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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot
At a fundamental level, Henrietta Lacks’s contribution to the advance of medical science may be as great as that of anyone who has ever lived. Her cells, obtained without her permission or knowledge during treatment for terminal cancer in 1951, were the first human cells to be replicated and kept al...show more
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The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury was Faulkner’s fourth novel. In it, he bravely indulged the experimental impulse that, under the guidance of his editors, he had kept in check in his previously published work, creating one of the landmarks of modern—and modernist—fiction. The book comprises four sections, thr...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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The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
In the pages of this classic adventure tale you’ll meet one of the greatest heroes in American literature, Nathaniel Bumppo, a rugged scout and woodsman who goes by any number of nicknames, among them Natty, Leatherstocking, Pathfinder, Deerslayer, and Hawkeye. The Last of the Mohicans is the second...show more
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Middlemarch
George Eliot
At the center of George Eliot’s vast portrait of the provincial city of Middlemarch, its society and inhabitants, is the story of Dorothea Brooke, a “home epic” of a bright, brave young woman learning how to live and what to live for. Most memorable of Middlemarch’s characters, however, is no charac...show more
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Harriet the Spy
Louise Fitzhugh
Like an outsider Nancy Drew, Fitzhugh’s Harriet has won the esteem—“allegiance” is probably a better word—of countless young girls who’ve mimicked her notetaking (as well as her unwavering love for tomato sandwiches). She is, in a word, beloved, most likely because her stance apart—as writer, as spy...show more
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Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl is the story of a marriage’s unraveling and the suspicion that falls on the husband in the wake of his wife’s disappearance. But it is author Gillian Flynn’s knowing exploitation of the intimate pact between writer and reader, her head-turning violation of it, that tightens the story's gri...show more
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Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” So reads the famous first line of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece of love and society. Its juxtaposition of universal verity with particular insight sets the tone for the eight hundred pages that follow. Anna Karenina is intima...show more
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The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
Published in March 1939, Steinbeck’s saga of the havoc wreaked by the Great Depression was soon the country’s number one bestseller, selling thousands of copies each week despite the difficult economic times. At the same time, communities from coast to coast found it obscene and banned (and even bur...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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The Complete Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi
Satrapi’s Persepolis, originally published in two volumes, is a memoir in pictures, a comic book that details its author’s coming-of-age during the Islamic Revolution. Beginning in 1980, when Marjane is ten years old, the narrative reflects—in the developing sophistication of its language and sensib...show more
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Voices from Chernobyl
Svetlana Alexievich
Captures a place and time that will hopefully will stay unique.
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A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities may have the most famous opening of any novel ever written, the frequent application of its words outside the novel’s specific context giving it an edge over the nearest competition, Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice. Echoing the dichotomies invoked in its opening sentences,...show more
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The Talented Mr. Ripley
Patricia Highsmith
Patricia Highsmith's most brilliant creation, the suave, repellent, fascinating, and psychopathic Tom Ripley, made his first appearance in this perversely appealing tale. He would go on to grace, in his dark way, four subsequent novels in the series known to Highsmith aficionados as the “Ripliad.” I...show more
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The Odyssey
Homer
What can one say about a story that has been entertaining, enchanting, and educating the human race from the very border of recorded history until today? Homer’s epic poem of the wandering and homecoming of Odysseus (aka Ulysses) is a grand adventure, where fact, myth, gods, and people meet, settle,...show more
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The Warden
Anthony Trollope
Not the Trollope novel I would choose, but he is my favorite 19th century author.
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Holy Land
D. J. Waldie
Another winner I rarely see mentioned.
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The Invention of Nature
Andrea Wulf
It is amazing that one man affected the fields of biology, botany, geography, and more. We have barely heard of Humboldt (other than his current, or the city, the university, whatever) BECAUSE his work is so normalized it just is. Fabulously researched and written.
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The Day of the Triffids
John Wyndham
Yes, in The Day of the Triffids the human race does go blind and people die in immense numbers from sheer sensory incapacity—to say nothing of the genetically engineered predatory plants given star billing in the book’s title. Yet, the novel exudes a holiday air, a sense of liberation from artificia...show more
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The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank
Anne Frank’s intimate two-year record of her family’s hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic is one of the most famous, powerful, and beloved books of the twentieth century. Encapsulating the terror of the Holocaust in the domestic drama of the Franks’ anxious existence and the private yearning...show more
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