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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September 2017 Selection: This beautiful new edition of Thornton Wilder's classic novel features previously unpublished notes and other illuminating documentary material as well as an updated afterword by his nephew, Tappan Wilder, and a foreword by Russell Banks.
"On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below." With this celebrated sentence, one of the towering achievements in American fiction, and a novel read throughout the world, begins.
By fate or chance, a monk has witnessed the collapse. Brother Juniper, moved by the tragedy, embarks on a quest to prove a higher order is at work in the deaths of those who perished. His search leads readers on a timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.
August 2017 Selection: For more than a century and a half, Dream of the Red Chamber has been recognized in China as the greatest of its novels, a Chinese Romeo-and-Juliet love story and a portrait of one of the world's great civilizations. Chi-chen Wang's translation is skillful, accurate and fascinating.
June 2017 Selection: Mountain, - Baldwin said, -is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else.- Go Tell It on the Mountain, originally published in 1953, is Baldwin's first major work, a novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy's discovery one Saturday in March of 1935 of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a Pentecostal storefront church in Harlem. Baldwin's rendering of his protagonist's spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle toward self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.
May Selection 2017: Headstrong and naive, the young Italian aristocrat Fabrizio del Dongo is determined to defy the wrath of his right-wing father and go to war to fight for Napoleon. He stumbles on the Battle of Waterloo, ill-prepared, yet filled with enthusiasm for war and glory. Finally heeding advice, Fabrizio sneaks back to Milan, only to become embroiled in a series of amorous exploits, fuelled by his impetuous nature and the political chicanery of his aunt Gina and her wily lover. Judged by Balzac to be the most important French novel of its time, The Charterhouse of Parma is a compelling novel of extravagance and daring, blending the intrigues of the Italian court with the romance and excitement of youth.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust theseries to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-datetranslations by award-winning translators."
April 2017 Selection: William Dean Howells' richly humorous characterization of a self-made millionaire in Boston society provides a paradigm of American culture in the Gilded Age. After establishing a fortune in the paint business, Silas Lapham moves his family from their Vermont farm to the city of Boston, where they awkwardly attempt to break into Brahmin society. Silas, greedy for wealth as well as prestige, brings his company to the brink of bankruptcy, and the family is forced to return to Vermont, financially ruined but morally renewed. As Kermit Vanderbilt points out in his introduction, the novel focuses on important themes in the American literary tradition: the efficacy of self-help and determination, the ambiguous benefits of social and economic progress, and the continual contradiction between urban and pastoral values.
March 2017 Selection: It Can't Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis's later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.
Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.
February 2017 Selection: When a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year a.d. 802,701, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment, and peace. Entranced at first by the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man, he soon realizes that these beautiful people are simply remnants of a once-great culture now weak and childishly afraid of the dark. They have every reason to be afraid: in deep tunnels beneath their paradise lurks another race descended from humanity the sinister Morlocks. And when the scientist s time machine vanishes, it becomes clear he must search these tunnels if he is ever to return to his own era.
This edition includes a newly established text, a full biographical essay on Wells, a list of further reading, and detailed notes.Marina Warner s introduction considers Wells s development of the scientific romance and places the novel in the context of its time.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
January 2017 Selection: War and Peace" "broadly focuses on Napoleon s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.
A s Napoleon s army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture. And as the novel progresses, these characters transcend their specificity, becoming some of the most moving and human figures in world literature
November 2016 Selection: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1918. The Magnificent Ambersons chronicles the changing fortunes of three generations of an American dynasty. The protagonist of Booth Tarkington's great historical drama is George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled and arrogant grandson of the founder of the family's magnificence. Eclipsed by a new breed of developers, financiers, and manufacturers, this pampered scion begins his gradual descent from the midwestern aristocracy to the working class.
October 2016 Selection: Edith Wharton's most widely read work is a tightly constructed and almost unbearably heartbreaking story of forbidden love in a snowbound New England village.
This brilliantly wrought, tragic novella explores the repressed emotions and destructive passions of working-class people far removed from the elevated social milieu usually inhabited by Wharton's characters. Ethan Frome is a poor farmer, trapped in a marriage to a demanding and controlling wife, Zeena. When Zeena's young cousin Mattie enters their household she opens a window of hope in Ethan's bleak life, but his wife's reaction prompts a desperate attempt to escape fate that goes horribly wrong. "Ethan Frome" is an unforgettable story with the force of myth, featuring realistic and haunting characters as vivid as any Wharton ever conjured.
September 2016 Selection: One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years due largely to initial audiences rejection of its strong black female protagonist Hurston s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.
August 2016 Selection: Hesse's novel of two medieval men, one quietlycontent with his religion and monastic life, theother in fervent search of more worldly salvation.This conflict between flesh and spirit, betweenemotional and contemplative man, was a life study forHesse. It is a theme that transcends all time.The Hesse Phenomenon "has turned into a vogue, the vogue into a torrent. . .He has appealed bothto. . . an underground and to an establishment. ..and to the disenchanted young sharing his contemptfor our industrialcivilization."--"The New York Times Book Review""
July 2016 Selection: First published in 1844, Alexandre Dumas's swashbuckling epic chronicles the adventures of D'Artagnan, a gallant young nobleman who journeys to Paris in 1625 hoping to join the ranks of musketeers guarding Louis XIII. He soon finds himself fighting alongside three heroic comrades Athos, Porthos, and Aramis who seek to uphold the honor of the king by foiling the wicked plots of Cardinal Richelieu and the beautiful spy "Milady." As Clifton Fadiman reflected, "We read The Three Musketeers to experience a sense of romance and for the sheer excitement of the story. In these violent pages all is action, intrigue, suspense, surprise an almost endless chain of duels, murders, love affairs, unmaskings, ambushes, hairbreadth escapes, wild rides. It is all impossible and it is all magnificent."
June 2016 Selection: A rich evocation of Nabokov's life and times, even as it offers incisive insights into his major works, including LOLITA, PNIN, DESPAIR, THE GIFT and others.
May 2016 Selection: An essential primary source on Roman history anda fascinating achievement of scholarship covering a critical period in the Empire
As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and Augustus, to the decline into depravity and civil war under Nero and the recovery that came with his successors. A masterpiece of observation, anecdote and detailed physical description, "The Twelve Caesars" presents us with a gallery of vividly drawn and all too human individuals.
April 2016 Selection: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page.It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.
Now this cult classic of gonzo journalism is a major motion picture from Universal, directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro."
March 2016 Selection: Peter Blood is a physician and an English gentleman who becomes a pirate out of a rankling sense of injustice. Barely escaping the gallows after his arrest for treating wounded rebels who were fighting the oppressive King James, Blood flees England and becomes enslaved on a Barbados plantation of buccaneers. When he escapes, no ship sailing the Spanish Main is safe from Blood and his companions. Abounding with adventure, color, romance, and strong social commentary on the evils of slavery and the dangers of intolerance, this classic adventure is a story about how oppression drives men to desperate actions, how fate plays a hand in everyone's life, and how love is ultimately the greatest power of all.
February 2016 Selection: Henry Green explored class distinctions through the medium of love. This volume brings together three of his novels contrasting the lives of servants and masters ("Loving"); workers and owners, set in a Birmingham iron foundry ("Living"); and the different lives of the wealthy and the ordinary, ("Party Going").
January 2016 Selection: Don Quixote has become so entranced reading tales of chivalry that he decides to turn knight errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, these exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote's fancy often leads him astray he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together-and together they have haunted readers' imaginations for nearly four hundred years.
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.