Recommended Reading for the College-Bound (Or Anyone Interested in a Good Book)
THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a "strong man" of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. THINGS FALL APART is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.
Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice, FIC AUS & eBook
Having set up the central misunderstanding of the novel, Austen then brings in her cast of fascinating secondary characters: Mr. Collins, the sycophantic clergyman who aspires to Lizzy's hand but settles for her best friend, Charlotte, instead; Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy's insufferably snobbish aunt; and the Gardiners, Jane and Elizabeth's low-born but noble-hearted aunt and uncle. Some of Austen's best comedy comes from mixing and matching these representatives of different classes and economic strata, demonstrating the hypocrisy at the heart of so many social interactions. And though the novel is rife with romantic misunderstandings, rejected proposals, disastrous elopements, and a requisite happy ending for those who deserve one, Austen never gets so carried away with the romance that she loses sight of the hard economic realities of 19th-century matrimonial maneuvering. Good marriages for penniless girls such as the Bennets are hard to come by, and even Lizzy, who comes to sincerely value Mr. Darcy, remarks when asked when she first began to love him: "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley." She may be joking, but there's more than a little truth to her sentiment, as well. Jane Austen considered Elizabeth Bennet "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print".
Baldwin, James, Go Tell It on the Mountain, FIC BAL
What happens when you peel back the layers of damaged lives? What do you discover? Go Tell It on the Mountain is a young man's novel, as tightly coiled as a new spring, yet tempered by a maturing man's confidence and empathy. It's not a long book, and its action spans but a single day--yet the author packs in emotion, detail, and intimate revelation. Using as a frame the spiritual and moral awakening of 14-year-old John Grimes during a Saturday night service in a Harlem storefront church, Baldwin lays bare the secrets of a tormented black family during the depression. John's parents, praying beside him, both wrestle with the ghosts of their sinful pasts--Gabriel, a preacher of towering hypocrisy, fathered an illegitimate child during his first marriage down South and refused to recognize his doomed son; Elizabeth fell in love with a charming, free-spirited young man, followed him to New York, became pregnant with his son, and lost him before she could reveal her condition. Baldwin lays down the terrible similarities of these two blighted lives as the ironic context for their son John's dark night of the soul.
Bellamy, Edward, Looking Backward: 2000-1887, eBook
Edward Bellamy's classic look at the future has been translated into over twenty languages and is the most widely read novel of its time. A young Boston gentleman is mysteriously transported from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century--from a world of war and want to one of peace and plenty. This brilliant vision became the blueprint of utopia that stimulated some of the greatest thinkers of our age.
Brontë, Charlotte, Jane Eyre, FIC BRO & eBook
"So we open Jane Eyre....The writer has us by the hand, forces us along her road, makes us see what she sees, never leaves us for a moment or allows us to forget her. At the end we are steeped through and through with the genius, the vehemence, and the indignation of Charlotte Brontë....It is the red and fitful glow of the heart's fire which illuminates her page."
Brontë, Emily, Wuthering Heights, FIC BRO & eBook
Wuthering Heights, first published in 1847, the year before the author's death at the age of thirty, endures today as perhaps the most powerful and intensely original novel in the English language. The epic story of Catherine and Heathcliff plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the wild English moors, and presents an astonishing metaphysical vision of fate and obsession, passion and revenge. "Only Emily Brontë," V. S. Pritchett said, "exposes her imagination to the dark spirit." And Virginia Woolf wrote, "Hers...is the rarest of all powers. She could free life from its dependence on facts...by speaking of the moor make the wind blow and the thunder roar."
Brown, Dee, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 970.5 BRO
This extraordinary book changed the way Americans think about the original inhabitants of their country. Beginning with the Long Walk of the Navajos in 1860 and ending 30 years later with the massacre of Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, it tells how the American Indians lost their land and lives to a dynamically expanding white society. During these three decades, America's population doubled from 31 million to 62 million. Again and again, promises made to the Indians fell victim to the ruthlessness and greed of settlers pushing westward to make new lives. The Indians were herded off their ancestral lands into ever-shrinking reservations, and were starved and killed if they resisted. It is a truism that "history is written by the victors"; for the first time, this book described the opening of the West from the Indians' viewpoint.
Camus, Albert, The Stranger, FIC CAM & AUD FIC CAM
Albert Camus’s spare, laconic masterpiece about a Frenchman who murders an Arab in Algeria is famous for having diagnosed, with a clarity almost scientific, that condition of reckless alienation and spiritual exhaustion that characterized so much of twentieth-century life.
Possessing both the force of a parable and the excitement of a perfectly executed thriller, The Stranger is the work of one of the most engaged and intellectually alert writers of the past century.
Cather, Willa, My Antonia, FIC CAT & eBook
The story of Antonia Shimerda is told by one of the friends of her childhood, Jim Burden, an orphaned boy from Virginia. Though he leaves the prairie, Jim never forgets the Bohemian girl who so profoundly influenced his life. An immigrant child of immigrant parents, Antonia's girlhood is spent working to help her parents wrest a living from the untamed land. Though in later years she suffers betrayal and desertion, through all the hardships of her life Antonia preserves a valor of spirit that no hardship can daunt or break.
Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales, 821.1 CHA & eBook
At the Tabard Inn in Southwark, a jovial group of pilgrims assembles, including an unscrupulous Pardoner, a noble-minded Knight, a ribald Miller, the lusty Wife of Bath, and Chaucer himself. As they set out on their journey towards the shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury, each character agrees to tell a tale. The twenty-four tales that follow are by turns learned, fantastic, pious, melancholy and lewd, and together offer an unrivalled glimpse into the mind and spirit of medieval England.
Clark, Walter Van T., The Ox-Bow Incident, FIC CLA
This is a psychological study of corrupt leadership and mob rule. Set in Nevada in1885, the story concerns the brutal lynching of three characters falsely accused of murder and theft. The strong-willed leader of the lynch mob, Major Tetley, easily takes advantage of the suppressed resentment and boredom of the townspeople. Here is the historical version of modern "road rage."
Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness, FIC CON & eBook
Cooper, James Fenimore, The Deerslayer, FIC COO & eBook
A tribute to the noble pioneer spirit in conflict with encroaching society. Natty Bumppo is an idealistic youth raised among the Indians but he has yet to meet the test. In a tale of violent action, the harsh realities of tribal warfare force him to kill his first foe and face torture at the stake.
Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans, FIC COO & eBook
The classic portrait of a man of moral courage who severs all connections with a society whose values he can no longer accept. A brave woodsman, Natty Bumppo, and his loyal Mohican friends become embroiled in the bloody battle of the French and Indian War.
Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage, FIC CRA & eBook
This novel of the American Civil War is considered to be a masterwork for its perceptive depiction of warfare and of the psychological turmoil of the soldier. It tells of the experience of war from the point of view of an ordinary soldier.
Dante, Inferno, 851 DAN
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is one of the most important and innovative figures of the European Middle Ages. Writing his Comedy (the epithet 'Divine' was added by later admirers) in exile from his native Florence, he aimed to address a world gone astray both morally and politically. At the same time, he sought to push back the restrictive rules which traditionally governed writing in the Italian vernacular, to produce a radically new and all-encompassing work.
De Cervantes, Miguel, Don Quixote, FIC CER & DVD FIC DON & eBook
What begins as a middle-aged country gentleman absorbed with novels of chivalry deliberately evolves into a tale of purely imaginative knight-errantry in this highly influential work of the Spanish Golden Age. This first of modern novels was written in the experimental episodic form, allowing Don Quixote and his 'squire' Sancho Panza to go on quests that just as often as not land them in trouble or earn them the incredulity of those fully engaged in reality. While initially farcical, the novel slowly reveals a more philosophical thread exploring the theme of deception, all the while creating emotional and mental reversals in the two main figures that take them from tilting at windmills to fully comprehending reality. A work that frequently appears on lists in the highest echelon of published fiction, "Don Quixote" is a novel that has deeply influenced a host of notable writers and readers for over 400 years.
Defoe, Daniel, Robinson Crusoe, FIC DEF & eBook
From its first publication in 1719, Robinson Crusoe has been printed in over 700 editions. It has inspired almost every conceivable kind of imitation and variation, and been the subject of plays, opera, cartoons, and computer games. The character of Crusoe has entered the consciousness of each succeeding generation as readers add their own interpretation to the adventures so thrillingly 'recorded' by Defoe.
Dickens, Charles, A Tale of Two Cities, FIC DIC & eBook
A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. With well over 200 million copies sold, it ranks among the most famous works in the history of fictional literature. The novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. It follows the lives of several protagonists through these events. The most notable are Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Darnay is a French once-aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Carton is a dissipated British barrister who endeavors to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife, Lucie Manette. The 45-chapter novel was published in 32 weekly installments in Dickens' new literary periodical titled All the Year Round. In May 1859 through December 1859, Dickens also republished the chapters as eight monthly sections in green covers. Dickens' previous novels had appeared only as monthly installments. The first weekly installment of A Tale of Two Cities ran in the first issue of All the Year Round on 30 April 1859. The last ran thirty-one weeks later, on 25 November.
Doctorow, E.L., Ragtime, FIC DOC
An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters disappears.
Dorris, Michael, Yellow Raft in Blue Water, FIC DOR
A powerful novel of three generations of American Indian women, each seeking her own identity while forever cognizant of family responsibilities, loyalty, and love. Rayona, half-Indian half-black daughter of Christine, reacts to feelings of rejection and abandonment by running away, not knowing that her mother had acted in a similar fashion some 15 years before. But family ties draw Rayona home to the Montana reservations they drew Christine to, and as they had drawn Ida many years earlier. As the three recount their lives, often repeating incidents but adding new perspectives, a total picture emerges.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, Crime and Punishment, FIC DOS & eBook
Mired in poverty, the student Raskolnikov nevertheless thinks well of himself. Of his pawnbroker he takes a different view, and in deciding to do away with her he sets in motion his own tragic downfall. Dostoyevsky's penetrating novel of an intellectual whose moral compass goes haywire, and the detective who hunts him down for his terrible crime, is a stunning psychological portrait, a thriller and a profound meditation on guilt and retribution.
In 1845, just seven years after his escape from slavery, the young Frederick Douglass published this powerful account of his life in bondage and his triumph over oppression. The book, which marked the beginning of Douglass's career as an impassioned writer, journalist, and orator for the abolitionist cause, reveals the terrors he faced as a slave, the brutalities of his owners and overseers, and his harrowing escape to the North. It has become a classic of American autobiography.
