American Literature Classics
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Title (bold= Ms. W read it)AuthorDescription from book cover or publisher (fiction unless otherwise stated)TagsCollege Board's Best Books for the College-Bound?
Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman
"Every person around has a dream world which is influenced by the outer world. But when internal passions try to descend over practical tasks then characters like 'Bartleby' are made. The story is rich in language and yet spare in actual action as the protagonist answers to any task as 'I prefer not to.'"humor, tragedy, work, personal relationships, dreamers, yes
Death in the Family, AAgee, James"Jay Follet is healthy, robust & in the prime of life when he sets out from home one hot summer night to tend to his sick father. He leaves behind a wife & two small children, promising to return the next evening if at all possible. A story of the complex ways that people deal with life, love & loss."death, grief, small children, familyyes
Five People You Meet in Heaven, TheAlbom, Mitch"A bitter eighty-three-year-old war veteran who believes his life is meaningless dies while trying to save a little girl's life and finds himself in heaven, where five people from his past--some loved ones, some strangers--explain what his years on Earth really meant, and whether or not he succeeded in saving the child."death, heaven, accidents, amusement parks, elderly men, future life
Little WomenAlcott, Louisa May"'Little Women' is the story of the March family, specifically the four daughters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Meg at 16 is pretty and wishes to be a lady; at 15 Jo is ungainly, unconventional, and enterprising, and aspires to be an author; Beth is a delicate 13-year-old with a taste for music; and Amy is a blond beauty of 12. Mrs. March is busy and cheerful, while her husband is an improvident army chaplain in the Civil War. The story involves their family adventures, their attempts to improve their income, their friendship with the neighboring Laurence family, and their romances."
mother-daughter relationships, sisters, families, New England, Civil War period, romance, writers, unconventional families
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time IndianAlexie, Sherman"Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot."North American Indians, Spokane, Indian reservations, family problems, race relations, high school, teenage boys, friendship, basketball, cartoons
Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, TheAlexie, Sherman"This collection of short stories offers a fictional portrait of the characters, language, traditions, and daily life of those living on the Spokane Indian Reservation."Spokane Indians, Washington (state), North American Indians, autobiographical fiction
Before We were FreeAlvarez, Julia"In the early 1960s in the Dominican Republic, twelve-year-old Anita learns that her family is involved in the underground movement to end the bloody rule of the dictator, General Trujillo."Dominican Republic, revolutions, Trujillo, underground movements, liberty, dictatorships
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their AccentsAlvarez, Julia"In the 1960s, political tension forces the García family away from Santo Domingo and towards the Bronx. The sisters all hit their strides in America, adapting and thriving despite cultural differences, language barriers, and prejudice. But Mami and Papi are more traditional, and they have far more difficulty adjusting to their new country. Making matters worse, the girls--frequently embarrassed by their parents--find ways to rebel against them."sisters, Dominican Republic, Bronx, New York, parent-daughter relationships, children of immigrants, immigrants, Hispanic Americans, culture, prejudice
Bless Me, UltimaAnaya, Rudolfo"In New Mexico in the time of WWII, a young man goes to an aged medicine woman and forms a relationship which helps him challenge the fight amid the good and the evil that storms through his village."child-grandparent relationships, spiritual healers, mysticism, Mexican Americans, New Mexico
I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsAngelou, Mayamemoir (biography) "When their parents are divorced, Maya and her brother Bailey are sent to live with their paternal grandmother in Arkansas. They soon feel at home and though, like everyone else, they experience the prejudices of local whites, they are happily ensconced in this rural black community. Their life changes when, a few years later, their father turns up to take them to the west coast, a decision about which they have mixed feelings. On the way they stop over to visit their mother in St. Louis and though their father moves on, they are left behind. Bailey adores his attractive mother, but Maya longs to return "home". When she is violated by one of her mother's admirers and hears that, after she told her mother, the man had been killed by her uncles, she determines never to speak again. Once again she is sent to her grandmother and, under the guidance of a sympathetic teacher, her love of words causes her to rescind her decision."memoir (biography, autobiography) African Americans, women, poets, child abuse, family problems
