William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury
A novel which describes the dissolution of the once aristocratic Compson family in the American South, told through the eyes of three of its members. In different ways they prove unable to deal with either the responsibility of the past or the imperatives of the present.
Cormac McCarthy - All the Pretty Horses
Part bildungsroman, part horse opera, part meditation on courage and loyalty, this beautifully crafted novel won the National Book Award in 1992. The plot is simple enough. John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old dispossessed Texan, crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1949, accompanied by his pal Lacey Rawlins. The two precocious horsemen pick up a sidekick--a laughable but deadly marksman named Jimmy Blevins--encounter various adventures on their way south and finally arrive at a paradisiacal hacienda where Cole falls into an ill-fated romance. Readers familiar with McCarthy's Faulknerian prose will find the writing more restrained than in Suttree and Blood Meridian. Newcomers will be mesmerized by the tragic tale of John Grady Cole's coming of age.
Michael Cunningham - A Home at the End of the World
From Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, comes this widely praised novel of two boyhood friends: Jonathan, lonely, introspective, and unsure of himself; and Bobby, hip, dark, and inarticulate. In New York after college, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate, Clare, a veteran of the city's erotic wars. Bobby and Clare fall in love, scuttling the plans of Jonathan, who is gay, to father Clare's child. Then, when Clare and Bobby have a baby, the three move to a small house upstate to raise "their" child together and, with an odd friend, Alice, create a new kind of family. _A Home at the End of the World_ masterfully depicts the charged, fragile relationships of urban life today.
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according to Will Kaufman. Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. It is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States alone. In 1855, three years after it was published, it was called "the most popular novel of our day." The impact attributed to the book is great, reinforced by a story that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln declared, "So this is the little lady who made this big war." The quote is apocryphal; it did not appear in print until 1896, and it has been argued that "The long-term durability of Lincoln's greeting as an anecdote in literary studies and Stowe scholarship can perhaps be explained in part by the desire among many contemporary intellectuals ... to affirm the role of literature as an agent of social change." About the Author Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicted life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom. It energized anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. She wrote more than 20 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential both for her writings and her public stands on social issues of the day.
Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls
One of the greatest novels which our troubled age will produce. _Observer_ High in the pine forests of the Spanish Sierra, a guerrilla band prepares to blow up a vital bridge. Robert Jordan, a young American volunteer, ahs been sent to handle the dynamiting. There, in the mountains, he finds the dangers and the intense comradeship of war. And there he discovers Maria, a young woman who has escaped from Franco's rebels. For Whom the Bell Tolls is Hemingway's finest novel, a passionate evocation of the pride and the tragedy of the Civil War that tore Spain apart. The best book Hemingway has written. _New York Times_
Kurt Vonnegut - Macskabölcső / Cat's Cradle
"Ebben a könyvben egyetlen szó sem igaz" - így kezdődik Kurt Vonnegut számtalan kiadásban és nyelven megjelent nevezetes regénye. Viszont minden egyes szavát elhisszük - tehetnénk hozzá. A zárt szerkezetű, feszes ritmusú történet fatális véletlenek szükségszerűen egymásra következő sorozata. Felix Hoenikker otromba különc, ám zseniális tudós, aki játékos kedvében feltalálja a földi életet pillanatok alatt kioltani képes szuperjeget. A veszedelmes anyag szilánkjait a torzszülött, ám a maguk módján szintén zseniális Hoenikker-gyerekek öröklik, és juttatják el a távoli San Lorenzo szigetére. A kicsiny és terméketlen sziget államformája a totális diktatúra, titokban gyakorolt vallása az emberek tökéletes testvériségét meghirdető, sőt megvalósító, a vigasztaló hazugságokra épülő bokononizmus. Bokonon próféta teremtő tanainak a szuperjég pusztító erejével is szembesülniük kell. E találkozás "naplója" ez a különös, egyszerre mulatságos és megrendítő kötet, amely Vonnegut írásművészetének teljes gazdagságával bilincseli le az Olvasót. A szívszorító látomás tiltakozás mindennemű diktatúra ellen, ugyanakkor figyelmeztetés is: a puszta ráció hideg lehelete fagyhalálra ítéli a humánumot. Vonnegut varázslatos regényét ezúttal nemcsak magyarul, de eredetiben is élvezhetjük.
