17 Best Philip Roth Books

Philip Roth Books: Philip Milton Roth was an American novelist and short-story writer. Roth’s fiction—often set in his birthplace of Newark, New Jersey—is known for its intensely autobiographical character, for philosophically

Best Philip Roth Books

The Plot Against America: A Novel Oct 5, 2004 by Philip Roth

In an extraordinary feat of narrative invention, Philip Roth imagines an alternate history where Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to heroic aviator and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh. Shortly thereafter, Lindbergh negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.
 
For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America–and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.

American Pastoral (American Trilogy Book 1) May 12, 1997 by Philip Roth

American Pastoral is the story of a fortunate American’s rise and fall—of a strong, confident master of social equilibrium overwhelmed by the forces of social disorder. Seymour “Swede” Levov—a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheritor of his father’s Newark glove factory—comes of age in thriving, triumphant postwar America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s. Not even the most private, well-intentioned citizen, it seems, gets to sidestep the sweep of history. With vigorous realism, Roth takes us back to the conflicts and violent transitions of the 1960s. This is a book about loving—and hating—America. It’s a book about wanting to belong—and refusing to belong—to America. It sets the desire for an American pastoral—a respectable life of space, calm, order, optimism, and achievement—against the indigenous American Berserk.

Portnoy's Complaint Jul 23, 2010 by Philip Roth

Portnoy’s Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933- )] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: ‘Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient’s “morality,” however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.’ (Spielvogel, O. “The Puzzled Penis,” Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) It is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationship.

The Human Stain: A Novel (American Trilogy Book 3) May 10, 2000 by Philip Roth

It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret. But it’s not the secret of his affair, at seventy-one, with Faunia Farley, a woman half his age with a savagely wrecked past–a part-time farmhand and a janitor at the college where, until recently, he was the powerful dean of faculty. And it’s not the secret of Coleman’s alleged racism, which provoked the college witch-hunt that cost him his job and, to his mind, killed his wife. Nor is it the secret of misogyny, despite the best efforts of his ambitious young colleague, Professor Delphine Roux, to expose him as a fiend. Coleman’s secret has been kept for fifty years: from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman, who sets out to understand how this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, had fabricated his identity and how that cannily controlled life came unraveled. 

Goodbye, Columbus Oct 18, 1989 by Philip Roth

National Book Award Winner

Philip Roth’s brilliant career was launched when the unknown twenty-five-year-old writer won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship for a collection that was to be called Goodbye, Columbus, and which, in turn, captured the 1960 National Book Award. In the famous title story, perhaps the best college love story ever written, Radcliffe-bound Brenda Patimkin initiates Neil Klugman of Newark into a new and unsettling society of sex, leisure, and loss. Over the years, most of the other stories have become classics as well.

Nemesis Oct 5, 2010 by Philip Roth

Bucky Cantor is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director during the summer of 1944. A javelin thrower and weightlifter, he is disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. As the devastating disease begins to ravage Bucky’s playground, Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: fear, panic, anger, bewilderment, suffering, and pain. Moving between the streets of Newark and a pristine summer camp high in the Poconos, Nemesis tenderly and startlingly depicts Cantor’s passage into personal disaster, the condition of childhood, and the painful effect that the wartime polio epidemic has on a closely-knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

Sabbath's Theater Sep 12, 1995 by Philip Roth

He is relentlessly defiant. He is exceedingly libidinous. His appetite for the outrageous is insatiable. He is Mickey Sabbath, the aging, raging powerhouse whose savage effrontery and mocking audacity are at the heart of Philip Roth’s astonishing new novel. Sabbath’s Theater tells Mickey’s story in the wake of the death of his mistress, an erotic free spirit whose adulterous daring exceeds even his own. Once a scandalously inventive puppeteer, Mickey is now in his mid-sixties and besieged by ghosts – of his mother, his beloved brother, his vanished first wife, his mistress of thirteen years. Bereft and grieving, he embarks on a turbulent journey back into his past, one that brings him to the brink of madness and extinction. But no matter how ardently he courts death, he is too exuberantly alive to succeed at dying. Sabbath’s Theater is a comic creation of epic proportions, and Mickey Sabbath is its gargantuan hero. This book, which presents Philip Roth at the peak of his powers, is sur