Dollmaker, TheArnow, Harriette"Gertie, a naive newcomer from Kentucky, develops a unique defense against the ugliness and despair of the city."mountain life, Appalacian region, women, Detroit, Michigan, city life
Go Tell It on the MountainBaldwin, James"'Go Tell It On The Mountain,' first published in 1953, is Baldwin's first major work. Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy's discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin's rendering of his protagonist's spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves."gay men, religion, self-awareness, African Americansyes
If Beale Street Could TalkBaldwin, James"In a novel that explores American concepts of justice and punishment in our time, Baldwin has wrought a starkly realistic and masterful work of powerful emotions, among which are anger and pain, but above all love: the sustaining love of the black family."man-woman relationships, African Americans, family, justice, virtue
Adventures of Augie March, TheBellow, Saul"Augie, the exuberant narrator-hero, is a poor Chicago boy growing up during the Depression. His mother, deserted by her husband, has taken in a tough old boarder, Grandma Lausch, who rules the family like a benevolent despot. Augie's friends set out to make their fortunes in various ways, but he sees himself as chosen for a special destiny. A "born recruit," he makes himself available for a series of occupations, then proudly rejects each one as unworthy. Instead of allowing himself to be drafted, he takes matters into his own hands. The choices that he makes independently are - to say the least - eccentric."Chicago, Great Depression, yes
Fahrenheit 451Bradbury, Ray"A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners suddenly realizes their merit."future dystopia, readers, books, censorship, self-awareness, technology, friendship, moral choices, totalitarianism
KindredButler, Octavia E."Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday
with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in
California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son
of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across
the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back,
again and again, to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he
will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's
ancestor. Yet each time Dana's sojourns become longer and more
dangerous, until it is uncertain whether or not her life will end, long
before it has even begun."
African Americans, women, time travel, slavery, the South, California,
In Cold Blood (364.1 Capote)Capote, Trumannonfiction 'novel' (this work was considered a new form when it was published, but it is about factual murders) "On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence."murder, Kansas, death penalty, hanging, crime investigation
Death Comes for the ArchbishopCather, Willa"In 1851 Bishop Latour and his friend Father Valliant are despatched to New Mexico to reawaken its slumbering Catholicism. Moving along the endless prairies, Latour spreads his faith the only way he knows-gently, although he must contend with the unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. Over nearly 40 years, they leave converts and enemies, crosses, and occasionally ecstasy in their wake. But it takes a death for them to make their mark on the landscape forever."Pioneers, prarie, Catholicism, New Mexico, loneliness, deathyes
My AntoniaCather, Willapioneers, women pioneers, farm life, immigrants, Nebraska
O Pioneers!Cather, Willa"A Swedish family migrate to Nebraska at the turn of the 20th century. The daughter of the family inherits the land when her father dies, and the story follows her struggle to maintain it when many around her are leaving the prairie in defeat. There are two romantic narratives in the novel: that of the daughter and a family friend, and of her brother and a married woman."pioneers, frontier life, farm life, brothers and sisters, Nebraska
Awakening, TheChopin, Kate"Edna Pontellier is married, twenty-eight, and at the cross road of her life. She is passionate and artistic, but has no one who understands her deep yearnings. But her life changes when she spends a summer away from her husband at a small coastal retreat. Edna Pontellier longs for fulfillment of her emotional desire & abandons her comfortable life in pursuit of it."women's role, sexuality, awakening sexuality, motherhood, New Orleans, Louisianayes
CarameloCisneros, Sandra"Lala Reyes and her family make a journey each summer, from Chicago to her grandparents' house in Mexico City. Slowly, Lala learns the story of her family. Caramelo is a story that combines history and family to make a bridge among Mexican, American, and Mexican-American cultures. It is a vibrant tale of childhood and of family."Mexican Americans, families, grandparent-grandchild relationships, women, Chicago, women, girls, Mexico
