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The 10 Best John Updike Books
Christopher Carduff, who was handpicked by John Updike to edit the Library of America edition of his work, also edits the posthumous Updike publications for Knopf, the latest of which, John Updike: Selected Poems, will be published this month. We asked Mr. Carduff to choose ten of his favorite books by Updike in a variety of genres.
1. Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy - Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; and Rabbit at Rest: this series epitomizes for many readers their experience of Updike—indeed their experience of the postwar American novel. Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, an ex–high school basketball player on uneasy terms with the responsibilities of adulthood, is a creature in constant motion: he perceives, he reacts, he leaps out of harm’s way— and then, immediately facing some new hazard (usually of his own making), he is forced to leap again. He lives, with a kind of animal grace, in an eternal present tense; his senses are sharper than ours, his life force stronger, even though his thoughts are more confused and more troubled by ineffable longing. None of Updike’s contemporaries created a more representative American protagonist, and none, not even Nabokov, could match Updike when it came to pinning down those grand and gaudy butterflies that were the American Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. Read these books in the definitive Everyman omnibus edition of 1995, which features a fascinating introduction by the author.
2. Olinger Stories: A Selection - If the Rabbit series gives us Updike at his “hottest,” at his most ambitious and improvisatory, his New Yorker short stories present us with an artist of opposite temperament. Here is the work of an exquisite miniaturist, a cool, controlled Vermeer who paints domestic scenes on small canvases in tiny, deliberate, gorgeously colored brushstrokes. This book, a selection by the author from his early autobiographical stories, mythologizes, in 11 episodes, his boyhood in small-town Pennsylvania during the 1940s. It includes at least two works, “Pigeon Feathers” and “The Happiest I’ve Been,” that, had Updike written nothing else, would guarantee his immortality as a master of the American short story.
3. Of the Farm - This pastoral for four voices—an aging farm widow, her visiting fortyish son, his new (second) wife, and his 11-year-old stepchild—ranks with So Long, See You Tomorrow and The Ghost Writer among the very few near-perfect postwar American novellas. The mute sandstone farmhouse that witnesses the unfolding of an emotionally fraught family weekend is one of Updike’s many settings with all the presence of a human character.
4. The Maples Stories - In his scenes from the marriage of Joan and Richard Maple (“Snowing in Greenwich Village,” “Separating”), Updike created, more memorably and more tenderly than he did in Couples , enduring emblems of American adultery, divorce, and their aftermath. “That a marriage ends is less than ideal,” Updike writes in a preface, “but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds. The moral of these stories is that all blessings are mixed.”
5. The Witches of Eastwick - Updike’s comic triumph of 1984, which features not one but three of his best drawn female characters, was the original “paranormal romance.” It is the tale of Darryl Van Horne, a vulgar, hairy, petty demon newly arrived in a gossip-ridden Rhode Island port town, who, by harnessing the powers of a coven of comely and comradely witches, works some very real evil on certain “deserving” members of the local populace. Read Witches in tandem with its sequel, the underrated Widows of Eastwick (2009): the two novels, like the three witches, gain magic from their proximity to one another.
6. In the Beauty of the Lilies - This multi-generational saga, published in 1996, is my favorite of Updike’s later novels. Michiko Kakutani thought this story—a working-out-through-the-flesh of the American fever dreams of Protestant fundamentalism, Hollywood fantasy, and utopian social idealism—even more historically and sociologically ambitious than the Rabbit cycle. “In charting the fortunes of an American family through some 80 years,” she wrote, “[Updike] showed how dreams, habits, and predilections are handed down generation to generation, parent to child, even as he created a kaleidoscopic portrait of this country from its nervous entry into the 20th century to its stumbling approach to the millennium."
7. Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu: John Updike on Ted Williams - On September 28, 1960, Red Sox slugger Ted Williams swung his bat one last time in Boston’s Fenway Park. He hit a home run—a storybook ending to a storied career—and Updike was there to capture it, in what no less an authority than Roger Angell has called “the best baseball essay ever.” In 2010, on the 50 th anniversary of Ted’s legendary homer, The Library of America reprinted Updike’s single foray into sports reporting, together with a memorial tribute, “Ted Williams, 1918–2002.” Updike’s fannish identification with Williams, an artist who put his heart into his work every time he approached the plate, is palpable in every line.
8. Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism - If Updike donned the sportswriter’s eyeshade as a one-time-only lark, he assumed the tweed jacket of the literary journalist as a kind of daily public uniform. After 1960 he dominated the Books pages of The New Yorker , publishing more than 400 reviews and essays there over the next five decades. Of his six oversized collections of criticism, Hugging the Shore , which won a 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award, seems to me the richest and strongest. Here are magisterial lectures on Melville, Hawthorne, and Whitman; enduringly readable reviews of Nabokov, Bellow, and Cheever; and consummate examples of all the sorts of occasional writing Updike put his hand to, from humorous sketches and literary translations to definitive tributes to poets, theologians, astronomers, and movie stars.
9. Self-Consciousness: Memoirs - John Hoyer Updike’s unconventional memoirs consists of six Emersonian essays on deeply personal subjects: his coming to consciousness in small-town Pennsylvania; his Updike and Hoyer ancestors; his psoriasis; his stuttering; his conservative politics; his Protestant faith and his sense of being a “self” forever. This is not an autobiography, it is a meditation on John Updike’s life as “a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly uniquely lives in the world.” This is not confessional gossip, it is a study in being alive.
10. Endpoint and Other Poems - Updike’s first book, published in 1958, was a collection of verse, The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures. His last book, too, was a volume of verse, Endpoint and Other Poems (2009). In these books and in the six collections of poetry that came between, Updike was frequently a “real” poet, not merely “also” a poet. Certain of his poems—“Seven Stanzas at Easter,” “Dog’s Death,” “A Rescue,” “Rats”—seem destined for a long life in standard poetry anthologies. But true lovers of poetry will, I think, come to treasure most the title poem of Endpoint , a chronicle, in supple and intimate blank-verse sonnets, of Updike’s final years that suddenly, with the last few devastating entries in the sequence, telescopes into an intimate journal of his final days.
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10 Best John Updike Books (2023)
John Hoyer Updike was born in 1932 and died in 2009 from lung cancer. He achieved a lot of success in his life and became a great American writer, novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, literary critic, and more. His career as a writer began in the 1950s and after rising to fame and success, John became one of the four other writers who won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once at that time.
More than a hundred of his short stories, poems, reviews, and other works have been featured in The New Yorker and other popular magazines. Some of the best-rated John Updike books you will want to read include his most famous series ever, the Rabbit Angstrom series. The list also features The Centaur, Bech series, and others.
Best John Updike Books
Rabbit angstrom series, super exciting.
It’s no surprise that we are starting our list with his most famous work ever. Updike’s Rabbit Series features 5 of the most exciting books you will ever read. The first book in the series, Rabbit, Run, is the book that put John among the major American novelists of his time. The main character, the one that makes the story inside mind-blowingly exciting is called Harry Rabbit Angstrom.
You are going to have a great time learning about Harry and discovering what kind of a character he is. All you need to know from our list of books by John Updike is that Harry is a one-time high school basketball star who, in an instance, decides to abandon his wife and son for no apparent reason at first.