Henry James - The Ambassadors
One of Henry James’s three late masterpieces, and an exemplar of his complex, mature style, The Ambassadors is considered by many the author’s finest work. James himself judged it to be “frankly, quite the best, ‘all round,’ of my productions.” The story follows Lambert Strether, a staunch and stoical New Englander, as hetravels abroad to rescue his employer’s prodigal son, Chad, from the seductive pitfalls of existence in Paris. Yet the social pleasures of the European capital awaken new urges in the fifty-five year old, and he begins to reconsider his own inadequately realized life. He soon beseeches Chad, “Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had?” As Strether himself becomes involved in a relationship with the fascinating Maria Gostrey, a second, more determined, ambassador is dispatched. An ultimatum is delivered—and resisted—but then an accident reveals surprising truths to Strether, and he must decide whether his loyalties lie with old Europe or new America. A bittersweet paean to the life not lived, The Ambassadors is one of the most achingly beautiful and moving novels ever written.
Toni Morrison - Jazz
Joe Trace, door-to-door salesman, erstwhile devoted husband, shoots to death his lover of three months, 18 year old Dorcas. At the funeral, his determined, hardworking wife Violet tries to disfigure the corpse with a knife. Captures the complex humanity of black urban life.
Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse-Five
In its publication year, Slaughterhouse-Five was nominated for a best-novel Nebula Award and for a best-novel Hugo Award, 1970. It lost both to The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden. Don't let the ease of reading fool you! Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters..." Slaughterhouse-Five (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch-22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy–and humor.
Mark Twain - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer / The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
With an Introduction and Notes by Stuart Hutchinson, University of Kent at Canterbury. Tom Sawyer, a shrewd and adventurous boy, is as much at home in the respectable world of his Aunt Polly as in the self-reliant and parentless world of his friend Huck Finn. The two enjoy a series of adventures, accidentally witnessing a murder, establishing the innocence of the man wrongly accused, as well as being hunted by Injun Joe, the true murderer, eventually escaping and finding the treasure that Joe had buried. Huckleberry Finn recounts the further adventures of Huck, who runs away from a drunken and brutal father, and meets up with the escaped slave Jim. They float down the Mississippi on a raft, participating in the lives of the characters they meet, witnessing corruption, moral decay and intellectual impoverishment. Sharing so much in background and character, these two stories, the best of Twain, indisputably belong together in one volume. Though originally written as adventure stories for young people, the vivid writing provides a profound commentary on provincial American life in the mid-nineteenth century and the institution of slavery.
James Baldwin - Go Tell It on the Mountain
James Baldwin's stunning first novel is now an American classic. With startling realism that brings Harlem and the black experience vividly to life, this is a work that touches the heart with emotion while it stimulates the mind with its narrative style, symbolism, and excoriating vision of racism in America. Moving through time from the rural South to the northern ghetto, starkly contrasting the attitudes of two generations of an embattles family, Go Tell It On The Mountain is an unsurpassed portrayal of human beings caught up in a dramatic struggle and of a society confronting inevitable change. "The most important novel written about the American Negro," says Commentary. "It is written with poetic intensity and great narrative skill," writes Harper's. Saturday Review praises it as "masterful," and the San Francisco Chronicle declares that this important American novel is "brutal, objective and compassionate."
John Updike - Rabbit, Run
It's 1959 and Harry Angstrom, one-time high-school sports superstar, is going nowhere. At twenty-six he is trapped in a second-rate existence - stuck with a fragile, alcoholic wife, a house full of overflowing ashtrays and discarded glasses, a young son and a futile job. With no way to fix things, he flees his family and his home in Pennsylvania, beginning a thousand-mile journey that he hopes will free him from his mediocre life. Because, as he knows only too well, 'after you've been first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate'.