House on Mango Street, TheCisneros, Sandra"The story of a young girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. Capturing her thoughts and emotions in poems and stories, she is able to rise above hopelessness and create a quiet space for herself in the midst of her oppressive surroundings."childhood, Hispanic Americans, Chicago, coming of age, self-awareness
Last of the Mohicans, TheCooper, James Fenimore"A story of survival and treachery, love and deliverance, James Fenimore Cooper's 'The Last of the Mohicans' follows an adroit scout named Hawkeye and his companion Chingachgook, who weave through the spectacular and dangerous wilderness of upstate New York during the French and Indian wars, fighting to save the beautiful Munro sisters from the Huron renegade Magua."frontier life, romance, inter-ethic romance, French and Indian Wars, Huron Indians, frontiersmenyes
Maggie: A Girl of the StreetsCrane, Stephen"This harrowing tale of a young girl in the slums is a searing portrayal of turn-of-the-century New York, and Stephen Crane's most innovative work. Published in 1893, when the author was just twenty-one, it broke new ground with its vivid characters, its brutal naturalism, and its empathic rendering of the lives of the poor."prostitution, poverty, family problems, naturalism (in literature), alcoholism, late 19th century, New York, slums
Red Badge of Courage, TheCrane, Stephen"Henry Fleming dreams of the thrill of battle and performing heroic deeds in the American Civil War. But his illusions are shattered when he comes face to face with the bloodshed and horrors of war. Now he's a raw recruit, Henry experiences both fear and self-doubt. Will war make Henry a coward or a hero?A vivid fictionalized account of the experiences of an ordinary innocent young soldier on the battlefields of the American Civil War."soldiers, American Civil War, fear, bravery, cowardice, realism in fiction, realistic literature, youth yes
Yellow Raft in Blue Water, ADorris, Michael"A saga of three generations of women in a Native American family, detailing their hardships, personal doubts and fears."North American Indians, Montana, secrets, anger, women, Vietnam War, rodeo riders, Indian reservations, runaways, grandparent-grandchild relationships, mother-daughter relationships
Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassDouglass, Frederickmemoir (biography) "Vividly explains the horror of American slavery and the emotional impetus behind the antislavery movement--the extraordinary life and achievement of a man who escaped from slavery to become a leading abolitionist and one of our most important writers." biography, autobiography, slavery, slave narratives, Frederick Douglass, abolitionistsyes
American Tragedy, AnDreiser, Theodore"Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (1925) is a novel about the harsh realities of American life. Based on an actual murder case, the story concerns a young man, Clyde Griffiths, who is born into a religious family. His life changes when he takes work as a bellboy in a hotel in Kansas City and is exposed to the world of alcohol and prostitution. Griffiths's affair with a girl, Roberta, results in pregnancy, and she expects to marry him. But by now Clyde loves another woman."sexual conduct, affairs, pregnancy, murder, social classyes
Invisible ManEllison, Ralph"This sampling includes fifteen essays that highlight the formative and significant ideas of this central American thinker: Nature, The American Scholar, An Address Delivered Before the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, Man the Reformer, History, Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Transcendentalist, The Poet, Experience, Montaigne: Or, the Skeptic, Napoleon: Or, the Man of the World, Fate, and Thoreau."African Americans, youth, betrayal, prejudice, friendship, coming of age, metaphorical blindness, disillusionmentyes
Selected Essays (814 Emerson)Emerson, Ralph WaldoTranscendentalism, American thought, self-reliance, civil disobedience, Henry David Thoreauyes
As I Lay DyingFaulkner, William"As I Lay Dying was originally published in 1930. The story revolves around a grim yet darkly humorous pilgrimage, as Addie Bundren's family sets out to fulfill her last wish: to be buried in her native Jefferson, Mississippi, far from the miserable backwater surroundings of her married life. Told through multiple voices."death, grief, familyyes
Sound and the Fury, TheFaulkner, William"First published in 1929, Faulkner created his "heart's darling," the beautiful and tragic Caddy Compson, whose story Faulkner told through separate monologues by her three brothers--the idiot Benjy, the neurotic suicidal Quentin and the monstrous Jason."Mississippi, brothers and sisters, people with mental disabilities, master and servantyes
