Modern Library

100 Best Novels

As I write this, I’m enjoying some Manor Farm Lemonade (formerly called Animal Farm Lemonade).  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…

As COVID-19 became a new reality in March 2020, I decided I needed a way to lose myself, a challenge to keep me feeling uplifted, and an opportunity to tackle something I never dared to try.  It all started with my partner Randy buying me Animal Farm which I had never before read…unfortunately that book too closely resembled the state of our country in 2020, which didn’t give me the uplifting experience I sought.  But it did pique my curiosity.  And reading 1984 and Brave New World right after Animal Farm only reinforced some of those feelings.  It was then that I discovered the Modern Library Top 100 Books of the 20th Century, and all three of those books were on the list.  97 to go!  Surely the other books wouldn’t be dystopian novels too (I hoped)!

As someone that has always tackled problems with to-do lists, I decided then and there that I would read all 100 books.  An accountant, I even started calculating when I’d finish based on how long the first few had taken me.  I’m still working on it, but I’m totally enjoying this challenge.  And most importantly, I stopped thinking of this as a race and slowed down to enjoy each of the stories.

I have been walking for 2 hours every morning and reading Kindle versions of the books while I walk…I’m that crazy guy you see that forces you to ask yourself why some people can’t seem to get their eyes off their smartphones.   But at least I’m not reading about the Kardashians or the latest political headlines.  I haven’t fallen yet because I minimize the danger by following the same two different 5-mile routes each time I walk, and I learned to wait patiently at crossing signals!

For some of the more challenging books, I’m also listening to Audible versions of the books to help me understand the tone (really helpful with books like U.S.A. trilogy, Catch-22, etc.).  Combining this reading and these walks with a new keto diet, I’m now finding that this challenge is making me feel pretty well-rounded (but actually less round!).

I have also relied on SparkNotes, Wikipedia, and Good Reads to make sure I don’t miss anything major when I’m reading, listening, walking, dieting, and thinking all at the same time!  I summarized below my takeaways from each of the books.  I’m grateful that the Modern Library list exists and that readers have voted on their favorites.  Modern Library summarized each book in a couple of sentences (reproduced below).  In the collapsing paragraphs are my summaries, which help me to replay each plot in my head.  Oddly, I can remember the exact locations of my walks when I reflect on key parts of each story!

Going back to my original analogy, I can’t even drink lemonade on a keto diet.  But I so much appreciate all this food for thought.  I dreaded reading when I was younger because I was so caught up in making money, having a career, working hard to get big bonuses, getting promotions, traveling all over the place, seeing as much of the world as possible, etc.  Now that life has slowed me (and everyone else) down, I realize how much more important it is to take a day at a time, to stop running on the career hamster wheel only to be met by disappointments, to lengthen my life through physical health, and to stretch my mind and beliefs by learning from literary masters, I’m so much happier.

I shouldn’t do this to myself, but the next list is likely to be Modern Library’s 100 Best Nonfiction…but that may be a retirement challenge.  I’m 47 and optimistic that borders will open, xenophobia will diminish, saner minds will prevail, and diversity and inclusion will become a reality instead of lip service.  So, 10 years from now (yes, I’m planning to retire early…you only get one life and I have so much I want to see and do while my body can cooperate), I will start that list.  For now, I have to finish the list, and I’ve only read 27 of the books (with titles in green) so far.

Randy, thanks for launching this challenge for me.  As usual, you have opened my mind to a whole new reality.  Let’s hope that our country stops believing in a bastardized motto of “All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others” (Animal Farm).  I’m hoping we will eventually be able to distinguish the pigs from the humans once again.  At least I am now armed with the vicarious experience from each of these entertaining stories.  My best memory from this experience is when I was literally crying with laughter at the wording of some of the sentences (particularly in Lolita and Catch-22) or some of the songs and headlines in U.S.A.

1. ULYSSES by James Joyce

Written as an homage to Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, Ulysses follows its hero, Leopold Bloom, through the streets of Dublin. Overflowing with puns, references to classical literature, and stream-of-consciousness writing, this is a complex, multilayered novel about one day in the life of an ordinary man. Initially banned in the United States but overturned by a legal challenge by Random House’s Bennett Cerf, Ulysses was called “a memorable catastrophe” (Virginia Woolf), “a book to which we are all indebted” (T. S. Eliot), and “the most faithful X-ray ever taken of the ordinary human consciousness” (Edmund Wilson). Joyce himself said, “There is not one single serious line in [Ulysses].Click here to read more about ULYSSES
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2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set in the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby tells the story of the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, his decadent parties, and his love for the alluring Daisy Buchanan. Dismissed as “no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that” (The Chicago Tribune), The Great Gatsby is now considered a contender for “the Great American Novel.” Fitzgerald wanted to title the novel “Trimalchio in West Egg,” but both his wife and his editor preferred “The Great Gatsby.” Fitzgerald gave in, though he still thought that “the title is only fair, rather bad than good.”
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3. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce

Published in 1916, James Joyce’s semiautobiographical tale of his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, is a coming-of-age story like no other. A bold, innovative experiment with both language and structure, the work has exerted a lasting influence on the contemporary novel; Alfred Kazin commented that “Joyce dissolved mechanism in literature as effectively as Einstein destroyed it in physics.” Reviewing the book in The New Republic, H. G. Wells wrote, “Like some of the best novels in the world it is the story of an education; it is by far the most living and convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing.”Click here to read more about A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN

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Characters Stephen Dedalus is a boy growing up in Ireland at the end of the 19th Century.  He eventually decides to cast off all social familial and religious constraints to live a life devoted to writing.  Stephen realizes that art is not pure entertainment.  He has the power to form people’s identity and shape their thoughts.  He can defend against danger and cure worry.

Eileen Vance (EV) – Stephen wants to marry her as a child but she is protestant.  Stephen’s mother assures he will apologize to Dante, a governess, or eagles will pull out Stephen’s eyes.

Themes Development of individual consciousness

Pitfalls of religious extremism

Role of the artist – acting is a metaphor for living.

Need for Irish autonomy

Summary As a young man, Catholic faith and Irish nationality influence Stephen.  He attends a strict religious boarding school called Clongowes Wood College.  Family tension are high on a family visit after Irish political leader Charles Stuart Parnell dies at Christmas.  Stephen’s father, Simon, is inept with money and the family continually sinks deeper into debt.  After a summer spent with Uncle Charles, Stephen learns he will move to Dublin and no longer attend Clongowes.  Stephen instead attends prestigious Belvedere Day School and excels as a writer and an actor in student theater.

Stephen has his first sexual experience with a Dublin prostitute and releases a storm of guilt and shame.  He tries to reconcile physical desires with strict Catholic morality.

Various sins are explored in the book, including masturbation, gluttony, prostitutes, etc.  On a three-day religious retreat, Stephen hears sermons about sin, judgment and hell.  He resolves to dedicate himself to a life of Christian piety.  He attends mass daily, becoming a model of Christian piety through abstinence and self-denial.  The Director of the school asks him to join the priesthood.

The austerity of the priestly life is incompatible with life for sensual beauty.  the family needs to move again for financial reasons.  While waiting for news about university acceptance, Stephen goes for a walk on the beach and observes a young girl wading in the tide.  He realizes in this moment of epiphany that love and desire of beauty should not bring shame.  He resolves to live life to the fullest and vows to not be constrained by boundaries of family, nation, and religion.

Stephen goes to university and develops strong friendships.  Cranly is Stephen’s close friend.  They discuss art together.  Stephen aims to create an independent existent, liberated from expectations of family and friends.  He decides to leave Ireland to escape his pressures.

Like Daedalus, Stephen builds wings to fly above all obstacles and achieves life as an artist.

A sheltered boy and bright student, innocence turns to debauchery, making him an unrepentant sinner who then becomes a devout Catholic.  He is fanatically religious at one point and then turns his devotion to art and beauty.

Date Finished March 24, 2020

4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita tells the story of middle-aged Humbert Humbert’s love for twelve-year-old Dolores Haze. The concept is troubling, but the novel defies any kind of label, though it has been heralded as a hilarious satire, a bitter tragedy, and even an allegory for U.S.-European relations. In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi summarized the book as “hopeful, beautiful even, a defense not just of beauty but of life . . . Nabokov, through his portrayal of Humbert, has exposed all solipsists who take over other people’s lives.”
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Characters Humbert Humbert died in jail from coronary thrombosis while awaiting trial.  Humbert uses language to seduce readers, making himself a sympathetic pedophile.  His word games divert the reader from his horrors.

Lolita is neither beautiful nor charming.  She has freckles, skinny arms, vulgar language, and unladylike behaviors.  She is trapped and unable to free herself.  She doesn’t hold a grudge against Humbert or Quilty.  She exists only as an object of Humbert’s affection.

Quilty is not too different from Humbert.

Charlotte Haze – not as sophisticated and elegant as she things.  Religious and unimaginative, she writes letter with self-pitying martyrdom and melodrama.  She views her daughter Lolita as a threat.

