A list by Janice Badger Nelson
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Janice Badger Nelson
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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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Waiting for Godot
Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot was Samuel Beckett’s first performed play, written in French and then translated by the author into English. It is one of the signal accomplishments in twentieth-century theater and one of the touchstones of modern literature. It is also, as one contemporary critic said of its two ...show more
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Earthly Paradise
Colette, edited by Robert Phelps
One of France’s greatest modern writers, Colette was larger than both life and literature. Any page of Colette is a vivid translation of experience into a generous language of perception and embrace. The personal quality that animates her writing crosses genres with abandon to give the wide variety ...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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The Andromeda Strain
Michael Crichton
Although physician Michael Crichton previously published several pseudonymous novels, The Andromeda Strain was his first bestseller, and the storytelling élan it displayed would inform nearly four decades of inventive, often medically or scientifically minded thrillers. The combination of cutting-ed...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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The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
A book of shimmering social surfaces and hauntingly evanescent private depths, The Great Gatsby imbues its fleet narrative with a formal elegance that has been readily apparent even to the generations of high school students to whom it has been assigned—generally long before they might understand th...show more
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Founding Brothers
Joseph J. Ellis
Exceptional book.
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Matilda
Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl’s roster of youth-delighting tales is as rich as that of any twentieth-century children’s author. From The Gremlins (1943) to The Minpins (1991), Dahl created marvelous confections for young readers for nearly five decades. Standing out among his storytelling treats is Matilda, whose supe...show more
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Díaz
The first thing that strikes you is the prose: It’s fast and agile, unafraid to mix ingredients. English and Spanish and Spanglish combine to energize the sentences, which move easily between different modes of discourse—expository, conversational, professorial, confidential, ribald, tender, rambunc...show more
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The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion
On December 30, 2003, Didion and her husband, the novelist John Gregory Dunne, went to a hospital to visit their daughter, Quintana, who was in an induced coma as part of a severe course of treatment for a mysterious illness and septic shock. Later that evening, they returned to their Manhattan apar...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 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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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
Lewis Carroll
More than the sum of its parts, Lewis Carroll’s Alice oeuvre has taken root in our collective imagination like few other literary creations. Despite—or perhaps because of—its nonsensical pedigree, it has proved to be an addictive pleasure for analysts seduced by its dense mix of childish frivolities...show more
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Complete Poems, 1904–1962
E. E. Cummings
There is something inexplicably joyful about the poetry of E. E. Cummings—not happy, exactly, but vivid and exuberant. Simultaneously intimate and expansive, his poems achieve what the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry labeled “a magnificent, subversive smallness.” His many sonnets, eccentric though...show more
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Great Expectations
Charles Dickens
More nuanced and darker in mood than David Copperfield, Great Expectations is its author’s deepest working of the terrain of childhood and the fears and fates that spring from it. Anchored in a Kentish village, around which the years and events of the complicated plot will revolve, the book returns ...show more
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Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me
Eric Carle
Any child born into a reading family after 1969 is no doubt familiar with Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, as well as several others by the artist who turned an eye for collage-based compositions into a new kind of picture book. Parents of those children, however, have a particularly warm s...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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The Poisonwood Bible
Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver’s novels seem to expand our sense of life and our capacity to tackle it. Although The Poisonwood Bible is in some ways just as intimate as Kingsolver’s earlier books in its depiction of a family’s life, its scope and setting are anything but domestic. At the start of this story, t...show more
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The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
Charles Dickens
The title given this novel for its serial publication (over nineteen months in 1837 through 1839) sums up its rambunctious plot: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Containing a Faithful Account of the Fortunes, Misfortunes, Uprisings, Downfallings and Complete Career of the Nickleby Famil...show more
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