Best American books, part 2

   

let-us-now-praise-famous-men

LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN

James Agee and photographer Walker Evans

The book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men grew out of an assignment the two men accepted in 1936 to produce a magazine article on the conditions among white sharecropper families in the U.S. South during the “Dust Bowl”. It was the time of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs designed to help the poorest segments of the society.
Agee and Evans spent eight weeks that summer researching their assignment, mainly among three white share-cropping families mired in desperate poverty. They returned with Evans’ portfolio of stark images—of families with gaunt faces, adults and children huddled in bare shacks before dusty yards in the Depression-era nowhere of the deep south—and Agee’s detailed notes.
As he remarks in the book’s preface, the original assignment was to produce a “photographic and verbal record of the daily living and environment of an average white family of tenant farmers”. However, as the Literary Encyclopedia points out, “Agee ultimately conceived of the project as a work of several volumes to be entitled Three Tenant Families, though only the first volume, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, was ever written”. Agee considered that the larger work, though based in journalism, would be “an independent inquiry into certain normal predicaments of human divinity”.

 

 

light in august, fiction, coverLIGHT IN AUGUST, William Faulkner
Light in August, is a novel about hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend Gail Hightower, who is plagued by visions of Confederate horsemen; and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.

 

 

 

 

 

book cover, Lolita, NabokovLOLITA,  Vladimir Nabokov

Humbert Humbert — scholar, aesthete and romantic — has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter.
Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love.
Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

 

book cover, Look Homeward, AngelLOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL: A Story of the Buried Life,  Thomas Woolf

is a 1929 novel by Thomas Wolfe. It is Wolfe’s first novel, and is considered a highly autobiographical American coming of age.
The character of Eugene Gant is generally believed to be a depiction of Wolfe himself. The novel covers the span of time from Eugene’s birth to the age of 19. The setting is the fictional town and state of Altamont, Catawba, a fictionalization of his home town, Asheville, North Carolina.
Wolfe is often characterized as a romantic due to the power of his emotionally charged, sprawling style. Look Homeward, Angel is written in a “stream of consciousness” narrative reminiscent of James Joyce.

 

book coverMAIN STREET

Sinclair Lewis

Newly married to local doctor Will Kennicott, free-sprited Carol Milford sets out to reform and improve her new hometown of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, beautify its streets and educate its citizens.
Published in 1920, Main Street was a major bestseller, reflecting the public’s interest in wholesome small-town life. At the same time, however, Sinclair Lewis derided small-town attitudes throughout the book with his trademark satiric humour.
A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sinclair Lewis wrote stories heavily influenced by America’s urbanization, industrialization and loss of frontier in the post-war period.

 

book cover,MANUFACTURING CONSENTMANUFACTURING CONSENT

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman

We normally think that the press are cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in its search for truth. In Manufacturing Consent Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky show how an underlying elite consensus largely structures all facets of the news. Far from challenging established power, the media work hard to discover and mirror its assumptions.

The authors skilfully dissect the way in which the marketplace and the economics of publishing significantly shape the news. They reveal how issues are framed and topics chosen, and contrast the double standards underlying accounts of free elections, a free press, and governmental repression.

The authors conclude that the modern mass media can best be understood in terms of a ‘propaganda model’.
News and entertainment companies dedicate themselves to profit within the established system. Their interests require that they support the governing assumptions of state and private power. The propaganda model provokes outrage from journalists, editors and broadcasters, but twenty years after first publication, Manufacturing Consent remains the most important critique of the mass media.

 

book cover, MOBY-DICKMoby-Dick (The Whale)
Herman Melville

First published in 1851, is widely considered to be a (perhaps THE) Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab’s boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge.

In Moby-Dick, Melville employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes. Through the main character’s journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of gods are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his place in the universe. The narrator’s reflections, along with his descriptions of a sailor’s life aboard a whaling ship, are woven into the narrative along with Shakespearean literary devices such as stage directions, extended soliloquies and asides. The book portrays insecurity that is still seen today when it comes to non-human beings along with the belief that these beings understand and act like humans.

The story is based on actual events in which the whaleship Essex was attacked by a sperm whale while at sea and sank. Melville wrote of it “I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb.”

 

MY ÁNTONIA

Willa Cather

Cather based one of her most famous novels on the true story of a Bohemian woman she had known since childhood in their small Nebraska town of Red Cloud.

Ántonia’s story is in one sense that of an early pioneer, a child of immigrants making her way through American small town life as best she can, stumbling along the way, but always with great energy and determination. But it may also be viewed as a very modern story of a woman whose strong nature sometimes leads her astray into risky and difficult situations yet ultimately brings her a quiet, enduring triumph.