Great Gatsby, TheFitzgerald, F. Scott"F. Scott Fitzgerald's portrait of the Jazz Age in all its decadence and excess, is, as editor Maxwell Perkins praised it in 1924, "a wonder." It remains one of the most widely read, translated, admired, imitated and studied twentieth-century works of American fiction. This deceptively simple work, Fitzgerald's best known, was hailed by critics as capturing the spirit of the generation. In Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald embodies some of America's strongest obsessions: wealth, power, greed, and the promise of new beginnings."jazz age, social class, wealth and wealthy people, greed, power, illusions, disillusionment, romance, romantic obsessionyes
Alas, BabylonFrank, Pat"When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness."nuclear war, sciecne fiction, survival, Florida
Cold MountainFrazier, Charles"Inman, a young Confederate soldier, is struggling to make his way home to Cold Mountain, NC, where his beloved Ada awaits him. In Inman's absence, Ada befriends Ruby, who helps her keep up her late father's farm. Meanwhile, in his travels, Inman encounters a menagerie of interesting and colorful characters."Civil War, Confederate soldiers, soldiers, futility of war, homefront, danger, romance, the South, desertion, deserters, battle wounds,
Authobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, TheGaines, Ernest J.(fiction, actually) "The history of blacks in the South as seen through the eyes of a 110-year-old former slave."African Americans, women, civil rights, slavery, Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, racism, social conditions
Gathering of Old Men, AGaines, Ernest J."When a black man kills a Cajun farmer in rural Louisiana, a young white woman rallies the other black men to his defense. The "gathering of old men" face the local sheriff, each claiming to be guilty. Meanwhile, the brother of the murdered man argues with his father against organizing a lynch mob. Some strong language."African Americans, farmers, murder, race relations, historical fiction, Louisiana
Lesson before Dying, AGaines, Ernest J."'A Lesson before Dying' is set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson's godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting--and defying--the expected."African Americans, men, death row immates, friendship, race relations, Louisiana
Dreaming in CubanGarcia, Cristina"Three women within a Cuban family struggle to persevere during the Cuban Revolution."mother-daughter relationships, Cubans, Cuban Americans, Brooklyn, New York, family sagas
Ellen FosterGibbons, Kaye"When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. I would figure out this or that way and run it down through my head until it got easy'. So begins the tale of Ellen Foster, the brave and engaging heroine of Kaye Gibbons's much acclaimed first novel. The story of an eleven year old orphan, driven to desperation by some of the wickedest relatives in literary history, this is the story of her battle for survival. Wise, funny and affectionate, Walker Percy called it. 'The real thing. Which is to say, a lovely, sometimes heart-wrenching novel . . . {{Ellen Foster}} is as much a part of the backwoods South as a Faulkner character - and a good deal more endearing'."girls, foster children, children of alcoholics
Freedom Writers Diary, The (305.235 Gruwell)Gruwell, Erinnonfiction "As an idealistic twenty-three-year-old English teacher at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Erin Gruwell confronted a room of "unteachable, at-risk" students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust - only to be met by uncomprehending looks ... With powerful entries from the students' own diaries and a narrative text by [her, this book] is an uplifting, unforgettable example of how hard work, courage, and the spirit of determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students."-Back cover.
nonfiction, teenagers, high school, tolerance, teachers, writing
Autobiography of Malcolm XHaley, Alexbiography "Born Malcolm Little, his minister father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. He became a gangster, and while in jail discovered the Nation of Islam writings of Elijah Muhammad. After getting out of jail, he preaches the teachings, but later on goes on a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca. There he converts to the original Islamic religion and becomes a Sunni Muslim. He changes his name to El-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz and stops his anti-white teachings, having discovered the error of his mistakes. He is later assasinated and dies a Muslim martyr."biography, racism, Muslims, the Nation of Islam, Islam, biography, assasination, race relations, prisons, prisoners
Raisin in the Sun, A (812.54 Hansberry)Hansberry, Lorrainedramas, plays "Dreams can make a life worth living, but they can also be dashed by bad decisions. This is the crossroads where the Younger family find themselves when their father passes away and leaves them with $10,000 in life insurance money. Decisions will need to be made on how to best spend the money, from buying a new family home, buying a liquor store or even paying for medical school tuition. While no choice is easy, life on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s is even harder."
