Moby DickRead about another book on the list.
Herman Melville, 1851
The great American novel and the best one-that-got-away-story ever told. “Fast fish and loose fish” is a term from whaling that Melville makes play with, and his huge book (which famously sold only a few copies in his lifetime) dives, as deep as its sperm whale subjects, into man’s nature, man and nature, and man versus nature. It’s about almost everything. William Blake wrote “A robin redbreast in a cage/ Puts all heaven in a rage”, and Melville’s novel takes this idea as far as it might possibly go. For an alternative odyssey around a man and the other life that surrounds him, published just three years later, see Thoreau’s equally deep-dug and fundamentally weird Walden.
Moby-Dick appears among the Telegraph's fifteen best North American novels of all time, Nicole Hill's top ten best names in literature to give your dog, Horatio Clare's five favorite maritime novels, the Telegraph's ten great meals in literature, Brenda Wineapple's six favorite books, Scott Greenstone's top seven allegorical novels, Paul Wilson's top ten books about disability, Lynn Shepherd's ten top fictional drownings, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, Penn Jillette's six favorite books, Peter F. Stevens's top ten nautical books, Katharine Quarmby's top ten disability stories, Jonathan Evison's six favorite books, Bella Bathurst's top 10 books on the sea, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best nightmares in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, Susan Cheever's five best books about obsession, Christopher Buckley's best books, Jane Yolen's five most important books, Chris Dodd's best books, Augusten Burroughs' five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, David Wroblewski's five most important books, Russell Banks' five most important books, and Philip Hoare's top ten books about whales.