Themes Power of language – sordid subjects are told through puns, literary allusions and linguistic patterns.

incompatibility of European and American cultures

Inadequacy of psychiatry

Alienation caused by exile

Summary

The book begins with a foreword by a fictitious John Ray Jr., Ph.D., who received a manuscript from the author’s lawyer.  Said Lolita was also called the Confession of a White Widowed Male.  The novel would become a favorite in psychiatric circles as well as encourage parents to raise better children in a better world.

Humbert’s first love in the Riviera was Annabel Leigh at the age of 13.  Their love was never consummated because she died from typhus 4 months later.  Humbert is an English literature teacher who spends time in a mental institution

Despite his marriage to an adult woman, Humbert is fascinated with nymphets.  Humbert comes to the US and takes a room at Charlotte Haze’s house in a sleepy New England town.  Humbert is infatuated with Charlotte’s 12-year old daughter, Dolores, or Dolly or Lolita.

Humbert describes his attraction to Lolita in a journal.  Charlotte fell in love with Humbert and sent Lolita to summer camp, and Humbert and Charlotte marry while Lolita is away at camp.  Humbert considers killing Charlotte to be with Lolita.  Charlotte finds the diary and confronts Humbert, who denies everything.  Charlotte storms out with letters she has written about this situation and gets hit by a car and dies instantly.

Humbert picks up Lolita at summer camp and tells her (eventually) that her mother died.  Humbert claims that Lolita seduced him.  They drive across the country for a year, with Lolita increasingly manipulating Humbert.  Humbert threatens her with orphanage.  A strange man follows them in their travels.  Humbert gets a job at Beardsley College.  Lolita enrolls.  Lolita wants to socialize with boys, which causes issues with Humbert.  Humbert takes Lolita on another road trip and suspects that he is being followed.

Lolita becomes ill, goes to the hospital and escapes with her uncle.  Humbert searches for Lolita for two years.  He takes up a relationship with a woman named Rita.  Lolita eventually sends a note indicated that she is married and pregnant and needs money. Humbert assumes that her husband has kidnapped her.  Lolita is poor and pregnant at 17.

Lolita admits that Clare Quilty took her from the hospital.  He dumped Lolita when she wouldn’t participate in his child pornography orgy.  Humbert begs Lolita to leave with him but she refuses.  Humbert gives her $4000.  Hubert tracks down Quilty and shoots and kills him.  Humbert is arrested and put in jail where he writes his memoir, stipulating that it can only be published after Lolita’s death.  Lolita dies in childbirth, Humbert dies of heart failure, and the manuscript is sent to John Ray, Jr. Ph.D.

Date Finished March 30, 2020

5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

Though Brave New World is less famous than George Orwell’s 1984, it arguably presents a world that more closely resembles our own: a world of easy sex, readily available and mood-altering pharmaceuticals, information overload, and mass production.  Juxtaposing Orwell’s and Huxley’s dystopias, the critic Neil Postman commented: “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. . . . Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”
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Characters Henry Foster – Director of the Hatchery

Lenina Crowne – abnormally, she likes to exclusively date.  She is attracted to John, but when she tries to seduce him, he attachks her.

Mustapha Mond – one of the ten world controllers.  He reads Shakespeare and the Bible and he used to be an independent-minded scientist, but he also censors new ideas and controls a totalitarian state. Mond believes that humankind wants stability and happiness, as opposed to emotions, human relations, and individual expression.

Bernard Marx – main character that is funny looking, strange, loveless and angry at his rivals until he returns from the reservation when he is more popular and then takes an interest in what he had previously criticized.

Helmholtz Watson – Bernard’s friend is too intelligent for his job writing hypnopaedic phrases.  He is well liked and respected.  Helmholtz is too strong, able to see and feel how the shallow culture in which he lives is stifling him.

John – a fair skinned man that is isolated from the rest of his savage village, largely the result of his mother Linda’s promiscuous behavior.  John’s extensive knowledge of Shakespeare’s works enables him to verbalize his own complex emotions and reactions and provides him with a framework from which to criticize World State values.

Linda – John’s mother who was ostacized for being too willing to sleep with men.

Themes Brave New World warns of the dangers of giving the state control over new and powerful technologies.

The book is a satire of society – the World State is simply an extreme version of our society’s economic values, in which individual happiness is defined as the ability to satisfy needs, and success as a society is equated with economic growth and prosperity.

An all-powerful state controls the behaviors and actions of its people in order to preserve its own stability and power.

Summary The Central London Hatching and Conditioning Center uses the Bokanovsky and Podsnap Process to make identical embryos in 5 castes (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon).  The alphas are the most evolved leaders and thinkers while the epsilons are stunted and will ultimately perform menial tasks. Much about the world is strange – hypnopaedic methods are used to teach people to dislike things like books and flowers in their sleep, children play sexual games, strong emotions and desires are removed, etc.  Mustapha Mond explains that it is critical to remove strong emotions, desires, and human relationships from society.