dramas, plays, African Americans, racism, prejudice, housing, family problems, life choices, Chicago
Scarlet Letter, TheHawthorne, Nathaniel"In early colonial Massachusetts, a young woman endures the consequences of her sin of adultery and spends the rest of her life in atonement."Puritans, sin, punishment, adultery, revenge, self-awareness, responsibility, romance, mothers and daughtersyes
Catch 22Heller, Joseph"The novel is set in the closing months of World War II, in an American bomber squadron on a small island off Italy. Its hero is a bombardier named Yossarian, who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn't even met keep trying to kill him."World War II, pilots, the futility of war, bombardiers, yes
Farewell to Arms, AHemingway, Ernest"This semi-autobiographical love story follows a young American soldier, Frederic Henry who falls in love with an English nurse while serving as an ambulance driver in Italy. Surrounded by the brutality of war, they find comfort in each other and Catherine soon becomes pregnant. But when Henry is ordered back to the front lines, he is unsure if he will ever see his lover again."romance, World War I, soldiers, futility of war, pregnancy yes
For Whom the Bell TollsHemingway, Ernest"The story of Robert Jordan (Cooper), an American demolition expert who lends his abilities to the anti-fascist freedom fighters of Spain. Assisting him is a band of warriors that includes the strong-willed Pilar (Katina Paxinou), the dangerously undependable Pablo (Akim Tamiroff), and the lovely, innocent Maria (Bergman). As danger mounts, Robert and Maria develop a closeness that blossoms."Spanish Civil War, soldiers, rebellion, romance, fascists, anti-fascists
Old Man and the Sea, TheHemingway, Ernest"Hemingway's triumphant yet tragic story of an old Cuban fisherman and his relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream combines the simplicity of a fable, the significance of a parable, and the drama of an epic."man v. nature, oceans, fishermen, psychological literature, male riendship, older men
Sun Also Rises, TheHemingway, Ernest"A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters : Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bull-fighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century."--P. [4] of cover.romance, bullfighting, self-awareness, war injuries, Paris, Spain, disillusionment
Hiroshima (940.54 Hersey)Hersey, Johnnonfiction "On August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb destroyed the city of Hiroshima, Japan. John Hersey reveals what happened that day, told through the memories of six survivors."nonfiction, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, Hiroshima, war victims, death, survivors, japan
Out of the DustHesse, Karen"In a series of poems, fifteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression."verse novels, Great Depression, dust bowl, family life
Mule BoneHughes, Langston and Zora Neale Hurstondramas, plays. Based on the short story "The bone of contention" by Zora Neale Hurston.
dramas, plays
Their Eyes Were Watching GodHurston, Zora Neale"1937/African Americans—independence, love, Southern life during the Depression/Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots."African Americans, love, independence, unconventional women, Great Depression, the South, physical laboryes
Prayer for Owen MeanyIrving, John"Owen Meany hits a foul ball while playing baseball in the summer of 1953 that kills his best friend's mother, an accident that Owen is sure is the result of divine intervention."
Vietnam War, futility of war, soldiers, boys, teenage boys, heroism, religious belief/doubt, faith, friendship, predestiny
Portrait of a Lady, TheJames, Henry"'Portrait of a Lady' is arguably James's most popular work, and certainly the finest of his early novels. It focuses on Isabel Archer, a young, intelligent, and spirited American girl, determined to relish her first experience of Europe. She rejects two eligible suitors in her fervent commitment to liberty and independence, declaring that she will never marry. Thanks to the generosity of her devoted cousin Ralph, she is free to make her own choice about her destiny. Yet in the intoxicating worlds of Paris, Florence, and Rome, her fond illusions of self-reliance are twisted by the machinations of her friends and apparent allies. What had seemed to be a vista of infinite promise steadily closes around her and becomes instead a "house of suffocation." Portrait of a Lady is at once a dramatic Victorian tale of betrayal and a wholly modern psychological study of a woman caught in a web of relations she only comes to understand too late."women's roles, independence, self-reliance, betrayal, Americans in Europe, husband-wife relationshipsyes
Turn of the Screw, TheJames, Henry"In this tale of suspected supernatural possession, a governess at a country house believes that the two children in her care are being controlled by spirits. Is the governess simply paranoid, or is something else going on?"ghost stories, psychological study, children, children in danger, ghosts, sexual repressionyes
One Flew over the Cuckoo's NestKesey, Ken"You've never met anyone like Randle Patrick McMurphy. He's a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the ward of a mental hospital and takes over. He's a lusty, profane, life-loving fighter who rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Big Nurse. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and at every turn, openly defies her rule. The contest starts as sport, but soon it develops into a grim struggle for the minds and hearts of the men, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Big Nurse, backed by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will."
psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric patients, psychiatric nurses, mental illness, willfulness, struggle
Secret Life of BeesKidd, Sue Monk"During the summer of 1964 in rural South Carolina, a young girl is given a home by three black, beekeeping sisters. As she enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey, she discovers a place where she can find the single thing her heart longs for most."African Americans, women's roles, teenage girls, beekeepers, sisters, motherless children, race relations, South Carolina
Annie JohnKincaid, Jamaica"The stories in 'Annie John' (1985) clearly reveal that the world of the past cannot be recaptured. Kincaid's poetic use of language and everyday images allows the reader to experience ordinary events with a new and heightened sensitivity."Antigua, teenage girls, mother-daughter relationships, coming of age, anger, childhood rebellion
Bean Trees, TheKingsolver, Barbara"Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places."young women, road trip, Indian children, travelers, orphans, friendship, the West
Poisonwood Bible, TheKingsolver, Barbara"The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to Scripture - is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa. The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the order of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy."missionaries, Congo, religious hypocrisy, family problems, cultural clashs
Woman Warrior, TheKingston, Maxine Hongmemoir (biography) "A young Chinese girl throws off centuries of tradition & adapts to her new American milieu."memoir, biography, autobiography, Chinese Americans, self-awareness, women's rolesyes
Separate Peace, AKnowles, John"Set at a boys' boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world."teen boys, boarding school, friendship, betrayal, death
Into the WildKrakauer, Jonnonfiction "Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, Christopher McCandless walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people, a fearless risk-taker who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature."nonfiction, wilderness, danger, starvation, Alaska, self-reliance, individuality, adventure, risk-taking, memoir (biography)
Namesake, TheLahiri, Jhumpa"An American-born son of Indian immigrants wants to fit in with fellow
New Yorkers, but his family is unwilling to let go of their traditional
assimilation, East Indian Americans, alienation, family problems, children of immigrants, New York
To Kill a MockingbirdLee, Harper(Required reading for freshmen classes.)yes
BabbittLewis, Sinclair"This epic of the booming 1920's uniquely captures the relentless culture of American business. A classic novel about conformity in small town America - celebrated for its comic tone, satire, and vivid dialogue."American business, Prohibition, conformity, small town life, satireyes
Call of the Wild, TheLondon, Jack"Stolen from his life of luxury, Buck finds himself in the frozen Yukon Territory as part of a team of sledge dogs. Half-starved and cruelly treated, Buck must endure hardship beyond anything he's experienced before. And through it all, he hears the call of wild beckoning him - playing on his most primitive animal instincts."Alaska, dog sledding, sledge dogs, Yukon territory, animal cruelty, wildnessyes
Natural, TheMalamud, Bernard"A once-promising baseball player on his way to stardom in the big leagues, finds his dreams shattered when a mysterious woman and a silver bullet end his career prematurely. Sixteen years later, armed with his childhood bat "Wonderboy," he comes back to baseball, joins the roster of the lowly New York Knights to see if he can overcome physical pain and the nefarious forces around him to lead his team to the pennant."baseball players, baseball teams, injuries, mystery, man-woman relationships
Color of Water, The McBride, Jamesmemoir (biography, autobiography) "The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion'and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain."memoir, boigraphy, autobiography, mothers, child-mother relationship, mixed race people, child abuse, racism, incest, teen pregnancy
All the Pretty HorsesMcCarthy, Cormac"All the pretty horses, the first volume of the borders trilogy tells of young John Grady Cole, the last of a long line of Texas ranchers. Across the border Mexico beckons, beautiful and desolate, rugged and cruelly civilized. With two companions, he sets off on an idyllic, sometimes comic adventure, to a place where dreams are paid for in blood."friendship, teenage boys, ranchers, family problems, horses, Mexico, romance, betrayal, cowbopys, prisoners, prisons, coming of age
Road, TheMcCarthy, Cormac"A father and his son are two of the last remaining people on earth after an unexplained tragedy has destroyed most of life. As the two head south, they are faced with many trials and tribulations along the way. An intense bond between the father and son is formed as together they strive to not only survive, but to retain humanity as they help the people they encounter along the way."Humanity, decency, grace under pressure, nuclear holocausts, cannibalism, danger, father-son relationships, love, apocalyptic literature
Billy BuddMelville, Herman"Billy Budd, a paragon of simple goodness and virile beauty, is pressed into the crew of the HMS Indomitable."