Corruption and destruction of one man who forfeits his life in desperate pursuit of success. The author based his realistic and vivid study on the actual case of Chester Gilette, who murdered Grace Brown at the Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks in July 1906.
Dreiser, Theodore, Sister Carrie, FIC DRE
Sister Carrie tells the story of a rudderless but pretty small-town girl who comes to the big city filled with vague ambitions. She is used by men and uses them in turn to become a successful Broadway actress, while George Hurstwood, the married man who has run away with her, loses his grip on life and descends into beggary and suicide. Sister Carrie was the first masterpiece of the American naturalistic movement in its grittily factual presentation of the vagaries of urban life and in its ingenuous heroine, who goes unpunished for her transgressions against conventional sexual morality. The book's strengths include a brooding but compassionate view of humanity, a memorable cast of characters, and a compelling narrative storyline.
Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man, FIC ELL or AUD FIC ELL
The novel's hero remains optimistic despite enduring betrayal, manipulation, humiliation, and the loss of his illusions. Narrating his story from an underground cell, the anonymous protagonist explains that he is involuntarily invisible because society sees his stereotype rather than his true personality. The narrator recalls how he was raised in the South, named valedictorian of his high school graduation class, and invited to speak for the community's prominent white citizens. The evening's brutality convinces him that he will be rewarded if he does what white people expect, and this idea starts his identity crisis.
Faulkner, William, Absalom, Absalom!, FIC FAU
The story of Thomas Sutpen, an enigmatic stranger who came to Jefferson in the early 1830s to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi wilderness. He was a man, Faulkner said, "who wanted sons and the sons destroyed him."
Faulkner, William, Intruder in the Dust, FIC FAU
This is the study of murder and the mass mind, of an accused Negro whose guilt or innocence becomes secondary to the larger moral problems of justice itself, of a boy just old enough to find his way into manhood under the stress of conflicting values.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby, FIC FIT & AUD FIC FIT & VID FIC GRE
Here is the story of fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. It is a brilliant dramatization of the 1920's--the social and economic corruptions of the jazz age, Prohibition, gangsterism, blasé flappers and uprooted ness.
Frazier, Charles, Cold Mountain, FIC FRA
Cold Mountain is an extraordinary novel about a soldier's perilous journey back to his beloved at the end of the Civil War. At once a magnificent love story and a harrowing account of one man's long walk home.
Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,eBook
One of the most popular works of American literature, this charming self-portrait has been translated into nearly every language. It covers Franklin’s life up to his prewar stay in London as representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, including his boyhood years, work as a printer, experiments with electricity, political career, much more.
Grisham, John, A Painted House, FIC GRI
Here there are hardscrabble farmers instead, and dirt-poor itinerant workers and a seven-year-old boy who grows up fast in a story as rich in conflict and incident as any previous Grisham and as nuanced as his very best. It's September 1952 in rural Arkansas when young narrator Luke Chandler notes that "the hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day." These folk are in Black Oak for the annual harvest of the cotton grown on the 80 acres that the Chandlers rent. The three generations of the Chandler family treat their workers more kindly than most farmers do, including engaging in the local obsession--playing baseball--with them, but serious trouble arises among the harvesters nonetheless. Most of it centers around Hank Spruill, a giant hillbilly with an equally massive temper, who one night in town beats a man dead and who throughout the book rubs up against a knife-wielding Mexican who is dating Hank's 17-year-old sister on the sly, leading to another murder. In fact, there's a mess of trouble in Luke's life, from worries about his uncle Ricky fighting in Korea to concerns about the nearby Latcher family and its illegitimate newborn baby, who may be Ricky's son. And then there are the constant fears about the weather, as much a character in this novel as any human, from the tornado that storms past the farm to the downpours that eventually flood the fields, ruining the crop and washing Luke and his family into a new life.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter, FIC HAW & AUD FIC HAW & VID FIC SCA & eBook
Set in Puritan New England, the main character is Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne an illegitimate child. It is considered a masterpiece of American literature and a classic moral study.
Heller, Joseph, Catch 22, FIC HEL
In this satirical novel, antihero Captain John Yossarian is stationed on an airstrip on a Mediterranean island in World War II and is desperate to stay alive. The "catch" involves a mysterious Air Force regulation which states that a man is considered insane if he requests to be relieved of his missions.
Hemingway, Ernest, A Farewell to Arms, FIC HEM
As a youth of 18, Ernest Hemingway was eager to fight in the Great War. Poor vision kept him out of the army, so he joined the ambulance corps instead and was sent to France. Then he transferred to Italy where he became the first American wounded in that country during World War I. Hemingway came out of the European battlefields with a medal for valor and a wealth of experience that he would, 10 years later, spin into literary gold with A Farewell to Arms. This is the story of Lieutenant Henry, an American, and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. The two meet in Italy, and almost immediately Hemingway sets up the central tension of the novel: the tenuous nature of love in a time of war.
Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises, FIC HEM
The story of a group of American and English patriots living in Paris and their excursion to Pampalona. It captures the angst of the post-World War I generation, known as the Lost Generation, and centers around the flamboyant Lady Brett Ashley and the hapless Jake Barnes. In an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love and vanishing illusions, this is the Lost Generation.
Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls, FIC HEM
Timeless epic of Spanish Civil War portraying every facet of human emotions. This is the story of Robert Jordan, a young American attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain. It tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal.
When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel's tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.
