A list by James Mustich
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James Mustich
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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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A Classical Education
Richard Cobb
“How would you wash an axe if it had traces of blood on it, and you wanted to remove the traces?” In the spring of 1950, Richard Cobb was asked that question by his old schoolmate Edward Ball. One of the leading British historians of the French Revolution, Cobb brings to his memoir the same idiosync...show more
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Period Piece
Gwen Raverat
Gwen Raverat’s book, first published in 1952, looks back sixty years to life when her American mother and British father (son of Charles Darwin) brought her up lovingly within Cambridge’s well-ordered university society. This captivating volume—a recollection of an English childhood and youth at the...show more
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The Long Walk
Slavomir Rawicz
Since its publication at the height of the Cold War, Slavomir Rawicz’s account of his 1941 mid-blizzard escape from a Soviet labor camp in Siberia with six fellow prisoners has won legions of devoted readers. Although the veracity of the tale has been called into question based on recently released ...show more
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Village School
Miss Read
Calm is not a virtue much prized by literary critics, yet, as many readers are well aware, a wisely calm book can be both restful and, paradoxically, deeply stimulating. That is the case with the “Miss Read” books, a modest yet addictively absorbing series of novels by Dora Jessie Saint. Saint was a...show more
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Tender at the Bone
Ruth Reichl
Since Ruth Reichl would grow up to become a New York Times restaurant critic and the last editor of Gourmet magazine, we might assume she was nurtured in a family kitchen rich with culinary accomplishment. But nothing could be further from the truth. “I had three grandmothers and none of them could ...show more
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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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Lenin's Tomb
David Remnick
As a correspondent for the Washington Post, David Remnick (now editor in chief of The New Yorker) was in the Soviet Union from 1988 through 1992, reporting the momentous events that marked a second Russian revolution. That tumultuous time culminated in the failed putsch of August 1991, when Mikhail ...show more
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A Judgement in Stone
Ruth Rendell
A Judgement in Stone begins with a startling first sentence: “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.” That statement introduces a two-page description of her “peculiarly literate” quartet of victims, shot down in their home in the space of a quarter hour on ...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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The Feast of Love
Charles Baxter
Set in Ann Arbor, Michigan, The Feast of Love relates the intertwining yet wildly divergent stories of several men and women who range across the generations and yet are pulled together, apart, and together again by strands of desire, sex, marriage, pain, and plain old human sympathy. With a sleight...show more
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Gilead
Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson writes slow novels. Her first, the highly acclaimed Housekeeping, was published in 1981; Gilead, her second, did not appear until nearly a quarter century later. But the slowness that characterizes her fiction is not of the calendar but on the page: It is so carefully composed, in...show more
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The Tuscan Year
Elizabeth Romer
Elizabeth Romer’s Tuscan adventure began when she and her husband, John, a fellow archaeologist, were in search of a home somewhere between their native England and their digs in Egypt. Fortune brought them to a valley in Italy and the farm of the Cerotti family, who showed them a house they had for...show more
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The Walls Came Tumbling Down
Henriette Roosenburg
“This is the story of the liberation of four Dutch political prisoners at the end of World War II, and about their trek home to Holland after Russian soldiers had freed them from the prison in Waldheim, a small village in south-eastern Germany.” Thus begins this firsthand account of the adventures o...show more
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Explaining Hitler
Ron Rosenbaum
Adolf Hitler must be one of history’s most thoroughly examined figures. Historians, political scientists, psychoanalysts, philosophers, theologians, novelists, and, not least, victims have explored the facts of his life and the facets of his character, the fears he inflamed, the methods of murderous...show more
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