The best way for you to increase your vocabulary and prepare for the SATs is to read! Here is a list of books that may interest you, divided into several categories below.
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Below are a list of books taught at TZHS. Click on a title below to find books of similar interest.
Antigone by Sophocles—The third play in Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle. Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, argues for the moral right to bury her brothers who have died in a civil war they fought over who was to rule Thebes after the banishment of Oedipus. Their uncle, Creon, became the king of Thebes and opposed their burial. The conflict between Antigone and Creon on the right of law: earthly, embodied in the will of the sovereign, or heavenly, in the dictates of the gods, is the central theme of the play.
Medea by Euripedes—One of the most powerful of the Greek tragedies, Medea centers on the myth of Jason, leader of the Argonauts, who has won the dragon-guarded treasure of the Golden Fleece with the help of the sorceress Medea. Having married Medea and fathered her two children, Jason abandons her for a more favorable match, never suspecting the terrible revenge she will take.
Beowulf—Translated by Seamus Heaney– In Beowulf warriors must back up their mead-hall boasts with instant action, monsters abound, and fights are always to the death. The Anglo-Saxon epic, composed between the 7th and 10th centuries, has long been accorded its place in literature, though its hold on our imagination has been less secure. In the introduction to his translation, Seamus Heaney argues that Beowulf‘s role as a required text for many English students obscured its mysteries and “mythic potency.” Now, thanks to the Irish poet’s marvelous recreation this dark, doom-ridden work gets its day in the sun.
The Illiad by Homer— The “prequel” to The Odyssey, this is the stirring story of the Trojan War and the rage of Achilles that has gripped listeners and readers for 2,700 years. This timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to its wrenching, tragic conclusion.
The Divine Comedy: The Inferno— The first book of The Divine Comedy is a tale of macabre discovery. It chronicles Dante’s journey through Hell with the Roman poet Virgil as his guide. He meets historical figures and fellow men of Italy; some in eternally burning flames, some transformed into trees, some afloat in rivers of lava, some nearly frozen, some merely loitering for eternity, some under constant attack by serpents, and others under various forms of torture.
The Epic of Gilgamesh— This epic from the Assyro-Babylonian culture (parts of which were probably written as early as 3000 B.C.) contains perhaps the earliest known example of man’s quest for immortality. Miraculously preserved on clay tablets deciphered only in the last century, the cycle of poems collected around the character of Gilgamesh, the great king of Ukruk, tells of his long and arduous journey to the Spring of Youth, of his encounters with monsters and gods and of his friendship with Enkidu, the wild man from the hills. Also included in the epic is a legend of the Flood, which agrees in many details with the biblical story of Noah.
The Aeneid by Virgil — This is the Latin narrative poem whose twelve books tell of the forced wanderings of the Trojan hero Aeneas (son of the goddess Venus and the mortal Anchises) after the fall of Troy; how he survived the wrath of the goddess Juno (who favored Troy’s enemies, the Achaeans), and, after a series of demanding adventures, fulfilled a prophecy that he would lead his uprooted people to a new home and there found an empire–what would become the home of Augustus.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley — “Community, Identity, Stability” is the motto of the utopian World State. Here everyone consumes daily grams of soma, to fight depression, babies are born in laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is a “Feelie,” a movie that stimulates the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Though there is no violence and everyone is provided for, Bernard Marx feels something is missing. Huxley foreshadowed many of the practices and gadgets we take for granted today–let’s hope the sterility and absence of individuality he predicted aren’t yet to come.
1984 by George Orwell—In 1984, the insidious order is known as “Big Brother,” a personification of the regime that both demands and ensures absolute loyalty and obedience from all of its citizens. One of these citizens is a man named Winston Smith, a worker in the state’s Ministry of Truth. Through following Winston, we see the myriad methods Big Brother employs to keep the populace servile and under its heavy thumb. Winston’s work at the Ministry is to help rewrite history so that Big Brother’s pronouncements, in retrospect, always appear to be infallible. Perhaps the most often-discussed component to Big Brother’s control is the use of the telescreens, television-like gadgets installed in every home that act as surveillance devices and keep track of who is obeying and who is not.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood—In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….
Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke—The Overlords appeared suddenly over every city – intellectually, technologically, and militarily superior to humankind. Benevolent, they made few demands: unify earth, eliminate poverty, and end war. With little rebellion, humankind agreed, and a golden age began. But at what cost? With the advent of peace, man ceases to strive for creative greatness, and a malaise settles over the human race. To those who resist, it becomes evident that the Overlords have an agenda of their own. As civilization approaches the crossroads, will the Overlords spell the end for humankind…or the beginning?
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke—When an enigmatic monolith is found buried on the moon, scientists are amazed to discover that it’s at least 3 million years old. Even more amazing, after it’s unearthed the artifact releases a powerful signal aimed at Saturn. What sort of alarm has been triggered? To find out, a manned spacecraft, the Discovery, is sent to investigate. Its crew is highly trained–the best–and they are assisted by a self-aware computer, the ultra- capable HAL 9000. But HAL’s programming has been patterned after the human mind a little too well. He is capable of guilt, neurosis, even murder, and he controls every single one of Discovery‘s components. The crew must overthrow this digital psychotic if they hope to make their rendezvous with the entities that are responsible not just for the monolith, but maybe even for human civilization.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer—This is the non-fiction account of a seemingly well-adjusted, bright, and likeable young man who gave up everything after college and went to live “in the wild” where he was found dead four months later in an abandoned Fairbanks city bus, along with five rolls of film, an SOS note and a diary written in a field guide to edible plants. Krakauer attempts to discover what possessed Chris to cut himself off from civilization. [Taught in some 12R and 12H classes.]
