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Naturalism Books- My Top Ten

Updated on April 21, 2011

Naturalism in Literature focuses on the role of the environment upon the human characters int he novel. It is an extreme form of realism focusing on the external, rather than internal effects of nature upon the characters. The style of writing arose in the late 19th and early 20th century and can be found in the writings of Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Emile Zola and others.

Naturalism was founded upon the ideas of Charles Darwin and focused on heredity and environment being the main influence on the characters ideals and behavior. Naturalistic works often include unsavory subject matter at the time it was written. Frankness about sexuality and with pessimism, poverty, racism, sex, violence, prejudice, disease, corruption, prostitution, and filth. As a result, naturalistic writers were frequently criticized for being too blunt during the time the works were written. To deal with such ideas so openly was uncouth at the time.

Keep in mind these are my favorites and some are not technically classified as Naturalism, but I feel they qualify....

10. An American Tragedy: Dreiser.

9. Red Badge of Courage: Crane

8. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Crane

7. Sister Carrie: Dreiser

6. Jennie Gerhardt: Dreiser

5. Sons and Lovers: DH Lawrence

4. Dombey and Son: Dickens

3. The Death of Ivan Illych. Tolstoy

2. Madame Bovary: Flaubert.

1.Of Human Bondage: Maugham.

Some of these works float closely on the edge of Realism and Naturalism. Anton Chekhov wrote hundreds of short stories that could be included in this list and Tolstoy wrote another entitled" The Kreutzner Sonata" that is a novella of extreme sadness, yet it also contains a psychological element.

For whatever reason these works speak to me in ways other works have not. I enjoy Naturalism even though it is not a rosy light reading and find the elements at work in the novels speak to universal truths and all too understandable suffering.


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