Peter at Mosses from an Old Manse gives a list headed, with charming self-deprecation, “75 of maybe 150 ‘Essential Texts’ in No Particular Order and not including reference books”; I like this sort of personal grab-bag far more than the dutiful “100 Greatest Novels/Books/Poems of All Time” lists that are always being thrust on us, and it includes so many authors I myself love (Hugh Macdiarmid, Coleridge, Basil Bunting, Fernand Braudel, Charles Reznikoff, Lorine Niedecker, Hilary Mantel, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens [and I too would pick Harmonium of all his books])—including Charles Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta, a great, great book I thought no one besides me had read in decades (do not get an abridged edition, and you will need the OED constantly at hand)—that I’m thinking I should give Anthony Powell a try simply because he’s on the list.


  1. I really enjoyed the First Movement of Dance to the Music of Time when I read it a few years ago. I’m hoping to have a go at the whole piece this winter.

  2. Are you a fan of Bruce Chatwin? Any reference to travel literature makes me think of him…

  3. I’m a fan of his with the proviso that I haven’t actually read any entire books by him… but I’ve read enough excerpts to know he’s a wonderful writer, and I own The Songlines and am very much looking forward to reading it.

  4. Thanks for the link and kind words! Do read Powell, who amongst other things is not averse to using the odd word you have to look up. I came to Doughty from MacDiarmid’s 1936 essay ‘Charles Doughty and the Need for Heroic Poetry’, which is mostly about Doughty’s six volume epic “The Dawn in Britain”, which I had for a week once in the vanished days of free inter-library loans…

  5. The vanished days of free inter-library loans? What happened? Do you have to pay now?? At any rate, I dipped into “The Dawn in Britain” and decided it was more of a commitment than I could envision.

  6. I’m not a student, so at my local college library its 10 bucks a book now. Fellow Canadian poet (and big time bibliophile) Steve McCaffrey once casually claimed to have read the first four volumes….

  7. Ten bucks a book?! *faints*
    Thank ghod for the New York Public Library!

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