A Separate Peace by John Knowles—This is the classic story of two friends at boarding school during World War II. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. A bestseller for over twenty years, A Separate Peace is a starkly moving parable of the dark forces that brood over the tortured world of adolescence.
Snow in August by Pete Hamill—In Brooklyn in 1947, Michael Devlin, an 11-year-old Irish kid who spends his days reading Captain Marvel and anticipating the arrival of Jackie Robinson, makes the acquaintance of a recently emigrated Orthodox rabbi. In exchange for lessons in English and baseball, Rabbi Hirsch teaches him Yiddish and tells him of Jewish life in old Prague and of the mysteries of the Kabbalah. When Anti-Semitism rears its head in the form of a gang, it seems that only being as miraculously powerful as Captain Marvel–or a golem–could stop them.
Lost Boys by James Garbarino (Non-fiction) — After more than a decade of relentless increase in the urban war zones of large cities, violence by young boys and adolescents is on the rise in our suburbs, small towns, and rural communities. Twenty-five years as a psychologist working in the trenches with such children has convinced James Garbarino that boys everywhere really are angrier and more violent than ever before. Building on his pioneering work, Garbarino shows why young men and boys have become increasingly vulnerable to violent crime.
Julius Caesar—A tragedy of political conflict, Julius Caesar is a fictional account of the famous assassination of Julius Caesar by his republican opponents. Shakespeare gives a whole new face to history, transforming Caesar’s assassination into a conspiracy, in which the conspirators have some reluctancy to join in. Julius Caesar teaches about the dangers and pitfalls of ambition, jealousy, and power, as well as the sacrifice for the greater good.
King Lear—One of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies, the work displays a pessimism and nihilism that make it a 20th-century favorite. The aging King Lear decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, allotting each a portion in proportion to the eloquence of her declaration of love. The hypocritical Goneril and Regan make grand pronouncements and are rewarded; Cordelia, the youngest daughter, who truly loves Lear, refuses to make an insincere speech to prove her love and is disinherited. Little does he know that the two other daughters who praise him are actually plotting against him.
Real Boys by William Pollack (non-fiction) — Harvard psychiatry professor Pollack explores why many boys are sad, lonely, and confused although they may appear tough, cheerful, and confident. Pollack challenges conventional expectations about manhood and masculinity that encourage parents to treat boys as little men, raising them through a toughening process that drives their true emotions underground.
Real Boys’ Voices by William S. Pollack (non-fiction) — In his follow-up book to Real Boys, Pollack, a clinical psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, lets readers get close to his source–the boys themselves, ages 10 to 20, from all around the country. The voices he presents are searingly authentic and eager to be heard. Pollack’s basic premise is simple: Despite what society might tell us, boys want to talk. Furthermore, they have a lot to say on a wide variety of topics, including gender issues, friendship, sex, fear of violence, and relationships with their mothers and fathers.
Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dr. Michael Thompson (non-fiction) —An expert in child development from Harvard and a preeminent psychologist offer groundbreaking guidance information about boys in crisis. They shine a light on the physical and emotional well-being of teenage boys — and the unique risks and dangers they face during the most pivotal time of their lives.
Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher (non-fiction) —A therapist who has worked extensively with young girls reveals firsthand evidence of the damage that can be caused by growing up in a “girl-poisoning culture,” raises a call to arms, and offers parents compassion and strategies for survival. Updated in an anniversary edition in 2020.
Ophelia Speaks by Sara Shandler (non-fiction) — Shandler reveals telling portraits of teenage girls in this book, a response to Mary Pipher’s bestseller, Reviving Ophelia. A compilation of essays, poems, and true-grit commentary from a cross section of teenage girls, the book gives voice to their deepest concerns and their too-often frenzied lives. The topics covered run the gamut, but they include parental expectations, racial relations, and faith, among others. Sadly, eating disorders are an all-too-popular topic. The good news is that Shandler’s contributors offer up some real insight for their peers. In one essay titled “Food Is Not My Enemy,” Elizabeth Fales “calls us to a new feminism. In the old feminism, our mothers fought for the right to choose abortion. In our generation, we must fight for the right to eat.”
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou—In this first of five volumes of autobiography, poet Maya Angelou recounts a youth filled with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally hard-won independence. Sent at a young age to live with her grandmother in Arkansas, Angelou learned a great deal from this exceptional woman and the tightly knit black community there. These very lessons carried her throughout the hardships she endured later in life, including a tragic occurrence while visiting her mother in St. Louis and her formative years spent in California–where an unwanted pregnancy changed her life forever. Marvelously told, with Angelou’s “gift for language and observation,” this “remarkable autobiography by an equally remarkable black woman from Arkansas captures, indelibly, a world of which most Americans are shamefully ignorant.”