Edith Wharton - The House of Mirth
The House of Mirth (1905), is a novel by Edith Wharton. First published in 1905, the novel is Wharton's first important work of fiction, sold 140,000 copies between October and the end of December, and added to Wharton's existing fortune. Although The House of Mirth is written in the style of a novel of manners, set against the backdrop of the 1890s New York ruling class, it is a text considered to be part of American literary Naturalism. Wharton places her tragic heroine, Lily Bart, in a society that she describes as a "hot-house of traditions and conventions." (from Wikipedia)
F. Scott Fitzgerald - Tender is the Night
To the French Riviera come Dick and Nicole Diver. Handsome, rich and glamorous, their dinners are legendary, their atmosphere magnetic. But something is wrong - Nicole has a secret and Dick a weakness. Together they head towards the rocks on which their lives crash - and only one of them really survives. Fitzgerald worked on seventeen versions of this novel, the obsessions of which consumed his marriage and his life.
Toni Morrison - The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is the first novel written by Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove -- a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others -- who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
Junot Diaz - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Areader might at first be surprised by how many chapters of a book entitled The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao are devoted not to its sci fi–and–fantasy-gobbling nerd-hero but to his sister, his mother and his grandfather. However, Junot Diaz's dark and exuberant first novel makes a compelling case for the multiperspectival view of a life, wherein an individual cannot be known or understood in isolation from the history of his family and his nation.Oscar being a first-generation Dominican-American, the nation in question is really two nations. And Dominicans in this novel being explicitly of mixed Taíno, African and Spanish descent, the very ideas of nationhood and nationality are thoughtfully, subtly complicated. The various nationalities and generations are subtended by the recurring motif of fukú, the Curse and Doom of the New World, whose midwife and... victim was a historical personage Diaz will only call the Admiral, in deference to the belief that uttering his name brings bad luck (hint: he arrived in the New World in 1492 and his initials are CC). By the prologue's end, it's clear that this story of one poor guy's cursed life will also be the story of how 500 years of historical and familial bad luck shape the destiny of its fat, sad, smart, lovable and short-lived protagonist. The book's pervasive sense of doom is offset by a rich and playful prose that embodies its theme of multiple nations, cultures and languages, often shifting in a single sentence from English to Spanish, from Victorian formality to Negropolitan vernacular, from Homeric epithet to dirty bilingual insult. Even the presumed reader shape-shifts in the estimation of its in-your-face narrator, who addresses us variously as folks, you folks, conspiracy-minded-fools, Negro, Nigger and plataneros. So while Diaz assumes in his reader the same considerable degree of multicultural erudition he himself possesses—offering no gloss on his many un-italicized Spanish words and expressions (thus beautifully dramatizing how linguistic borders, like national ones, are porous), or on his plethora of genre and canonical literary allusions—he does helpfully footnote aspects of Dominican history, especially those concerning the bloody 30-year reign of President Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. The later Oscar chapters lack the linguistic brio of the others, and there are exposition-clogged passages that read like summaries of a longer narrative, but mostly this fierce, funny, tragic book is just what a reader would have hoped for in a novel by Junot Diaz.
Jeffrey Eugenides - The Virgin Suicides
First published in 1993, "The Virgin Suicides" announced the arrival of a major new American novelist. In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters--beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys--commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family's fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. Adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola, "The Virgin Suicides" is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.
Donna Tartt - The Secret History
This novel is set on a small college campus in Vermont. Dissatisfied with the crass values of their fellow students, a small corps of undergraduates groups itself around a favored professor of classics, who nurtures both their sense of moral elevation and an insularity from conventional college life that ultimately proves fatal. Among Prof. Julian Morrow's followers are Henry Winter, a tall scion of a wealthy St. Louis family, the twins Charles and Camilla Macaulay, both intellectually gifted and eccentric only in their excessive mutual devotion; Francis Abernathy, a dandyish homosexual slowly awakening to his sexuality; and Edmund (Bunny) Corcoran, who becomes the group's victim.