James, Henry, The Turn of the Screw, FIC JAM & AUD FIC JAM & eBook
When a young lady goes to a big country house to teach two beautiful children, strange things start to happen and a terrible story of ghosts and danger begins.
Kafka, Franz, The Metamorphosis, FIC KAF & AUD FIC KAF
Often cited as one of the most influential works of short fiction of the 20th century, Metamorphosis is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elias Canetti described it as "one of the few great and perfect works of the poetic imagination written..."
Kerouac, Jack, On the Road, FIC KER
Poetic, open and raw, Kerouac's prose about the "beat generation of the 1950s" lays out a cross-country adventure as experienced by Sal Paradise, an autobiographical character. A writer holed up in a room at his aunt's house, Paradise gets inspired by Dean Moriarty (a character based on Kerouac's friend Neal Cassady) to hit the road and see America. From the moment he gets on the seven train out of New York City, he takes the reader through the highs and lows of hitchhiking, bonding with fellow explorers and opting for drink before food. First published in 1957, Kerouac's perennially hot story continues to express the restless energy and desire for freedom that makes people rush out to see the world.
Kesey, Ken, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, FIC KES & VID FIC ONE
Randle Patrick McMurphy is a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the ward of a mental hospital and takes over... The contest starts as a sport but it soon develops into a grim struggle for the minds and hearts of the men, into an all-out war between two relentless opponents, Big Nurse and McMurphy.
Kidd, Sue Monk, The Secret Life of Bees, FIC KID & AUD FIC KID & DVD FIC SEC
14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart's answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words "Tiburon, South Carolina" scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily's beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of--Tiburon, South Carolina--determined to find out more about her dead mother.
Kingsolver, Barbara, The Poisonwood Bible, FIC KIN
The Poisonwood Bible is the story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, the fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. What follows is a suspense epic of one's family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
Krakauer, Jon, Into Thin Air, 796.552 KRA
Heroism and sacrifice triumph over foolishness, fatal error, and human frailty in this bone-chilling narrative in which the author recounts his experiences on last year's ill-fated, deadly climb. Accepting an assignment from Outside magazine to investigate whether it was safe for wealthy amateur climbers to tackle the mountain, Krakauer joined an expedition guided by New Zealander Rob Hall. But Krakauer got more than he bargained for when on summit day a blinding snowstorm caught four groups on the mountain's peaks. While Krakauer made it back to camp, eight others died, including Scott Fischer and Hall, two of the world's best mountaineers. Devastated by the disaster, Krakauer has written this compelling and haunting account.
Krakauer, Jon, Into the Wild, 917.9804 KRA
After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska, where he went to live in the wilderness. Four months later, he turned up dead. His diary, letters and two notes found at a remote campsite tell of his desperate effort to survive, apparently stranded by an injury and slowly starving. They also reflect the posturing of a confused young man, raised in affluent Annandale, Va., who self-consciously adopted a Tolstoyan renunciation of wealth and return to nature. Krakauer, a contributing editor to Outside and Men's Journal, retraces McCandless's ill-fated antagonism toward his father, Walt, an eminent aerospace engineer. Krakauer also draws parallels to his own reckless youthful exploit in 1977 when he climbed Devils Thumb, a mountain on the Alaska-British Columbia border, partly as a symbolic act of rebellion against his autocratic father. In a moving narrative, Krakauer probes the mystery of McCandless's death.
Lewis, Sinclair, Arrowsmith, FIC LEW
As the son and grandson of physicians, Sinclair Lewis had a store of experiences and imparted knowledge to draw upon for Arrowsmith. Published in 1925, after three years of anticipation, the book follows the life of Martin Arrowsmith, a rather ordinary fellow who gets his first taste of medicine at 14 as an assistant to the drunken physician in his home town. It is Leora Tozer who makes Martin's life extraordinary. With vitality and love, she urges him beyond the confines of the mundane to risk answering his true calling as a scientist and researcher. Not even her tragic death can extinguish her spirit or her impact on Martin's life.
Lewis, Sinclair, Babbitt, FIC LEW
Tale of a conniving, prosperous real estate man, George Follansbee Babbitt. He is unimaginative, self-important, and hopelessly middle class. He is dissatisfied and tries to alter the pattern of his life by flirting with liberalism and by entering a liaison with an attractive widow.
Lewis, Sinclair, Main Street, FIC LEW
This novel captures the humdrum existence of a small American town and its inhabitants. Carol Milford, a girl of quick intelligence but no particular talent, after graduation from college, meets and marries Will Kennicott, a sober, kindly, unimaginative physician of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, who tells her that the town needs her.
London, Jack, Call of the Wild, FIC LON & AUD FIC LON
Novel by Jack London, published in 1903 and often considered to be his masterpiece. London's version of the classic quest story using a dog as the protagonist has sometimes been erroneously categorized as a children's novel. Buck, who is shipped to the Klondike to be trained as a sled dog, eventually reverts to his primitive, wolflike ancestry. He then undertakes an almost mythical journey, abandoning the safety of his familiar world to encounter danger, adventure, and fantasy. When he is transformed into the legendary "Ghost Dog" of the Klondike, he has become a true hero.
