A list by Lee Trull
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Lee Trull
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The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
It’s been considerably more than a half century since the first angst-ridden teenager cracked the spine of The Catcher in the Rye and felt he’d found a book—or more specifically, a character—that spoke for him. In the intervening years, millions of other self-anointed outsiders have felt the same wa...show more
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No Exit
Jean-Paul Sartre
No Exit is Jean-Paul Sartre’s lean, mean one-act drama about our dire human condition (the French title, Huis clos, is tough to translate; it’s the legal term for a closed hearing). It distills and presents the ideas that Sartre explored at great length in his magnum opus, Being and Nothingness, pub...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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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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Othello
William Shakespeare
Despite being an outsider, Othello is honored as the defender of Venice, and he falls ardently in love with Desdemona, a patrician daughter of the city, who has been swept away by the romantic aura of exotic adventure the noble Moor exudes. Although many of its scenes take place out of doors, the dr...show more
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Macbeth
William Shakespeare
From the opening scene, in which three witches enter in thunder and lightning to invoke occult spirits in menacing rhymes, Macbeth inhabits a dark world of omens and hallucinatory visions. Impelled by the witches’ prophecies, a military hero pursues a murderous course to the Scottish throne, only to...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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The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris
Hannibal Lecter is one of the most chillingly drawn villains in the annals of modern fiction. He is perverse, polite, charming, brilliant, and brutal, and the FBI would like to lure him into helping with an ongoing investigation of a string of savage killings of young women that have left them baffl...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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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 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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The Age of Innocence
Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton’s best fiction is a form of intelligence, a gathering of detailed information that turns revelatory under her persistent and insightful gaze. She wrote about the world she knew—New York high society at the turn of the twentieth century, where rules were unbreakable, money was silent, a...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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A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Shakespeare
Frequently turning on disguise and mistaken identity, and often demanding an extra-willing suspension of disbelief, Shakespeare’s comedies are by and large better suited to stage than page. The actors’ presences make the antics easier to follow, and good timing points up the humor of the rapid-fire ...show more
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A Streetcar Named Desire
Tennessee Williams
In New Orleans at the time in which Tennessee Williams set his classic play, there really was a streetcar running through the French Quarter, where the drama unfolds, to Desire Street, which gave the transit line its name. A more romantic or fitting title for the play is hard to conceive: Its juxtap...show more
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A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L'Engle
Troubled, feisty, and, as we shall discover, remarkably resourceful, thirteen-year-old Meg is one of the most unforgettable heroines in twentieth-century young adult fiction. Her family is rather memorable, too. There are her sympathetic parents, both of whom are scientists and one of whom, her fath...show more
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American Pastoral
Philip Roth
It’s easy to begin talking about American Pastoral by noting its central place in the Zuckerman Saga, a series of nine novels that follow the fortunes of Nathan Zuckerman, a novelist who shares an awful lot of characteristics with his creator (make that ten fictions if you count The Facts, from 1988...show more
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Medea
Euripides
Medea’s story, as rendered by Euripides in this fierce and unforgettable play, is nothing like the fairy tale of the fleece: It’s a tale of psychological terror with few equals in the annals of storytelling.
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