A list by Christine Doiron
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Christine Doiron
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Matilda
Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl’s roster of youth-delighting tales is as rich as that of any twentieth-century children’s author. From The Gremlins (1943) to The Minpins (1991), Dahl created marvelous confections for young readers for nearly five decades. Standing out among his storytelling treats is Matilda, whose supe...show more
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A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
You know the story of this quintessential holiday tale, but have you ever read it? So many times has the tale been told—in numerous stage and screen adaptations—that we are apt to take the power of its invention for granted. Yet no retelling comes close to capturing the humor and human sympathy, the...show more
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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
Lewis Carroll
More than the sum of its parts, Lewis Carroll’s Alice oeuvre has taken root in our collective imagination like few other literary creations. Despite—or perhaps because of—its nonsensical pedigree, it has proved to be an addictive pleasure for analysts seduced by its dense mix of childish frivolities...show more
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Beowulf
Surviving in one manuscript dating from around AD 1000, and believed to have been composed some two or three hundred years earlier, Beowulf is a poem composed in Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, a language worlds apart from even Chaucer’s Middle English. Although written in England, the poem’...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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Flatland
Edwin A. Abbott
Surprised by how funny and still relevant this was.
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Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë
Destitute young woman leaves rotten boarding school for job as governess in sprawling mansion, falls in love with broodingly handsome employer with dark secret. In the twenty-first century, the plot of Jane Eyre might sound clichéd, yet Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, about a plain orphan girl exceed...show more
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Journey to the End of the Night
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
The dangerous nerve that runs through Céline's first and best novel, Journey to the End of the Night, has enlivened modern literature through its pervasive influence on writers from Henry Miller to Philip Roth, Samuel Beckett to William S. Burroughs. That nerve—characterized by an energy that is tou...show more
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The World According to Garp
John Irving
"In the world according to Garp, an evening could be hilarious and the next morning could be murderous,” we read at the end of the penultimate chapter of this teeming, tumultuous book. It’s an apt summary of what has come before. The story of the novelist T. S. Garp and his mother, Jenny Fields, of ...show more
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Little, Big
John Crowley
In its purest form, storytelling is a means of enchanting experience. Under a story’s spell, the ineffable emanations of life—the secrets we carry within us but that are never quite revealed to the world in the comings and goings of everyday reality—are summoned into an almost palpable existence. Ra...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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Oliver Twist
Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist was its author’s second novel, telling a continuous story in a way his first did not. What’s innovative in the book is not its shape, however, but its focus: Never before had a child been put so center stage in a novel; more importantly, while Wordsworth had evoked it in verse, never be...show more
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Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me
Eric Carle
Any child born into a reading family after 1969 is no doubt familiar with Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, as well as several others by the artist who turned an eye for collage-based compositions into a new kind of picture book. Parents of those children, however, have a particularly warm s...show more
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Poems
Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson has what may be the most distinctive voice in American poetry. Immediately recognizable, it is modest and intimate, often invoking an inviting sense of potentiality. And yet there’s a streak of wild darkness animating her verse as well, which, combined with an elliptical syntax, can ...show more
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The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler
Dashiell Hammett may have invented the hardboiled detective story, but nobody wrote it better than Raymond Chandler. With his stylized prose and flair for similes, he gave his detective Philip Marlowe a voice that would become the hallmark of the genre. Marlowe is the protagonist in all of Chandler’...show more
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The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane
The Red Badge of Courage is an American classic and a landmark in the literature of war. Yet it is a book that is very easy to understand too quickly. Although it is subtitled An Episode of the American Civil War, the novel offers little detail specific to the War Between the States other than the b...show more
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The Stories of John Cheever
John Cheever
The sixty-one stories gathered here were written in the three decades after the end of World War II; most were originally published in The New Yorker, then collected in slim volumes that had been largely forgotten by the time this fat, retrospective tome was issued to popular success and critical ac...show more
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Wuthering Heights
Emily Brontë
In its intense drama and disregard for orthodox morality, Wuthering Heights continues to surprise and challenge us today. To attempt to chart the web of relationships of blood, marriage, social strata, economic dependence, love, envy, hatred, and revenge that bind Catherine and Heathcliff to the boo...show more
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Fairy Tales
Hans Christian Andersen
While the emotional sophistication of his stories can make them seem darker than their child-friendly frames at first suggest, there is no shortage of humor or high spirits in Andersen’s fanciful canon. Only a dozen or so of his more than 150 tales were drawn from existing folktales, in the manner o...show more
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Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Composed in English and published in 1958, two years before Nigeria declared independence, Things Fall Apart was the first African novel to attain a wide international readership. It is a short, sparely told tale that nevertheless embraces themes of enormous import: fate and will, the determining i...show more
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