 

MY NAME IS ASHER LEV

Chaim Potok

Asher Lev is a Ladover Hasid who keeps kosher, prays three times a day and believes in the Ribbono Shel Olom, the Master of the Universe. Asher Lev is an artist who is compulsively driven to render the world he sees and feels even when it leads him to blasphemy. In this stirring and often visionary novel, Chaim Potok traces Asher’s passage between these two identities, the one consecrated to God, the other subject only to the imagination.

Asher Lev grows up in a cloistered Hasidic community in postwar Brooklyn, a world suffused by ritual and revolving around a charismatic Rebbe. But in time his gift threatens to estrange him from that world and the parents he adores. As it follows his struggle, My Name Is Asher Lev becomes a luminous portrait of the artist, by turns heartbreaking and exultant, a modern classic.

 

MY YEARS WITH AYN RAND,  Nathaniel Branden

” Relentlessly revealing. . . the myth of Ayn Rand gives way to a full-sized portrait in contrasting colors, appealing and appalling, potent and paradoxical. . . .it takes a special kind of nerve to write such a book.”–Norman Cousins, author of Head First and The Healing Heart.

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is one of the most influential books of the twentieth century-its popular impact ranked second only to the Bible in a major poll. Millions know Rand as one of this century’s great thinkers, writers, and philosophers, yet much about the private Ayn Rand remains shrouded in mystery.

Who was Ayn Rand?

My Years with Ayn Rand charts the course of the clandestine, tempestuous relationship between the enigmatic author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and Nathaniel Branden— her young disciple and future pioneer of the self-esteem movement. In this book, discover the real Ayn Rand through the eyes of the man who became her soul mate and shared her passions and philosophical ideals. Their tragic and tumultuous love story began with a letter written by Branden as an admiring teenage fan and ended, more than twenty years later, with accusations of betrayal and bitter recriminations. My Years with Ayn Rand paints an unforgettable portrait of Ayn Rand – whose ideas, even today, can generate a maelstrom of controversy.

 

native sonNATIVE SON,  Richard Wright

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.

Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright’s novel is just as powerful today as when it was written — in its reflection of poverty and hopelessness, and what it means to be black in America.

 

objectivismOBJECTIVISM: THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND, Leonard Peikoff

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand is a 1991 book by philosopher Leonard Peikoff about the ideas of his mentor, Ayn Rand. Peikoff describes it as “the first comprehensive statement” of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. The book is based on a series of lecture courses that Peikoff first gave in 1976 and that Rand publicly endorsed.

Peikoff states that only Rand was qualified to write the definitive statement of her philosophic system, and that the book should be seen as an interpretation “by her best student and chosen heir.”

The book is divided into 12 chapters. The first five chapters cover Rand’s views on metaphysics and epistemology, which she considered the fundamental branches of philosophy. The remaining chapters cover Rand’s views on ethics, politics and esthetics, which she considered to be derived from those fundamentals. An epilogue titled “The Duel between Plato and Aristotle” discusses Objectivism’s philosophy of history.

 

cover, bookON THE ROAD, Jack Kerouac

On the Road swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat.

Now recognized as a modern classic, its American Dream is nearer that of Walt Whitman than Scott Fitzgerald, and it goes racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion.

But wait! Once you’ve read this, get the real story from OFF THE ROAD, by Carolyn Cassady (above).

 

book cover off the roadOFF THE ROAD, Carolyn Cassady

Off the Road tells the intimate story of the legendary Neal Cassady and his remarkable friendships with Jack Kerouac (who immortalized Cassady as Dean Moriarty in On the Road) and Allen Ginsberg. Written by the woman who loved them all— as wife of Cassady, lover of Kerouac, and friend of Ginsberg.

This riveting and intimate memoir spans one of the most vital eras in twentieth-century literature and culture, including the explosive successes of Kerouac’s On the Road and Ginsberg’s Howl, the flowering of the Beat movement, and the social revolution of the 1960s.

Carolyn Cassady reveals a side of Neal Cassady rarely seen — that of husband and father, a man who craved respectability, yet could not resist the thrills of a wilder and ultimately more destructive lifestyle.

 

official and confidential--OFFICIAL AND CONFIDENTIAL, Anthony Summers

For nearly fifty years, J. Edgar Hoover held great power in the United States. The creator of the FBI and its Director until his death, he played a role in nearly every major tragedy and scandal in America during the twentieth century.