Rabbit’s Spiritual Quest
Harry is in his mid-twenties when the story begins in Rabbit, Run and you get to accompany him on his journey as the years pass, he gets older, and the story progresses. Harry has some doubts about his life and is experiencing things that are unfamiliar to him.
He is having feelings he has never had before, and is in the middle of some type of crisis, hence his impulsive decisions. The Rabbit series by Updike is something you want to start with if you want the full experience of the master.
Throughout these 5 exciting novels, you are going to see so many things and follow Harry wherever his new journey in life takes him. The reason these five are a few of John Updike’s best books is that you get to follow an exciting character on an even more stimulating adventure.
You can’t even imagine how the series will end as John is known for his unpredictable writing style. There are so many things that are going to catch you off guard and surprise you every step of the way. Get ready to read a few of the all-time best John Updike books ever.
The Twelve Terrors of Christmas
Short and funny.
This is a very short book that highlights Updike’s feelings about Christmas. It really is quite short, around 30 pages, and is filled with 12 short texts on everything he doesn’t like about Christmas. Accompanying the short and humorous texts are unique illustrations by Edward Gorey. He starts with his thoughts on Santa, the big man himself, and rants about the things that make him fake and uninteresting.
He then continues on other famous features that accompany the Christmas traditions like his reindeer, his helpers, and so on. This is a very interesting book and is among the top John Updike books out there but you probably won’t want to gift it to someone who is very excited about this winter holiday as it might be a huge bummer for them.
For All the Christmas Scrooges
Many people share John’s opinion on this holiday and have a fantastic time reading this book. From what many John Updike book reviews mention, it is really fun hearing what he has to say, as many others have been thinking the same things. If you feel the same then you might even complain about the book being too short and not having enough material to work with.
Take all of this into consideration before you decide that this is a book about the joy of Christmas. It is the exact opposite as it focuses on Anti-Christmas topics written in the humorous and entertaining writing style of Updike. If you share the same opinion about Christmas with John then you are going to enjoy this book a lot.
If you are familiar with the legend of Chiron, the Greek Mythology story about the centaurs, the son of the Titan Cronus and Philyra, then you are really going to enjoy reading this book by Updike. It’s one of the best-selling John Updike books and the story inside is a marvelous retelling of the legend of Chiron.
The way John writes it is in a modern style and here is what he changed. The great land of Olympus is now known as Olinger Highschool and is located in a very small town. Chiron himself is called George Caldwell and he works as a science teacher in Olinger. Prometheus, the God of Fire, is George’s fifteen-year-old son, called Peter.
Updike’s The Centaur won a national book award thanks to the story inside that wonderfully describes the events from this Greek Mythology tale in a modern sense. His story takes place in rural Pennsylvania in 1947 and happens over three winter days.
The way that John manages to capture the essence of the story and describe Chiron’s painful search for relief through these characters is what makes this book one of the best John Updike books ever and the complements by the judges of the National Book Award were remarkable for the same reason.
John’s Bech series is another one of his ways of entertaining his fans by creating some of the most exciting characters and stories around them. This John Updike books list originally contains 3 books but 4 other editions complement the original story quite nicely.
The three original works include Bech: A Book, Bech is Back, and Bech at Bay. There is another book from the series, called The Complete Henry Bech, that covers everything John has written about him from start to finish, and a few other collections as well.
Bech: A Book
This is the first book of the series that introduces you to Henry Bech himself. It’s one of the most popular John Updike books about Bech and allows you to get to know the main character. Henry is a Jewish American writer in his forties who becomes famous and wealthy through his books. You get to accompany Bech on his travels across Europe, meet various mistresses, and do whatever it takes to succeed.
Bech is Back
The second book in the series brings Henry back and offers another one of his adventures in life. By now, we know Henry and his famous writer’s block but that is about to change in the story that follows. He is a bit older now, in his fifties, he finds quite the woman to marry and his career as a writer is about to experience a dramatic turn.
Bech at Bay
And in Bech at Bay, our favorite character gets a bit older, but with age comes a bit of wisdom as well. In this final book of the trilogy, he is in his seventies and is still driven by his passion for writing.
His career has skyrocketed and you get to read about a different Henry than from when it all began. Beck at Bay might be the best John Updike novel from the series as you get to find out the ending to a wonderful series.
Gertrude and Claudius
John takes his love of legends once more to write another classic hit that gathers even more fans. This one is a strong competitor for being the all-time best John Updike book ever. This time, drawing inspiration from ancient Scandinavian legends, he tells his version of the story that inspired Hamlet and the complex relationship between Gertrude and Claudius.
John’s intentions with this book were to write a prequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. You get to enjoy a wonderful story about the same characters that made Hamlet the powerful story that it is and see them in a new edition, one that happened before the events of Hamlet.
It’s admirable how John manages to create such a similar story to the original with all of the most important characters and also provide no shortage of drama. The story begins with the King of Denmark as he marries his lovely daughter to the narcissistic Horwendil the Jute.
They have a child together and give him the name Hamlet. Horwendil becomes King and things begin to mode rather quickly. You are going to meet new characters and see events move toward the beginning of Hamlet. It’s a wonderful story about how John imagined the events before Hamlet starts and it’s a nice way of looking at things.
One of the first things you are going to notice about this book by John is how similar it is to Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Even the characters have very similar names but the plot does have important changes here and there. It’s one of John Updike’s best novels as this story is one to remember for a long time.
The plot is filled with love, hate, endurance, tragedy, and lots more. The characters are as memorable as ever and John takes the time to describe everything that happens with passion and taste.
Lover Before All Else
This is a story of love at first sight, a strong bond between two people who meet in South America, before anything else. The first chapters that open the story and introduce you to the plot and the characters are the most difficult to read but later everything becomes much clearer.
After you get to know the main characters, Tristao Raposo and Isabel Leme, it’s going to be pretty hard to put the book down until you get to the bottom of everything. It’s one of the best John Updike novels with a story that progresses quite nicely as you follow these two characters on their difficult journey to make their love for each other possible and face the challenges that come their way.
The Early Stories
This is the book you will want to get if you are new to Updike as an author and you want to get to know all there is about him before checking out one of his books. It contains many of John Updike’s best short stories collected between 1953 and 1975. You get to read stories from when he was a boy, about many personal experiences, and a few of his stories from early in his career.
The book opens with his autobiographical short stories in which he discusses experiences from his childhood during the Great Depression in a small Pennsylvania town. It’s great how the book and the stories inside progress in chronological order as you get to read about John and his life as he grows up.
Away From Home
The book is a long one, approximately 800 pages, and there are many moments to discuss inside. You get to read about his days of being a student and how he spent his time while he was away from home. Then comes the challenge of marriage and forming a family, and then you finally reach the most exciting stuff, his earliest stories on The Single Life.
It’s exciting to be able to read and find out what Updike’s earliest work was like. From his experimental stages to writing the famous John Updike Rabbit novels and more. Hidden inside this book, is a lot of excitement, happiness, thrill, mystery, and much more.
Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy
The eighth book we offer you is probably the most powerful one yet as the story inside is one with meaning and a message. In Terrorist, his twenty-second novel in order, John writes about a fictional character he names Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy. Ahmad is eighteen years old and is a person with great devotion to Allah and a life that started out rough from the very beginning.
Ahmad is a child of an Irish-American mother who raised him all on her own after his Egyptian exchange student father bailed on him when he was only 3 years old. When Ahmad turns eleven years old he turns to Islam after he was influenced by a stern Imam in his hometown of New Prospect, New Jersey.
The Grooming of a Terrorist
The story inside does tend to get a bit scary and weird at some points but nothing Updike writes is without meaning. It’s exciting to see where the plot will take you as you read about Ahmed and how the Imam at a local mosque influences him over the following pages. The story is, as mentioned, a serious one with many thought-provoking events and the ending is as suspenseful as it sounds.
Our list is getting shorter and shorter and the next to last pick we have to offer you is his Eastwick series. Only two books can be found in this series and their titles are The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick. The stories inside are full of the paranormal, fantasy, mystery, and a lot of suspense.
The Witches of Eastwick
In the first book, you get to read about Updike’s thoughts on white women in America during the 1960s. There are a few main characters, women, who develop certain powers and use them to bewitch divorcees in Eastwick.
The Widows of Eastwick
The events in the second book take place three decades after the first book ends. You read about the same three characters who offer much of the excitement in the first book, Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie. They were the ones with the magical powers and are now widows. They decide to leave town, remarry, and follow where the road takes them.
In the Beauty of the Lilies
The last entry in our review is In the Beauty of the Lilies. This book is an amazing historical fiction by John that takes place during the 1900s. The story starts with one of the main characters, Reverend Clarence Wilmot. He is a minister who suddenly loses his faith and plunders in a life filled with the oddest of jobs.
Then you meet his son Teddy who won’t step inside another church after seeing what happened to his father. Then you meet Teddy’s daughter who becomes a Hollywood starlet, and so the story continues. This book covers the evolution of this crazy family over around 80 years. The story inside is among the best from our Updike novels list . There are many weird things to discover about this family and many things to learn as well.
Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.
12 Best John Updike Books For Book Lovers
One of the greatest American novelists of all time, John Updike is remembered for his “Rabbit” series . Discover the best John Updike books in our guide.
John Hoyer Updike was a popular American novelist who wrote fiction focusing on life in the middle-class United States. Many of his books discussed small-town American issues, such as religious issues, infidelity, and family obligations. While Updike’s books heavily focused on Christian theology, he wasn’t overly religious, and people of many faiths have found that they can relate to his writing.
His prose style is known as dry and intelligent, and fans love his work for its ability to create something beautiful out of something simple. While the author passed away in 2009, his great short stories and novels still stand out today. Teachers and professors across the country regularly have students figuring out how to write an expository essay on Updike’s work. The short story writer and novelist was one of the greatest American writers ever to grace library shelves.
1. Rabbit, Run
2. rabbit redux, 3. rabbit is rich, 4. rabbit at rest, 5. rabbit remembered, 7. the centaur, 9. gertrude and claudius, 10. the witches of eastwick, 11. pigeon feathers, 12. marry me, how many pulitzer prizes did john updike get, did john updike win a nobel prize, what is the rabbit series by john updike.
Published in 1960, the first book in the series that details the life of Harry Angstrom, Rabbit, Run explores how the life of a high school basketball star changes as he finds himself dissatisfied with life in his mid-20s. From a struggling marriage to an unfulfilling job, Rabbit must begin to make choices that will make or break the rest of his life. If you like reading historical fiction books, you might want to check out our round-up of the best James Michener books !
“I once did something right. I played first-rate basketball. I really did. And after you’re first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate.”
In the first book of the Rabbit series, Harry attempts to find happiness in the arms of another woman. In the second book in the series, Harry discovers his wife has also had an affair and struggles with how he’ll move forward. Published in 1971, this book explores how Rabbit deals with the questions life bring as he approaches the fourth decade of his life.
“We were all brought up to want things and maybe the world isn’t big enough for all that wanting. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.”
Following suit with the rest of the Rabbit series, Rabbit Is Rich was published in 1981. Rabbit enjoys financial well-being in this part of the series as his job at a Toyota agency has begun to take off. Characters from the first two books reappear in the third installment of the series, allowing readers to get to know parts of Rabbit’s younger life on a deeper level. In this part of the series, readers learn how the events of the late 70s and early 80s–including a flailing economy–affect the Angstrom family.
“You have a life and there are these volumes on either side that go unvisited; some day soon as the world winds he will lie beneath what he now stands on, dead as those insects whose sound he no longer hears, and the grass will go on growing, wild and blind.”
Published in 1990, Rabbit at Rest takes readers through Angstrom’s continued heart troubles and issues he’s beginning to notice in his children, such as concerning impulsive behavior from his son, Nelson. Readers also learn more about the ups and downs of Rabbit’s marriage with his wife as she enters the workforce for the first time. Finally, Rabbit struggles through middle-age life in the fourth installment of the series, trying to search for meaning in his life.
“Ever since his heart attack there is a gnawing in his stomach whose cause he can’t locate until he realizes it is the terror of being trapped inside his perishing body, like being in a prison cell with a madman who might decide to kill him at any moment.”
This 2001 novella offered Rabbit fans a chance at closure with their beloved protagonist. Readers are stunned to find that although Rabbit has passed away, his widow, Janice, is faced with how to handle the arrival of Annabelle, Rabbit’s 39-year-old daughter, who was the result of an affair. Returning to Brewer, Rabbit’s Pennsylvania hometown, and revisiting familiar characters provides a sense of nostalgia and familiarity to those who grew up with Rabbit.
“Part of being human is being on the verge of disgrace.”
Updike is known for his take on small-town American life, especially in discussing the drama that often occurs secretly within family units. In Couples , Updike details problems behind closed doors, showing readers accounts of what it takes for couples to break up or stay together. Published in 1968, this book is regarded by many as ahead of its time with its frank discussion of sexuality.
“In her rare moods of liberation she held for him the danger that she would disclose great riches within herself, showing him the depths of loss frozen over by their marriage.”
Published in 1962, rife with Greek mythology symbolism, The Centaur details the relationship between a science teacher and his son. Many readers identify with Peter, the science teacher’s son, as he can articulate his feelings to his father, who cannot do the same. The Centaur won the National Book Award and was heralded as a “brilliant account of a conflict in gifts.”
“The brontosaurus had thirty-ton body and a two-ounce brain. The anatosaurus had two thousand teeth. Triceratops had a helmet of filled bone seven feet long. Tyrannosaurus rex had tiny arms and teeth like six-inch razors and it was elected President.”
Published in 1994, Brazil details the fateful meeting of two young lovers on Copacabana Beach. Tristao and Isabel meet in Brazil, fall in love, get married, and begin making their way to the country’s western frontier. The book spans more than two decades of their lives together, allowing readers to get to know the two characters and watch how their love for one another grows over time.
“We are fated to love one another; we hardly exist outside our love, we are just animals without it, with a birth and a death and constant fear between. Our love has lifted us up, out of the dreadfulness of merely living.”
