Sula and Nel are two young black girls: clever and poor, they grow up together sharing their secrets, dreams and happiness. Then Sula breaks free from their small-town community in the uplands of Ohio to roam the cities of America. When she returns ten years later much has changed. Including Nel, who now has a husband and three children. The friendship between the two women becomes strained and the whole town grows wary as Sula continues in her wayward, vagabond and uncompromising ways.
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgeralds' third book, The Great Gatsby (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the "first step" American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised "the charm and beauty of the writing," as well as Fitzgerald's sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald's "best work" thus far. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.
Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale
A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time. Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules. Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid's Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.
J. D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye
Ever since it was first published in 1951, this novel has been the coming-of-age story against which all others are judged. Read and cherished by generations, the story of Holden Caulfield is truly one of America's literary treasures. Salinger's classic coming-of-age story portrays one young man's funny and poignant experiences with life, love, and sex.
Toni Morrison - Song of Solomon
This is the story of Macon ''Milkman'' Dead, as he makes a voyage of rediscovery, travelling southwards geographically and inwards spiritually. Through the enlightenment of one man the novel recapitulates the history of slavery and liberation.
Paul Auster - Mr. Vertigo (angol)
Paul Auster's dazzling, picaresque novel is the story of one Walter Claireborne Rawley, renowned nationwide as "Walt the Wonder Boy." It is the late 1920's, the era of Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, and Al Capone, and Walt is a Saint Louis orphan rescued frm the streets by the mysterious Hungarian Master Yehudi, who teaches Walt to walk on air. The vaudeville act that results from Walt's marvelous new abiltiy takes them across a vast and vibrant country, where they meet and fall prey to sinners, thieves, and villains, from the Kansas Ku Klux Klan to the Chicago mob. Walt's rise to fame and fortune mirrors America's own coming of age, and his resilience, like that of the nation, is challenged over and over again. Mr. Vertigo is a bravura celebration of a raucous age, an ambitious and enduringly brilliant tale of trial and triumph.
Kazuo Ishiguro - Never Let Me Go
From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author of The Remains of the Day.
Paul Auster - Invisible
Sinuously constructed in four interlocking parts, Invisible opens in New York City in the spring of 1967 when twenty-year-old Adam Walker, an aspiring poet and student at Columbia University meets the enigmatic Frenchman Rudolf Born, and his silent and seductive girlfriend Margot. Before long, Walker finds himself caught in a perverse triangle that leads to a sudden, shocking act of violence that will alter the course of his life. Three different narrators tell the story, as it travels in time from 1967 to 2007 and moves from New York to Paris and to a remote Caribbean island in a story of unbridled sexual hunger and a relentless quest for justice. With uncompromising insight, Auster takes us to the shadowy borderland between truth and memory, authorship and identity to produce a work of unforgettable power that confirms his reputation as one of America's most spectacularly inventive writers.
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.
Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow
Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the twentieth century as Joyce's Ulysses was to the first. Its sprawling, encyclopedic narrative and penetrating analysis of the impact of technology on society make it an intellectual tour de force.
Virginia Woolf - To the Lighthouse
This novel is an extraordinarily poignant evocation of a lost happiness that lives on in the memory. For years now the Ramsays have spent every summer in their holiday home in Scotland, and they expect these summers will go on forever. In this, her most autobiographical novel, Virginia Woolf captures the intensity of childhood longing and delight, and the shifting complexity of adult relationships. From an acute awareness of transcience, she creates an enduring work of art.
Paul Auster - The Book of Illusions
Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in a plane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a lost film by the great silent comedian Hector Mann, and finds himself entranced. His growing obsession with the mystery of Mann's true life story will take Zimmer on a strange and intense journey into a shadow-world of lies, illusions and unexpected love...
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.
Toni Morrison - Beloved
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1988, Toni Morrison frees herself from the bonds of traditional narrative and establishes an independent style, just as her characters have freed themselves from the horrors of slavery and escaped from Kentucky to Ohio. Revealing the story of Sethe and her family as they survive the brutality of the farm, only to encounter torments even more punishing than whippings after they escape, Morrison presents scenes in a seemingly random order, each scene revealing some aspect of life for Sethe, her boys, her dead baby Beloved, and the new baby Denver, both in the past and in the present. Moving back and forth, around, and inside out through Sethe's recollections, she gradually reveals Sethe's story to the reader, its horror increasing as the reader makes the connections which turn disconnected scenes into a powerful and harrowing chronology.
Virginia Woolf - Mrs. Dalloway (angol)
This brilliant novel explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life. Direct and vivid in her account of the details of Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party she is to give that evening, Woolf ultimately managed to reveal much more. For it is the feeling behind these daily events that gives Mrs. Dalloway its texture and richness and makes it so memorable. Foreword by Maureen Howard. "Mrs. Dalloway was the first novel to split the atom. If the novel before Mrs. Dalloway aspired to immensities of scope and scale, to heroic journeys across vast landscapes, with Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf insisted that it could also locate the enormous within the everyday; that a life of errands and party-giving was every bit as viable a subject as any life lived anywhere; and that should any human act in any novel seem unimportant, it has merely been inadequately observed. The novel as an art form has not been the same since. "Mrs. Dalloway also contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century." --Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
Iris Murdoch - A Severed Head
Martin Lynch-Gibbon believes he can possess both a beautiful wife and a delightful lover. But when his wife, Antonia, suddenly leaves him for her psychoanalyst, Martin is plunged into an intensive emotional re-education. He attempts to behave beautifully and sensibly. Then he meets a woman whose demonic splendour at first repels him and later arouses a consuming and monstrous passion. As his Medusa informs him, 'this is nothing to do with happiness'.
Yann Martel - Life of Pi
After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific.The crew of the surviving vessel consists of a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan, a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger and Pi - a 16-year-old Indian boy.The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary pieces of literary fiction of recent years. Yann Martel's Life of Pi is a transformative novel, a dazzling work of imagination that will delight and astound readers in equal measure. It is a triumph of storytelling and a tale that will, as one character puts it, make you believe in God.
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.
John McGahern - Amongst Women
Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerilla leader in the War of Independence. Now, in old age, living out in the country, Moran is still fighting - with his family, his friends, even himself - in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past.
J. M. Coetzee - Slow Man
. M. Coetzee , one of the greatest living writers in the English language, has crafted a deeply moving tale of love and mortality in his new book, Slow Man. When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, he is forced to reexamine how he has lived his life. Through Paul’s story, Coetzee addresses questions that define us all: What does it mean to do good? What in our lives is ultimately meaningful? How do we define the place we call "home"? In his clear and uncompromising voice, Coetzee struggles with these issues and offers a story that will dazzle the reader on every page.
Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections
The Corrections is a grandly entertaining novel for the new century-a comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes. After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man - or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home. Stretching from the Midwest at midcentury to the Wall Street and Eastern Europe of today, The Corrections brings an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions into violent collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and globalized greed. Richly realistic, darkly hilarious, deeply humane, it confirms Jonathan Franzen as one of our most brilliant interpreters of American society and the American soul.