I Married a Communist (American Trilogy Book 2) Oct 22, 1998 by Philip Roth

Radio actor Iron Rinn (born Ira Ringold) is a big Newark roughneck blighted by a brutal personal secret from which he is perpetually in flight. An idealistic Communist, a self-educated ditchdigger turned popular performer, a six-foot six-inch Abe Lincoln look-alike, he marries the nation’s reigning radio actress and beloved silent-film star, the exquisite Eve Frame (born Chava Fromkin). Their marriage evolves from a glamorous, romantic idyll into a dispiriting soap opera of tears and treachery. And with Eve’s dramatic revelation to the gossip columnist Bryden Grant of her husband’s life of “espionage” for the Soviet Union, the relationship enlarges from private drama into national scandal. Set in the heart of the McCarthy era, the story of Iron Rinn’s denunciation and disgrace brings to harrowing life the human drama that was central to the nation’s political tribulations in the dark years of betrayal, the blacklist, and naming names. I Married a Communist is an American tragedy as only Philip Roth could write it.

Everyman May 9, 2006 by Philip Roth

The fate of Roth’s everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers, through the family trials and professional achievements of his vigorous adulthood, and into his old age, when he is rended by observing the deterioration of his contemporaries and stalked by his own physical woes.

A successful commercial artist with a New York ad agency, he is the father of two sons from a first marriage who despise him and a daughter from a second marriage who adores him. He is the beloved brother of a good man whose physical well-being comes to arouse his bitter envy, and he is the lonely ex-husband of three very different women with whom he’s made a mess of marriage. In the end he is a man who has become what he does not want to be.

Patrimony: A True Story Dec 26, 2012 by Philip Roth

Patrimony, a true story, touches the emotions as strongly as anything Philip Roth has ever written. Roth watches as his eight-six-year-old father—famous for his vigor, his charm, and his repertoire of Newark recollections—battles with the brain tumor that will kill him. The son, full of love, anxiety, and dread, accompanies his father through each fearful stage of his final ordeal, and, as he does so, discloses the survivalist tenacity that has distinguished his father’s long, stubborn engagement with life.


Philip Roth is hailed by many as the reigning king of American fiction. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, this memoir about love, survival and memory is one of his most intimate books, but also one of his most intellectually vigorous. Patrimony is Roth’s elegy to his father, written with piercing observation and wit at the height of his literary prowess.

The Counterlife: A Novel Jul 2, 2013 by Philip Roth

The Counterlife is about people enacting their dreams of renewal and escape, some of them going so far as to risk their lives to alter seemingly irreversible destinies. Every major character (and most of the minor ones) is investigating, debating, and arguing the possibility of remaking the future.
Illuminating these lives in transition and guiding us through all the landscapes, familiar and foreign, where these people are seeking self-transformation, is the mind of the novelist Nathan Zuckerman. His is the skeptical, enveloping intelligence that calculates the price that’s paid in the struggle to change personal fortune and to reshape history.

The Great American Novel: A Novel Jul 2, 2013 by Philip Roth (

Gil Gamesh is the only pitcher who ever tried to kill the umpire, and John Baal, The Babe Ruth of the Big House, never hit a home run sober. But you’ve never heard of them — or of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history — because of the communist plot and the capitalist scandal that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.