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros– Composed of a series of interconnected vignettes, this is the story of Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. For Esperanza, Mango Street is a desolate landscape of concrete and run-down tenements, where she discovers the hard realities of life–the fetters of class and gender, the specter of racial enmity, the mysteries of sexuality, and more. Capturing her thoughts and emotions in poems and stories, Esperanza is able to rise above hopelessness, and create for herself ‘a house all my own quiet as snow, a space for myself to go,’ in the midst of her oppressive surroundings. [Some stories taught in Creative Writing.]
Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown—This thinly fictionalized account of Claude Brown’s childhood as a hardened, streetwise criminal trying to survive the toughest streets of Harlem has been heralded as the definitive account of everyday life for the first generation of African Americans raised in the Northern ghettos of the 1940s and 1950s. When the book was first published in 1965, it was praised for its realistic portrayal of Harlem — the children, young people, hardworking parents; the hustlers, drug dealers, prostitutes, and numbers runners; the police; the violence, sex, and humor. The book continues to resonate generations later, not only because of its fierce and dignified anger, not only because the struggles of urban youth are as deeply felt today as they were in Brown’s time, but also because the book is affirmative and inspiring. Here is the story about the one who “made it,” the boy who kept landing on his feet and became a man.
Black Boy by Richard Wright— Black Boy is Richard Wright’s unforgettable story of growing up in the Jim Crow South. Published in 1945, it is often considered a fictionalized autobiography or an autobiographical novel because of Wright’s use of fiction techniques (and possibly fictional events) to tell his story. Nevertheless, the book is a lyrical and skillfully wrought description of Wright’s hungry youth in rural Mississippi and Memphis, told from the perspective of the adult Wright, who was still trying to come to grips with the cruel deprivations and humiliations of his childhood.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison– The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood,” and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. It is a strange story, in which many extraordinary things happen, some of them shocking and brutal, some of them pitiful and touching–yet always with elements of comedy and irony and burlesque that appear in unexpected places.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston—Raised in the care of her grandmother, Janie Crawford, like her mother before her, was born of rape, and her grandmother is committed to protecting her from the sexual and racial violence she and her daughter endured. Initially published in 1937, this novel about a proud, independent black woman’s quest for identity, a journey that takes her through three marriages and back to her roots, has been one of the most widely read and highly acclaimed novels in the canon of African-American literature. [Literature Circle selection in 11 Honors.]
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison—Song of Solomon is the epic story of Macon (Milkman) Dead and his life-time journey toward an understanding of his own identity and ancestry. Milkman is born burdened with the materialistic values of his father and the weight of a racist society; over the course of his odyssey he reconnects to his deeper family values and history, rids himself of the burden of his father’s expectations and society’s limitations, and literally learns to fly.
Beloved by Toni Morrison—In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family; nevertheless, the woman finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker—Told through letters, The Color Purple is the story of Celie, a woman lashed by waves of deep trouble—abandonment, incest, physical and emotional abuse—and her triumphant journey to self-discovery, womanhood, and independence. Celie’s story is a pointed commentary on the men in her life—men who betrayed and abused her, worked her like a mule and suppressed her independence—but it is also a moving portrayal of the psychic bonds that exist between women and the indestructible nature of the human spirit. The Color Purple is one of the most successful and controversial books ever written by a black woman. It was an international bestseller, won both the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1985 was made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. [Taught in some 11R and 11H classes.]
The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg (non-fiction)–Adolescent girls today face the issues girls have always faced: “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” Unfortunately their answers, now more than ever before, revolve around the body rather than the mind, heart, or soul. “The fact that American girls now make the body their central project is not an accident or a curiosity,” writes Brumberg, “it is a symptom of historical changes that are only now beginning to be understood.” The historical photos, thorough research, and political even-handedness make this a book of worth and sincerity. The Body Project helps sort out the roots of female insecurities, obsessions, and angst.
Dracula by Bram Stoker– Mysterious, gloomy castles and open graves at midnight are just two of the Gothic devices used to chilling effect in this 19th-century horror classic that turned an obscure figure from Eastern European folklore into a towering icon of film and literature. At the heart of the story is the Vampire, Count Dracula of Transylvania who has decided to take residence in England and in doing so seals the fate of several people. Written in diary form, it introduces the reader to the young English Lawyer Jonathan Harker, his wife to be, Mina, the enigmatic Professor Van Helsing, and various other colorful characters that make this story deliciously scary.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson– The idea for Robert Louis Stevenson’s immortal masterpiece of psychological terror sprang from the deepest recesses of his own subconscious — a nightmare from which his wife awakened him. He wrote it as a stark yet complex tale whose popularity has endured for more than a century, making the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” synonymous with man’s internal war between good and evil. Brilliantly anticipating modern psychology, Stevenson’s story of the kindly scientist who drinks a potion that nightly transforms him into a stunted, evil version of himself is a tale of incomparable suspense and horror.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier– Mrs. de Winter, a new bride, accompanies her seemingly devoted husband to Manderley, his isolated home on the Cornish coast. From the first, the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, frightens her with her chilling devotion to the dead first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca. And, all to soon, the second Mrs. de Winter realizes that Maxim married her for her youth and warmth, hoping to use her as a shield against Rebecca’s malignant presence — a lingering evil that threatens to destroy them both from beyond the grave.
Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice – In the now-classic novel Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice refreshed the archetypal vampire myth for a late-20th-century audience. The story is ostensibly a simple one: having suffered a tremendous personal loss, an 18th-century Louisiana plantation owner named Louis Pointe du Lac descends into an alcoholic stupor. At his emotional nadir, he is confronted by Lestat, a charismatic and powerful vampire who chooses Louis to be his fledgling. The two prey on innocents, give their “dark gift” to a young girl, and seek out others of their kind (notably the ancient vampire Armand) in Paris. Rice explores profound philosophical concerns–the nature of evil, the reality of death, and the limits of human perception–in ways not possible from the perspective of a more finite narrator.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson– Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has unnerved readers since its original publication in 1959. A tale of subtle, psychological terror, it has earned its place as one of the significant haunted house stories of the ages. The four visitors at Hill House– some there for knowledge, others for adventure– are unaware that the old mansion will soon choose one of them to make its own.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury– The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destry every life touched by its strange and sinistery mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all to weel the heavy cost of wishes… and the stuff of nightmare.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde– An incredibly handsome young man in Victorian England retains his youthful appearance over the years while his portrait reflects both his age and evil soul as he pursues a life of decadence and corruption. After he kills a young woman, “as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife,” Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. “The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden.”
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan—This is the story of four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “telling” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. Forty years later the stories and history continue. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. [Taught in some AP Lit classes.]
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich—The author tells the story of two Native-American (Chippewa) families whose lives interweave through several generations during the years 1934-1984. The primary setting is a reservation in North Dakota. The main characters, Marie and Nector Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, are colorful, sympathetic people caught in a love triangle that endures for most of their adult lives. With humor and in language that is arrestingly poetic, Erdrich portrays the fundamental human capacities for love, jealousy, devotion, generosity, greed, endurance, and despair within the framework of twentieth century Native-American culture.
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris–In consecutive narratives beginning with fifteen-year-old half-black Rayona, followed by her mother Christine and Ida, the family matriarch, three generations of Indian women offer varying perspectives of their lives on a Montana reservation. Their haunting secrets, betrayals, and dreams echo through the years, braiding together the strands of their shared past.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver— This is the saga of the Price family, a family originally from rural Georgia now wrestling with inner demons while living in the small African village of Kilanga. It revolves around Nathan Price, an abusive southern Baptist evangelical minister who forsakes his family on his quest to save the souls of the natives. What begins as a church-sanctioned mission ends in a dangerous battle of wills that separates the Price family forever. The action is filtered primarily through Nathan’s four daughters, with future-time flashbacks from the mother’s point of view. Packed with themes of cultural diversity, political morality, and environmental ethics.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez– This book tells of six generations of the Buendía family in the mythical South American town of Macondo, from its founding, through the banana company years, to its eventual abandonment. There are numerous eccentric characters and sequences, various lovers and untimely deaths. With One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez introduced Latin American literature to a world-wide readership.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck– Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he worked. He held it above his family, even above his gods. But soon, between Wang Lung and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution…. Through this one Chinese peasant and his children, Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck depicts life in China at a time before the vast political and social upheavals transformed an essentially agrarian country into a world power.. Her brilliant novel—beloved by millions of readers throughout the world—is a universal tale of the destiny of men.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown (non-fiction)–First published in 1970, this book changed the way Americans think about the original inhabitants of their country. Beginning with the Long Walk of the Navajos in 1860 and ending 30 years later with the massacre of Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, it tells how the American Indians lost their land and lives to a dynamically expanding white society. Again and again, promises made to the Indians fell victim to the ruthlessness and greed of settlers pushing westward to make new lives. The Indians were herded off their ancestral lands into ever-shrinking reservations, and were starved and killed if they resisted. It is a truism that “history is written by the victors”; for the first time, this book described the opening of the West from the Indians’ viewpoint. Accustomed to stereotypes of Indians as red savages, white Americans were shocked to read the reasoned eloquence of Indian leaders and learn of the bravery with which they and their peoples endured suffering.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — A gifted young woman has a mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman’s descent into insanity.
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger — Since the publication of The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, the works of J.D. Salinger have been acclaimed for their humor, intensity, and their lack of phoniness. A collection of short fiction, Nine Stories contains works with those qualities that make Salinger such a well-loved author. The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger’s children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances–some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger — The book comprises a novella and a short story, both about members of Salinger’s famous Glass family, the central figures in most of his later fiction. In “Franny,” a bright college student (Franny Glass), like Holden Caulfield in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, is unable to resolve the conflict between her deepest self and the superficiality of the world. In “Zooey,” after Franny’s nervous breakdown, her brother Zooey urges her to accept the world and seek to perfect herself.
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald — Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick’s harrowing demise.
name=”Body”>If you liked “The Body,” try:
“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” a novella from King’s book, Different Seasons. This is a satisfying tale of unjust inprisonment and offbeat escaped, later adapted into a well-loved film.
Earth Shattering Poems Edited by Liz Rosenberg — A collection of poems that capture intense experiences and emotions by such authors as Sappho, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda, Sharon Olds, and J. E. Wei. Available in the TZ library.
No More Masks: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Women Poets Edited by Florence Howe — The classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women’s poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove. Available in the TZ library.
