This is a predictable choice, but most of the classics are classics for a reason. If by some fluke you’ve never read it, now’s the time to get it under your belt. A century and a half later, we’re still struggling to deal with the truths about the modern workplace that Melville was onto here. But like all the greatest fiction – or all my favourites, at least – there’s a genuine strangeness at its heart that can’t be decoded. Just step inside and live there for a while, and feel your spirit shaken.
First published in Putnam’s Magazine, November-December 1853, and collected in The Piazza Tales, Dix & Edwards, 1856. Now widely available, including in Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories, Penguin Classics. Available online at Project Gutenberg