Designed as a prequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Updike takes the two characters who would eventually go on to kill Hamlet’s father and humanizes the pair. Updike successfully made light of a terribly dark couple and changed the two from hated villains into a beloved pair who a depressed prince constantly overshadowed. The novel was published in 2000 and was widely celebrated by critics and readers alike.
“Being in the chapel frightened her, as if her young body were a sin, to be avenged some day, pierced from underneath even as she sipped the rasping wine, the caustic blood of Christ, from the jewel-beknobbed chalice. The chill, the Latin, the fusty smells made her feel accused; her natural warmth felt chastened.”
Published in 1984, this fun, fresh take on the occult follows the stories of Sukie, Jane, and Alexandra as they manage to summon weather, float on thin air, and change physical objects into something new. The trio manages their day jobs with witchcraft in ways that make readers giggle, and the book cements Updike as a humorist and serious novelist.
“Wickedness was like food: once you got started it was hard to stop; the gut expanded to take in more and more.”
A part of Updike’s 1962 collection of short stories, Pigeon Feathers shows the author’s penchant for romance and discusses different types of love, from parental to romantic. In addition, the short stories showed Updike’s maturation as an author and allowed readers to see that he could do more than write about life as a former high school basketball star. You might be interested in exploring fiction books, such as the best William Faulkner novel .
“What is the past, after all, but a vast sheet of darkness in which a few moments, pricked apparently at random, shine?”
Updike’s 1962 romance story was heralded by Newsweek as his “best novel yet,” and readers agreed that his take on infidelity in suburbia provided a fresh and witty perspective on the truth in some relationships. In addition, readers love the way Updike brings the story full-circle in its final moments. Looking for more books to add to your reading list? Check out our round-up of the best Agatha Christie books !
“Since the start of their affair he was always running, hurrying, creating time where no time had been needed before; he had become an athlete of the clock, bending odd hours into an unprecedented and unsuspected second life. He had given up smoking; he wanted his kisses to taste clean.”
FAQs About The Best John Updike Books
It’s hard to say which is the best John Updike book, as the author was awarded two Pulitzer prizes and is only the third American in Pulitzer Prize history to win more than once. His awards in 1982 and 1991 were both for work included in his Rabbit series.
A common misconception, John Updike did not ever win a Nobel Prize . Instead, his Bech at Bey character, Harry Bech, was awarded a Nobel Prize, leaving many Updike fans confused about whether the author himself was ever awarded such an honor. Updike did, however, win two Pulitzer Prizes.
The Rabbit series entails four novels and one novella, each detailing the life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. Each of the four books– Rabbit, Run , Rabbit Redux , Rabbit Is Rich , and Rabbit at Rest –and the novella, Rabbit Remembered –take place at the end of a decade.
Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.
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John Updike was an American novelist, poet, short-story writer, art critic, and literary critic. He is widely recognized for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, having published more than twenty novels, numerous short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Updike is perhaps best known for his 'Rabbit' series, which chronicles the life of Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, a middle-class American man, over the course of several decades. His work is known for its detailed reflection on the American middle class, exploring themes of desire, mortality, and the passage of time. Updike's style is notable for its rich descriptive language and deep psychological insight. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice, among many other accolades.
This list of books are ONLY the books that have been ranked on the lists that are aggregated on this site. This is not a comprehensive list of all books by this author.
1. Rabbit, Run
The novel follows the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball star, who is dissatisfied with his current life. He impulsively leaves his wife and son and embarks on a journey in the hopes of finding a more meaningful existence. His decisions, however, lead to a series of tragic events that impact the lives of those around him. This mid-20th-century novel explores themes of freedom, responsibility, and the tragic consequences of impulsive decisions.
2. Rabbit Is Rich
The book follows the life of a former high school basketball star, who is now in his mid-forties and has inherited a Toyota dealership from his father-in-law. He is living a comfortable life with his wife and son in Brewer, Pennsylvania during the late 1970s. The story unfolds as he navigates through his midlife crisis, dealing with his rebellious son, his longing for his old mistress, and his own insecurities and dissatisfaction. The narrative provides a deep dive into the protagonist's thoughts and feelings, offering a detailed examination of middle-class American life during this era.
3. Rabbit Redux
The novel is a sequel in a series following the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a middle-aged man living in a small Pennsylvania town. When his wife leaves him for another man, he finds himself alone and struggling to make sense of the rapidly changing world around him. In his loneliness, he takes in a young runaway and her racially divisive boyfriend, leading to a series of events that force Rabbit to confront his own prejudices and fears. The book is a vivid portrayal of the American social and political climate of the 1960s.
4. Rabbit at Rest
The novel is a final look into the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a former high-school basketball star, now in his mid-fifties, overweight and grappling with several health issues. Despite his success in business, his personal life is in shambles, with his wife addicted to alcohol and his son to drugs. Harry, struggling with his mortality, is trying to understand his past and make sense of his future, while dealing with the changing American society and the consequences of his own choices.
5. The Poorhouse Fair: A Novel
The novel revolves around the residents of a poorhouse (a government-run facility for the destitute and elderly) in a small town. The narrative primarily focuses on the interactions between the residents and the young, ambitious prefect during an annual fair. The book is a profound exploration of aging, memory, dignity, and the clash between the old and new generations. The fair becomes a battleground where different philosophies of life and attitudes towards progress are debated and tested.
6. The Witches Of Eastwick
In a quaint Rhode Island town, three divorced women discover their shared supernatural abilities and form a coven of witches. Their lives are upended with the arrival of a mysterious and charismatic stranger who seduces each of them, stoking their powers and ambitions. As the women navigate their complex relationships with this man and each other, they confront the conservative mores of their community, leading to a series of conflicts and transformations that challenge their notions of female independence and power. The novel explores themes of sexuality, feminism, and the dynamics of social conformity through the lens of magical realism.
7. The Early Stories
"The Early Stories" is a compilation of short stories that provide a vivid depiction of post-war America. The narratives cover a wide range of topics, including love, marriage, death, and faith, all told through the experiences of the ordinary middle-class citizen. The stories are praised for their insightful exploration of human nature and the complexities of everyday life.
8. The Centaur
The novel follows the life of George Caldwell, a high school teacher in a small town in Pennsylvania, who is struggling with feelings of disappointment and failure. He is constantly compared to his father, a mythological centaur, symbolizing the conflict between the mundane and the extraordinary. The narrative alternates between the modern world and the mythological realm, exploring themes of identity, disillusionment, and the struggle between the human and the divine.
"Self-Consciousness" is a memoir that delves into the personal life of a renowned author, exploring his childhood, his relationship with his parents, his struggles with psoriasis and stuttering, as well as his religious beliefs and views on death. The author's reflections on his life are deeply personal, introspective, and filled with a sense of vulnerability, providing an intimate look into his experiences and thought processes. The book offers an insightful exploration of the author's self-consciousness and how it has shaped his life and work.
10. The Coup
"The Coup" is a satirical novel that tells the story of Colonel Hakim Félix Ellelou, the ruler of a small, fictional, underdeveloped African nation. The narrative, delivered through Ellelou's first-person perspective, explores his anti-Western sentiments, his struggles with modernity and development, and his complex personal life, including his relationships with his four wives. The novel presents a critique of both Western imperialism and African dictatorships, using humor and wit to examine the complexities of global politics.
