A list by Peter Wilson
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Peter Wilson
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Watership Down
Richard Adams
Engrossing human-animal story, akin to Charlotte's Web and Animal Farm
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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
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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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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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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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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Lucky Jim
Kingsley Amis
Been there, done that story of coming-of-age
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Fairy Tales
Hans Christian Andersen
Childhood staple - fairytale noir
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The Arabian Nights
Is there an entry in the annals of story more charming than the tale of the brave and brilliant Shahrazad, who, by dint of cunning and invention, puts off her death at the hands of King Shahryār for a thousand and one nights? Bewitching the king with a nightly dose of suspenseful storytelling, she s...show more
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Foundation: The Foundation Trilogy, Book 1
Isaac Asimov
As a writer, Isaac Asimov’s reputation rests solidly on his ambitious Foundation Trilogy, which was awarded a special Hugo Award in 1966 as best science fiction series of all time. And although he would bow to fan pressure and resume the franchise nearly thirty years after publishing its initial ins...show more
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Foundation and Empire: The Foundation Trilogy, Book 2
Isaac Asimov
While Asimov’s saga nowadays seems less original than when it first appeared, the sweep of its conception maintains a thrilling freshness. Humanity spreads throughout the galaxy (there are, notably, no aliens to contend with) and reaches a developmental peak after 12,000 years, typified by the uber-...show more
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Second Foundation: The Foundation Trilogy, Book 3
Isaac Asimov
Asimov’s penchant for discursive logic and brains over brawn does not prevent the Foundation series from being enthralling. Even today, ranked against all that has followed, it glows with quiet majesty.
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Emma
Jane Austen
At twenty, Emma Woodhouse—“handsome, clever, and rich”—knows that she’s the most fantastic woman in Highbury, and nothing amuses her more than meddling in other people’s affairs. But although she has good intentions, her matchmaking goes seriously awry, wrecking a perfectly good engagement for her f...show more
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Mansfield Park
Jane Austen
From a large and not too wealthy family, bashful Fanny Price is sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle at the house that gives this book its name. She finds herself intimidated by everyone there, except her kind cousin Edmund; constantly bursting into tears, she won’t even take part in her coeval...show more
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Northanger Abbey
Jane Austen
The first written of Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey was not published until after her death. It is a parody of Gothic fiction—a wildly popular genre in Austen’s day, and one with which Catherine Morland, the novel’s teenage protagonist, is unhealthily obsessed. She can hardly contain her exciteme...show more
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Persuasion
Jane Austen
Though its plot may be less intricate than those of Austen’s earlier works, Persuasion is a captivating tale, and Anne Elliott is one of her most enduring creations. The last novel Austen wrote in her short life, it points toward an expansion of her extraordinary talents; in the pages of Persuasion,...show more
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Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
Used in high school lit as an intro to Jane Austen
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Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen
Austen’s first published novel, which appeared under the pseudonym “A Lady,” is the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and of the tension between private passions and public decorum. This is Austen’s most social novel, and in both town and country, she depicts a privileged class rif...show more
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Peter Pan and Wendy
J. M. Barrie
Despite your familiarity with the outline of the tale, a reading of the novel Peter Pan and Wendy is likely to astonish you with its sophistication, allusiveness, and compelling, yet paradoxically reflective, storytelling. For all its fantasy and adventure, the book is very much written from an adul...show more
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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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