A list by Gretchen Stuenkel
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Gretchen Stuenkel
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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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Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak
“It is a constant miracle to me that children manage to grow up,” Maurice Sendak once said, citing the unseen and inchoate dangers that well up from within—anxiety, pain, fear, anger, boredom, even love—that make kids’ emotional survival such a prodigious feat. It is the slightly spooky magic of Sen...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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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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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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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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The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende
On January 8, 1981, journalist and former television host Isabel Allende, a Chilean political exile, sat down in Venezuela to write a letter to her nearly 100-year-old grandfather in an attempt to bridge the distance between her present and her family’s past. She began with an anecdote he had told h...show more
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Skellig
David Almond
Some books are like talismans, compact in their power, possessed of an aura mysterious and meaningful, even if—especially if—the precise nature of its mystery and meaning eludes us. Such a work is David Almond’s Skellig, which won the Carnegie Medal as best children’s book by a British author when i...show more
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All Creatures Great and Small
James Herriot
All Creatures Great and Small is a semiautobiographical account of a Yorkshire veterinarian of the animals he treated, and, most tellingly of all, the farmers, families, and neighbors of the town of Darrowby and the surrounding countryside. Herriot’s professional attention to the calves, horses, dog...show more
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Crime and Punishment
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Is life unfair? Is circumstance fate? Can we ever take the law into our own hands to change it? Fyodor Dostoevsky’s first major novel poses these questions in the tale of a man who enacts brutal crimes in order to break the strictures of his social destiny. For Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, the han...show more
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The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas
When it comes to page-turners, The Count of Monte Cristo is the great granddaddy of them all. Despite the novel’s gargantuan dimensions—it runs to more than twelve hundred pages in most editions—each of its chapters is like an exhibit in a compendium of narrative suspense; it’s hard to imagine any t...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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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce
Joyce’s first novel begins with an evocation of the sensations of infancy. Snatches of story and song and smell (for even the highest flights of this author’s aesthetic fancy are rooted in common realities) are summoned to the page. In this elemental welter of sound and sense, Joyce suggests, a writ...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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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
E. L. Konigsburg
The heroine of From the Mixed-Up Files is Claudia Kincaid, a straight-A student one month shy of her twelfth birthday. The eldest of four children and the only girl, Claudia feels taken for granted by her Greenwich, Connecticut, parents. Tired of doing all the chores, getting the smallest allowance ...show more
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Hamlet
William Shakespeare
The first of his mature tragedies, Hamlet is also Shakespeare’s longest play. Animated with what seems an endless supply of indelible phrases—from “brevity is the soul of wit” and “to the manner born” to “the lady doth protest too much” and “to thine own self be true”—its more than four thousand lin...show more
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
J. K. Rowling
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” So, modestly, J. K. Rowling opens t...show more
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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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Lonesome Dove
Larry McMurtry
Men of action require a field to work, and few fields have proven as fertile in this regard—in life and in the imagination—as the American West. Larry McMurtry’s 1985 epic, Lonesome Dove, may be its richest literary harvest. Set in the late 1870s, it tells the story of a cattle drive from the Rio Gr...show more
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