James Joyce Best Books 📚

James Joyce has an impressive body of work, among which includes his masterpiece, ‘Ulysses’.

James Joyce

Irish Novelist

James Joyce is one of the foremost pioneers and popularizers of the modernist avant-garde literary style of writing. His works have had a tremendous effect on Western literature.

Dubliners

‘Dubliners’ is a collection of short stories that, despite the lack of a unified plot, are arranged to reflect the passage through different stages of life. The first three tales center on young people. Focusing on young, single adults in their late teens to early thirties, the stories “Eveline,” “After the Race,” “Two Gallants,” and “The Boarding House” are among the best. The protagonists of “A Little Cloud” and “Counterparts” are both family guys with unfulfilling careers; both stories feature major characters who are well-established in adulthood. The remaining tales center on people in their early to late middle years, some of whom have more stable lives than others.

‘Dubliners’ has a clear structure with recurrent symbols that weave in and out of one another. The first three stories are told in the first person and focus on children. The following four stories deal with young adults and, like the other stories, are told in the third person. The tone and sensibility of the narration change to reflect the shifting perspectives of the protagonists. The final three stories discuss public life in politics, art, and religion. The fifteenth and last story, “The Dead,” is regarded as both the collection’s crown jewel and a great work of literature.

A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man

James Joyce’s autobiographical book ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,’ which was serialized in ‘The Egoist’ from 1914 to 1916 and then published as a book in 1916, is often regarded as the best bildungsroman ever written in the English language. Stephen Dedalus, who later resurfaced as one of the key characters in James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, is depicted in the book’s early years (1922).

From Stephen’s earliest memories, which are written in a simple, childlike language, to his ultimate decision to leave Dublin for Paris and dedicate his life to art, which is written in obscure Latin-sprinkled stream-of-consciousness prose, each of the novel’s five sections is written in a third-person voice that reflects the age and emotional state of its protagonist.

‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,’ which is set in Ireland at the turn of the century, charts the growth of Stephen Dedalus from a brilliant young student to a promising clergy student to an artist. It starts with his earliest childhood recollections and moves on to his momentous epiphany when he tells his closest friends that he has decided to pursue art instead of religious life. Combining his temperament, which influences his perceptions of the world, his relationships with others, and his interpretation of societal dynamics, Stephen makes his choice.

Joyce’s later works were predicted by the novel’s rich symbolic language and masterful use of stream of consciousness. The second installment of Joyce’s cycle of works chronicling the spiritual history of humans from Adam’s Fall through the Redemption is a radical modification of an earlier version titled ‘Stephen Hero’. The cycle started with ‘Dubliners,’ a collection of short stories published in 1914, and proceeded with ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegans Wake’ (1939).

Ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce Digital Art
Ulysses Digital Art

‘Ulysses’ takes place in Dublin on June 16, 1904, and Leopold Bloom, the protagonist, is a middle-aged Jew who travels throughout the city every day as part of his employment as an advertisement canvasser. While Stephen Dedalus, the autobiographical figure from Joyce’s first book, ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, is the younger protagonist of the book, Bloom is Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ character. While Joyce creates the young student’s character, Bloom is the main subject for the majority of the book.

Early on June 16, Bloom learns that his wife Molly, a singer, is having an affair with Blazes Boylan, a coworker. Molly plans to bring Boylan into their bed later that afternoon, according to Bloom. The Blooms’ 15-year-old daughter Milly is away at college studying photography. Molly gave birth to a son named Rudy ten years ago, but he passed away at the age of eleven days. Bloom frequently reflects on the similarity between his dead son Rudy and his deceased father Rudolph, who committed suicide several years prior.

The three chapters that make up Part I of ‘Ulysses’ initial section center around Stephen Dedalus. Dedalus, an academic and a teacher, had traveled to Paris from Ireland but was compelled to go back when learning that his mother was in critical condition. The early portrayals of Stephen suggest that he is guilty since he left the Catholic Church and disobeyed his mother’s pleas to pray by her bedside. Although Stephen has literary ambitions, his desire to pen Ireland’s first great epic is constrained by his worry that the island will make it impossible for him to achieve success.

In terms of style, ‘Ulysses’ is exceptional not just because it varies with each chapter but also because the narrative refuses to follow the tale; instead, it increasingly veers off course and engages in independent raillery of the reader above the heads of the characters. The story “wanders” in a way that honors the art, humor, and significance of discovery, drawing comparisons to other well-known wanderers like Odysseus, Bloom, the Jews, and Bloom’s concurrently faithful and adulterous wife, Molly.

Finnegans Wake

A complex book that combines a dream realm and the actual world is called ‘Finnegans Wake’. Giambattista Vico, an Italian philosopher who lived in the 18th century, served as the inspiration for the novel’s central notion that history repeats itself. This is illustrated by the fact that the book concludes with the first phrase of the first paragraph. As a result, the first line and the last line are parts of the first line. Considering that the novel examines a number of disjointed story threads, the plot itself is challenging to follow. However, the juxtaposition of reality and dream, which is accomplished by varying the individuals and situations, creates the primary source of suspense.

Book 1 opens in the middle of a dream by a Dublin publican, or tavern keeper, who is named Porter and who does so fittingly. The tavernkeeper and his family reside above his bar in the Chapelizod neighborhood. It is close to Phoenix Park, a sizable park located immediately to the north of the Liffey River. Porter transforms into numerous personas throughout the night as his dreams play out, most notably Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker or other versions of the initials HCE, such as Here Comes Everybody.

FAQs

What is the most popular book by James Joyce?

‘Ulysses’ is James Joyce’s most popular book. This hefty volume packs an array of literary styles that make it difficult to read by the average reader. Nonetheless, it is his most commercially successful book, as well as his critically acclaimed work.

What is the most accessible book from James Joyce?

‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegans Wake’ are notorious for being inaccessible and convoluted in style. ‘Dubliners’ is a collection of short stories loosely held together by a central theme, which can be digested by the average reader.

What were some of James Joyce’s lesser-known books?

Most of James Joyce’s lesser-known works include annotated versions of his magnum opus, ‘Ulysses’. Some are also posthumous releases, which include:
‘Stephen Hero’ (precursor to A Portrait; written 1904–06, published 1944)
‘The Cat and the Devil’ (London: Faber and Faber, 1965)
‘The Cats of Copenhagen’ (Ithys Press, 2012)
‘Finn’s Hotel’ (Ithys Press, 2013)

Does James Joyce have a holiday?

On June 16, often known as Bloomsday in popular culture, Joyce’s work and life are commemorated in Dublin and a growing number of other places throughout the world. It is an obvious homage to the character of Leopold Bloom in ‘Ulysses’.

Charles Asoluka
About Charles Asoluka
Charles is an experienced content creator, writer, and literary critic. He has written professionally for multiple reputable media organizations. He loves reading Western classics and reviewing them.
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