Writing in the British newspaper The Guardian, Zachary Leader (who wrote Bellow’s biography) recently selected five novels as must-reads for Bellow fans:
The Adventures of Augie March (1953) established Bellow as a distinctive writer in the literary world. The title character narrates his eventful encounters during the Depression era and in foreign countries. Bellow drew on his childhood for the book’s theme of breaking away from supposedly superior people.
Bellow set Henderson the Rain King (1959) in Africa, which he had not yet visited. His depiction of a wise but flawed tribal leader drew criticism for the author’s creation of an artificial African language.
Drawing on Bellow’s upbringing in Montreal, Herzog (1964) took as its title character an historian who writes letters to figures such as Spinoza, Eisenhower, Freud, and God. Readers appreciated the irony that Herzog’s learning did not lead to healthy relationships.
Humboldt’s Gift (1975) presented a wide range of lawyers, gangsters, wives, and academics. Bellow reveals his attraction to and disdain for the hectic life of Chicago.
In his final work, Ravelstein (2000), Bellow creates a fictional portrait of political observer Allan Bloom, who critiqued American intellectual life. Some critics saw Ravelstein as an attack on Bloom, while others argue that he would have appreciated the book