Poetry 180 Edited by Billy Collins — Inspired by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins’s poem-a-day program with the Library of Congress, Poetry 180 is the perfect anthology for readers who appreciate engaging, thoughtful poems that are an immediate pleasure. Available in the TZ library.
Ten Poems to Change Your Life Edited by Roger Housden — Through the voices of ten inspiring poets and his own reflections, the author shows how poetry illuminates the eternal feelings and desires that stir the human heart and soul. These poems explore such universal themes as the awakening of wonder, the longing for love, the wisdom of dreams, and the courage required to live an authentic life.
E.E. Cummings Complete Poems — The most complete collection of Cummings’ work available, including “somewhere i have never travelled,” “i carry your heart in my heart,” anyone lived in a pretty how town,” and others.
Cunningham, Michael. The Hours. In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf’s last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Richard, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.
Eugenides, Jeffrey. The Virgin Suicides. The Lisbon girls, all five of whom committed suicide in the early 1970s, haunt the memories of boys next door in a wealthy Detroit suburb. A nameless narrator, one of the boys, 20 years later collects and weaves together the impressions that friends, neighbors, and parents had of the dead girls. Except for school and group outings to two ill-fated parties, the girls’ lives played out confined to their dwelling, a cloistered existence protected by a mother vigilant for their virtue and by a meek father cowed by his feminized surroundings. Did those surroundings spur Cecilia to throw herself from a window, sending the house into a degenerating gloom that bottomed out with the final exits of the final four?
Fey, Tina. Bossypants. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve always suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy. (Also on the American Library Association List of Outstanding Books for the College Bound). “Great on audio as well. You’ll laugh out loud.” -Ms. Mc
Fitch, Janet. White Oleander. Astrid Magnussen, the teenage narrator of Janet Fitch’s engrossing first novel, White Oleander, has a mother who is as sharp as a new knife. An uncompromising poet, Ingrid despises weakness and self-pity, telling her daughter that they are descendants of Vikings, savages who fought fiercely to survive. And when one of Ingrid’s boyfriends abandons her, she illustrates her point, killing the man with the poison of oleander flowers. This leads to a life sentence in prison, leaving Astrid to teach herself the art of survival in a string of Los Angeles foster homes.
Frankel, Laurie. This is How it Always Is. Claude is five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes. “Amazingly beautiful book about love and family.” -Ms. Mc
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. Hazel is sixteen, with terminal cancer, when she meets Augustus at her kids-with-cancer support group. The two are kindred spirits, sharing an irreverent sense of humor and immense charm, and watching them fall in love even as they face universal questions of the human condition–How will I be remembered? Does my life, and will my death, have meaning?–has a raw honesty that is deeply moving.
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The chance discovery by a young peasant woman that she is a descendant of the noble family of d’Urbervilles is to change the course of her life. Tess Durbeyfield leaves home on the first of her fateful journeys, and meets the ruthless Alec d’Urberville. Thomas Hardy’s impassioned story tells of hope and disappointment, rejection and enduring love.
Hosseini , Khaled. The Kite Runner. 2004. Penguin/Riverhead.
Years after he flees Afghanistan, Amir, now an American citizen, returns to his native land and attempts to atone for the betrayal of his best friend before he fled Kabul and the Taliban.
The Complete Poems of Langston Hughes — Spanning five decades and comprising 868 poems (nearly 300 of which have never before appeared in book form), this volume is the definitive sampling of a writer who has been called the poet laureate of African America — and perhaps our greatest popular poet since Walt Whitman.
Humphreys, Josephine. Rich in Love. Seventeen-year-old Lucille Odom is one such seemingly mature teenager who tries to hold her family together when her mother leaves abruptly – the ice cream melting in the grocery bag on the front seat of the car – and her twenty-five-year-old sister returns home with a new husband and a baby on the way. As life falls into place without her mother, it becomes clear that Lucille is not as strong and mature as she portrays herself to be. Humphreys creates a fully believable portrait of an adolescent in Lucille, who eventually realizes that she does not have all the answers, nor do the adults around her. She is challenged to turn outward and to deal with the hard truth of why her mother left; as she moves beyond her own needs she begins to understand the complexity and full circle of love – parental, filial, fraternal, sexual, and self.
Irving, John. The Hotel New Hampshire. The Hotel New Hampshire, the story of an eccentric family that sets up house in various unlikely hotels here and abroad, is a hectic gaudy saga with the verve of a Marx Brothers movie. As in most Irving novels, the plot is complex and multilayered, sprinkled liberally with flashback. Irving demands much of his readers, wielding words like weapons, layering plot upon plot in a massive, festive concoction of fantasy, poignancy and humor.
Irving, John. A Prayer for Owen Meany. Owen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend’s mom with a baseball and believes that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn’t cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred. The book’s countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy–from Vietnam to the Contras. [Taught in some 12H classes.]
King, Stephen. The Stand. Survivors of a chemical weapon called superflu confront pure evil in this 1978 saga. But that lethal virus is almost benign compared to the satanic force gathering minions from those still alive to destroy humanity and create a world populated by evil. Arguably the greatest horror novel ever written by the greatest horror novelist, this is a true modern classic.
Kristof, Nicholas and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This book inspired the formation of TZ’s Social Justice Club! New York Times columnist Kristof and his wife, WuDunn, a former Times reporter, make a brilliantly argued case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide. More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. What can Americans do to make a difference around the world? “The inspiration for The Social Justice Club.” -Ms. Mc
Lamb, Wally. She’s Come Undone. Dolores Price is a smart-mouthed child who grows into a 257-pound, unhappy adult. She has suffered almost every abuse and familial travesty that exists: Her father is a violent, philandering liar; her mother has the mental and emotional consistency of Jell-O; and the men in her life have treated her poorly. But Dolores battles her woes with a sense of self-indulgence and gluttony rivaled only by Henry VIII. While most kids her age were dealing with the monumental importance of the latest Beatles single and how college turned an older sibling into a long-haired hippie, Dolores was grappling with such issues as divorce, rape, and mental illness. Whether you’re disgusted by her antics or moved by her pathetic ploys, you’ll be drawn into Dolores’s warped, hilarious, Mallomar-munching world.
Moore, Lorrie. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Berie Carr, an American woman visiting Paris with her husband, summons up for us a summer in 1972 when she was fifteen, living in upstate New York and working as a ticket taker at Storyland, an amusement park where her beautiful best friend, Sils, was Cinderella in a papier-mache pumpkin coach. We see these two girls together – Berie and Sils – intense, brash, set apart by adolescence and an appetite for danger. Driven by their own provincial restlessness and making their own rules, they embark on a summer that both shatters and intensifies the bond between them.
Ng, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You. “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. “This book rocked me. Amazing.” -Ms. Mc
Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler’s Wife. A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant. “One of my all-time favorites.” -Ms. Mc
New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver — A wonderful collection of this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. Mary Oliver’s perceptive, brilliantly crafted poems about the natural landscape and the fundamental questions of life and death have won high praise from critics and readers alike.
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. A gifted young woman has a mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman’s descent into depression. “One of my all-time favorite books.” -Ms. Mc
Reed, Amy. The Nowhere Girls. Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story. “A rare 5-star YA read for me!”-Ms. Mc
Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. Park Sheridan, a biracial boy (half Korean, half white), and Eleanor Douglas, a red-haired girl, are two misfit teenagers living in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1986. They fall in love over comic books and mixed tapes on their school bus — while dealing with serious issues such as domestic abuse, child abuse, racism, bullying and body image. “One of my favorite YA books. I promise it’s not cheesy.” -Ms. Mc
Salinger, J.D. Nine Stories. Since the publication of The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, the works of J.D. Salinger have been acclaimed for their humor, intensity, and their lack of phoniness. A collection of short fiction, Nine Stories contains works with those qualities that make Salinger such a well-loved author. The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger’s children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances–some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic.
Sebold, Alice. Lucky. “You save yourself or you remain unsaved.” With these words, Sebold recounts the brutal rape that she was “lucky” to survive. Tragedy and hope combine as she makes her way through a survivor’s maze of emotions.
Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Love, betrayal, despair, commitment, regret, spirituality, life, and death are explored in these eloquent poems penned by one of the greatest playwrights and poets in the English language.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots, Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity.
Strout, Elizabeth. Amy and Isabelle. Shy, sensitive Amy Goodrow leads a cloistered existence with her mother, Isabelle, in a small New England mill town. For years, Isabelle has stoically endured the emotional emptiness of her life and unfulfilling secretarial job, secure in the knowledge that “her real life would happen somewhere else.” But when Amy falls in love with an older man and crosses the line between adolescent fantasy and disturbing reality, she releases Isabelle’s intense shame about her own past and opens an unbridgeable distance between them.
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. First produced and published in 1938, this Pulitzer Prize–winning drama of life in a small town has become an American classic and is Thornton Wilder’s most renowned and most frequently performed play. Set in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, the play features a narrator, the Stage Manager, who sits at the side of the unadorned stage and explains the action. Through flashbacks, dialogue, and direct monologues the other characters reveal themselves to the audience. [Taught in 9H.]
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. This one-act drama was produced in 1944 and published in 1945. Considered by some critics to be Williams’ finest drama, The Glass Menagerie launched his career. In this semi-autobiographical work, a brother is haunted by the memory of his teenage sister who takes refuge from the world in her collection of glass animal figurines.
Zusak, Marcus, The Book Thief. Narrated by Death, the book is set in Nazi Germany, a place and time when the narrator notes he was extremely busy. It describes a young girl’s relationship with her foster parents, the other residents of their neighborhood, and a Jewish fist-fighter who hides in her home during the escalation of World War II. Published in 2006, it has won numerous awards and was listed on the The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks.
Adams, Douglas, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 1980. The hilarious journey of Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect, a space hitchhiker, who escape from earth seconds before it is demolished and travel to a variety of galactic civilizations while gathering information for a hitchhiker’s guidebook.
Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina. 1992.
At her birth in Greenville, South Carolina, Ruth Anne Boatwright is nick-named “Bone” because she is so long and skinny. Because her Mama is fifteen and single when Bone is born, a stamp in “oversized red-inked block letters” reading “Illegitimate” blots the bottom of Bone’s birth certificate, and Bone’s Mama never gives up her efforts to have this stamp removed. The Boatwright family is large and stormy, especially Bone’s talented, handsome, hard-drinking, womanizing uncles. Bone understands and supports her Mama’s desperate need for love until it leaves Bone with scars that won’t go away.
Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of Butterflies. 1994. This is a tale of courage and sisterhood set in the Dominican Republic during the rise of the Trujillo dictatorship. A skillful blend of fact and fiction, In the Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who, in 1960, were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Alvarez breathes life into these historical figures–known as “las mariposas,” or “the butterflies,” in the underground–as she imagines their teenage years, their gradual involvement with the revolution, and their terror as their dissentience is uncovered.
Anaya, Rudolfo. Bless Me, Ultima. 1972. Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wing, Tony probes the family ties that bind and rend him, as he discovers himself in the magic secrets of the pagan past — a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. [This is an AP title in some TZ AP Lit classes.]
Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. 1985. Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses — and then training them in the strategies of war… The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of complex computer ‘games’… Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games… He is also smart enough to know that time is running out.
Diaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Riverhead Books, 2007. A self-proclaimed “ghetto nerd,” outcast and animé-loving Oscar Wao is the latest in a long line of doomed generations to suffer the dreaded fuku curse of his native Dominican Republic. With only humor and talent as his weapons, he perseveres, knowing “you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.”
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. 1866.
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret, imagining himself to be a great man far above moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with a suspicious police investigator, his own conscience begins to torment him and he seeks sympathy and redemption from Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute. The book serves as a stunning psychological portrait, a thriller and a profound meditation on guilt and retribution. [This is an AP title in some TZ AP Lit classes.]
Fugard, Athol. Master Harold and the Boys. 1982.
Hally, a precocious white South African teenager, lashes out at two older black friends who are substitute figures for his alcoholic father. Fugard forces readers to confront our capacity for hate while offering hope that it is possible to practice compassion without stumbling.
Hansberry, Lorraine. Raisin in the Sun. 1959. The place: a tenement flat in Southside, Chicago. The time: post—World War II. When Lena Younger, the strong-willed matriarch, inherits money, it threatens to tear her African American family apart. [The play’s title comes from a line in Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem,” which warns that a dream deferred might “dry up/like a raisin in the sun.”]
Hemingway, Ernest. Farewell to Arms. 1929. This is the story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Hemingway’s frank portrayal of the love between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley, caught in the inexorable sweep of war, glows with an intensity unrivaled in modern literature, while his description of the German attack on Caporetto — of lines of fired men marching in the rain, hungry, weary, and demoralized — is one of the greatest moments in literary history. A story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion, A Farewell to Arms, is full of the disillusionment of the “lost generation” expatriates. [This is an 11H title taught in TZ’s 11 Honors class.]
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha. 1951. On his journey, Siddhartha, a wealthy Brahmin’s son, learns from many teachers: the ascetic Samanas, the all-knowing Gotama the Buddha, Kamala the lovely courtesan, and Vasudeva the simple ferryman. But their examples do not satisfy him — sensualism brings him no comfort, and he rejects the value of suffering. Unwilling to accept the wisdom of others, Siddhartha finally comes to an understanding of himself and his place in the universe, achieving the enlightened state of mind in which he can say to his lifelong friend, “The world, Govinda, is perfect at every moment.”
Keillor, Garrison, ed. Good Poems. Viking, 2002.
Selected from Keillor’s radio show, The Writer’s Almanac, this anthology of both contemporary and classic poetry is the first in a set of three. Poems range from quirky to quaint and everyone is sure to find at least one favorite in this accessible collection.
Keneally, Thomas. Schindler’s List. 1982. Schindler’s List is a remarkable work of fiction based on the true story of German industrialist and war profiteer, Oskar Schindler, who, confronted with the horror of the extermination camps, gambled his life and fortune to rescue 1,300 Jews from the gas chambers.Working with the actual testimony of Schindler’s Jews, Thomas Keneally artfully depicts the courage and shrewdness of an unlikely savior, a man who is a flawed mixture of hedonism and decency and who, in the presence of unutterable evil, transcends the limits of his own humanity.
Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: Pt.1, Millennium Approaches (1992); Pt.2, Perestroika (1993). Kushner’s play is that rare entity: a work for the stage that is profoundly moving yet very funny, highly theatrical yet steeped in traditional literary values, and most of all deeply American in its attitudes and political concerns. In two full-length plays, Kushner tells the story of a handful of people trying to make sense of the world. The plays mix magical realism with political speeches, high comedy with painful tragedy, and stitch it all together with a daring sense of irony and a moral vision. On one level, the play is an indictment of the government led by Ronald Reagan. But beneath the acute sense of political and moral outrage lies a meditation on what it means to live and die–of AIDS, or anything else–in a society that cares less and less about human life and basic decency. It was the winner of two Tony Awards and the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
Markandaya, Kamala. Nectar In A Sieve. 1954.
Rukmani, a peasant from a village in India, lives a life of constant struggle, yet she is a source of strength for many. Natural disasters, an arranged marriage (at age 12), and industrialization of her village are the challenges Rukmani must face as the bride of a peasant farmer in southern India. Nectar In A Sieve is a powerful, depressing, but ultimately hopeful novel of a life lived with love, faith, and inner strength.