John Updike Books In Order
Publication order of harry "rabbit" angstrom books, publication order of henry bech books, publication order of buchanan books, publication order of scarlet letter trilogy books, publication order of maples stories collections, publication order of eastwick books, publication order of standalone novels, publication order of short stories books, publication order of short story collections, publication order of picture books, publication order of non-fiction books, publication order of poetry collections, publication order of contemporary literature and the life of faith books, publication order of anthologies.
John Updike is an American author. His full name is John Hoyer Updike. He is most recognized for his positive impact on the world of American literature. Two of his Rabbit books won Updike two Pulitzer prizes, one for each. His stories, poems, and reviews have been featured in print since the 1950s and they often explore such topics as faith, sex, death, and inter-relationships between the themes.
He describes his subject as American small town. He is celebrated for his prolific writing and craftsmanship of the written word. He has published twenty-two novels and had many collections of his short stories published. He has also had several children’s books and poems as well as literary criticism published.
Updike is widely considered one of the best writers to ever grace American literature. He was born March 18, 1932, in Pennsylvania. He attended Harvard College in 1954 and then spent a year attending the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England. He joined the staff of the New Yorker from 1955 to 1957 and then moved to Massachusetts where he lived until his death at age 76 on January 27, 2009.
John Updike had four children. He is the author of over fifty books that span everything from poetry to short stories and criticism as well as fiction. His books have won a variety of awards from the American Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, Howells Medal, and Rosenthal Award.His first book ever published was a poetry collection.
He followed it the next year with The Same Door, his first collection of short stories. His debut fiction novel was Rabbit, Run. He is the writer of the Henry Bech series as well as the Maples Stories. He was also the originator of The Witches of Eastwick, which was released in 1984 and was a big hit.
The novel did so well that it was adapted into a famous feature-length film released in 1987. It was directed by George Miller and starred Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon. In the movie, the three women play dissatisfied women living in Eastwick, Rhode Island, who became entranced by a mystery man that comes to town. The film was shot in Cohasset, Massachusetts.
He is the author of the Rabbit Run series. Rabbit, Run was released in 1960 and was named one of the best English-language novels by Time magazine. This novel would establish him as one of the biggest novelists of his generation and entered him into the literary history books.
The main character in this series is Harry Angstrom, nicknamed Rabbit. He used to be a basketball star but deserts his family at twenty-six years of age. After that, he goes through the trials of being an adult, from a boring job to a dissipating marriage on more. However, he may end up finding peace in exhaustion. There are four books in the series. Rabbit Redux was the sequel and it was released in 1971. Rabbit Is Rich was released in 1981 and the fourth in the series came out in 1990.
Rabbit, Run is the first in the Rabbit series. Harry Angstrom is also known by the name Rabbit. At the age of 26, he has a wife and he has a son. He was once a basketball star in high school, but it seems that he is somewhere between childhood and manhood. On an impulse, he deserts his family and flees from home.
Rabbit is caught in a struggle between himself and the demands of society, between instinct and thought, caught between family duty and feeling like a man. He is somewhere between Divine Grace and the errors of mortality. Rabbit finds himself running away from everything that he is supposed to stick around for. All the while, he manages to convince himself or find faith in his own belief that he is doing the right thing and on the correct path towards his own salvation. He just has to keep going and he will eventually get there.
Can Rabbit find his way and is right in thinking that he is pursuing destiny? Or will he have a change of heart and see eventually that he is abandoning his wife and son to fend for themselves? Pick up the debut novel in this series Rabbit, Run to find out!
Rabbit Redux is the sequel to Rabbit, Run. Celebrated American author John Updike returns the reader to the world of Harry Rabbit Angstrom and takes us back to an Everyman’s spiritual quest. The sequel does not pick up right where the first novel in the series left off. Instead, it is nearly a decade later that the reader is starting to get acquainted with Rabbit again.
Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom used to be an all-star in high school and ruled the court. But now in his increasingly middling age, the athlete has seen his stomach begin to paunch out and his face bloat a little. He doesn’t quite have the slender athletic figure that he prized before. Now he is no longer youthfully 26 but 36, and a conservative at that. Whereas before he left his family behind, he is now in a strange age.
The calm that occupied America under President Eisenhower has been replaced with a roiling mix of drugs, fantasy, violence, and technology. Things are not the same as they once were, and Rabbit may see the tides turning as things start to come full circle. Karma is unfortunate when it swings back at you, and Harry Angstrom experiences a series of unfortunate events.
The first thing that happens is that he is abandoned by his family. Then his house happens to be invaded by a radical and a runaway. His past and all the promise of it is long gone, yet Rabbit is just barely able to stay sane. He’s trying his best to be a good citizen, but all he wants to do is belong to something and believe in something once more. Can things turn around for him? Pick up Rabbit Redux to find out for yourself in this masterfully written novel from John Updike.
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Order of John Updike Books
John Updike’s first book to be published was a poetry collection entitled The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures . The next year, he came out with his first short story collection, entitled The Same Door . Finally, his debut novel was the 1960 novel Rabbit, Run , which Time magazine listed as one of the 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Below is a list of John Updike’s books in order of when they were originally published:
Publication Order of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom Books
Publication order of henry bech books, publication order of buchanan books, publication order of scarlet letter trilogy books, publication order of maples stories collections, publication order of eastwick books, publication order of standalone novels, publication order of short stories books, publication order of short story collections, publication order of picture books, publication order of non-fiction books, publication order of poetry collections, publication order of contemporary literature and the life of faith books, (with anne tyler, flannery o'connor, raymond carver, tillie olsen, wendell berry, john cheever, alice walker, louise erdrich, robert olen butler, mary gordon, garrison keillor, allegra goodman, tess gallagher, tobias wolff, james baldwin, gail godwin, annie dillard, henry louis gates jr., reynolds price, oscar hijuelos, richard rodríguez, patricia hampl, kathleen norris, kent haruf, peter hawkins, suemiller, doris betts, frederick buechner, paula j. carlson, peter s. hawkins, carol bly, andrew dubus, michaelmalone, alice elliot dark), publication order of anthologies.
Notes: The Best American Short Stories 1984 was co-edited with Shannon Ravenel. The Best American Short Stories of the Century was co-edited alongside Katrina Kenison.
If You Like John Updike Books, You’ll Love…
- William Faulkner
- Ernest Hemingway
- Cormac McCarthy
John Updike Synopsis: In John Updike’s first novel, Rabbit, Run , Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom was once the star player for his high school basketball team. And now he’s in his mid-20s, work is uninteresting, his marriage is rocky to say the least and the solution seems to be an affair. But happiness isn’t as easy to acquire as a medal. Harry must run from his wife, his life and from himself until he gets to a point where he cannot turn around and go back.
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You're getting a free audiobook., best sellers.
