We asked friends and colleagues to contribute THE five books. Most wanted to know which five, meaning which kind, to which we quoted the “Propositio” of Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments, “The question is asked in ignorance.” Some contributed lists of five that must be read; some are “my” books most of all; some are what one would perhaps never think to find without a few good clues. This is the first of an ongoing series the Rail will publish twice a year. This winter will be the List of the Unread, which will give contributors a chance to enumerate the five most important books they still haven’t read.

—Robert Hullot-Kentor and Phong Bui

Dore Ashton (writer)

1. Hope Against Hope: A Memoir
by Nadezhda Mandelstam

2. Notes from Underground
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

3. The Journals of Andre Gide
by Andre Gide

4. Four Quartets
by T.S. Eliot

5. The Magic Mountain
by Thomas Mann



Shoja Azari (artist)

1. Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

2. The Trial
by Franz Kafka

3. One-Dimensional Man
Herbert Marcuse

4. Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Gabriel García Márquez

5. The Divided West
by Jürgen Habermas



Mowry Baden (sculptor)

1. So Long, See You Tomorrow
by William Maxwell

2. Collected Poetry and Prose
by Wallace Stevens

3. The Ames Demonstrations in Perception
by William H. Ittelson

4. Conversations with Cézanne
edited by Michael Doran

5. Greek Sculpture: a Critical Review
by Rhys Carpenter



Carol Becker (writer)

1. The Human Condition
by Hannah Arendt

2. Civilization and Its Discontents
by Sigmund Freud.

3. Eros and Civilization
by Herbert Marcuse.

4. Moby Dick
by Herman Melville.

5. Gravity and Grace
by Simone Weil.



George Braziller (publisher)

1. Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh
edited by Ronald de Leeuw

2. Selected Papers II:
Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries

by Meyer Schapiro

3. Convivencia: Jews, Muslims,
and Christians in Medieval Spain

by Vivian B. Mann

4. Ill Fares the Land
by Tony Judt

5. The Greatest Show on Earth:
The Evidence for Evolution

by Richard Dawkins



Sarah Brett-Smith (anthropologist)

1. Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory
by Alfred Gell

2. The Famished Road
by Ben Okri

3. The Dark Child
by Camara Laye

4. Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe

Phong Bui (publisher)

1 Fear and Trembling
by Søren Kierkegaard

2. The History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

by Edward Gibbon

3. Two Concepts of Liberty
by Isaiah Berlin

4. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
by Richard Hofstadter

5. Daniel Deronda
by George Eliot



Milton Cantor (historian)

1. The Age of Empire: 1875 – 1914
by Eric J. Hobsbawm

2. The Life and Extraordinary
Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin

by Vladimir Voinovich

3. The Education of Henry Adams:
An Autobiography

by Henry Adams

4. In Search of Paul:
How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s
Empire with God’s Kingdom

by John Dominic Crossan

5. Uncle Vanya
by Anton Chekhov



Mário Vieira de Carvalho

1. Origins of Human Communication
by Michael Tomasello

2. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere:
An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society
by Jürgen Habermas

3. Aesthetic Theory
by Theodor W. Adorno

4. The Book of Disquiet
by Fernando Pessoa

5. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
by José Saramago



Paul Chan (artist)

1. On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored:
Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life
by Adam Phillips

2. The Odyssey
by Homer

3. Tristes Tropiques
by Claude Levi-Strauss

4. Stories and Texts for Nothing
by Samuel Beckett

5. A Pen Warmed-Up in Hell: Mark Twain in Protest
by Mark Twain



Rackstraw Downes (painter)

1. The Old Masters of Belgium and Holland
by Eugène Fromentin

2. Peasants and Other Stories
by Anton Chekhov, Selected by Edmund Wilson

3. Safe Conduct:
An Autobiography and Other Writings

by Boris Pasternak

4. Rural Rides
by William Cobbett

5. “The Machine Stops” from
Eternal Moment and Other Stories
by E. M. Forster

Devi Dumbadze (social philosopher)

1. Stalin: A Critical Survey of Bolshevism
by Boris Souvanine

2. Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value
by Isaak Illich Rubin

3. Ice
by Vladimir Sorokin

4. Hidden State, Living Money:
On the Dramaturgy of Anti-Semitism

by Gerhard Scheit

5. The Science of Value:
Marx’s Critique of Political Economy

by Michael Heinrich



Fabio Durão (literary theorist)