Hoover was lauded when he died as an American hero. Anthony Summers’ controversial bestseller, Official & Confidential, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, draws on more than 800 interviews to explode the myths, exposing the dark secrets that remained hidden throughout Hoover’s lifetime.

Hoover used his intimate knowledge of the John F. Kennedy’s sex life to ensure that Lyndon B. Johnson became Vice President, and suppressed evidence about J.F.K’s assassination. Hoover himself, meanwhile, was a closet homosexual, which allegedly led to him being blackmailed by the Mafia.

This fascinating book reveals that even Hoover’s death, on the eve of Watergate, was clouded with mystery. Witnesses have indicated that, in the panic over the secrets he was holding over President Nixon, an operation was mounted to break into his house — possibly even to murder him.

 

one flew over the-- bookONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, Ken Kesey

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the seminal novel of the 1960s that has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her.

We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the awesome powers that keep them all imprisoned. If you loved the movie, with Jack Nicholson, then you will find that it followed closely to the original novel.

 

Only yesterday, book cover

ONLY YESTERDAY

Frederick Lewis Allen

This book is an attempt to tell, and in some measure to interpret, the story of what in the future may be considered a distinct era in American history: the eleven years between the end of the war with Germany (November 11, 1918) and the stock-market panic which culminated on November 13, 1929, hastening and dramatizing the destruction of what had been known as Coolidge (and Hoover) Prosperity.

Obviously the writing of a history so soon after the event has involved breaking much new ground. Professor Preston William Slosson, in The Great Crusade and After, has carried his story almost to the end of this period, but the scheme of his book is quite different from that of mine. And although many other books have dealt with one aspect of the period or another, I have been somewhat surprised to find how many of the events of those years have never before been chronicled in full. For example, the story of the Harding scandals (in so far as it is now known) has never been written before except in fragments, and although the Big Bull Market has been analyzed and discussed a thousand times, it has never been fully presented in narrative form as the extraordinary economic and social phenomenon which it was.

 

POEMS

Emily Dickinson

Like many writers of her day, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was a virtual unknown during her lifetime. After her death, however, when people discovered the incredible amount of poetry that she had written, Dickinson became celebrated as one of Americas greatest poets. Dickinson was notoriously introverted and mostly lived as a recluse, carrying out her friendships almost entirely by written letters.

Her work was just as unique; her poetry is written with short lines, occasionally lacked titles, and often used slant rhyme and unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Only a few of her poems were published in her lifetime, but American schoolchildren across the country read her work today. This edition of Dickinson’s Complete Poems is specially formatted with a Table of Contents and is illustrated with over a dozen pictures of her.

 

portnoy's complaint--book coverPORTNOY’S COMPLAINT, Philip Roth

Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) is the American novel that turned its author Philip Roth into a major celebrity, sparking a storm of controversy over its explicit and candid treatment of sexuality, including detailed depictions of masturbation using various props including a piece of liver.

The novel tells the humorous monologue of “a lust-ridden, mother-addicted young Jewish bachelor,” who confesses to his psychoanalyst in “intimate, shameful detail, and coarse, abusive language.”

Many of its characteristics (comedic prose; themes of sexual desire and sexual frustration; a self-conscious literariness) went on to become Roth trademarks. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Portnoy’s Complaint 52nd on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time included this novel in its “TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.” Wikipedia

 

pragmatism a new--PRAGMATISM, a New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking

William James

“A number of tendencies that have always existed in philosophy have all at once become conscious of themselves collectively, and of their combined mission; and this has occurred in so many countries, and from so many different points of view, that much unconcerted statement has resulted. I have sought to unify the picture as it presents itself to my own eyes, dealing in broad strokes, and avoiding minute controversy. Much futile controversy might have been avoided, I believe, if our critics had been willing to wait until we got our message fairly out.”

According to Wikipedia: “William James (1842 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher trained as a medical doctor. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James. William James was born at the Astor House in New York City. He was the son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents

 

rabbit run, bookRABBIT, RUN,  John Updike

It’s 1959 and Harry ‘Rabbit’ 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 resolves to flee from 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’.

 

 

Rabbit novelsRABBIT REDUX,  John Updike

It’s 1969, and the times are changing. America is about to land a man on the moon, the Vietnamese war is in full swing, and racial tension is on the rise. Things just aren’t as simple as they used to be — at least, not for Rabbit Angstrom. His wife has left him with his teenage son, his job is under threat and his mother is dying.

Suddenly, into his confused life – and home – comes Jill, an eighteen-year-old runaway who becomes his lover. But when she invites her friend to stay, a young black radical named Skeeter, the pair’s fragile harmony soon begins to fail …

 

 

rabbit is richRABBIT IS RICH,  John Updike

It’s 1979 and Rabbit is no longer running. He’s walking, and beginning to get out of breath. That’s OK, though – it gives him the chance to enjoy the wealth that comes with middle age.

It’s all in place: he’s Chief Sales Representative and co-owner of Springer motors; his wife, at home or in the club, is keeping trim; he wears good suits, and the cash is pouring in. So why is it that he finds it so hard to accept the way that things have turned out? And why, when he looks at his family, is he haunted by regrets about all those lives he’ll never live?

 

Rabbit novel coverRABBIT AT REST,  John Updike


It’s 1989, and Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom is far from restful. Fifty-six and overweight, he has a struggling business on his hands and a heart that is starting to fail. His family, too, are giving him cause for concern. His son Nelson is a wreck of a man, a cocaine addict with shattered self-respect. Janice, his wife, has decided that she wants to be a working girl. And as for Pru, his daughter-in-law, she seems to be sending out signals to Rabbit that he knows he should ignore, but somehow can’t. He has to make the most of life, after all. He doesn’t have much time left …

Of all the Rabbit books, this one is the best, welding together all aspects of American life into one novel. It stands alone, but you will get so much more from this novel if you read the three preceding Rabbit books. (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich).

 

sexual-behavior-in-the-human-maleSEXUAL BEHAVIOR IN THE HUMAN MALE
Alfred C. Kinsey

It was with this first book that knowledge about sexuality garnered from a scientific survey burst into the consciousness of the American public. This book and its companion, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, published in 1953, introduced a new way of thinking and talking about sexuality to American (and world) culture.

The practice of sexuality was quite varied in the United States before the publication of these books, but it was largely unrecorded, at least by scientists. Before the late 1940s, the sexual lives of most people were shaped by personal experiments, isolated sexual encounters, uninformed gossip, media sensation, and moral condemnation (not necessarily in that order). The national myth was that most people were obedient to a traditional set of sexual rules and those who were not were relatively rare and defective in morals or willpower.

 

SILENT SPRINGcarson-s-silent-spring
Rachel Carson

Silent Spring is widely credited with helping launch the contemporary American environmental movement. The New Yorker started serializing Silent Spring in June 1962, and it was published in book form (with illustrations by Lois and Louis Darling) by Houghton Mifflin on Sept. 27. When the book Silent Spring was published, Rachel Carson was already a well-known writer on natural history, but had not previously been a social critic. The book was widely read—especially after its selection by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the New York Times best-seller list—and inspired widespread public concerns with pesticides and pollution of the environment. Silent Spring facilitated the ban of the pesticide DDTfor agricultural use in 1972 in the United States.

The book documented detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically.

Silent Spring has been featured in many lists of the best nonfiction books of the twentieth century. In the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Nonfiction it was at #5, and it was at No.78 in the conservative National Review. Most recently, Silent Spring was named one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by the editors of Discover Magazine.

 

book and coverRAGTIME

E.l. Doctorow

Welcome to America at the turn of the twentieth century, where the rhythms of ragtime set the beat. Harry Houdini astonishes audiences with magical feats of escape, the mighty J. P. Morgan dominates the financial world and Henry Ford manufactures cars by making men into machines. Emma Goldman preaches free love and feminism, while ex-chorus girl Evelyn Nesbitt inspires a mad millionaire to murder the architect Stanford White.

In this stunningly original chronicle of an age, such real-life characters intermingle with three remarkable families, one black, one Jewish and one prosperous WASP, to create a dazzling literary mosaic that brings to life an era of dire poverty, fabulous wealth, and incredible change – in short, the era of ragtime.

 

cover on novelRED HARVEST,  Dashiell Hammett

When the last honest citizen of Poisonville was murdered, the Continental Op stayed on to punish the guilty–even if that meant taking on an entire town.

Red Harvest is more than a superb crime novel: it is a classic exploration of corruption and violence in the American grain.

 

 

 

non fiction bookSHOT IN THE HEART,  Mikal Gilmore

Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in The Executioner’s Song, campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother.

In Shot in the Heart, he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family: their mother, a black sheep daughter of unforgiving Mormon farmers; their father, a drunk, thief, and con man. It was a family destroyed by a multi-generational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder.

Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father’s favorite and the shame of being Gary’s brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale “from inside the house where murder is born… a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave.”

