A list by Gretchen Stuenkel
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Gretchen Stuenkel
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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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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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Tuck Everlasting
Natalie Babbitt
Age has its despairs, yet without its dimension, our lives lose their shape: A timeless life, without growth or change, would be drearier than the day is long. That’s the profound truth that illuminates this extraordinary fable, in which a young girl named Winnie finds herself catapulted into great ...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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Goodnight Moon
Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Clement Hurd
As the pages are turned and the simplest of poems unfolds in casually rhymed lines, pictures of the cow jumping over the moon and of the three little bears are given their due, as are kittens and mittens and toyhouse and mouse, and the quiet old lady in the rocking chair whispering “hush.” The conte...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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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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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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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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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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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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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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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is near the top of the list of most-beloved American novels. Set in Depression-era Alabama, it is the story of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout; her older brother, Jeremy, nicknamed Jem; and their father, Atticus Finch, a middle-aged lawyer who...show more
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The Call of the Wild
Jack London
Like Buck, the big dog that is this book’s protagonist, the reader of The Call of the Wild is swiftly and irrevocably swept from the “sun-kissed” world of its opening pages into a realm of elemental and unsparing experience. A favorite of his owner, Buck has known a placid, even pampered life in Cal...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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Moby-Dick
Herman Melville
Perhaps it was the scale of Moby-Dick—the most ambitious novel ever written in America to that point, a rollicking ocean of maritime adventure, Christian allegory, metaphysical disquisition, natural history, literary escapade, and social criticism—that scared off readers of the time, because no mode...show more
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Haruki Murakami
The narrative path through this distinctive world will look familiar to readers of both the hardboiled detective stories of Mickey Spillane and the metaphysically edged science fiction of Philip K. Dick, and there’s more than a little Kafka in the air. Yet none of these analogs suggests the seamless...show more
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