Rabbit Is Rich
- By: John Updike
- Narrated by: Arthur Morey
- Length: 19 hrs and 24 mins
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 301
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 229
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 230
The hero of John Updike's Rabbit, Run (1960), ten years after the hectic events described in Rabbit Redux (1971), has come to enjoy considerable prosperity as Chief Sales Representative of Springer Motors, a Toyota agency in Brewer, Pennsylvania....
- 5 out of 5 stars
- By L. Berlyne on 02-27-09
- Series: Rabbit Quartet , Book 3
- Release date: 02-03-09
- Language: English
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 301 ratings
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- Length: 7 hrs
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 143
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 107
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 104
Set 10 years after Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's death, Rabbit Remembered returns listeners to the small Pennsylvania town where Harry's widow and son still reside....
Rabbit from Start to Finish
- By Amazon Customer on 09-05-09
- Series: Rabbit Quartet , Book 4.5
- Release date: 03-03-09
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 143 ratings
Regular price: $15.75 or 1 credit
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The Maples Stories
- Narrated by: Peter Van Norden
- Length: 5 hrs and 51 mins
- Overall 4 out of 5 stars 39
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 24
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 26
Collected together for the first time on audio, these 18 classic stories from across John Updike's career form a luminous chronicle of the life and times of one marriage in all its rich emotional complexity....
- 3 out of 5 stars
A weak reader hampers the work of a legend
- By R Means on 01-06-14
- Release date: 08-01-09
- 4 out of 5 stars 39 ratings
Regular price: $12.76 or 1 credit
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- The Alligators, A & P, Pigeon Feathers, The Family Meadow, Witnesses, Separating
- Narrated by: John Updike
- Length: 2 hrs and 49 mins
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 57
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 54
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 55
John Updike reads six stories he has selected from the 100-odd he has published....
Life, Love and Chivalry
- By W Perry Hall on 07-12-15
- Release date: 06-16-09
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 57 ratings
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- Narrated by: Edward Herrmann
- Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
- Overall 4 out of 5 stars 94
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 31
- Story 4 out of 5 stars 32
John Updike's 21st novel, a bildungsroman, follows its hero, Owen Mackenzie, from his birth in the semi-rural Pennsylvania town of Willow to his retirement....
Updike at the height of his powers
- By M. Consol on 07-09-05
- Release date: 10-22-04
- 4 out of 5 stars 94 ratings
Regular price: $17.98 or 1 credit
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The John Updike Audio Collection
- Narrated by: Jane Alexander, Edward Herrmann, John Updike
- Length: 5 hrs and 43 mins
- Overall 4 out of 5 stars 114
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 52
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 53
The extraordinarily evocative stories depict the generation born in a small-town America during the Depression and growing up in a world where....
- 4 out of 5 stars
- By Jody on 06-03-04
- Narrated by: Jane Alexander , Edward Herrmann , John Updike
- Release date: 02-26-04
- 4 out of 5 stars 114 ratings
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Rabbit at Rest
- Length: 22 hrs and 13 mins
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 223
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 183
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 184
In John Updike's fourth and final novel about ex-basketball player Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, the hero has acquired heart trouble, a Florida condo, and a second grandchild....
I Cannot Add to Glowing Reviews
- By Chris Reich on 08-08-15
- Series: Rabbit Quartet , Book 4
- Release date: 02-27-09
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 223 ratings
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In the Beauty of the Lilies
- Narrated by: Jason Culp
- Length: 20 hrs and 18 mins
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 42
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 38
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 38
Faith ultimately bursts into flame as Updike's major new novel, charting the lives of one family through four generations, shows listeners an America whose dream of perfection is translated into an obsession with God and the moving picture....
In the Beauty of the Lillies
- By linda on 08-15-20
- Release date: 01-28-20
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 42 ratings
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- Narrated by: Arthur Morey
- Length: 15 hrs and 58 mins
- Overall 4 out of 5 stars 321
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 233
- Story 4 out of 5 stars 232
The assumptions and obsessions that control our daily lives are explored in tantalizing detail by master novelist John Updike in this wise, witty, sexy story....
Bring on more Rabbit!
- By L. Berlyne on 02-16-09
- Series: Rabbit Quartet , Book 2
- Release date: 01-27-09
- 4 out of 5 stars 321 ratings
- Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
- Length: 18 hrs and 42 mins
- Overall 4 out of 5 stars 53
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 44
- Story 4 out of 5 stars 44
The provocative novel about sex in suburbia, striking in its complete sexual frankness and rightly praised as an artful, seductive, savagely graphic portrayal of love, marriage, and adultery in America....
This book made me feel replete
- By LH on 01-10-24
- Release date: 02-04-20
- 4 out of 5 stars 53 ratings
The Witches of Eastwick
- Narrated by: Kate Reading
- Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
- Overall 3.5 out of 5 stars 269
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 193
- Story 3.5 out of 5 stars 195
Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, bewitching divorcées with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious....
- By I. Kissen on 01-08-09
- Series: Eastwick , Book 1
- Release date: 10-21-08
- 3.5 out of 5 stars 269 ratings
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- Lots of Laughs!
- By: Nicholson Baker, John Updike, David Schickler, and others
- Narrated by: Thomas Gibson, Charles Keating, David Rakoff
- Length: 3 hrs and 5 mins
- Overall 3.5 out of 5 stars 208
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 64
- Story 3.5 out of 5 stars 63
Selected Shorts is an award-winning series of classic and contemporary short fiction read by acclaimed actors....
Wonderful Radio Show
- By Steve on 11-26-05
- By: Nicholson Baker , John Updike , David Schickler , Neil Gaiman
- Narrated by: Thomas Gibson , Charles Keating , David Rakoff
- Release date: 10-26-05
- 3.5 out of 5 stars 208 ratings
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- Narrated by: John MacDonald
- Length: 8 hrs and 36 mins
- Overall 3.5 out of 5 stars 19
- Performance 3.5 out of 5 stars 16
- Story 3 out of 5 stars 16
The Centaur is a modern retelling of the legend of Chiron, the noblest and wisest of the centaurs, who, painfully wounded yet unable to die, gave up his immortality on behalf of Prometheus....
Narrator eats words
- By cjh on 03-03-20
- Release date: 10-24-17
- 3.5 out of 5 stars 19 ratings
Regular price: $18.00 or 1 credit
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- Length: 12 hrs and 5 mins
- Overall 4 out of 5 stars 894
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 653
- Story 4 out of 5 stars 654
Rabbit, Run is the book that established John Updike as one of the major American novelists of his - or any other - generation. Its hero is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who on an impulse deserts his wife and son....
A Thinking Man's Novel
- By L. Berlyne on 01-12-09
- Series: Rabbit Quartet , Book 1
- Release date: 12-23-08
- 4 out of 5 stars 894 ratings
Gertrude and Claudius
- Narrated by: John Lee
- Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 6
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 6
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 6
Gertrude and Claudius are the "villains" of Hamlet : he the killer of Hamlet’s father and usurper of the Danish throne; she his lusty consort, who marries Claudius before her late husband’s body is cold....
- Release date: 12-03-19
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 6 ratings
- Writings on Golf
- Length: 2 hrs and 50 mins
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 8
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 7
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 7
John Updike will tell you, in his own voice and his own words, how he learned the game, plays the game, and loves the game....