Philip Roth’s richly imagined satiric narrative, The Great American Novel, turns baseball’s status as national pastime and myth into an unfettered farce featuring heroism and perfidy, lively wordplay and a cast of characters that includes the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The Dying Animal May 18, 2001 by Philip Roth

David Kepesh is white-haired and over sixty, an eminent TV culture critic and star lecturer at a New York college, when he meets Consuela Castillo, a decorous, well-mannered student of twenty-four, the daughter of wealthy Cuban exiles, who promptly puts his life into erotic disorder.
Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, when he left his wife and child, Kepesh has experimented with living what he calls an “emancipated manhood,” beyond the reach of family or a mate. Over the years he has refined that exuberant decade of protest and license into an orderly life in which he is both unimpeded in the world of eros and studiously devoted to his aesthetic pursuits. But the youth and beauty of Consuela, “a masterpiece of volupté” undo him completely, and a maddening sexual possessiveness transports him to the depths of deforming jealousy. The carefree erotic adventure evolves, over eight years, into a story of grim loss.

The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography Jul 2, 2013 by Philip Roth

The Facts is the unconventional autobiography of a writer who has reshaped our idea of fiction—a work of compelling candor and inventiveness, instructive particularly in its revelation of the interplay between life and art.

Philip Roth concentrates on five episodes from his life: his secure city childhood in the thirties and forties; his education in American life at a conventional college; his passionate entanglement, as an ambitious young man, with the angriest person he ever met (the “girl of my dreams” Roth calls her); his clash, as a fledgling writer, with a Jewish establishment outraged by Goodbye, Columbus; and his discovery, in the excesses of the sixties, of an unmined side to his talent that led him to write Portnoy’s Complaint.

The Anatomy Lesson: A Novel Jul 2, 2013 by Philip Roth

The writer Nathan Zukerman comes down with a mysterious physical affliction–pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso and taking possession of his life. Zukerman, whose work was his life, is unable to write a line. Now his work is trekking from one doctor to the next–from orthopedist to osteopath to neurologist to psychiatrist–but none can find a cause for the pain and nobody can assuage it.

So begins Philip Roth’s strangely comic new novel, The Anatomy Lesson. In it, we find Nathan Zukerman beset at age forty not only by his pain but by his past. He seriously wonders if he ought to be a novelist at all. At his wit’s end, bewildered by both the obstinate pain and the isolating profession, and unconsolable by his “harem of Florence Nightingales”–Gloria, his accountant’s wildly mothering wife; Jaga, the depressed Polish refuge from the hair-treatment clinic (to add to his suffering, Zukerman is going bald); Diana, the distressingly self-possessed Finch College heiress; and the temptingly levelheaded painter Jenny–Zukerman tries to pin his catastrophe on some source he can confront.

Indignation Sep 16, 2008 by Philip Roth

It is 1951 in America, the second year of the Korean War. A studious, law-abiding, intense youngster from Newark, New Jersey, Marcus Messner, is beginning his sophomore year on the pastoral, conservative campus of Ohio’s Winesburg College. And why is he there and not at the local college in Newark where he originally enrolled? Because his father, the sturdy, hard-working neighborhood butcher, seems to have gone mad — mad with fear and apprehension of the dangers of adult life, the dangers of the world, the dangers he sees in every corner for his beloved boy.

As the long-suffering, desperately harassed mother tells her son, the father’s fear arises from love and pride. Perhaps, but it produces too much anger in Marcus for him to endure living with his parents any longer. He leaves them and, far from Newark, in the midwestern college, has to find his way amid the customs and constrictions of another American world.

Exit Ghost Oct 1, 2007 by Philip Roth

Like Rip Van Winkle returning to his hometown to find that all has changed, Nathan Zuckerman comes back to New York, the city he left eleven years before. Alone on his New England mountain, Zuckerman has been nothing but a writer: no voices, no media, no terrorist threats, no women, no news, no tasks other than his work and the enduring of old age.

Walking the streets like a revenant, he quickly makes three connections that explode his carefully protected solitude. One is with a young couple with whom, in a rash moment, he offers to swap homes. They will flee post-9/11 Manhattan for his country refuge, and he will return to city life. But from the time he meets them, Zuckerman also wants to swap his solitude for the erotic challenge of the young woman, Jamie, whose allure draws him back to all that he thought he had left behind: intimacy, the vibrant play of heart and body.

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