Malamud, Bernard, The Natural, FIC MAL
What happens when you tell everyone you want to be the greatest player that ever lived? Roy Hobbs, the protagonist of The Natural, makes the mistake of pronouncing aloud his dream: to be the best there ever was. Such hubris, of course, invites divine intervention, but the brilliance of Bernard Malamud's novel is the second chance it offers its hero, elevating him--and his story--into the realm of myth.
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain, FIC MAN
In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps--a community devoted exclusively to sickness--as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death.
Mason, Bobbie Anne, In Country, FIC MAS
Sam, 17, is obsessed with the Vietnam War and the effect it has had on her life losing a father she never knew and now living with Uncle Emmett, who seems to be suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. In her own forthright way, she tries to sort out why and how Vietnam has altered the lives of the vets of Hopewell, Kentucky. Her untempered curiosity and imagination sprint off in all directions as she examines closely the often undiscussed, but always noticed, aspects of daily life. In this coming-of-age novel, Sam ponders many problems, among them Emmett's crusty, salve-covered pimples, veteran Tom's inability to have an erection and her good friend Dawn's pregnancy. Although Sam lives in a disheveled, tawdry house, she brings a freshness of spirit to the way she scrutinizes and revels in life. When she wants to understand living conditions in the Vietnam jungles, she decides she has to experience it, so spends the night beside a local swamp. A harshly realistic, well-written look at the Vietnam War as well as the story of a young woman maturing.
McCarthy, Cormac, The Crossing, FIC McC
Sixteen-year-old Billy Parham is obsessed with trapping a renegade wolf that has crossed the border from Mexico to raid his father's cattle ranch. By the time he finally succeeds, Billy has formed such a close bond with his prey that he decides to return the wolf to its home, and the two head off into the mountains. Billy returns months later to find that his parents have been murdered by horse thieves. He abducts his kid brother from a foster home, and they ride into Mexico to retrieve their property, encountering gypsies, desperadoes, and itinerant philosophers along the way. Essentially a boy's adventure story written for adults, The Crossing is thematically related to the award-winning bestseller All The Pretty Horses, but it is not a sequel.
Melville, Herman, Moby-Dick, FIC MEL & AUD FIC MEL & eBook
Moby Dick, the great white whale, is pursued by the monomaniacal Captain Ahab, whose ivory leg is testimony to their previous encounter. The crew of Ahab's ship, the Pequod, is composed of a mixture of races and religions, including the God-fearing mate Starbuck; three primitive harpooners; the Black cabin boy; and the fire-worshipping Parsee.
Miller, Arthur, The Crucible, 812.52 MIL & AUD 812 MIL
Based on historical people and real events, Arthur Miller's play uses the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence unleashed by the rumors of witchcraft as a powerful parable about McCarthyism.
Miller, Arthur, Death of a Salesman, 812.52 MIL & AUD 812 MIL & VID 812.5 DEA
This play is the genuine article--it's got the goods on the human condition, all packed into a day in the life of one self-deluded, self-promoting, self-defeating soul. The tragedy of Loman the all-American dreamer and loser works eternally, on the page as on the stage.
Mitchell, Margaret, Gone With the Wind, FIC MIT & VID FIC GON
Gone with the Wind is a compelling and entertaining novel. It was the sweeping story of tangled passions and the rare courage of a group of people in Atlanta during the time of Civil War that brought those cinematic scenes to life. The reason the movie became so popular was the strength of its characters--Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler, and Ashley Wilkes--all created here by the deft hand of Margaret Mitchell, in this, her first novel.
Morrison, Toni, Sula, FIC MOR
This novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their growing up together in a small Ohio town, through their divergent paths through womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation. Here is the unforgettable rendering of what it means and costs to exist and survive as a black woman in America.
Morrison, Toni, Beloved, FIC MOR & AUD FIC MOR
In this Pulitzer prize winning novel, is a dense, complex story that yields up its secrets one by one. As Toni Morrison takes us deeper into Sethe's history and her memories, the horrifying circumstances of her baby's death start to make terrible sense. And as past meets present in the shape of a mysterious young woman about the same age as Sethe's daughter would have been, the narrative builds inexorably to its powerful, painful conclusion. Beloved may well be the defining novel of slavery in America, the one that all others will be measured by.
Morrison, Toni, Song of Solomon, FIC MOR
A literary masterpiece about four generations of black life in America. It is a world we enter through the present, through Macon Dead Jr., son of the richest black family in a Midwestern town. We enter on the day of his birth and see Macon growing up in his father's money-haunted, death-haunted house with his silent sisters and strangely, passive mother.
Neihardt, John G., Black Elk Speaks, 921 BLA
This life story of a holy man of the Oglala Sioux, Black Elk, is considered a North American bible of all tribes. Here is the story of a Native American who lived during the tragic decades of the Custer battle, the ghost dance, and the Wounded Knee Massacre. He offers a profound vision of the unity of all creation.
O'Brien, Tim, Things They Carried, FIC OBR & AUD FIC OBR
The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because during the Vietnam War they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves. With the creative verve of the greatest fiction and the intimacy of a searing autobiography, The Things They Carried is a testament to the men who risked their lives in America's most controversial war. It is also a mirror held up to the frailty of humanity. Ultimately The Things They Carried and its myriad protagonists call to order the courage, determination, and luck we all need to survive.