The passion of golf
- By Guy on 10-15-23
- Release date: 10-25-17
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 8 ratings
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The Widows of Eastwick
- Length: 10 hrs and 57 mins
- Overall 3.5 out of 5 stars 86
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 45
- Story 3.5 out of 5 stars 45
More than three decades have passed since the events described in John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick ....
- By Pamela Harvey on 01-16-09
- Series: Eastwick , Book 2
- 3.5 out of 5 stars 86 ratings
The Afterlife and Other Stories
- Unabridged Selections: The Man Who Became a Soprano, The Afterlife, The Other Side of the Street, Farrell's Caddie, Grandparenting
- Length: 2 hrs and 44 mins
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 27
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 23
- Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 22
A fantastic short story collection from critically acclaimed and bestselling author John Updike....
Be Aware, It's An Abridged Edition
- By IthacaNancy on 05-08-14
- Release date: 06-19-09
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 27 ratings
- Narrated by: Christopher Lane
- Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
- Overall 3.5 out of 5 stars 107
- Performance 4 out of 5 stars 36
- Story 3.5 out of 5 stars 37
The son of a bohemian Irish-American mother and an Egyptian father who disappeared when he was three, Ahmad turned to Islam at the age of 11....
- By Lyn on 08-06-08
- Release date: 06-06-08
- 3.5 out of 5 stars 107 ratings
Regular price: $22.99 or 1 credit
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- By: John Updike, T. C. Boyle
- Narrated by: Jack Davidson, Fritz Weaver
- Length: 2 hrs and 48 mins
- Original Recording
- Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 32
- Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 17
- Story 5 out of 5 stars 17
- By Hal on 10-24-11
- By: John Updike , T. C. Boyle
- Narrated by: Jack Davidson , Fritz Weaver
- Release date: 04-12-06
- 4.5 out of 5 stars 32 ratings
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John Updike: The Collected Stories: A Library of America Boxed Set Hardcover – September 12, 2013
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- Book Description
- Editorial Reviews
About the Author
- Print length 1949 pages
- Language English
- Publisher Library of America
- Publication date September 12, 2013
- Dimensions 5.4 x 2.74 x 8.53 inches
- ISBN-10 1598532502
- ISBN-13 978-1598532500
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From the Publisher
- Publisher : Library of America; Box edition (September 12, 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 1949 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1598532502
- ISBN-13 : 978-1598532500
- Item Weight : 3.14 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.4 x 2.74 x 8.53 inches
- #2,513 in Short Stories Anthologies
- #5,224 in Short Stories (Books)
- #13,552 in Literary Fiction (Books)
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About the author
John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.
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15 Best John Updike Books of All Time
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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024
- Best John Updike Books
Rabbit angstrom, book 1.
Rabbit angstrom, book 2.
Rabbit Is Rich
Rabbit angstrom, book 3.
Rabbit at Rest
Rabbit angstrom, book 4.
The Witches of Eastwick
Eastwick, book 1.
The Early Stories
Henry Bech, Book 1
The Widows of Eastwick
Eastwick, book 2.
In the Beauty of the Lilies
Hugging the Shore
Essays and criticism.
Bech Is Back
Henry bech, book 2.
Bech at Bay
Henry bech, book 3.
- The Greatest Books: Written by John Updike thegreatestbooks.org
- The 10 Best John Updike Books www.publishersweekly.com
- The Rabbit Books | Top 10 John Updike Books | TIME.com entertainment.time.com
- The essential Updike | John Updike | The Guardian www.theguardian.com
- 10 Best John Updike Books (2022) - Are They Worth Reading? www.ereads.com
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Sarah J. Maas’ Blockbuster Series ‘Crescent City,’ ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ and More: What’s the Best Order to Read Them?
By William Earl
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- Sarah J. Maas’ Blockbuster Series ‘Crescent City,’ ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ and More: What’s the Best Order to Read Them? 3 days ago
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Sarah J. Maas ‘ romantasy series “ Crescent City ” and “ A Court of Thorns and Roses ” are certified sensations, with chart-topping sales and endless discussion on TikTok and Reddit forums. The just-released third book in the “Crescent City” series — “House of Flame and Shadow” — has officially topped The New York Times Best Sellers List , and the fandom is growing beyond genre enthusiasts.
Interested in figuring out what all of the hype is about but unsure where to start? Variety has a primer for fans to get the most out of Maas’ interconnected series, which are best read in a different order than how they were first released.
Starting point: The “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series
“A Court of Thorns and Roses” (2015) “A Court of Mist and Fury” (2016) “A Court of Wings and Ruin” (2017) The holiday novella “A Court of Frost and Starlight” (2018) “A Court of Silver Flames” (2021) For completists with a sense of whimsey, there is also 2017’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses Coloring Book.”
Next step: The “Crescent City” series
The third book in the “Crescent City” series is currently taking the literary world by storm, but the series’ twists are much more impactful if read after ACOTAR. In this series, half-human half-fae Bryce opens up a world of danger when she starts investigating the death of her best friend. In order, the “Crescent City” series is:
“House of Earth and Blood” (2020) “House of Sky and Breath” (2022) “House of Flame and Shadow” (2024)
Further reading: The “Throne of Glass” series
Still can’t get enough of Maas’ writing? Try her YA series “Throne of Glass,” which only has one confirmed tie to ACOTAR but is packed nonetheless with what many fans think are essential easter eggs. While the books don’t have as much spice as her other adult series, the death-defying adventures of teen assassin Celaena Sardothien a.k.a. Aelin Galathynius are a favorite among Maas’ fans. The best order to read them is chronologically through the series:
“Throne of Glass” (2012) “Crown of Midnight” (2013) “Heir of Fire” (2014) “Queen of Shadows” (2015) “Empire of Storms” (2016) “Tower of Dawn” (2017) “Kingdom of Ash” (2018)
For superfans: “The Assassin’s Blade”
This “Throne of Glass” prequel is a collection of five stories set before the events of the series, chronicling Aelin’s early adventures and travels.
“The Assassin’s Blade” (2014)
GraphicAudio makes nifty enhanced audiobooks that move far beyond the traditional constraints of the format, and include a complete cast of actors, sound effects and music. Try the format out with “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” and if you have a good time, run the whole series again! You can access GraphicAudio’s audiobook on Audible, currently offering a 3-month free trial.
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How to Hunt the Sasquatch
In “The Secret History of Bigfoot,” John O’Connor explores a legend that refuses to die — and his own place in a disenchanted world.
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By Virginia Heffernan
Virginia Heffernan writes features for Wired. Her most recent book is “Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art.”
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THE SECRET HISTORY OF BIGFOOT: Field Notes on a North American Monster, by John O’Connor
Why do Americans need Bigfoot?
This question propels John O’Connor’s “Secret History of Bigfoot,” a farrago of participatory journalism, anthropological speculation, pop-culture parentheticals and broadsides against Donald Trump that often seems stuck together by sap and tar. And is none the worse for it.
O’Connor, a journalism professor who has written about Antarctica and competitive eating, undertook his vision quest in 2020, when lies competed with microbes to lay Americans to waste. Officially O’Connor was seeking Bigfoot — or at least the enduring wellspring of faith in Bigfoot, which struck him as just as elusive.
