A list by Larry Hawkes
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Larry Hawkes
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The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury was Faulkner’s fourth novel. In it, he bravely indulged the experimental impulse that, under the guidance of his editors, he had kept in check in his previously published work, creating one of the landmarks of modern—and modernist—fiction. The book comprises four sections, thr...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 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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From Russia with Love
Ian Fleming
In James Bond, who made his first appearance in 1953’s Casino Royale, Ian Fleming created a fictional character who would—courtesy of the fabulous global success of the Bond film franchise in the 1960s and beyond—outgrow his modest literary origins to become an icon of modern masculinity. From Russi...show more
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Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison
Vivid, unpredictable, insinuating, uncomfortably intimate, the voice that tells Invisible Man is one of the most supple and powerful instruments ever fashioned in American prose. His skin is black, his soul is blue, his mind is lit with both desperation and deep thought. Naturalistic and surreal, fa...show more
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Faust
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Among the scores of marvelous works Goethe penned, one towers over the rest: the two-part tragedy Faust. This enormous drama is the ultimate realization of the abiding legend of a man of ambition who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for secret power and worldly gratification. Faust consumed G...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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The Firm
John Grisham
There are times in our reading lives when turning the page is more important than what’s on it, when the headlong rush toward what happens next overwhelms reflection—and sometimes even reason. John Grisham has made a career creating plots that deliver just such pleasure to readers. In his writing, G...show more
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Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy, Book 2
Dante Alighieri
Although the stories in hell are better than those in purgatory, sin being a sexier subject than penance, Dante’s poetry never palls. Throughout, he infuses his narrative with a current of feeling that humanizes the austere theological arc of his pilgrim’s progress.
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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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Paradiso: The Divine Comedy, Book 3
Dante Alighieri
As the Comedy ascends to a heaven of light, Dante completes the grand imaginative arc he began in the dark wood, having composed out of eschatological speculations an epic as thrilling as those of Homer, as filled with human sensibility as Virgil’s—one in which all the deadly sins, and all the longe...show more
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Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe
Inspired by the real-life experience of Alexander Selkirk (1676–1721), a Scottish sailor who was marooned for more than four years on a South Pacific island, Robinson Crusoe gave enduring form to fundamental themes of the Western imagination. With his parrot and parasol, the castaway Crusoe is an e...show more
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Stranger in a Strange Land
Robert A. Heinlein
Robert Heinlein's most famous and influential work, albeit not his most brilliantly speculative, is surely Stranger in a Strange Land, a book whose questioning of social mores and religious certitude have made it as congenial to some readers as it has been controversial to others. Astonishingly ente...show more
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A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms was Hemingway’s second novel, appearing in 1929, three years after The Sun Also Rises. Mining autobiographical terrain, it draws upon the author’s experience as an ambulance driver during World War I. Although it authentically evokes the fraught tedium of military work and the dra...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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David Copperfield
Charles Dickens
David Copperfield is a novel so filled with character, invention, suspense, and inspired storytelling that one finishes it with an overwhelming regret: The turning of the last page closes the book on such a vivid world that one feels immediately impoverished. Dickens famously called Copperfield the ...show more
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A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities may have the most famous opening of any novel ever written, the frequent application of its words outside the novel’s specific context giving it an edge over the nearest competition, Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice. Echoing the dichotomies invoked in its opening sentences,...show more
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The Talented Mr. Ripley
Patricia Highsmith
Patricia Highsmith's most brilliant creation, the suave, repellent, fascinating, and psychopathic Tom Ripley, made his first appearance in this perversely appealing tale. He would go on to grace, in his dark way, four subsequent novels in the series known to Highsmith aficionados as the “Ripliad.” I...show more
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The Iliad
Homer
The Iliad is a narrative of divine stratagems and military exploits, of fierce courage and heroic endeavor—a tale, clearly, of epic imagination. Yet the sense of pageantry the poem evokes obscures what may be its most telling characteristic: the peculiar angle from which Homer chooses to view antiqu...show more
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The Odyssey
Homer
What can one say about a story that has been entertaining, enchanting, and educating the human race from the very border of recorded history until today? Homer’s epic poem of the wandering and homecoming of Odysseus (aka Ulysses) is a grand adventure, where fact, myth, gods, and people meet, settle,...show more
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