle heli­copter-gen­dered POC oth­erkin? What. The. Heck.
    It is the cur­rent year peo­ple, can’t believe this. I just can’t. Can’t.

  • Theo says:

    The real list is hid­den in his sto­ries.

  • Richard says:

    Oh,stop. Borges would­nt care about your list of gyno- authors. They either expe­ri­enced oppre­sion ‚or they did­nt. If so, they could­nt write or it was reserved for upper class pale women. If there­was no oppres­sion, where is the female Tolstoy,Chekhov,Dostoyevsky,Borges,Kafka…nowhere. They dont exist. They can and prob­a­bly will, but havent.

  • Azzedine Mabrouki says:

    Borges avait rate les auteurs arabes, africains,chinois, turcs,quel dom­mage…

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