A list by Carlton Collister
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Carlton Collister
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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams
To say that Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book that captured the zeitgeist of the late 1970s and the 1980s is an understatement. Beginning as a BBC comedy radio series, it would mutate into versions in print, on stage, in comics, and on screens small and big, becoming an ...show more
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Inferno: The Divine Comedy, Book 1
Dante Alighieri
From the dark wood of its beginning, down through the nine circles of hell, across the seven terraces of purgatory, and into the ten heavens of paradise, Dante’s medieval tour de force gives us, in T. S. Eliot’s estimation, the greatest altitude and the greatest depth of human passion any writer has...show more
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Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy, Book 2
Dante Alighieri
Although the stories in hell are better than those in purgatory, sin being a sexier subject than penance, Dante’s poetry never palls. Throughout, he infuses his narrative with a current of feeling that humanizes the austere theological arc of his pilgrim’s progress.
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Foundation and Empire: The Foundation Trilogy, Book 2
Isaac Asimov
While Asimov’s saga nowadays seems less original than when it first appeared, the sweep of its conception maintains a thrilling freshness. Humanity spreads throughout the galaxy (there are, notably, no aliens to contend with) and reaches a developmental peak after 12,000 years, typified by the uber-...show more
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Foundation: The Foundation Trilogy, Book 1
Isaac Asimov
As a writer, Isaac Asimov’s reputation rests solidly on his ambitious Foundation Trilogy, which was awarded a special Hugo Award in 1966 as best science fiction series of all time. And although he would bow to fan pressure and resume the franchise nearly thirty years after publishing its initial ins...show more
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Second Foundation: The Foundation Trilogy, Book 3
Isaac Asimov
Asimov’s penchant for discursive logic and brains over brawn does not prevent the Foundation series from being enthralling. Even today, ranked against all that has followed, it glows with quiet majesty.
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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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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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The Birthday Boys
Beryl Bainbridge
Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated 1912 Antarctic expedition is one of the great adventure stories of all time, and the mythic resonance of its misfortunes seems to deepen with each passing decade. In her novel The Birthday Boys, Beryl Bainbridge envisions the unfolding tragedy through the eyes...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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Flaubert's Parrot
Julian Barnes
Sophisticated literary inventions are seldom as charming as this one, an intricately composed but inviting exploration of the nature of desire. The intricacy of the composition comes from Julian Barnes’s playful orchestration of a variety of styles, combining fiction with literary criticism, biograp...show more
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Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
Simone de Beauvoir
“The ability to pass over in silence events which I felt so keenly is one of the things which strike me most when I remember my childhood,” writes Beauvoir early in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter; the length and density of her four volumes of autobiography make it clear that this youthful ability is ...show more
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Waiting for Godot
Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot was Samuel Beckett’s first performed play, written in French and then translated by the author into English. It is one of the signal accomplishments in twentieth-century theater and one of the touchstones of modern literature. It is also, as one contemporary critic said of its two ...show more
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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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Songs of Innocence and of Experience
William Blake
The remarkable thing about William Blake is that he was a visionary genius twice over—he is one of Britain’s greatest visual artists and one of the greatest poets in the English language. Blake's twofold artistry and unyielding individuality are seen to best effect in his illuminated books, the firs...show more
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Ficciones
Jorge Luis Borges
Brilliant jewels of short stories.
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