sailors, 19th century, good v. ebil, revenge, punishment, ship captains
Moby-DickMelville, Herman"This classic story of high adventure, manic obsession and metaphysical speculation was Melville's masterpiece--an epic saga of the fanatical Captain Ahab, who swears vengeance on the mammoth white whale who has crippled him; a masterfully symbolic drama of the conflict between man and his fate."adventure, metaphysical contemplation, good, evil, whales, whaling, race relations, megalomaniacs, fate, destinyyes
Crucible, TheMiller, Arthur(Required reading in junior classes.)yes
Death of a Salesman (812.54 Miller)Miller, Arthurdramas, plays "Willy Loman is the "everyman" who is suddenly faced with the glaring reality that he is past his prime and has begun living in a self-created fantasy world in which he is not obsolete."dramas, plays, salesmen, business failures, fathers and sons, the American Dream, dementia
BelovedMorrison, Toni"Set in post-Civil War Ohio, it is the story of Sethe, an escaped slave who has risked her life in order to wrench herself from a living death; who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad. Sethe, who now lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing apparition who calls herself Beloved. Sethe works at 'beating back the past, ' but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly."slavery, the South, Ohio, death, grief, ghosts, infanticide, former slaves, moral choices, hauntings, communityyes
Bluest Eye, theMorrison, Toni"Pecola Breedlove, a young eleven-year-old black girl, prays everyday for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dreams grow more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity--Publisher."African Americans, girls, Ohio, racial stereotypes, race relations
Song of SolomonMorrison, Toni
SulaMorrison, Toni"At the heart of Sula is a bond between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injuries. Sula and Nel are both black, both smart, and both poor. Through their girlhood years, they share everything. All this changes when Sula gets out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where there hides a fierce resentment at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped."