But fleeing Covid doubled as a way for O’Connor to flee “wokesters,” as he calls the urban bourgeoisie of the pandemic era. Their pieties about masks and politics, coupled with their disdain for the supernatural, unaccountably irked him. Like a forty-niner cutting ties with the uptight Victorians, O’Connor sought instead “wild places” where men are men, go unmasked and hope for moral redemption by Sasquatch.
As O’Connor tramps around putative Bigfoot habitats, he’s also fleeing his family. A stay-at-home dad in Cambridge, Mass., he became, during lockdown, a literal stay-at-home dad. His heretical hymn to child-free solitude is a breath of piney air. “This was what passed for an afternoon in Washington: porch beer. Fresh-caught clams. Butterflies in a currant-scented breeze. I loathed Boston just then.”
He echoes Karl Ove Knausgaard: Parenthood is a totalitarian regime that works, in O’Connor’s words, “by backing you into opposing corners that force you to view your children as the tiny miracles they’re portrayed to be in the wider culture, and as ongoing personal disasters.”
O’Connor’s own struggle is between the cultural portrayal of miracles and the hard fact of personal disasters. But, as deft as he is at observation, he can muster little cultural analysis where his own suffering is concerned. O’Connor savages himself as a white man with luxury problems, even roping in poor Bigfoot as “a white man’s self-ratifying pseudoscience” that represents a “transmogrification of Indigenous legends.” This is sad, and frustrating: You want to see him imagine his own demons as vividly as he does society’s.
He’s persuasive in arguing that the wider culture has thrown up Bigfoot as a worthy object of contemplation, a thirsty sop for national credulity. Referencing thinkers both familiar and obscure, O’Connor crafts a comprehensive popular history without getting bogged down enacting nerdy stunts. He is especially sure-footed in the terrain of writers, citing Thomas Bernhard, Peter Matthiessen and Henry David Thoreau.
The insights he gleans from his literary and topographical surveys are often strikingly original. He’s especially engaging when he compares Bigfooters to other kinds of trackers; the physical creeping through woodlands, often with guns, is, after all, what distinguishes Bigfooters from séance-holders or QAnon adherents.
When O’Connor recounts the vexed quest for the ivory-billed woodpecker, last seen in 1944, he casts a pathetic light on Bigfoot belief. Even academic ornithologists can be victims of cognitive bias; O’Connor’s description of their propensity to hallucinate a white bill on a common pileated woodpecker is heart-rending. The miracles of sunlight and birds in flight is not enough; we want angels.
O’Connor quickly discovers that hearing a firsthand Bigfoot encounter is powerful. On an expedition in the Berkshires, the group leader tells of a petrifying 1992 sighting: He was, he says, never the same man. I came to love these rapturous accounts of sightings across America. It’s this storytelling — popping eyes, blanched complexions, whispered astonishment — that keeps Bigfoot alive, another hearty homegrown subculture.
O’Connor lapses into laziness only when comparing Bigfoot fixation to Trumpism. Both, he says, are “an expression of white anxiety and fear mixed with nostalgia for an imagined American past.” A wallop of defeatism hits the prose: The same can and has been said of every culture at the moment of its colonization.
And despite the book’s considerable ingenuity, it isn’t always easy to care about a malcontent who leaves his family during the pandemic and takes to the woods to own the libs. And however refined O’Connor’s reading list, however ironic his approach, it’s hard to forget that defiance isn’t all fun and games; it can, taken too far, end in plots to kidnap governors or hang vice presidents.
But O’Connor is affable in the extreme, and funny, and in Bigfoot he has found an object of desire that unites in real intimacy conservationists who long for wilderness and seekers who long for transcendence. The scenes of men talking, flexing their capacities for vulnerability and grief, are stunners.
In these drumless drum circles, the same men who suspend disbelief about cryptozoology treat political conflict as though it didn’t exist. That itself is haunting — and verging on the paranormal.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF BIGFOOT : Field Notes on a North American Monster | By John O’Connor | Sourcebooks | 294 pp. | $26.99
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Five of the best campus novels
Donna Tartt’s cult tale of toxic friendship, John Williams’s anti-campus must-read and Zadie Smith’s superb third novel – here are the books that ace academia
T he beauty of the traditional campus novel is that it’s rarely reflective of most students’ actual experience – at least not in the UK. High stakes interpersonal drama, soft-serve Marxism and ivy-covered stone are less the modern student experience than terrible housing, dating-app ghosting and a staple diet of Super Noodles and own-brand vodka. It’s unsurprising, then, that tales of a more enlightened student experience are perennially popular.
These five novels offer a glimpse into the gilded world of high-level academia from New England to north London.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Published in 1992, the cultish campus novel – which has recently found a new generation of fans thanks to BookTok – follows an increasingly sinister group of Greek mythology-obsessed classics students at an elite, New England liberal arts college. A foundational text for fans of the “dark academia” trend, it’s not surprising that this deftly written tale of incest, bacchanals and toxic friendship is as beloved now as it was more than 30 years ago.
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
Written in lyrical, glittering sentences that pay zero heed to grammatical conventions, Eimear McBride’s second book is the campus novel for the intrepid reader. It follows Eily, a young Irish student at a prestigious London drama school who embarks on a chaotic affair with an older, mildly famous actor. Our protagonist may spend more time in a north London bedsit than she does on her actual university campus, but it’s worth including simply for its brilliant depiction of the highs and occasional horrors of finding your way in the world.
Stoner by John Williams
In some ways Stoner is the anti-campus novel. A departure from the usual fetishisations of academia, its protagonist William Stoner is as repressed in later life by the Middle America university where he teaches as he was once liberated as a student. Covering Stoner’s life, death and anticlimactic career, it’s a novel that explores how life’s accumulated disappointments can wear a person down. If it sounds like a drag, rest assured that it’s precisely the opposite. A must-read for anyone who’s ever felt as if they betrayed their class in pursuit of a good education.
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Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Wallace, the protagonist of Brandon Taylor’s debut novel, is the first black student to be part of his doctoral group in three decades. His father has just died back in Missouri and – keeping a conscious distance from even those he’d describe as friends – he neglects to tell anyone at the Midwest university he attends. Real Life follows Wallace over one late summer weekend when things – the work he has spent all summer cultivating, his (frequently confounding) relationships, his attempts at outrunning trauma – begin to fall apart. It’s a campus novel about self preservation in the hostile and homogenous halls of white, wealthy academia.
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The title of Zadie Smith’s third novel was taken from a poem by her husband Nick Laird. There is a long precedent of the novelist borrowing from the poet: the story goes that when they were students at Cambridge she turned up at his bedroom and asked for all of his notes the night before an exam. More recently, she borrowed the title of her 2018 essay collection Feel Free from her husband’s then unpublished poetry collection. But it’s hard to think of a better title for On Beauty: a brilliant novel about two clashing intellectuals set in a haughty New England liberal arts college. Part send-up of the self-seriousness of East Coast academia (the author herself makes a cameo), part paean to Howards End, it’s one of her best.
- Five of the best
- Zadie Smith
- Eimear McBride
- Donna Tartt