A list by Carlton Collister
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Carlton Collister
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All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Maria Remarque
Encouraged by their teachers and fueled by optimism, patriotism, and the promise of glory, Paul Bäumer and three friends volunteer for what would come to be known as World War I. But the reality of war in the trenches, as they witness unimagined carnage, leaves them struggling to keep their sanity a...show more
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Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys
In Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the revelation of the existence of Bertha Mason, the first wife of Edward Rochester (the man Jane is about to marry), exposes Rochester’s duplicity, disrupting his bigamous wedding to Brontë’s heroine. The madwoman in the attic plays a larger role in the novel’s plot...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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The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
It’s been considerably more than a half century since the first angst-ridden teenager cracked the spine of The Catcher in the Rye and felt he’d found a book—or more specifically, a character—that spoke for him. In the intervening years, millions of other self-anointed outsiders have felt the same wa...show more
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The Emigrants
W. G. Sebald
Like all of Sebald’s works, this prose narrative (a more apt description for his writing than “novel”) incorporates elements of memoir and travelogue into something unique. His characters often share his interest in photographs and ephemera, and these, too, are presented to the reader, sometimes wit...show more
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Artful
Ali Smith
An inspired amalgam of fiction, essay, and anecdote, Artful is part ghost story and part commonplace book, the author’s invention crossing paths and joining hands with her wide reading. From The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Roman historian Sallust to Javier Marías and Margaret Atwood, she displays a br...show more
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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith
An immediate popular success, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn sold 300,000 copies in its first six weeks; by the time of Smith’s death three decades later, more than six million copies had been sold, and the adventures of her protagonist, Francie Nolan, had been translated into more than a dozen languages....show more
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White Teeth
Zadie Smith
Tracing the lives of Caribbean and South Asian immigrants, Muslims and Jews, fancy Cambridge graduates and fundamentalists with a taste for marijuana, Smith’s fiction is a comic portrait of a city at the turn of the millennium, and yet it’s also a classic London story of adventures high, low, rich, ...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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The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner
I need to reread. Difficult but worthy, rather than fun from memory.
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A Time of Gifts
Patrick Leigh Fermor
With a borrowed knapsack and a small weekly allowance (a single British pound), Patrick Leigh Fermor set out from London in 1933 on a journey that might today seem unthinkable. After arriving by boat in Holland, the eighteen-year-old walked—walked!—from Amsterdam all the way across Central Europe to...show more
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The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
While the plot of The Moonstone is compelling, it is the play of its distinctive voices upon our understanding of events that makes the book truly absorbing. Clues are laid out carefully and, in retrospect at least, quite tellingly, but their meaning is obscured as we read by the shifting perspectiv...show more
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Enemies of Promise
Cyril Connolly
To be read with Orwell’s Such, such were the joys.
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The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Wonderfully conjures up a different time and place.
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Offshore
Penelope Fitzgerald
This beguiling novel—for which Penelope Fitzgerald won the Booker Prize—concerns a colorful bunch of misfits living on houseboats and barges along the Battersea reach of the Thames River in London. With a comic choreography worthy of Jane Austen, and an affectionate perspicacity regarding human natu...show more
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The Day of the Jackal
Frederick Forsyth
This taut narrative of a 1963 assassination attempt on French president Charles de Gaulle proves that drama, like the devil, is in the details; throughout his intricate chronicle of the techniques and activities of a professional assassin, hired by a homegrown terrorist group incensed by de Gaulle’s...show more
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The French Lieutenant's Woman
John Fowles
The story John Fowles tells in his third novel begins on the English seaside at Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1867. Yet it is told by a wry, erudite narrator who lets readers know he is writing exactly one hundred years later. In a tour de force of storytelling that is transporting, intriguing, and breatht...show more
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Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
James Tiptree Jr.
Most authors of fiction lead comparatively sedate, even humdrum lives. Seated alone at their desks for hours each day, or lecturing in snoozy classrooms, they seldom get a chance to venture out into the wide world of endeavor and adventure. Not so for Alice Bradley Sheldon, who wrote science fiction...show more
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The Lord of the Rings
J. R. R. Tolkien
Appearing in three separate volumes between July 1954 and October 1955, The Lord of the Rings constitutes a single linear narrative that was segmented for publishing convenience rather than by authorial intent. Tolkien’s hero, Frodo, is the adoptive heir of Bilbo Baggins, protagonist of The Hobbit. ...show more
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Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson
On any list of the best adventure stories ever written, Treasure Island deserves a place at the top. Hewing to a taut narrative line that ripples with ominous vibrations, it pulls the reader headlong into a fantastic realm of pirates and buried treasure. Read the first few pages and see if you can s...show more
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