1. Education by Stone: Selected Poems
by João Cabral de Melo Neto

2. An Anthology of
Twentieth-Century Brazilian Poetry

by Elizabeth Bishop

3. Family Ties
by Clarice Lispector

4. The Devil to Pay in the Backlands
by Joao Guimaraes

5. The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas
by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis



Ron Gorchov (painter)

1. The Fragility of Goodness:
Luck and Ethics in Greek
Tragedy and Philosophy
by Martha C. Nussbaum

2. Crowds and Power
by Elias Canetti

3. Democratic Vistas, and Other Papers
by Walt Whitman

4. The Origin of Consciousness
in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

by Julian Jaynes

5. Gertrude and Claudius
by John Updike



Tom Huhn (philosopher)

1. Inferno (Rev. Cary trans.)
by Dante

2. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

3. Civilization and its Discontents
by Sigmund Freud

4. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
by Max Weber

5. The Birth of Tragedy
by Friedrich Nietzsche



Odile Hullot-Kentor (psychoanalyst)

1. The Primitive Edge of Experience
by Thomas H. Ogden

2. The Individual and the
Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy

by Ernst Cassirer

3. Voyages to the Moon and the Sun
by Cyrano de Bergerac

4. Second Thoughts:
Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis

by Wilfred R. Bion

5. The Civilizing Process:
Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations
by Norbert Elias

Robert Hullot-Kentor (philosopher)

1. Rebellion in the Backlands
by Euclides da Cunha

2. The Discovery of the Mind
by Bruno Snell

3. Interviews with Francis Bacon:
The Brutality of Fact

by David Sylvester

4. Pedro Páramo
by Juan Rulfo

5. “Mozail” and Other Stories
by Saadat Hasan Manto



Carroll Janis (art historian)

1. Finnegans Wake
by James Joyce

2. Haiku (any good collection of these unique poems.)

3. Three Essays on the
Theory of Sexuality
by Sigmund Freud

4. Romanesque Art: Selected Papers, Vol. 1, Modern Art, 19th and 20th Centuries: Selected Papers, Vol. 2, Late Antique, Early Christian and Medieval Art, Vol. 3, Theory and Philosophy of Art: Style, Artist, and Society: Selected Papers, Vol. 4
by Meyer Schapiro

5. Shamanism
by Mircea Eliade



Donna Janis (art historian)

1. In Search of Lost Time
by Marcel Proust

2. Chronicle of a Death Foretold
by Gabriel García Márquez

3. Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville

4. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
by Sigmund Freud

5. Middlemarch
by George Eliot



Martin Jay (historian)

1. Call It Sleep: A Novel
by Henry Roth

2. Snow
by Orhan Pamuk

3. The New Old World
by Perry Anderson

4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon

5. Howards End
by E. M. Forster



Alex Katz (painter)

1. Russian Thinkers
by Isaiah Berlin

2. A Place in the Sun
by Lewis Warsh

3. How To Be Perfect
by Ron Padgett

4. Essential Burns
by Robert Burns, selected by Robert Creeley

5. Push the Mule
by John Godfrey



Robert Kaufman (literary critic)

1. Human Poems
by César Vallejo

2. Black Reconstruction in America: 1860 – 1880
by W. E. B. Du Bois

3. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land
by Aimé Césaire

4. Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy
by Hannah Arendt

5. Die Niemandsrose:
Vorstufen, Textgenese, Endfassung,
by Paul Celan


Mitch Leigh (composer)

1. The Lords of Finance:
The Bankers Who Broke the World

by Liaquat Ahamed

2. Letting Go
by Philip Roth

3. Call It Sleep: A Novel
by Henry Roth

4. A Concentrated Course in Traditional Harmony
by Paul Hindemith

5. The Amboy Dukes
by Irving Shulman



Richard Leppert (musicologist)

1. Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville

2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain

3. Catch 22
by Joseph Heller

4. Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

5. Billiards at Half-Past Nine
by Heinrich Böll



Charlotte Mandell (writer, translator)

1. Doktor Faustus
by Thomas Mann

2. In Search of Lost Time
by Marcel Proust

3. The Book to Come
by Maurice Blanchot

4. The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
by E. T. A. Hoffmann

5. Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov


Jonas Mekas (filmmaker, poet)

1. Mormon Bible

2. The Koran

3. The Bible

4. Book of the Dead

5. New York City Trees
A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area

by Edward S. Barnard



Robert Morgenthau (lawyer)

