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10 Best Don Delillo Books (2024)

Best Don Delillo BooksAnti-Everything

Donald ‘Richard’ DeLillo is an American author known as an anti-everything figure of the late twentieth century. He usually works with novels and short stories but his portfolio extends all the way out to playwriting, screenwriting, and essay writing. As for the topics of his writing, they vary greatly due to the inclusive list of the things he is opposed to.

The cult writer was born in New York City on November nineteen-thirty-six. His family was Italian Catholics living in the Bronx and they were members of the working class. He would start reading extensively when he got a parking attendant job in his twenties and that would lead him to write his own mind. He then went on to get a bachelor’s degree in communication arts in nineteen-fifty-eight and work as a copywriter for five years.

Just did not Want to Work

In nineteen-sixty, Don made his very own publication which was a short story titled The Ricer Jordan. He left his copywriting job three years later and publicly stated later on that he just did not want to work anymore, he did not quit to specifically focus on writing. He first set out to write a novel in nineteen-sixty-six but it would take a few more years for him to publish his first novel.

Best Don Delillo Books



Recalling and Reimagining

To start off our article on the best Don DeLillo books, I will present to you one of the best selling Don DeLillo books which is Underworld. It mainly concerns itself with the post-World War Two era aka Cold War and its psychological effects on the American people. The author recalls and reimagines the past in his own image to create a contemporary story.

The plot of the book is seemingly non-existent. The author just takes us from person to person, place to place, and story to story. The adventure begins with the nineteen-fifty-one Giants-Dodgers penance race’s final game. From there on, a compelling collection of stories written in a style that the author class “super-omniscience”. From a drunk Frank Sinatra to the nuclear mischiefs of the Soviet Union, this book provides us with a lot of content.

Complex Webs of Events

I would like to think that there is a bigger meaning to all of these stories rather than them just being reflections of the past. It is evident from his other works that DeLillo likes to weave complex webs of seemingly unrelated events. Another thing to note about the book is its natural feeling progression or at least lack thereof. The feeling you get from the stories feels similar despite their contextual differences.



Cataclysmic Events

We have another one of the most popular books by Don DeLillo to take second place in our article, Libra. It is another piece of historical fiction that concerns itself with the cataclysmic events in the history of the United States. Taking into hand the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy, the author recreates in his mind the life and transformation of the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

Throughout the course of the book, the author pulls out and combines all of the most popular conspiracies about the event and the two men involved in it. This includes the basic ones like the CIA and FBI involvement, as well as taking into account the hypothesis of mafia/cartel influence. He achieves this by introducing a very generous number of characters and tying them together in meaningful ways. 

Making Perfect Sense

What I really like about Libra is the way it blends in the truth and the theories to the point where they are indistinguishable. This is easy to say but to actually achieve it, every single storyline included in the story no matter how big or small must make perfect sense. This book does exactly that and takes its place among the top contenders for the best Don DeLillo book title for it.

White Noise


An Artistical Rediscovery

The third piece in the list belongs to a fan favorite and even one of the top rated Don DeLillo books, White Noise. If you could pinpoint the exact point in the novelist’s career that led him to be as widely known and successful as he is today, that point would probably be around the time he published White Noise. Not only that but this nineteen-eight-five publication also marks an artistical re-discovery for the author too.

Subtle is the Sensation

The story follows professor Jack Gladney who is a master in the field of Hitler studies for a year in his life. He and his fourth wife from his fifth marriage named Babette take off on a psychological journey that will first lead them to rediscover their sense of lineage identity and then open their eyes to the horrible reality of the state of consumerism in our age. Oh, and they are mortifyingly afraid of death.

The concepts that are explored in this book are nothing less than captivating. The author shot me in the heart with his satirical tone which is so subtle that I think it can go unnoticed by some less attentive readers. The satire is included in neither the text nor the subtext, it is woven into the stories by the background absurdities in the story. It is very easy for me to see why this book had so much success.

Mao II


The Crooked System

Next up in our Don DeLillo books ranked article, I will provide you with a glimpse into Mao II. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and it took a PEN/Faulkner Award home for the author. Despite what kind of thoughts the title can invoke in your mind, it is a book criticizing the crooked political landscape of the United States and the forces driving it forward.

The plot takes us for a ride along with a solitary writer by the name of Bill Gray. We learn all about the success-filled career of this writer and the state he is in at the start of the story. He has just given up on a book that has been working on for years upon years. He braces up to experience his newly returned freedom fully and finds himself in the middle of both governmental and anti-governmental chaos.

A Tale of the Individual

This one of the best novels by Don DeLillo is overloaded with the author’s literary brilliance. While the story is about groups with conflicting interests on the surface, it actually tells a tale of the individual who is caught in the war of crowds. It is all the more fascinating that he can do this with a voice frolicking on the border of tragicomedy.

The Angel Esmeralda


Witnessing all the Dons

Almost halfway through the article, I will be shining a light on the latest Don DeLillo book for you. Despite being the author’s latest book, The Angel Esmeralda also marks a beginning for the author too as it is his first short story collection. It consists of nine stories with the earliest one having been written in nineteen-seventy-nine and the latest two-thousand-eleven.

One of the greatest aspects of this piece is that it allows the reader to witness the different voices used by the author over the span of his career. Some stories are bathed in his earlier, rhythmic style and some are written with his current precise and distilled language. As for their context, they include all kinds of characters like astronauts, terrorists, and nuns. They also include a wide variety of settings from an office prison to outer space.