Shot in the Heart is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin. Haunting, harrowing, and profoundly affecting, Shot in the Heart exposes and explores a dark vein of American life that most of us would rather ignore. It is a book that will leave no reader unchanged.

 

book coverTHE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). The Red Badge of Courage is considered one of the most influential works in American literature.

Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound—a “red badge of courage”—to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer.

 

 

 

SF coverSTRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND,  Robert E. Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land is a 1961 satirical science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians.

The novel explores his interaction with—and eventual transformation of—terrestrial culture. The title is an allusion to the phrase in Exodus 2:22. According to Heinlein, the novel’s working title was The Heretic. Several later editions of the book have promoted it as “The most famous Science Fiction Novel ever written”.

 

cover for bookSTUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY

James T. Farrell

Collected here in one volume is James T. Farrell’s renowned trilogy of the youth, early manhood, and death of Studs Lonigan: Young Lonigan, The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, and Judgment Day.

In this relentlessly naturalistic portrait, Studs starts out his life full of vigor and ambition, qualities that are crushed by the Chicago youth’s limited social and economic environment. Studs’s swaggering and vicious comrades, his narrow family, and his educational and religious background lead him to a life of futile dissipation.

 

malcolm X bookTHE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X,  Malcolm X and Alex Haley


From hustling, drug addiction and armed violence in America’s black ghettos Malcolm X turned, in a dramatic prison conversion, to the puritanical fervour of the Black Muslims. As their spokesman he became identified in the white press as a terrifying teacher of race hatred; but to his direct audience, the oppressed American blacks, he brought hope and self-respect.

This autobiography (written with Alex Haley) reveals his quick-witted integrity, usually obscured by batteries of frenzied headlines, and the fierce idealism which led him to reject both liberal hypocrisies and black racialism.

 

The big sleepTHE BIG SLEEP

Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep (1939) is a hardboiled crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first in his acclaimed series about detective Philip Marlowe. The work has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and again in 1978. The story is set in Los Angeles, California. The story is noted for its complexity, with many characters double-crossing one another and many secrets being exposed throughout the narrative.

The title is a euphemism for death; it refers to a rumination in the book about “sleeping the big sleep”. In 1999, the book was voted ninety-sixth of Le Monde’s “100 Books of the Century.” In 2005, it was included in “TIME’s List of the 100 Best Novels.”

 

The Caine MutinyTHE CAINE MUTINY
by Herman Wouk

Having inspired a classic film and Broadway play, The Caine Mutiny is Herman Wouk’s boldly dramatic, brilliantly entertaining novel of life – and mutiny – on a Navy warship in the Pacific theater. It was immediately embraced upon its original publication as one of the first serious works of American fiction to grapple with the moral complexities and the human consequences of the Second World War.

In the intervening half century, this gripping story has become a perennial favorite, selling millions throughout the world, and claiming the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

 

 

call of the wild bookTHE CALL OF THE WILD
Jack London

Jack London (1878-1918) was an American author who was renown across the globe for his fictional work, at a time when commercial magazine fiction was a market on the rise. Although he is known for fictional stories set in the Klondike Gold Rush, including White Fang and The Call of the Wild, London practiced what he wrote. On July 12, 1897, London and his brother in law, Captain Shepard, sailed to join the Klondike Gold Rush. London earned more illnesses than gold, suffering from scurvy and malnutrition, but the experience gave him the ability to very vividly depict stories in the terrain and climate, which would eventually make him an incredibly wealthy celebrity.

London’s two most popular novels are The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both of which take place in the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th-century. White Fang details a wild wolf’s journey into a domesticated pet, making it a natural companion novel for his best-known work, The Call of the Wild, which tells the opposite story of a domesticated dog transforming into a wild animal. In both novels, the dog is the story’s protagonist, and London’s novels are also somewhat revolutionary in the way they ascribe human emotions and thoughts to the dog. London’s novels are easy enough to be read by teenagers, but they are complex and vivid enough to captivate adults as well.

 

the catcher in the ryeTHE CATCHER IN THE RYE
J. D. Salinger

The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

 

double helixTHE DOUBLE HELIX
James D. Watson

‘It is a strange model and embodies several unusual features. However, since DNA is an unusual substance, we are not hesitant in being bold’

By elucidating the structure of DNA, the molecule underlying all life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry. At the time, Watson was only 24. His uncompromisingly honest account of those heady days lifts the lid on the real world of great scientists, with their very human faults and foibles, their petty rivalries and driving ambition. Above all, he captures the extraordinary excitement of their desperate efforts to beat their rivals at King’s College to the solution to one of the great enigmas of the life sciences.

   

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