1. WAR
by Sebastian Junger

2. The Last Lion; The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy
by Peter Canellos

3. My Father’s Secret War: A Memoir
by Lucinda Franks

4. Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir
by Peter Balakian

5. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929 – 1945
by David M. Kennedy



Eileen Myles (writer, poet)

1. The Frank Poems
by C. A. Conrad

2. The Professor and Other Writings
by Terry Castle

3. The Wild, Wild East: An American Art Critic’s Adventures in China
by Barbara Pollack

4. Coma
by Pierre Guyotat

5. La Bâtarde
by Víolette Leduc



Victor Navasky (editor, writer)

1. The Book of Daniel: A Novel
by E. L. Doctorow

2. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt
by Albert Camus

3. Strange Life of Ivan Osokin
by P. D. Ouspensky

4. The Way of the Physician
by Jacob Needleman

5. Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss, and the Jewish Struggle with Modernity
by John Murray Cuddihy



Victoria Newhouse
(art historian, writer)

1. Auto-da-Fe
by Elias Canetti

2. Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist
by Heinrich von Kleist

3. Anna Édes
by Dezső Kosztolányi

4. Acts of the Apostles

5. No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33”
by Kyle Gann



David Novros (painter)

1. The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting
by Daniel V. Thompson

2. The Aeneid
by Virgil

3. A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens

4. The Wild Palms
by William Faulkner

5. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789 – 1815
by Gordon S. Wood



Jean-Baptiste Para (writer/editor)

1. The Aeneid
by Virgil

2. Operette Morali: Essays and Dialogues
by Giacomo Leopardi

3. Poems and Fragments,
Essays and Letters on Theory
by Friedrich Hölderlin

4. Poems and Essays
by Osip Mandelstam

5. The Principle of Hope
by Ernst Bloch



Michael Pelias (philosopher)

1. On the Genealogy of Morals
by Friedrich Nietzsche

2. Moby Dick
by Herman Melville

3. The Magic Mountain
by Thomas Mann



Joanna Pousette-Dart (painter)

1. Savage Detectives, By Night in Chile, 2666
by Roberto Bolaño

2. The Emigrants
by W. G. Sebald

3. A Fable
by William Faulkner

4. Travels with Herodotus
by Ryszard Kapuscinski

5. Collected Poems
by W. B. Yeats



Rose Rosengard-Subotnik

1. Sincerity and Authenticity by Lionel Trilling

2. When Memory Comes
by Saul Friedländer

3. The Denial of Death
by Ernest Becker

4. Hope Against Hope
by Nadezhda Mandelstam

5. The Haunting Melody:
Psychoanalytic Experiences in Life and Music
by Theodor Reik



David Salle (painter)

1. The Thirties:
From Notebooks and Diaries of the Period
by Edmund Wilson

2. The Forties:
From Notebooks and Diaries of the Period

by Edmund Wilson

3. The Fifties:
From Notebooks and Diaries of the Period

by Edmund Wilson

4. The Sixties:
The Last Journal

by Edmund Wilson

5. Patriotic Gore:
Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War

by Edmund Wilson



Richard Serra (sculptor)

1. Empire of Signs by Roland Barthes

2. What We Talk About When We Talk
About Love: Stories
by Raymond Carver

3. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

4. On Grief and Reason: Essays
by Joseph Brodsky

5. The Rome of Borromini Architecture as Language
by Paolo Portoghesi



David Levi Strauss (writer, critic)

1. Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion
by Philippe-Alain Michaud trans. by Sophie Hawkes

2. On the Composition of Images, Signs, and Ideas
by Giordano Bruno
trans. by Charles Doria, edited and annotated
by Dick Higgins

3. Hermes to His Son Thoth: Joyce’s Use of
Giordano Bruno in Finnegans Wake

Frances M. Boldereff

4. Four Dialogues for Scholars
Petrarch, trans. by Conrad H. Rawski

5 Aesthetics
Paul Valéry, trans. by Ralph Manheim



Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo
(political philosopher)

1. Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee

2. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

3. Politics and Vision by Sheldon S. Wolin

4. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

5. Dialectic of Enlightenment
by Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno



Robert Paul Wolff (philosopher)

1. Philosophical Fragments
by Søren Kierkegaard

2. The Bible

3. Gorgias by Plato

4. The Communist Manifesto
by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky