Ranking Author James Joyce’s Best Books (A Bibliography Countdown)

“What are James Joyce’s Best Books?” We looked at all of Joyce’s authored bibliography and ranked them against one another to answer that very question!

We took all of the books written by James Joyce and looked at their Goodreads, Amazon, and LibraryThing scores, ranking them against one another to see which books came out on top. The books are ranked in our list below based on which titles have the highest overall score between all 3 review sites in comparison with all of the other books by the same author. The process isn’t super scientific and in reality, most books aren’t “better” than other books as much as they are just different. That being said, we do enjoy seeing where our favorites landed, and if you aren’t familiar with the author at all, the rankings can help you see what books might be best to start with.

The full ranking chart is also included below the countdown on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!

The Top Book’s Of James Joyce

16 ) Pomes Penyeach

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 16
  • Amazon: 14
  • LibraryThing: 15

This early work by James Joyce was originally published in 1927. ‘Pomes Penyeach’ is a collection of Joyce’s poetry. James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1882. He excelled as a student at the Jesuit schools Clongowes and Belvedere, and then at University College Dublin, where he studied English, French, and Italian.

15 ) Finn’s Hotel

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 12
  • Amazon: 15
  • LibraryThing: 16

Uncovered by Irish scholar Danis Rose in the course of his research for a critical edition of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, this series of profound and beautifully written stories is based on seven epiphanic moments in Irish history and mythology. Finn’s Hotel is a luminous and often funny work, and it reveals Joyce’s creative process during the transition between Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

14 ) Collected Poems

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 13
  • Amazon: 15
  • LibraryThing: 12

13 ) Chamber Music

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 13
  • Amazon: 11
  • LibraryThing: 14

Chamber Music is a collection of poems by James Joyce. The collection originally comprised thirty-four love poems, but two further poems were added before publication (“All day I hear the noise of waters” and “I hear an army charging upon the land”).

12 ) Exiles

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 15
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 11

The only extant play by the great Irish novelist, Exiles is of interest both for its autobiographical content and for formal reasons. In the characters and their circumstances details of Joyce’s life are evident. The main character, Richard Rowan, the moody, tormented writer who is at odds with both his wife and the parochial Irish society around him, is clearly a portrait of Joyce himself. The character of Rowan’s wife, Bertha, is certainly influenced by Joyce’s lover and later wife, Nora Barnacle, with whom he left Ireland and lived a seminomadic existence in Zurich, Rome, Trieste, and Paris. As in real life, the play depicts the couple with a young son and, like Joyce, Rowan has returned to Ireland because of his mother’s illness and subsequent death. One can also detect hints of Joyce’s interest in Nietzsche in Rowan’s flawed pursuit of total individual freedom despite the stifling morals of Irish society. Though wrestling with guilt over his own infidelities, Rowan insists on this personal liberty, not only for himself but for his wife as well, who he knows is tempted by his cousin’s amorous overtures. Joyce’s decision to express himself in the form of a play no doubt reflects his long admiration of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. In the tense dialogue, the largely interior drama focused on the characters’ relationships, the undertones of guilt, and the longing for freedom one sees similarities with Ibsen’s themes.

11 ) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 11
  • Amazon: 9
  • LibraryThing: 8

The portrayal of Stephen Dedalus’s Dublin childhood and youth, his quest for identity through art and his gradual emancipation from the claims of family, religion and Ireland itself, is also an oblique self-portrait of the young James Joyce and a universal testament to the artist’s ‘eternal imagination’. Both an insight into Joyce’s life and childhood, and a unique work of modernist fiction, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a novel of sexual awakening, religious rebellion and the essential search for voice and meaning that every nascent artist must face in order to fully come into themselves.

10 ) Finnegans Wake

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 9
  • Amazon: 9
  • LibraryThing: 5

Finnegans Wake is the most bookish of all books. John Bishop has described it as ‘the single most intentionally crafted literary artefact that our culture has produced’. In its original format, however, the book has been beset by numerous imperfections occasioned by the confusion of its seventeen-year composition. Only today, by restoring to our view the author’s intentions in a physical book designed, printed and bound to the highest standards of the printers’ art, can the editors reveal in true detail James Joyce’s fourth, and last, masterwork. This edition is the summation of thirty years’ intense engagement by textual scholars Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon verifying, codifying, collating and clarifying the 20,000 pages of notes, drafts, typescripts and proofs comprising James Joyce’s ‘litters from aloft, like a waast wizzard all of whirlwords’ (fw2, 14.16-17). The new reading text of Finnegans Wake, typographically re-set for the first time in its publishing history,

8 ) Ulysses

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 7
  • Amazon: 13
  • LibraryThing: 2

Loosely based on the Odyssey, this landmark of modern literature follows ordinary Dubliners in 1904. Capturing a single day in the life of Dubliner Leopold Bloom, his friends Buck Mulligan and Stephen Dedalus, his wife Molly, and a scintillating cast of supporting characters, Joyce pushes Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. Captivating experimental techniques range from interior monologues to exuberant wordplay and earthy humor, Joyce pushes Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes.

8 ) The Cats of Copenhagen

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 4
  • Amazon: 8
  • LibraryThing: 10

The Cats of Copenhagen was first written for James Joyce’s most beloved audience, his only grandson Stephen James Joyce, sent in a letter dated September 5, 1936. Cats were clearly a common currency between Joyce and his grandson. In early August 1936, Joyce sent Stephen “a little cat filled with sweets”—a kind of Trojan cat meant to outwit grown-ups. A few weeks later, Joyce penned a letter from Copenhagen which begins, “Alas! I cannot send you a Copenhagen cat because there are no cats in Copenhagen.” The letter reveals the modernist master at his most playful, yet Joyce’s Copenhagen has a keen, anti-authoritarian quality that transcends the mere whimsy of a children’s story. Only recently rediscovered, this marks the inaugural U.S. publication of The Cats of Copenhagen, a treasure for readers of all age.

7 ) The Cat and the Devil

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 6
  • Amazon: 3
  • LibraryThing: 12

The mayor’s pact with the devil results in the overnight construction of a much-needed bridge for the town of Beaugency

6 ) Giacomo Joyce

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 9
  • Amazon: 2
  • LibraryThing: 9

Joyce’s fictionalized autobiographical love story is presented together with textual and documentary notes.

5 ) The Critical Writings of James Joyce

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 3
  • Amazon: 11
  • LibraryThing: 3

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century.

4 ) Stephen Hero

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 8
  • Amazon: 1
  • LibraryThing: 7

Stephen Hero is a posthumously-published autobiographical novel by Irish author James Joyce. Its published form reflects only a portion of an original manuscript, part of which was lost. Many of its ideas were used in composing A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

3 ) Dubliners

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 4
  • Amazon: 6
  • LibraryThing: 4

This work of art reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century, and by rejecting euphemism, reveals to the Irish their unromantic reality. Each of the 15 stories offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, and collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.

2 ) Selected Letters of James Joyce

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 1
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 6

This correspondence provides a balance between the letters of Joyce as a man, and as a writer.

1 ) Letters of James Joyce Vol. 1-3

Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 2
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 1

James Joyce’s Best Books

James Joyce Review Website Bibliography Rankings

Book Goodreads Amazon LibraryThing Overall Rank
Letters of James Joyce Vol. 1-3 2 4 1 1
Selected Letters of James Joyce 1 4 6 2
Dubliners 4 6 4 3
Stephen Hero 8 1 7 4
The Critical Writings of James Joyce 3 11 3 5
Giacomo Joyce 9 2 9 6
The Cat and the Devil 6 3 12 7
Ulysses 7 13 2 8
The Cats of Copenhagen 4 8 10 8
Finnegans Wake 9 9 5 10
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 11 9 8 11
Exiles 15 7 11 12
Chamber Music 13 11 14 13
Collected Poems 13 15 12 14
Finn’s Hotel 12 15 16 15
Pomes Penyeach 16 14 15 16
A.M. Anderson:
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