O'Connor, Flannery, Three (Everything That Rises Must Converge), FIC OCO
Three great works are included: (1) Wise Blood evokes a terrifying world as it reveals a weird relationship between a sensual girl, a conniving widow, and a young man who deliberately blinds himself; (2) The Violent Bear It Away tells of a strangely decadent family--three generations obsessed by guilt and driven to violence; and (3) Everything That Rises Must Converge is a collection about eroding family relationships, individuals grappling with their sense of place and race relations.
O'Neill, Eugene, Long Day's Journey Into Night, 812 ONE & VID 812
Completed in 1940, it is an autobiographical play Eugene O'Neill wrote that--because of the highly personal writing about his family--was not to be released until 25 years after his death, which occurred in 1953. But since O'Neill's immediate family had died in the early 1920s, his wife allowed publication of the play in 1956. Besides the history alone, the play is fascinating in its own right. It tells of the "Tyrones"--a fictional name for what is clearly the O'Neills. Theirs is not a happy tale: The youngest son (Edmond) is sent to a sanitarium to recover from tuberculosis; he despises his father for sending him; his mother is wrecked by narcotics; and his older brother by drink. In real-life these factors conspired to turn O'Neill into who he was--a tormented individual and a brilliant playwright.
Orwell, George, Animal Farm, FIC ORW & VID FIC ANI
Orwell's classic political fable is often cited as simply a condemnation of Stalinism, which it certainly was, but its political relevance is both wider and more enduring, as novelist Ann Patchett notes in her introductory essay to this new edition. Among the lessons contained in its pages is the need of politicians for "The Enemy" (think Axis of Evil) and the dangers of individuality to oppressive political order.
Pasternak, Boris, Doctor Zhivago, FIC PAS
“The best way to understand Pasternak’s achievement in Doctor Zhivago is to see it in terms of this great Russian literary tradition, as a fairy tale, not so much of good and evil as of opposing forces and needs in human destiny and history that can never be reconciled . . . [Zhivago is] a figure who embodies the principle of life itself, the principle that contradicts every abstraction of revolutionary politics.”
Plath, Sylvai, The Bell Jar, FIC PLA
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
Rand, Ayn, The Fountainhead, FIC RAN
Can one man dare to be different? This is the story of the struggle of genius architect Howard Roark--said to be based on Frank Lloyd Wright--as he confronts conformist mediocrity. In the author's world, suppression of individual creativity is the greatest evil. Roark is expelled from architectural school for his unique ideas, but he pursues his vision any way.
Robinson, Marilynne, Gilead, FIC ROB
Reverend John Ames of Gilead, Iowa, a grandson and son of preachers, now in his seventies, is afraid he hasn't much time left to tell his young son about his heritage. And so he takes up his pen, as he has for decades--he estimates that he's written more than 2,000 sermons--and vividly describes his prophet like grandfather, who had a vision that inspired him to go to Kansas and "make himself useful to the cause of abolition," and the epic conflict between his fiery grandfather and his pacifist father. He recounts the death of his first wife and child, marvels over the variegated splendors of earth and sky, and offers moving interpretations of the Gospel. And then, as he struggles with his disapproval and fear of his namesake and shadow son, Jack, the reprobate offspring of his closest friend, his letter evolves into a full-blown apologia punctuated by the disturbing revelation of Jack's wrenching predicament, one inexorably tied to the toxic legacy of slavery. "For me writing has always felt like praying," discloses Robinson's contemplative hero, and, indeed, John has nearly as much reverence for language and thought as he does for life itself. Millennia of philosophical musings and a century of American history are refracted through the prism of Robinson's exquisite and uplifting novel as she illuminates the heart of a mystic, poet, and humanist.
Rolvaag, O.E., Giants in the Earth, FIC ROL
What was it like to be a pioneer settling untamed territory in America? This is the classic story of a Norwegian pioneer family's struggle with the land and the elements of the Dakota territory as they try to make a new life in America.
The hero-narrator is a sixteen year-old named Holden Caulfield. After he is expelled from his prep school, he goes underground in New York for three days. Confused and disillusioned, he searches for truth and rails against the "phoniness" of the adult world. He ends up exhausted and emotionally ill in a psychiatrist's office. After he recovers, he tells his story in this novel.
Shaara, Michael, Killer Angels, FIC SHA
This novel reveals more about the Battle of Gettysburg than any piece of learned nonfiction on the same subject. Michael Shaara's account of the three most important days of the Civil War features deft characterizations of all of the main actors, including Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Buford, and Hancock. The most inspiring figure in the book, however, is Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose 20th Maine regiment of volunteers held the Union's left flank on the second day of the battle. This unit's bravery at Little Round Top helped turned the tide of the war against the rebels. There are also plenty of maps, which convey a complete sense of what happened July 1-3, 1863. Reading about the past is rarely so much fun as on these pages.
Shakespeare, William, Hamlet, 822.3 Sha & AUD 822.33S7 SHA & VID 822.33 SHA & eBook
Hamlet is a Tragedy written by English playwright William Shakespeare, who is widely considered to be the greatest writer of the English language. Hamlet is the story of Prince Hamlet, who learns that his father was killed by his Uncle Claudius. Claudius becomes the new King and marries Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. Hamlet works to get King Claudius to confess to the murder of his father. Hamlet is an important work of William Shakespeare’s, and is highly recommended for fans of his works as well as those discovering his plays for the first time.
