A list by Pearl McElheran
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Pearl McElheran
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Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
beautifully written and an insightful glimpse into village life in Nigeria before it was ruined by imperialism
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Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
explains Biafria and the divisions between the two major tribes, the Ibo and the Hausa as well as smashed ideals
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The Oresteia
Aeschylus
If you seek between covers an education in the trials and tribulations, the hopes and fears, the terrors and triumphs of the human spirit, the majestic tragedies of the ancient Greeks are the place to begin, and perhaps the place to end as well. In their beautiful, haunting, unsparing plays, Aeschyl...show more
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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
James Agee and Walker Evans
In the summer of 1936, Fortune magazine commissioned James Agee and Walker Evans to report on the lives of sharecroppers in the Deep South. Agee was a twenty-six-year-old journalist who’d published a volume of poems two years earlier; Evans was a thirty-two-year-old photographer. The assignment took...show more
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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Edward Albee
At the outset of his long, ever-evolving career as a dramatist, Edward Albee was an American heir to the intellectual energies of the European Theater of the Absurd. In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, first staged in 1962, Albee moved his ferocity out of the absurd into a more realistic setting, a ...show more
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Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
a classic - New England virtues and spirited daughters and a lovely mother
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie
Drawing on Sherman Alexie’s personal experience growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a young adult novel that has more to say about big virtues like tolerance than a whole shelf of earnest adult tomes could ever manage. The book’s unflinchi...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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Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
The best introduction to Austen’s work is surely the second of the six novels she wrote before her death at only forty-one, Pride and Prejudice, in which she introduces us to Elizabeth Bennet, the wittiest and most vivacious of five sisters on the hunt—if their mother has her way, at least—for husba...show more
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The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
Bernard Bailyn
There was nothing inevitable about the American Revolution. Bailyn illuminates the radical beliefs that inspired the unprecedented effort to champion individual liberty against the power of the state. Tracing the animating principles of the revolutionary movement back to eighteenth-century European ...show more
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Regeneration: Regeneration Trilogy, Book 1
Pat Barker
In 1917, Siegfried Sassoon—poet, friend of the celebrated Bloomsbury circle, and decorated military hero—had a crisis of conscience about the war he was fighting and penned a letter of protest that was sent to Parliament and published in The Times of London. For this very public refusal to fight he ...show more
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The Eye in the Door: Regeneration Trilogy, Book 2
Pat Barker
In 1917, Siegfried Sassoon—poet, friend of the celebrated Bloomsbury circle, and decorated military hero—had a crisis of conscience about the war he was fighting and penned a letter of protest that was sent to Parliament and published in The Times of London. For this very public refusal to fight he ...show more
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The Ghost Road: Regeneration Trilogy, Book 3
Pat Barker
Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy has earned reams of praise over the years, but Samuel Hynes might have said it best when reviewing the first volume, Regeneration, for the New York Times: “[Literary] fashions change, theories emerge and fade, but the realistic writer goes on believing that plain writin...show more
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The Uncommon Reader
Alan Bennett
charming
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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 Common Prayer
beautiful and comforting when you need comfort but don't have the words yourself or any number of other emotions you can't express as well as the B of CP
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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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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 Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Book 1
Robert A. Caro
Embarking upon the reading of four long volumes about Lyndon Baines Johnson might not sound like a good idea, especially when you know the effort will only take you through the first seven weeks of his presidency, the rest of which will be treated in Caro’s final volume, still a work in progress. Bu...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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