Henry Miller Makes a List of “The 100 Books That Influenced Me Most”


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Take a sur­vey of a hun­dred writ­ers from the mid- to late-twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry about the books that influ­enced them most and you’re bound to find plen­ty of Hen­ry Miller tucked in with the Vic­to­ri­ans, the Rus­sians, and the Beats. The Brook­lyn-raised author of such noto­ri­ous­ly banned nov­els as Trop­ic of Capri­corn and Trop­ic of Can­cer has long appealed to con­tem­po­rary writ­ers not only because of his frank explo­rations of sex­u­al­i­ty and oth­er taboo sub­jects but also because—like so many avant-garde and not so avant-garde writ­ers after him—he had the audac­i­ty to present his own life and loves as lit­er­ary mate­r­i­al. Long before the mem­oir became the dom­i­nant force in Amer­i­can let­ters, with all of the atten­dant con­tro­ver­sies about truth-telling in the form, Miller blend­ed fact and fic­tion in ways that made it hard to tell where one end­ed and the oth­er began.

Miller’s rep­u­ta­tion for liv­ing his fiction—or fic­tion­al­iz­ing his life—may have led many read­ers with only a pass­ing famil­iar­i­ty with his books to regard him as a kind of shame­less self-mythol­o­giz­er. The char­ac­ter­i­za­tion isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly wrong, but it only cap­tures part of the sto­ry. Like every seri­ous writer, Miller was also a seri­ous read­er, and his work is as much informed by the books he loved as by the women he loved.

Miller freely acknowl­edged the lit­er­ary rela­tion­ships in his life, the authors who exert­ed influ­ence on his work and whose styles and ideas he bor­rowed and made his own. He wrote an entire book on the sub­ject, The Books in My Life, which Maria Popo­va at Brain Pick­ings describes as “a sin­gu­lar lens on his approach to read­ing.” In the book, Miller’s “cen­tral con­cern is a kind of anato­my of influ­ence,” Popo­va writes, tak­ing a phrase from lit­er­ary crit­ic Harold Bloom.

In his med­i­ta­tion on “his sources of cre­ative spark,” Miller dis­cuss­es at length his ideas about edu­ca­tion, and its many fail­ings. And in the book’s appendix—as if antic­i­pat­ing our cur­rent mania for lists—he makes a com­pre­hen­sive record of “The 100 Books that Influ­enced Me Most.” See Miller’s com­plete list below, and read The Books in My Life free at the Open Library. A fair num­ber of the books on Miller’s list can be found in our col­lec­tion, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