Greatest Works of the Author

It was a bit surprising for me to learn that the new Don DeLillo book was his first collection. He had started his writing career with short stories and it took this long for him to publish one? I will be honest enough to confess being a little suspicious because of this but thankfully, I have been proven wrong since then. I now stand with the impression that The Angel Esmeralda is made up of only the greatest works of the author.

Point Omega


His Latest Prophecy

Carrying on with our Don DeLillo book list, we will be checking out Point Omega which is a novel that was published just one year prior to The Angel Esmeralda. The author chooses eye-catching characters to be the mouths of his story and once again meddles with the issue of war. In other words, this is the latest one of his prophecies for the United States’ future.

Planners and Inventors of War

The story revolves around a scientist named Richard Elster. We are let in on the story of how he met with the war planners of the United States and how they pursued him into improvising troop deployment and counterinsurgency tactics. However, the real story starts with an Elster who has served his sentence for the military. He has taken his leave and moved down to the desert to focus on his own research.

While it is arguable that Elster wants isolation, his loneliness is disturbed by a filmmaker named Jim Finley. Point Omega is an impressive case study of the minds of the United States’ war efforts. He shows the emotional side of his protagonist as well as emphasizing the matter of his keen intellect. There have not been too many works focusing on this link in the chain of war and Don probably was the perfect person to write this book.



Focusing on the Sub-Text

Continuing on with our article, I will share my thoughts on one of the best rated Don DeLillo books titled Americana. It is also the first fully completed novel of the author as it was published in nineteen-seventy-one. It is all the more impressive for a book this old to still hold its place as a fan favorite and proof that it could stand the test of time.

This is the part where I usually talk about the plot of a book but there is not really much need for it this time. Although Americana does have a story and even multiple side storylines to go with it, the focus is drawn more toward the concepts. There is the soullessness of the corporate culture, the haunting presence of mass media everywhere, and the staple of Don DeLillo’s novels; death.

Feeling Underdeveloped

The amount of concepts and techniques this book introduces that are also apparent in the author’s later works is simply astonishing. Even as a beginner he was able to create ideas that would be useful for him throughout his career. Having said all that, I want to go on and say that it is definitely not the best Don DeLillo book. The good parts are rare and in between, and it just feels underdeveloped.

The Names


Make or Break Point

Next up among the Don DeLillo book reviews we will cover in this writing is The Names. Published in nineteen-eighty-two, it is regarded as one of the make or break points in the career of the author. He may not have been as widely known as he is today if it were not for the enormous amount of attention that this piece brought him. The Los Angeles Times Book Review even spoke of it as “sharply upward the size of his readership”.

The story takes place in Greece with a setting so magnificent that it almost feels almost magical. It revolves around the narrator and a small group who keep him company during the events. There is his wife Kathryn who is estranged when we first learn of her, there is their son who is an impressive novelist at just six years of age, and finally, a scientist named Owen.

Exploration Within the Story

The Names is a beautifully multi-faced story. It is both a thriller and a mystery as well as a book examining the wider range of human consciousness and its building blocks. The foremost concept it shines a light on is the nature of human language. He explores language as an ever-changing structure with endless potential. What I really liked about it was that this exploration took place inside the setting and not as a commentation on it.

Falling Man


State of Chaos

Making our way through the article, the next one of the best books by Don DeLillo that we will go over will be Falling Man. It is yet another exploration of the culture of the United States by the author. It takes the fateful events of September Eleven as its main point of focus and examines the past of the event as well as its aftermath which led the United States to a state of chaos.

The events are shared with us as they are witnessed by a small family of troubled people. Keith is the father, he was given the hard path by fate and is now living a life that he can not relate to. Lianne is his wife, she can not feel as close to him as she once felt for her life and her mind is riddled with the image of a shadowy man. Finally, we have Justin, a small boy trying to make sense of it all.

Personal and In-Depth

What I really like about this piece is how personal it feels and how in-depth the characters are despite the concept of the book not particularly promising it. Of course, tragedies are maybe one of the biggest cataclysmic forces in cultures but they are a force to be reckoned with in terms of personal relationships as well. This book understands this and with it, earns its place as a strong contender for the best Don DeLillo novel title.



A Haircut and the State of America

The last one of the Don DeLillo books that I have in order for you on this list is Cosmopolis, the single most interesting story of the author in my opinion. It talks about wealth and the societal distribution of it, the moral side of the less fortunate lashing out in search of justice, and the fact that wealthy people too have a life.

The story is set in the Cosmopolis of our day, New York City and we also visit the birthplaces of the concept which are Athens and Rome. Most of it takes place inside the white limo of the twenty-eight years old hedge fund billionaire Eric Packer. He is on a trip through 47th Street with the aim of getting a haircut. But to say the haircut is the only driving factor of the story is a huge understatement.

One of the Best

Cosmopolis is one of those books that you can not really summarize and make it justice. It explores highly intricate ideas in the subtlest of ways to the point where they blend in with the smallest of events in the book. It is composed solely of metaphors and spiritual turmoil. These along with the brilliant writing make this piece one of the best Don DeLillo novels out there.

Robert Hazley

Robert is a science fiction and fantasy geek. (He is also the best looking Ereads writer!) Besides reading and writing, he enjoys sports, cosplay, and good food (don't we all?). Currently works as an accountant (would you believe that?)