His Best Works
(A highly abbreviated selection.)
The Early Stories (1953–1975).
Updike’s melancholic, lyrical, and cutting short fiction is some of his best writing, and this comprehensive anthology is a solid introduction. Flip first to the brilliant and autobiographical Maple stories, which trace the rise, fall, reinvention, and final dissolution of a seventeen-year marriage.
The Witches of Eastwick (1984).
A chef d’oeuvre of misogyny, this sly satire about three wicked divorcées was Updike’s best shot across the bow at his female critics—and it holds up today as a masterfully nasty comic novel, an allegory for female power gone wrong grounded in unsettling emotional insight.
The Centaur (1963).
Updike’s third novel, which playfully—if too blatantly—grafts the story of Chiron and Prometheus onto a small Pennsylvania town, polarized critics when it won the National Book Award. But decades later it remains one of his most successful experiments outside the universe of Rabbit and Bech, and the one that delves most deeply into his relationship with his father.
The Rabbit books (1960–1990).
A brilliant quartet of male angst, not to mention a half-century of American culture as seen through the eyes of Updike’s most iconic creation: ex-jock, sexual adventurer, helplessly vivid depressive observer.
Picked-Up Pieces (1975).
The typically wide-ranging Updikean nonfiction hodgepodge: speeches, book reviews, travelogues, thoughts on golf. Of all the essay collections, this one manages best to blend the verbal energy of his early years with the quieter wisdom of his late.