Mason, Bobbi Ann. In Country. 1985. In the summer of 1984, the war in Vietnam comes home to Sam Hughes, whose father was killed there before she was born. Sam lives with an uncle whom she suspects suffers from the effects of Agent Orange, and struggles to come to terms with the war’s impact on her family. The New York Times called it, “A brilliant and moving book…a moral tale that entwines public history with private anguish.”
Mori, Kyoko. Shizuko’s Daughter. 1993.
Yuki Okuda knows her mother would be proud of her grades and her achievements in sports if she were alive. But she committed suicide. And Yuki has to learn how to live with a father who doesn’t seem to love her and a stepmother who treats her badly. Most important, she has to learn how to live with herself: a twelve-year-old Japanese girl growing up alone, trying to make sense of a tragedy that makes no sense at all.
O’Connor, Flannery. Everything That Rises Must Converge. 1965. Collection of nine short stories by Flannery O’connor, published posthumously in 1965. The stories about misfits in small Southern towns force the reader to confront hypocrisy and complacency. The flawed characters of each story are fully revealed in apocalyptic moments of conflict and violence that are presented with O’Connors famed tragicomic style.
Potok, Chaim. The Chosen. 1967. In 1940s Brooklyn, New York, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son and rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, the crisis of faith engendered when Holocaust stories begin to emerge in the U.S., loss, love, and the journey to adulthood. The intellectual and spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son and his own father, and between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty, and, ultimately, the power of love.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. 1962. First released in 1962, this landmark work offered the first shattering look at widespread ecological degradation and touched off an environmental awareness that still exists. Rachel Carson’s book focused on the poisons from insecticides, weed killers, and other common products as well as the use of sprays in agriculture, a practice that led to dangerous chemicals to the food source. Carson argued that those chemicals were more dangerous than radiation and that for the first time in history, humans were exposed to chemicals that stayed in their systems from birth to death. Presented with thorough documentation, the book gave birth to the environmental movement.
Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. 1997. Barely a postscript in official Japanese history, the horrific rape, mutilation, torture, and murder of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens took place over the course of just seven weeks. Nanking served as a kind of laboratory in which Japanese soldiers were taught to slaughter unarmed, unresisting civilians, as they would later do throughout Asia. Likening their victims to insects and animals, the Japanese commanders orchestrated a campaign in which several hundred thousand–no one is sure just how many–Chinese soldiers and noncombatants alike were killed.
DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. 1903. Educator DuBois describes the lives and history of African American farmers, including the career of Booker T. Washington. When first published in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk struck like a thunderclap, quickly establishing itself as a work that wholly redefined the history of the black experience in America, introducing the now famous “problem of the color line.” In decades since, its stature has only grown, and today it ranks as one of the most influential and resonant works in the history of American thought.
Edelman, Marion Wright. The Measure of Our success: A Letter to My Children and Yours. 1992. A child advocate shares her thoughts on values, raising families, and the future of our country. Marian W. Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and has been awarded numerous awards for her work, including a MacArthur Fellowship and the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. 1942. Gods and heroes, their clashes and adventures, come alive in this splendid retelling of the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths. A keystone of our culture is the body of myth and legend of the ancient Western world–stories of gods and heroes that have inspired human creativity since time immemorial. Edith Hamilton loved the ancient Western myths with a passion–and this classic compendium is her tribute.
Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. 1988. Cosmology becomes understandable as the author discusses the origin, evolution, and fate of our universe. From the Big Bang to the theory of relativity, Stephen W. Hawking will challenge your imagination and expand your grasp of the cosmos. This is the classic revelatory science book of the last century.
Hersey, John. Hiroshima. 1946. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, few could have anticipated its potential for devastation. Pulitzer prize-winning author John Hersey recorded the stories of Hiroshima residents shortly after the explosion and, in 1946, Hiroshima was published, giving the world first-hand accounts from people who had survived it. The words of Miss Sasaki, Dr. Fujii, Mrs. Nakamara, Father Kleinsorg, Dr. Sasaki, and the Reverend Tanimoto gave a face to the statistics that saturated the media and solicited an overwhelming public response. Whether you believe the bomb made the difference in the war or that it should never have been dropped, “Hiroshima” is a must read for all of us who live in the shadow of armed conflict.
Krakauer, John. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster. 1997. This is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer’s book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, the author’s own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he shows how his dream became a nightmare.
Occhiogrosso, Peter. The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World’s Religious Traditions. 1994. Here are detailed narrative histories of the six great religious traditions of East and West–Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam–along with information about related traditions, including Sikhism, Confucianism, Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and the various elements that compose the New Age. This lively, easy to understand guidebook is for everyone from the faithful believer to the curious doubter.
Strickland, Carol and John Boswell. The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History From Prehistoric to Post-Modern. 1992. From cave paintings to conceptual art, art history is demystified. A layman’s guide to art history free from bogged down, convoluted theories provides the reader with a basic working knowledge of art and its influence on society, from ancient times to today.
Thomas, Lewis. The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. 1974. These essays offer an optimistic scientist’s view of a wide variety of subjects. Eloquently written, Thomas’s essays are short, witty, and thought-provoking, making this a must for any fan of science.
Williams, Juan. Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. 1987. From Brown v. the Board of Education to the Voting Rights Act, Williams outlines the social and political gains of African Americans.