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O'Connor Must-Reads

There are many excellent books by and about Flannery O'Connor. Below, you'll find a short list of books with which everyone interested in O'Connor should be familiar.

All of these books should be available through your library, but if you're like me you'll want your own copy. If you have an interest in buying any of these books you can click on the title of the book, and you will be taken to a corresponding amazon.com web page where you can order it. (when I can, I've linked to editions that can be shipped within 24 hrs so you can get them right away.)

If you want to see EVERYTHING that Amazon offers on O'Connor, you can test drive this new connection I'm working on. It automatically searches for anything tagged "Flannery O'Connor".

By the way, I wouldn't advertise for Amazon if I didn't use their services. I order from them fairly regularly so I don't have to run all over creation looking for something no one carries. Amazon sends it right to my mailbox.

If you have an adblocker enabled, it may blank the links to books from this page.


Flannery O'Connor's Works
Fiction, criticism, and correspondence written by O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor Collected Works (Library of America)

Collected Works is the O'Connor omnibus. If you want to get all of O'Connor's fiction and a good chunk of her non-fiction, this has what you need and then some. I would recommend this book to true O'Connor fans, a dedicated scholars, and even to the readers who are only interested in tasting a bit of her fiction. You simply get so much for your money. Well worth the price, in my opinion.

The Complete Stories

This is the complete collection of O'Connor's short stories. This book doesn't include her novels, although most of the chapters of Wise Blood are in here, as O'Connor wrote it in several parts. It's interesting to see how the novel evolved from these vignettes. The stories are in chronological order according to the date they were written. Be prepared to spend several days/evenings with this book. Once you start, it's hard to stop. If you know you like O'Connor, and want to read all of her short fiction, then this is the book to get.

Wise Blood

In my opinion, Wise Blood is O'Connor's best novel. Her celestial imagery really takes flight here, and the book is brimming full of other symbolism. It's one of those books you can read a hundred times, and it's different each time. Her characters are as fascinating as in her short stories, but with more room for development they become even more enigmatic.

The Violent Bear It Away

The story of Francis Tarwater who faces the prophecy of his dead uncle--that Tarwater is to be the mouth of God and wake the sleeping sinners in the city. Tarwater struggles with his innate faith and the voices calling him to be a prophet. O'connor weaves irony and compassion, humor and pathos into a novel that delves into the schism between faith and reality.

Everything that Rises Must Converge

In this collection O'Connor explores themes of race, faith, and morality with both comic and tragic stories that embrace the beautiful and the grotesque. Contains: Everything that Rises Must Converge, "Greenleaf", "A View of the Woods", "The Enduring Chill", "The Comforts of Home", "The Lame Shall Enter First", "Revelation", "Parker's Back", and "Judgement Day".

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories

This collection of stories tinged with foreboding established O'Connor on the literary scene. Contains: A Good Man is Hard to Find, The River, The Life You Save May be Your Own, A Stroke of Good Fortune, A Temple of the Holy Ghost, The Artificial Nigger, A Circle in the Fire, A Late Encounter with the Enemy, Good Country People, and The Displaced Person.

The Habit of Being

This collection of O'Connor's correspondence offers insight into her personal views on writing, religion, peacocks, and everything else she felt was important. If you want to understand O'Connor the person, then you'll want to read this book.

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

Mystery and Manners collects all of O'Connor's non-fiction. She was quite a prolific writer, even outside of the fiction arena. This book reveals her critical approach to literature as well as her views on writers and writing.

The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews  
compiled by Leo J. Zuber

A collection of O'Connor's non-fiction writing (other than letters, of course). Her articles and essays cover literary criticism, writing, religion, biography, and general intellectual history.

Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons  
edited by Kelly Gerald

Collects O'Connor's cartoons from her high school and college publications in the early 1940s when she experimented with techniques she later employed in her fiction.


Criticism
Works about O'Connor's Writing

Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity
Frederick Asals

Many consider Asals' book to be the one indespensible critical analysis of O'Connor's work.

Dark Faith: New Essays on Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away
Edited by Susan Srigley

Nine literary and religious scholars take a thematic approach to studying OíConnorís second novel.

Flannery O'Connor's Library: Resources of Being
Arthur Kinney

An annotated bibliography of the items from O'Connor's library that now reside in the Russell Library at Georgia College and State University.

Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens
Louise Westling

Considers how women's roles in the south contributed to the literary works of Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers and Eudora Welty.

Flannery O'Connor: An Annotated Reference Guide to Criticism
R. Neil Scott

A comprehensive guide to over 2,700 critical sources on Flannery O'Connor. The annotated entries cover U.S. and international sources.

Flannery O'Connor: The Contemporary Reviews (American Critical Archives)
R. Neil Scott and Irwin H. Streight

Reprints over 400 complete book reviews and excerpts essays on O'Connor's work that appeared in newspapers and periodicals.

Postmarked Milledgeville
A Guide to Flannery O'Connor's Correspondence in Libraries and Archives

R. Neil Scott, Valerie Nye, Sarah Gordon, Irwin Streight

Not exactly criticism, but a useful resource guide nonetheless.


Biography
Works about Flannery O'Connor

The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O'Connor
Angela Alaimo O'Donnell

My first thought on picking up The Province of Joy was, "this book is going to have an extremely narrow audience." It's a daily prayer book for readers who want a deeper understanding of O'Connor's spiritual life, so we're talking about Catholic (or at least Christian) readers who not only enjoy O'Connor's fiction but also want to follow in her spiritual footsteps. Fortunately for this select audience O'Donnell does an impeccable job of revealing O'Connor's religious life through quotes from her personal letters, fiction and non-fiction. Even the title of the book comes from "The Prayer of St. Raphael" which O'Connor said every day. The Province of Joy, like O'Connor's fiction, functions on many levels: structurally the prayers are built around seven theological themes such as "The Mystery of Incarnation" and "Revelations and Resurrections," but each theme echos concepts prevalent in O'Connor's work, which in turn reflect back on her personal faith. It's clear that O'Donnell put a lot of consideration into the selections because the quotes from O'Connor read as if she is adding a personal comment on the day's theme. Perhaps The Province of Joy will not appeal to a mass market, but for readers seeking an intimate spiritual connection with O'Connor, it is a well-crafted book that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do.

Paraclete Press, 2012

Flannery: a Life of Flannery O'Connor
Brad Gooch

Blake Bailey gives a delightful review of this book, there are good write-ups of the book  at the American Interest and The Catholic Herald, and Joseph O'Neill of the Atlantic sort-of reviews Gooch's book but gets caught up in the spiritual drama in O'Connor's fiction (which isn't a bad thing).

I've been pointed to a Library of America interview with Brad Gooch, the conversation of which touches on O'Connor's motivations, aspirations and personal life, but it's not particularly revealing if you've read The Habit of Being, so you'll have to get Gooch's book if you want to see how he treats any of these topics in-depth.

Flannery O'Connor: A Life
Jean Cash

A factual biography that methodically details O'Connor's life: her childhood in Savannah, her years at the University of Iowa, and her return to Milledgeville, Ga. Some reviewers have criticized this biography for focusing too much on facts and offering no interpretations, but some readers can come to their own conclusions from the information given here.

The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage
Paul Elie

This fantastic and ambitious work looks at the lives of "the School of the Holy Ghost"--Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy--four Catholic writers who grappled with common questions of religious faith.

Flannery O'Connor: A Biography
Melissa Simpson

This school-oriented biography gives a straightforward, just-the-facts style view of O'Connor's life without straying too far into speculative territory.

© 1995: Brian Collier and Comforts of Home

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