1 Ancient Greek Drama­tists
2 Ara­bi­an Nights (for chil­dren)
3 Eliz­a­bethan Play­wrights (except­ing Shake­speare)
4 Euro­pean Play­wrights of 19th Cen­tu­ry
5 Greek Myths and Leg­ends
6 Knights of King Arthur’s Court
7 Abèlard, Pierre, The Sto­ry of My Mis­for­tunes
8 Alain-Fournier, The Wan­der­er
9 Ander­sen, Hans Chris­t­ian, Fairy Tales
10 Anony­mous, Diary of a Lost One
11 Balzac, Hon­oré de, Seraphi­ta
12 Balzac, Hon­oré de, Louis Lam­bert
13 Bel­lamy, Edward, Look­ing Back­ward
14 Bel­loc, Hilaire, The Path to Rome
15 Blavatsky, Mme. H. P., The Secret Doc­trine
16 Boc­cac­cio, Gio­van­ni, The Decameron
17 Bre­ton, André, Nad­ja
18 Bronte, Emi­ly, Wuther­ing Heights
19 Bul­wyer-Lyt­ton, Edward, Last Days of Pom­peii
20 Car­roll, Lewis, Alice in Won­der­land
21 Céline, Louis-Fer­di­nand, Jour­ney to the End of the Night
22 Celli­ni, Ben­venu­to, Auto­bi­og­ra­phy
23 Cen­drars, Blaise, Vir­tu­al­ly the com­plete works
24 Chester­ton, G.K., Saint Fran­cis of Assisi
25 Con­rad, Joseph, His works in gen­er­al
26 Coop­er James Fen­i­more, Leather­stock­ing Tales
27 Defoe, Daniel, Robin­son Cru­soe
28 De Ner­val, Gérard, His works in gen­er­al
29 Dos­toievsky, Feodor, His works in gen­er­al
30 Dreis­er, Theodore, His works in gen­er­al
31 Duhamel, Geoges, Salavin Series
32 Du Mau­ri­er, George, Tril­by
33 Dumas, Alexan­der, The Three Mus­ke­teers
34 Eck­er­mann, Johann, Con­ver­sa­tions with Goethe
35 Eltzbach­er, Paul, Anar­chism
36 Emer­son, Ralph Wal­do, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Men
37 Fab­re, Hen­ri, His works in gen­er­al
38 Fau­re, Elie, The His­to­ry of Art
39 Fenol­losa, Ernest, The Chi­nese Writ­ten Char­ac­ter as a Medi­um for Poet­ry
40 Gide, André, Dos­toievs­ki
41 Giono, Jean, Refus d’Obéis­sance
42 Giono, Jean, Que ma joie domeure
43 Giono, Jean, Jean le Bleu
44 Grimm Broth­ers, Fairy Tales
45 Gutkind, Erich, The Absolute Col­lec­tive
46 Hag­gard, Rid­er, She
47 Ham­sun, Knut, His works in gen­er­al
48 Hen­ty, G. A., His works in gen­er­al
49 Hesse, Her­mann, Sid­dhartha
50 Hud­son, W. H., His works in gen­er­al
51 Hugo, Vic­tor, Les Mis­érables
52 Huys­mans, Joris Karl, Against the Grain
53 Joyce, James, Ulysses
54 Key­ser­ling, Her­mann, South Amer­i­can Med­i­ta­tions
55 Kropotkin, Peter, Mutu­al Aid
56 Lao-tse, Tao Teh Ch’ing
57 Latzko, Andreas, Men in War
58 Long, Haniel, Inter­lin­ear to Cabeza de Vaca
59 M, Gospel of Ramakr­ish­na
60 Machen, Arthur, The Hill of Dreams
61 Maeter­linck, Mau­rice, His works in gen­er­al
62 Mann, Thomas, The Mag­ic Moun­tain
63 Menck­en, H. L., Prej­u­dices
64 Niet­zsche, His works in gen­er­al
65 Nijin­sky, Diary
66 Nord­hoff & Hall, Pit­cairn Island
67 Nos­tradamus, The Cen­turies
68 Peck, George Wilbur, Peck­’s Bad Boy
69 Per­ci­val, W. O., William Blake’s Cir­cle of Des­tiny
70 Petro­n­ius, The Satyri­con
71 Plutarch, Lives
72 Powys, John Cow­per, Visions and Revi­sions
73 Prescott, William H., Con­quest of Mex­i­co
74 Prescott, William H., Con­quest of Peru
75 Proust, Mar­cel, Remem­brance of Things Past
76 Rabelais, Gar­gan­tua and Pan­ta­gru­el
77 Rim­baud, Jean-Arthur, His works in gen­er­al
78 Rol­land, Romain, Jean-Christophe
79 Rol­land, Romain, Prophets of the New India
80 Rud­h­yar, Dane, Astrol­o­gy of Per­son­al­i­ty
81 Saltus, Edgar, The Impe­r­i­al Pur­ple
82 Scott, Sir Wal­ter, Ivan­hoe
83 Sienkiewicz, Hen­ry, Quo Vadis
84 Sike­lianos, Angh­e­los, Proanakrous­ma
85 Sin­nett, A. P., Eso­teric Bud­dhism
86 Spencer, Her­bert, Auto­bi­og­ra­phy
87 Spen­gler, Oswald, The Decline of the West
88 Strind­berg, August, The Infer­no
89 Suarès, Car­lo, Krish­na­mur­ti
90 Suzu­ki, Daisetz Teitaro, Zen Bud­dhism
91 Swift, Jonathan, Guil­liv­er’s Trav­els
92 Ten­nyson, Alfred, Idylls of the King
93 Thore­au, Hen­ry David, Civ­il Dis­obe­di­ence & Oth­er Essays
94 Twain, Mark, Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn
95 Van Gogh, Vin­cent, Let­ters to Theo
96 Wasser­mann, Jacob, The Mau­r­iz­ius Case (Tril­o­gy)
97 Weigall, Arthur, Akhna­ton
98 Welch, Gal­braith, The Unveil­ing of Tim­buc­too
99 Wer­fel, Franz, Star of the Unborn
100 Whit­man, Walt, Leaves of Grass

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leo Tol­stoy Cre­ates a List of the 50+ Books That Influ­enced Him Most (1891)

28 Impor­tant Philoso­phers List the Books That Influ­enced Them Most Dur­ing Their Col­lege Days

Stephen King Cre­ates a List of 96 Books for Aspir­ing Writ­ers to Read

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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