Marlon James: TOP TEN BOOKS

Marlon James

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Nelson

Marlon James is the author behind the novels John Crow’s Devil, The Book of Night WomenA Brief History of Seven Killings, which was awarded the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2015, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a mesmerizing fantasy that includes necromancers, river witches, conjoined twins, shape-shifting hyenas, eaters of human flesh, trolls, a “very smart” buffalo, a deranged killer monkey and Ekoiye, a “whore who loves civet musk.” Shortly after publication, Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society and Warner Bros. snatched up the film rights to Black Leopard, the first in a projected three-novel cycle. “Literature should be sensual and endlessly sensory,” says James. “I like books that make me feel like I’m emerging from a fever, like Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomonor Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. You’re hearing it, smelling it and touching it.”

Below are Marlon James’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


Summer Lightning

Olive Senior
Because she taught me everything about matching devastation with economy. The entire future of Caribbean prose is mapped out in this collection of stories, and I don’t know a single Caribbean writer who doesn’t reread it often.
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Salman Rushdie
What Kafka gave Marquez —permission to write — Shame did for me. And like all electrifying experiences, at first it was just the shock that such things could be done with novels, that got to me.
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Song of Solomon

Toni Morrison
Three quarters of the way in, and Song of Solomon is merely one of the three best books I’ve ever read. But the last 60 pages are one of the most astonishing feats of writing I’ve ever read. I remember reading it standing up, almost in this fever, and so thoroughly believing the ending that I almost jumped off my balcony.
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Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen
Because nobody has ever been slyer with characters than Austen. It still blows my mind that her unsavory, and unfortunate characters (Mrs Bennett, Lady Catherine, Charlotte), are the only ones who truly know what time it is.
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Tom Jones

Henry Fielding
First book I ever read for school that I was sad to see end. Best plot of all time? Maybe, but too close to the top to merit serious argument.
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Jessica Hagedorn
Possible the most brutally, hilariously accurate portrait of post colonial Jamaica I’ve ever read. And it’s a novel about the Philippines.
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The Autumn Of The Patriarch

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Picking a Marquez novel is a near impossible task. It’s too easy to just go with the obvious choice(s). But this is his most daring novel, and the labyrinthine twists and turns of each sentence demand undivided attention—so perfect for a desert island, then.
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Gilbert Hernandez
I sometimes wonder if I’m the only person to realize that the collected Palomar stories, from one half of Los Bros Hernandez, adds up to the finest American novel of the past 30 years?
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Epic Traditions of Africa

Stephen Belcher
Grimm’s Fairytales are great, the Icelandic sagas are essential, and I’m always here for Grendel. But sometimes you want to read about the Cannibal Witch, Unborn children who leave the womb at night to hunt for food, and Son Jara, the original Lion King.
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The Master and Margarita

Mikhail Bulgakov
Nude vampires, a gun-toting talking black cat, and devil as ultimate party starter aside, the miracle of this novel is that every time you read it, it's a different book.
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