African Americans, women, Ohio, friendship, race relations
Fallen AngelsMyers, Walter Dean"Seventeen-year-old Richie Perry, just out of his Harlem high school, enlists in the Army in the summer of 1967 and spends a devastating year on active duty in Vietnam."Vietnam War, futility of war, soldiers, African Americans, teenage boys,
McTeagueNorris, FrankA poor dentist becojmes a brute.San Francisco, naturalism (in literature), murder, greed, fate
Going after CacciatoO'Brien, Tim"'To call 'Going After Cacciato' a novel about war is like calling Moby-Dick a novel about whales.' So wrote The New York Times of Tim O'Brien's now classic novel of Vietnam. Winner of the 1979 National Book Award, Going After Cacciato captures the peculiar mixture of horror and hallucination that marked this strangest of wars. In a blend of reality and fantasy, this novel tells the story of a young soldier who one day lays down his rifle and sets off on a quixotic journey from the jungles of Indochina to the streets of Paris. In its memorable evocation of men both fleeing from and meeting the demands of battle, Going After Cacciato stands as much more than just a great war novel. Ultimately it's about the forces of fear and heroism that do battle in the hearts of us all." From the Trade Paperback edition.war, Vietnam War, soldiers, deserters, fantasy, heroism, Indochina, Paris, France
Things They CarriedO'Brien, Tim"'The Things They Carried' is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling."Vietnam War, soldiers, memory, self-awareness, psychological fiction
Good Man is Hard to Find, AO'Connor, Flanneryshort stories, murder, revelation, familiesyes
Long Day's Journey into Night (812 O'Neill)O'Neill, Eugenedramas, plays "Covering a single day and night, O'Neill's play traces the impact on the family relapse into a drug addiction and younger son Edmund's being institutionalized for consumption. These events reopen old wounds and resentments and initiate a harrowing series of accusations and recriminations that threaten to tear apart the family. At turns haunting, riveting, and emotionally lacerating, Long Day's Journey Into Night is one of O'Neill's greatest plays."dramas, plays, drug addiction, tuberculosis, family problems, responsibilityyes
Bel Canto Patchett, Ann"Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening—until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped."terrorism, victioms of terrorism, women singers, opera singers, hostages, South America
Bell Jar, ThePlath, Sylvia"A creative and talented teen girl attempts suicide and fights mental illness."mental illness, suicide attempts, women's roles, writers and writing, New Yorkyes
Selected TalesPoe, Edgar Allanshort stories, murder, revelation, detective stories, ghost stories, mysteriesyes
Chosen, ThePotok, Chaim"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."New York, Brooklyn, Jewish families, male friendships, teenage boys, father-son relationships, comin of age
Crying of Lot 49, ThePynchon, Thomas"The highly original satire about Oedipa Maas, a woman who finds herself enmeshed in a worldwide conspiracy, meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not inconsiderable amount of self-knowledge."married women, California, administration of estatesyes
AnthemRand, Ayn"According to Rand, people are inherently selfish and act only out of personal interest making a selfish act, a rational one. It is from this belief that her characters play out their lives." "Equality 7-2521 (Male), Yearns to be a scientist; held back by the government who fears his intelligence; dares to have a free will which is a crime in the dark world of Collectivism."objectivism, personal interest, self-centeredness, male-female relationships, time travel, individuality
Fountainhead, TheRand, Ayn"Here is the story of an intransigent young architect, Howard Roark, of his violent battle against a mindless status quo, and of his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who worships him yet struggles to defeat him. In order to build his kind of buildings according to his own standards, Roark must fight against every variant of human corruption."objectivism, anti-government sentiments, individuality, self-centeredness, architects, man-woman relationships
Light in the Forest, TheRichter, Conrad"As part of an agreement to keep peace, whites are insisting that captives who have been living with the Indians be returned to their white settlements. True True Son, fifteen years old, has lived with the Delaware tribe since being captured as a baby."Delaware Indians, Indian captives, race relations, colonial period, North American Indians
Call It SleepRoth, Henry"Call It Sleep" is the magnificent story of David Schearl, the " dangerously imaginative" child coming of age in the slums of New York.New York, poverty, slumsyes
Catcher in the Rye, TheSalinger, J.D."Holden, knowing he is to be expelled from school, decides to leave early. He spends three days in New York City and tells the story of what he did and suffered there."teenage angst, coming of age, teen boys, youth, private schools, New York, family problems, brothers and sistersyes
When I was Puerto RicanSantiago, Esmeraldanonfiction "[The author's] story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her warring parents and seven siblings led a life of uproar, but one full of love and tenderness as well. Growing up, Esmeralda learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of the tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. But just when Esmeralda seemed to have learned everything, she was taken to New York City, where the rules - and the language - were bewilderingly different. How Esmeralda overcame adversity, won acceptance to New York City's High School of Performing Arts, and then went on to Harvard, where she graduated with highest honors, is a record of a tremendous journey by a truly remarkable woman.-BooksInPrint."biography, Puerto Ricans, Puerto Rico
CeremonySilko, Leslie Marmon"Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed ancestry, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him."Laguna Pueblo Indians, World War II, veterans, POWs, PTSD, yes
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