Shakespeare, William, Macbeth, 822.33T5 Sha & AUD 822 SHA & VID 822.33 SHA & eBook
Dark and bloody drama of ambition, guilt, and revenge centers on an ambitious Scottish nobleman who murders the king in order to succeed to the throne. Tortured by his conscience and fearful of discovery, he becomes fatally enmeshed in a web of treachery and deceit that spells his doom.
Shakespeare, William, Romeo and Juliet, 822.33U3 Sha & AUD 822 SHA & VID 822.33 SHA & eBook
Shakespeare's play, in which two lovers are destroyed by the hatred of their families.
Sinclair, Upton, The Jungle, FIC SIN & AUD FIC SIN
The author vividly depicts factory life in Chicago in the first years of the 20th century. The horrors of the slaughterhouse, their barbarous working conditions...the crushing poverty, the disease and despair--he revealed all through the eyes of Jurgis Rudkus, a young immigrant who came to the New World to build a home for himself and his family.
Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, FIC SHE & eBook
"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion." A summer evening's ghost stories, lonely insomnia in a moonlit Alpine's room, and a runaway imagination--fired by philosophical discussions with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley about science, galvanism, and the origins of life--conspired to produce for Marry Shelley this haunting night specter. By morning, it had become the germ of her Romantic masterpiece, Frankenstein. Written in 1816 when she was only nineteen, Mary Shelley's novel of "The Modern Prometheus" chillingly dramatized the dangerous potential of life begotten upon a laboratory table. A frightening creation myth for our own time, Frankenstein remains one of the greatest horror stories ever written and is an undisputed classic of its kind.
Steinbeck, John, East of Eden, FIC STE
The novel highlights the conflicts of two generations of brothers; the first being the kind, gentle Adam Trask and his wild brother Charles. Adam eventually marries Cathy Ames, an evil, manipulative, and beautiful prostitute; she betrays him, joining Charles on the very night of their wedding. Later, after giving birth to twin boys, she shoots Adam and leaves him to return to her former profession. In the shadow of this heritage Adam raises their sons, the fair-haired, winning, yet intractable Aron, and the dark, clever Caleb. This second generation of brothers vie for their father's approval. In bitterness Caleb reveals the truth about their mother to Aron, who then joins the army and is killed in France. The novel is a symbolic recreation of the biblical story of Cain and Abel woven into a history of California's Salinas Valley.
Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath, FIC STE & AUD 812 GAL & VID FIC GRA
Driven from their Oklahoma farm by the encroachment of large agricultural interests, the Joad family sets out, like generations before them, to the promised land of California. As they travel across the country, joined by countless other unwilling migrants, the Joads confront the naked realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-nots.
Steinbeck, John, The Winter of Our Discontent, FIC STE
Ethan Hawley, a descendant of proud New England sea captains, works as a clerk in the grocery store owned by an Italian immigrant. His wife is restless: his teenaged children are troubled and unhappy, hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own morals.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom's Cabin, FIC STO & eBook
This is a book that changed history. Harriet Beecher Stowe was appalled by slavery, and she took one of the few options open to nineteenth century women who wanted to affect public opinion: she wrote a novel, a huge, enthralling narrative that claimed the heart, soul, and politics of pre-Civil War Americans. It is unabashed propaganda and overtly moralistic, an attempt to make whites - North and South - see slaves as mothers, fathers, and people with (Christian) souls. In a time when women might see the majority of their children die, Harriet Beecher Stowe portrays beautiful Eliza fleeing slavery to protect her son. In a time when many whites claimed slavery had "good effects" on blacks, Uncle Tom's Cabin paints pictures of three plantations, each worse than the other, where even the best plantation leaves a slave at the mercy of fate or debt. By twentieth-century standards, her propaganda verges on melodrama, and it is clear that even while arguing for the abolition of slavery she did not rise above her own racism. Yet her questions remain penetrating even today: "Is man ever a creature to be trusted with wholly irresponsible power?”
Tan, Amy, Joy Luck Club, FIC TAN
This novel is structured around the stories of four pairs of Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters. The first and last segments tell the mother's stories in China and in America. The middle cradles the daughter's experiences as children and as Chinese American women. The author uses this structure to communicate a sense of mother and daughter connectedness that eventually resolves generational differences and conflicts.
Thoreau, Henry, Walden, 818.309 THO & AUD 818 THO & eBook
In August 1854, Houghton Mifflin"s predecessor, Ticknor & Fields, published a book called Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by a little-known writer named Henry Thoreau. At the time the book was largely ignored, but it has gone on to become one of the most widely read and influential works ever published, not only in this country but throughout the world. Enjoy this record written by an individualist and a lover of nature; Thoreau describes his Robinson Crusoe existence, bare of creature comforts but rich in contemplation of the wonders of the natural world and the ways of man.
Thoreau, Henry, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, 818.309 THO & AUD 8818 THO & eBook
The major premise of this essay by Thoreau is "that government is best which governs least." Thoreau asserts that a man's first loyalty is to his own nature; true to himself, he may then be true to a government. The essay influenced Gandi's doctrine of passive resistance.
Twain, Mark, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, FIC TWA & AUD CLE & eBook
Huck's adventures on a raft on the Mississippi River begin with his escape from his drunken, brutal father. Huck meets up with Jim, a runaway slave, and what follows is their story downstream and occasional encounters with town life along the banks of the river. The novel is also a penetrating social commentary that reveals corruption, moral decay, and intellectual impoverishment. Through Jim, Huck learns about the dignity and worth of human life.
