The Classics I Forgot To Read Book Club
In choosing our classics we've tried to select titles that had some visibility among readers, but were not necessarily included in the standard high school English class. We've also sampled a range of genres, from mystery to comedy to stream-of-consciousness. So, whether our picks are already gathering dust on your bookshelves or this is your first encounter with the literary canon, we encourage you to join us!
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December 2015 Selection: When Babbitt was first published in 1922, fans gleefully hailed its scathing portrait of a crass, materialistic nation; critics denounced it as an unfair skewering of the American businessman. Sparking heated literary debate, Babbitt became a controversial classic, securing Sinclair Lewis s place as one of America s preeminent social commentators.
Businessman George F. Babbitt loves the latest appliances, brand names, and the Republican Party. In fact, he loves being a solid citizen even more than he loves his wife. But Babbitt comes to resent the middle-class trappings he has worked so hard to acquire. Realizing that his life is devoid of meaning, he grows determined to transcend his trivial existence and search for greater purpose. Raising thought-provoking questions while yielding hilarious consequences, and just as relevant today as ever, Babbitt s quest for meaning forces us to confront the Babbitt in ourselves and ponder what it truly means to be an American."
October 2015 Selection : Newland Archer saw little to envy in the marriages of his friends, yet he prided himself that in May Welland he had found the companion of his needs--tender and impressionable, with equal purity of mind and manners. The engagement was announced discreetly, but all of New York society was soon privy to this most perfect match, a union of families and circumstances cemented by affection.
Enter Countess Olenska, a woman of quick wit sharpened by experience, not afraid to flout convention and determined to find freedom in divorce. Against his judgment, Newland is drawn to the socially ostracized Ellen Olenska, who opens his eyes and has the power to make him feel. He knows that in sweet-tempered May, he can expect stability and the steadying comfort of duty. But what new worlds could he discover with Ellen? Written with elegance and wry precision, Edith Wharton's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece is a tragic love story and a powerful homily about the perils of a perfect marriage.
Commentary by William Lyon Phelps and E. M. Forster
September 2015 Selection: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War.
The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.
July 2015 Selection: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the highly acclaimed translators of "War and Peace, Doctor Zhivago, " and "Anna Karenina, " which was an Oprah Book Club pick and million-copy bestseller, bring their unmatched talents to "The Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov, " a collection of thirty of Chekhov's best tales from the major periods of his creative life.
Considered the greatest short story writer, Anton Chekhov changed the genre itself with his spare, impressionistic depictions of Russian life and the human condition. From characteristically brief, evocative early pieces such as "The Huntsman" and the tour de force "A Boring Story," to his best-known stories such as "The Lady with the Little Dog" and his own personal favorite, "The Student," Chekhov's short fiction possesses the transcendent power of art to awe and change the reader. This monumental edition, expertly translated, is especially faithful to the meaning of Chekhov's prose and the unique rhythms of his writing, giving readers an authentic sense of his style and a true understanding of his greatness.
June 2015 Selection: Marlowe is constantly on the move with a case involving a war-scarred drunk and his nymphomaniac wife. A psychotic gangster is on his trail; he is in trouble with the cops; and an unequaled number of corpses turn up.
May 2015 Selection: In 1882 Mark Twain returned to the river of his childhood, determined to write the definitive travel book on the Mississippi. "Life on the Mississippi "is no ordinary guided tour, for every page is expressive of the structure, style and high humour that is the very essence of Twain the writer. Spiced with Twain's pungent observations and commentaries on the culture and society of the great river valley, the book is a wonderful collection of lively anecdotes, tall tales and character sketches; historical facts and information; and reminiscences of the author's boyhood and experiences as a steamboat pilot. "Life on the Mississippi," in its composition and substance, is intricately related to "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." In his introduction, James M. Cox suggests that in writing this travelogue Twain discovered the truths that form the heart of the odyssey depicted in his masterpiece, Huckleberry Finn.
April 2015 Selection: With his U.S.A. trilogy, comprising THE 42nd PARALLEL, 1919, and THE BIG MONEY, John Dos Passos is said by many to have written the great American novel. While Fitzgerald and Hemingway were cultivating what Edmund Wilson once called their own little corners, John Dos Passos was taking on the world
March 2015 Selection: Set in 1885, The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West. First published in 1940, it focuses on the lynching of three innocent men and the tragedy that ensues when law and order are abandoned. The result is an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature. As Wallace Stegner writes, [Clark's] theme was civilization, and he recorded, indelibly, its first steps in a new country.
February 2015 Selection: The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of twentieth-century literature. In this intensely fascinating story, Paul Bowles examines the ways in which Americans' incomprehension of alien cultures leads to the ultimate destruction of those cultures.
A story about three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky explores the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert.
January 2015 Selection: Much more than a summary of home interiors, this collection is more like a reflection on the interrelation between humankind and its habitat. No longer content with simply occupying standardized spaces, people are now, more than ever before, seeking to imbue their dwellings with their own distinctive personality. This collection is comprised of homes as diverse and eclectic as the people who live in them, or the architects who designed them; including an ample selection of apartments, lofts, houses and studios that reflect the forward-looking lifestyles and domestic aesthetics of a new century. Minimalist environments, sensual and intimate spaces, and spacious, light-filled homes are all included, with full-colour photographs and the architects' own drawings and floor plans.
December 2014 Selection: Bazarov--a gifted, impatient, and caustic young man--has journeyed from school to the home of his friend Arkady Kirsanov. But soon Bazarov's outspoken rejection of authority and social conventions touches off quarrels, misunderstandings, and romantic entanglements that will utterly transform the Kirsanov household and reflect the changes taking place all across nineteenth-century Russia.
"Fathers and Sons" enraged the old and the young, reactionaries, romantics, and radicals alike when it was first published. At the same time, Turgenev won the acclaim of Flaubert, Maupassant, and Henry James for his craftsmanship as a writer and his psychological insight. "Fathers and Sons" is now considered one of the world's greatest novels.
A timeless depiction of generational conflict during social upheaval, it vividly portrays the clash between the older Russian aristocracy and the youthful radicalism that foreshadowed the revolution to come--and offers modern-day readers much to reflect upon as they look around at their own tumultuous, changing world.
Introduction by Jane Costlow
October 2014 Selection: Jim, the first mate aboard the Patna, dreams youthful dreams of heroism and of the daring act that will prove his courage. But when the Patna collides with a mysterious obstacle, Jim panics and jumps free. This act of cowardice drives him to exile as a white trader in the remote tropical outpost of Patusan.
September 2014 Selection: In Monterey, on the California coast, Sweet Thursday is what they call the day after Lousy Wednesday, which is one of those days that are just naturally bad. Returning to the scene of Cannery Rowathe weedy lots and junk heaps and flophouses of Monterey, John Steinbeck once more brings to life the denizens of a netherworld of laughter and tearsafrom Fauna, new headmistress of the local brothel, to Hazel, a bum whose mother must have wanted a daughter.
August 2014 Selection: Based on his own experience of the Great War, Henri Barbusseas novel is a powerful account of one of the greatest horrors mankind has inflicted on itself. For the group of ordinary men in the French Sixth Battalion, thrown together from all over France and longing for home, war is simply a matter of survival, lightened only by the arrival of their rations or a glimpse of a pretty girl or a brief reprieve in the hospital. Reminiscent of classics like Hemingwayas A Farewell to Arms and Remarqueas All Quiet on the Western Front, Under Fire (originally published in French as La Feu) vividly evokes life in the trenchesathe mud, stench, and monotony of waiting while constantly fearing for oneas life in an infernal and seemingly eternal battlefield.
July 2014 Selection: First published in 1908, A Room with a View portrays the love of a British woman for an expatriate living in Italy. Caught up in a world of social snobbery, Forster's heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, finds herself constrained by the claustrophobic influence of her British guardians, who encourage her to take up with a well-connected boor. In the end, however, Lucy takes control of her own fate and finds love with a man whose free spirit reminds her of "a room with a view."
June 2014 Selection: Written in a time when criminal biographies enjoyed great success, Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders details the life of the irresistible Moll and her struggles through poverty and sin in search of property and power. Born in Newgate Prison to a picaresque mother, Moll propels herself through marriages, periods of success and destitution, and a trip to the New World and back, only to return to the place of her birth as a popular prostitute and brilliant thief. The story of Moll Flanders vividly illustrates Defoe's themes of social mobility and predestination, sin, redemption and reward.
This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the 1721 edition printed by Chetwood in London, the only edition approved by Defoe.
May 2014 Selection: A vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I, The Bridge on the Drina was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. As we seek to make sense of the current nightmare in this region, this remarkable, timely book serves as a reliable guide to its people and history. No better introduction to the study of Balkan and Ottoman history exists, nor do I know of any work of fiction that more persuasively introduces the reader to a civilization other than our own. It is an intellectual and emotional adventure to encounter the Ottoman world through Andric's pages in its grandiose beginning and at its tottering finale. It is, in short, a marvelous work, a masterpiece, and very much sui generis. . . . Andric's sensitive portrait of social change in distant Bosnia has revelatory force. (William H. McNeill, from the introduction)Born in Bosnia, Ivo Andric (1892-1975) was a distinguished diplomat and novelist. His books include The Damned Yard: And Other Stories, and The Days of the Consuls.
April 2014 Selection: Winner of the 1961 National Book Award
The dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern literature is now available for the first time in Vintage paperback.
"The Moviegoer" is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the "treasurable moments" absent from his real life. But one fateful Mardi Gras, Binx embarks on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans' French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic.