A list by Anita Soja
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Anita Soja
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Watership Down
Richard Adams
One of the most phenomenal international bestsellers of the 1970s, Watership Down is an immersive saga that traverses great themes and feelings—courage, frailty, community, ecology, responsibility, friendship, love—while holding readers on the edge of their metaphorical seats. And oh, yes—it’s a 500...show more
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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
James Agee and Walker Evans
In the summer of 1936, Fortune magazine commissioned James Agee and Walker Evans to report on the lives of sharecroppers in the Deep South. Agee was a twenty-six-year-old journalist who’d published a volume of poems two years earlier; Evans was a thirty-two-year-old photographer. The assignment took...show more
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Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, the second of four daughters of a noted proponent of Transcendentalism, Bronson Alcott. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a friend of the family, as were Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Despite her transcendentalist pedigree, Louisa May Alcott ...show more
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Lucky Jim
Kingsley Amis
Years after reading this novel (in my twenties), I still remember laughing aloud on the subway. That’s one mark of a great novel.
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Cat's Eye
Margaret Atwood
There are few reading pleasures more delightful than the feeling of instant rapport a narrative voice can conjure, an intimacy that quickly becomes immersive as you are drawn into a confidence both close and resonant. In Cat’s Eye, the voice belongs to Elaine Risley, a painter who has come back to h...show more
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Emma
Jane Austen
At twenty, Emma Woodhouse—“handsome, clever, and rich”—knows that she’s the most fantastic woman in Highbury, and nothing amuses her more than meddling in other people’s affairs. But although she has good intentions, her matchmaking goes seriously awry, wrecking a perfectly good engagement for her f...show more
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Mansfield Park
Jane Austen
From a large and not too wealthy family, bashful Fanny Price is sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle at the house that gives this book its name. She finds herself intimidated by everyone there, except her kind cousin Edmund; constantly bursting into tears, she won’t even take part in her coeval...show more
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Northanger Abbey
Jane Austen
The first written of Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey was not published until after her death. It is a parody of Gothic fiction—a wildly popular genre in Austen’s day, and one with which Catherine Morland, the novel’s teenage protagonist, is unhealthily obsessed. She can hardly contain her exciteme...show more
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Persuasion
Jane Austen
Though its plot may be less intricate than those of Austen’s earlier works, Persuasion is a captivating tale, and Anne Elliott is one of her most enduring creations. The last novel Austen wrote in her short life, it points toward an expansion of her extraordinary talents; in the pages of Persuasion,...show more
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Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
The best introduction to Austen’s work is surely the second of the six novels she wrote before her death at only forty-one, Pride and Prejudice, in which she introduces us to Elizabeth Bennet, the wittiest and most vivacious of five sisters on the hunt—if their mother has her way, at least—for husba...show more
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Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen
Austen’s first published novel, which appeared under the pseudonym “A Lady,” is the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and of the tension between private passions and public decorum. This is Austen’s most social novel, and in both town and country, she depicts a privileged class rif...show more
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Growing Up
Russell Baker
In 1979, New York Times reporter and commentator Russell Baker won the Pulitzer Prize for his “Observer” column; three years later he won another for this autobiographical book. As the title suggests, Growing Up focuses on his childhood, Depression-era years spent in Virginia, New Jersey, and Baltim...show more
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Père Goriot
Honoré de Balzac
In simple outline, the book sounds like a poor man’s King Lear: A retired businessman is done in by the greed and callousness of his ungrateful daughters. What distinguishes this tale in the fullness of its telling, however, is the way in which Balzac uses Goriot’s sad circumstances to paint a dynam...show more
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Regeneration: Regeneration Trilogy, Book 1
Pat Barker
In 1917, Siegfried Sassoon—poet, friend of the celebrated Bloomsbury circle, and decorated military hero—had a crisis of conscience about the war he was fighting and penned a letter of protest that was sent to Parliament and published in The Times of London. For this very public refusal to fight he ...show more
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The Eye in the Door: Regeneration Trilogy, Book 2
Pat Barker
In 1917, Siegfried Sassoon—poet, friend of the celebrated Bloomsbury circle, and decorated military hero—had a crisis of conscience about the war he was fighting and penned a letter of protest that was sent to Parliament and published in The Times of London. For this very public refusal to fight he ...show more
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The Ghost Road: Regeneration Trilogy, Book 3
Pat Barker
Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy has earned reams of praise over the years, but Samuel Hynes might have said it best when reviewing the first volume, Regeneration, for the New York Times: “[Literary] fashions change, theories emerge and fade, but the realistic writer goes on believing that plain writin...show more
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Les Fleurs du Mal
Charles Baudelaire
The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal) was Baudelaire’s first volume of poems, and it announces its sumptuous depravity right from the start. On account of its descriptions of “unnatural” sex, its fiendish insistence on the connection between sexuality and death, and its vivid portraits of urban se...show more
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Madeline
Ludwig Bemelmans
In this first of seven Madeline tales written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans, our heroine, a French charmer whose special blend of moxie and mischief wins the hearts of all who meet her, proves her mettle. Madeline and her world— including Pepito (the boy next door), the dog Genevieve, Miss Cla...show more
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Beowulf
For five years I have been teaching Beowulf to my sophomores and I always learn new things!! Such a strange, riveting tale.
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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
John Berendt
When Esquire columnist John Berendt began dividing his time between Manhattan and Savannah in the early 1980s, it wasn’t with the idea of writing a book, much less breaking publishing records or singlehandedly reinvigorating the tourist industry of the southern city. Savannah was simply an interesti...show more
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