Updike, John, Rabbit, Run, FIC UPD
A frank treatment of a former high school basketball star's failure to deal with the adult world. On impulse, he deserts his wife and at 26 years old struggles to take responsibility for his life.
Vonnegut, Kurt, Cat's Cradle, FIC VON
Commentary on modern man and his madness. An apocalyptic tale of this planet's ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist.
Vonnegut, Kurt, Slaughterhouse Five, FIC VON
One of Vonnegut's major works, this is an apocalyptic tale of the planet's ultimate fate, featuring a cast of unlikely heroes. One of Vonnegut's most entertaining novels, it is filled with scientists and G-men and even ordinary folks caught up in the game. These assorted characters chase each other around in search of the world's most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature.
Walker, Alice, The Color Purple, FIC WAL
In this Pulitzer prize winning novel we discover that life wasn't easy for Celie. But she knew how to survive, needing little to get by. Then her husband's lover, a flamboyant blues singer, barreled into her world and gave Celie the courage to ask for more--to laugh, to play, and finally, to love.
Walls, Jeannette, The Glass Castle: a memoir, 921 WAL
How do you make a sad memory into art? The Glass Castle is the memoir of Jeannette Walls, a look into a deeply dysfunctional family. When her father was sober, he was brilliant and charming, teaching his children physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who hated homemaking and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children succeeded. Jeannette Walls tells her astonishing story without an ounce of self pity. A spectacular read.
Warren, Robert, All the King's Men, FIC WAR
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is about the corrupting nature of power. Willie Stark, a well-intentioned, idealistic back-country lawyer, is unable to resist greed for power and lust for politics during his rise and fall. Stark draws a cast of memorable characters into his flawed life, and together they move toward mutual destruction innocent of their doom, the genuine hallmark of tragedy.
Wharton, Edith, The Age of Innocence, FIC WHA
This is the elegant portrayal of desire and betrayal in Old New York. With vivid power, the author evokes a time of gas lit streets, formal dances held in ballrooms of stately brownstones, and society people "who dreaded scandal more than disease." This is Newland Archer's world as he prepares to marry the docile May Welland. Then, suddenly the mysterious, intensely nonconformist Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after a long absence and Newland Archer's world is never the same.
Wharton, Edith, Ethan Frome, FIC WHA & AUD FIC WHA & eBook
First published in 1911, Ethan Frome is widely regarded as Edith Wharton's most revealing novel and her finest achievement in fiction. Set in the bleak, barren winter landscape of New England, it is the tragic tale of a simple man, bound to the demands of his farm and his tyrannical, sickly wife, Zeena, and driven by his star-crossed love for Zeena's young cousin, Mattie Silver. "In its spare, chilling creation of rural isolation, hardscrabble poverty and wintry landscape," writes Alfred Kazin in his afterword, "Ethan Frome overwhelms the reader as a drama of irresistible necessity." An exemplary work of literary realism in setting and character, Ethan Frome stands as one of the great classics of twentieth-century American literature.
Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass, 811 WHI & eBook
Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855, contained twelve long untitled poems, but Whitman continued to expand it throughout his life. Whitman’s poetry was unprecedented in its unapologetic joy in the physical and its inextricable link to the spiritual. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to him: "I am very happy in reading [Leaves of Grass], as great power makes us happy ... I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be."
Wideman, John Edgar, Philadelphia Fire, FIC WID
From "one of America's premier writers of fiction" (New York Times) comes this novel inspired by the 1985 police bombing of a West Philadelphia row house owned by the back-to-nature, Afrocentric cult known as Move. The bombing killed eleven people and started a fire that destroyed sixty other houses. At the center of the story is Cudjoe, a writer and exile who returns to his old neighborhood after spending a decade fleeing from his past, and his search for the lone survivor of the fire a young boy who was seen running from the flames. An impassioned, brutally honest journey through the despair and horror of life in urban America, "Philadelphia Fire isn't a book you read so much as one you breathe" (San Francisco Chronicle).
Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray, FIC WIL & VID FIC PIC & eBook
Dorian Gray, a handsome young man, receives a beautiful painting of himself from his good friend Basil Hallward. In the same moment, a new acquaintance, Lord Henry, introduces Dorian to the ideals of youthfulness and hedonism, of which Gray becomes immediately obsessed. Meanwhile, the painting in Dorian's possession serves as a constant reminder of his passing beauty and youth, driving his obsession.
Wolfe, Thomas, You Can't Go Home Again, FIC WOL
This novel was the last Thomas Wolfe finished before his untimely death at age 37. In its brilliance, we find more cause to wish he had lived longer. As with his other novels, You Can't Go Home Again is an extremely personal work, but in the character of George Webber, a writer, Wolfe sees and captures America and the world in a dramatic time in history. The time is the period just before the great stock market crash and it stretches through the Depression and into Germany during the rise of Nazis. And the writer of course is Wolfe, who takes us on a ride through America never seen before--one with sharp insight and breathtaking flair.
Wolff, Tobias, This Boy’s Life: a memoir, 921 WOL & AUD 921 WOL
This unforgettable, bestselling memoir by a gifted writer introduces the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Wolff's account of his boyhood and the process of growing up includes paper routes, whiskey, scouting, fistfights, friendship, and betrayal in 1950s America.
**Book summaries are from the Onteora Middle/High School library catalog (when available) and from amazon.com.