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James Biskey
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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams
To say that Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book that captured the zeitgeist of the late 1970s and the 1980s is an understatement. Beginning as a BBC comedy radio series, it would mutate into versions in print, on stage, in comics, and on screens small and big, becoming an ...show more
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Watership Down
Richard Adams
One of the most phenomenal international bestsellers of the 1970s, Watership Down is an immersive saga that traverses great themes and feelings—courage, frailty, community, ecology, responsibility, friendship, love—while holding readers on the edge of their metaphorical seats. And oh, yes—it’s a 500...show more
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Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, the second of four daughters of a noted proponent of Transcendentalism, Bronson Alcott. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a friend of the family, as were Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Despite her transcendentalist pedigree, Louisa May Alcott ...show more
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Inferno: The Divine Comedy, Book 1
Dante Alighieri
From the dark wood of its beginning, down through the nine circles of hell, across the seven terraces of purgatory, and into the ten heavens of paradise, Dante’s medieval tour de force gives us, in T. S. Eliot’s estimation, the greatest altitude and the greatest depth of human passion any writer has...show more
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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou
When you discover that a person has written six books of autobiography, you’re bound to wonder: Is she just a prolific narcissist, or has she really lived a six-volume life? If she’s Maya Angelou, there’s no doubt that the latter is the case: So compelling is her private story, so extravagant her pu...show more
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Confessions
Saint Augustine
Of all the saints of the early Christian church, Saint Augustine of Hippo possesses, for the modern reader at least, the most interesting mind. His ideas on language, time, and the mysteries of personality, humanity, and divinity are still provocative—after sixteen centuries!—and his genius for expr...show more
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Meditations
Marcus Aurelius
Perhaps even more than the great Athenian statesman Pericles, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius fulfilled Plato’s notion of the philosopher-king. He was well trained for the role, having been handpicked by Hadrian at the age of eight to succeed that imperial luminary. The beneficiary of the finest e...show more
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum
There’s no greater tribute to the pleasures of L. Frank Baum’s book than to say that the story is so good that it isn’t overwhelmed by the images from the wonderful Judy Garland movie. The story unfolds with a declarative matter-of-factness that puts no barrier between the real and the imagined; bec...show more
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Madeline
Ludwig Bemelmans
In this first of seven Madeline tales written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans, our heroine, a French charmer whose special blend of moxie and mischief wins the hearts of all who meet her, proves her mettle. Madeline and her world— including Pepito (the boy next door), the dog Genevieve, Miss Cla...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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The Bible
In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis—in just thirty-one short verses—the world is given form, light is summoned into being, Day and Night are named, Heaven hatched, the stars invoked, and Earth fashioned into land and sea, seeded with plants and populated with creatures. All in less than eigh...show more
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The Book of Job
As translated by Stephen Mitchell
Job’s tale is the Bible’s profound and unsettling meditation on suffering, justice, and the inscrutability of life. It begins in prose (as it will close), introducing the legend of the pious man from the land of Uz and revealing what Job himself never knows: that the miseries visited upon him result...show more
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Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
Guy Montag is a fireman. But, in the dystopian future of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 classic, a fireman’s duty is not to put out fires, but to start them. His job, in fact, is to burn books, a task that requires the temperature of 451° Fahrenheit. It’s natural to see Fahrenheit 451 as an allegory about cens...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 Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson
Waddling slothfully through middle age, popular travel writer Bill Bryson decided one day that he could do with a walk in the woods—a lengthy walk, in fact: 2,100 rugged miles along the celebrated Appalachian Trail (AT), the longest continuous footpath in the world. Did Bryson dare? Well, not only d...show more
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The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
The story begins in India, with sickly, plain, moody Mary Lennox. Unloved by her pretty mother, Mary has been raised by servants who’ve done nothing but indulge the child in order to appease her petulance. Orphaned by cholera, she is shipped off to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, a...show more
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The Plague
Albert Camus
Welcome to the epidemic city: a place where rumors run wild, government can’t coordinate relief, religious authorities rave ineffectually, and no one knows what today, much less tomorrow, holds in store. At first the citizens of Oran panic and revolt, but before long, as if numbed by the summer sun,...show more
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In Cold Blood
Truman Capote
When Herbert William Clutter and his family were bound, gagged, and murdered on the night of November 15, 1959, there was little evidence of who’d done it, or why. The story of their gruesome end made the New York Times, where it was read by literary light Truman Capote, who determined almost immedi...show more
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Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card
The Wiggin children are unusual, even for the unusual world in which Ender’s Game unfolds. There’s the oldest, Peter, a power-mad sociopath; Valentine, the sister who turns her eloquence to Peter’s service; and then there’s Ender, their little brother, who is singled out by the authorities as the mi...show more
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The Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s most enduring work, began in the 1380s as a loose collection of stories, myths, and fantastical anecdotes—most in verse, though some in prose—that were all written in different voices. Only in the 1390s did Chaucer start to think of his baggy assemblage as a single na...show more
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