08/01/2012 12:25 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2012

Gore Vidal Books: Essential Novels And Essay Collections

Gore Vidal, who died today at age 86, wore many hats as a writer. Aside from eight plays and 14 screenplays, including contributions to the iconic "Ben Hur" and the classic "Caligula," he penned 26 novels and 26 works of non-fiction, often politically liberal in nature.

"The City and the Pillar," Vidal's 1948 novel about an openly gay man in post-World War II America, was arguably the writer's breakout work, mostly due to its controversial nature.

A number of his earlier works were written under a number of pseudonyms, including three sexed-up mystery stories by "Edgar Box." The fake names were used because at the time, being prolific could tarnish one's image as a serious writer.

"Since I lived on publishers’ advances, it was fairly urgent that I keep on publishing every year. But of course I wanted to publish every year," Vidal said in an interview with The Paris Review.

He is perhaps most famous for his seven-novel series, "Narratives of Empire," which blends fictional and actual historial characters to tell the story of America from its early days to the postwar era. Of the chronologically first installment, "Burr," Vidal told The Paris Review:

"I had assumed that 'Burr' would be unpopular. My view of American history is much too realistic. Happily, Nixon, who made me a popular playwright (the worst man in 'The Best Man' was based on him), again came to the rescue. Watergate so shook the three percent of our population who read books that they accepted 'Burr,' a book that ordinarily they would have burned while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag."

This rather curmudgeonly stance on American politics is typical of Vidal's public persona, and also his books. The ironically titled conclusion to the "Narratives of Empire" series, "The Golden Age," asserts that America provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor so that they could emerge from World War II as a global superpower.

Read more about Gore Vidal's most notable books:

Gore Vidal's most iconic works
Gore Vidal Quotes