Eventually, Lenina and Bernard visit a savage reservation in New Mexico, which the Director had visited 20 years ago (losing a woman that was never recovered).  On the reservation, residents are ill and aged and partake in religious rituals involving whipping themselves.  John and his mother Linda do not fit in on the reservation.  John has read only 2 books to which he has access – Chemical and Bacteriological Conditioning of the Embryo and the Complete Shakespeare, which Pope (a lover of Linda) gave to her. John tells Bernard that he is eager to see the other place, the “Brave New World” that Bernard invites Linda to visit with him.  Mustapha Mond approves John’s and Linda’s entry.

While the Director had planned to ban Bernard to Iceland for his strange, difficult and antisocial behavior, he can’t when Bernard introduces Linda and John to him (because the Director is John’s father and Linda’s former lover).  Further, Bernard become more popular because everyone is excited to meet John.  But Bernard’s social standing again starts to plummet when John stops meeting guests.  Lenina becomes obsessed with John, who ultimately scares her after she tries to seduce him.  When John says that without art, science and religion, life is not worth living, he exiles himself to the countryside, where he self-flagellates.  John yells “kill it” when he sees Lenina and then hangs himself the next day.

Date Finished February 19, 2020

6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner

Narrated by the Compson siblings—Benjy, a source of shame for his family due to his diminished mental capacity; brilliant and obsessive Quentin; and Jason, the cynic—as well as Dilsey, the powerful matriarch of their black servants, The Sound and the Fury is a tragedy of haunted lives. As each of these characters reflect on the fourth sibling, beautiful and free-spirited Caddy, Faulkner paints an indelible portrait of a family in disarray. While The Sound and the Fury was dismissed by its author as a “splendid failure,” it is now considered a masterpiece and played a crucial role in Faulkner being awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature.Click here to read more about THE SOUND AND THE FURY

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Characters Benjamin (Benjy) Compson is a 33-year-old severely retarded bother that tells his story in April 1928.  The story begins as a “tale told by an idiot”.

Quentin Compson is a Harvard student telling his chapter in 1910

Jason Compson is a bitter farm supply worker speaking in April 1928.

Chapter 4 is told in the narrator’s voice, but is focused on Dilsey, the African American cook who raised the family.

Themes

Mental illness and suicide – if not for suicide, Quentin could have become a cynic like Jason or an idiot like Benjy.

Quentin is haunted by his family’s disintegration

Book is named after Macbeth-in a soliloquy, Macbeth implies that life is but a shadow of the past and that modern man is ill equipped and unable to achieve anything near the greatness of the past.

Corruption of Southern aristocratic values – self-absorption corrupted the core values these families once held dear and newer generations are unprepared for a modern world.

Resurrection and renewal – 1928 around Easter.  Crucifixion on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Benjy was born on Holy Saturday, same age as Christ (33)

Dilsey represents hope – she resurrects values that the Compsons long ago abandoned.

Endurance of love and family and religious faith.

Failure of language and narrative – the use of four narrators highlights the subjectivity of each narrative and casts doubt on the ability of language to convey truth or meaning absolutely.

Summary

Three Compson brothers are obsessed with their sister Candace (Caddy).  The book is written in 4 chapters, each with a different narrator in non-chronological order.

The Compsons are a prominent name in Jackson, MO.  Their ancestors settled the areas and defended it in the Civil War. The family’s wealth, land and status crumbled away.  Mr. Compson is an alcoholic.  Mrs. Compson is a self-absorbed hypochondriac who depends on Dilsey, the African American cook, to raise her four children.

Quentin is the oldest child. Caddy is a stubborn but loving and compassionate mother figure to Benjy and a symbol of affection to her brothers.  Jason has been mean spirited since birth.  Caddy is promiscuous, which torments Quentin and sends Benjy into fits of moaning and crying.

Mr. Compson sells land for Quentin to be able to attend Harvard.  Caddy loses her virginity and becomes pregnant and doesn’t know who is the father.  Quentin is shattered.  He falsely claims to be the father.  Mr. Compson knows better and is indifferent to Caddy’s promiscuity.  Caddy marries Herbert Head, a banker in Indiana. Herbert promises Jason a job in his bank bud rescinds the offer when he divorces Caddy.

Quentin commits suicide by drowning himself in the Charles River.  The Compsons disown Caddy, but take in Miss Quentin.  Mr. Compson dies from alcoholism 1 year after the suicide.  Jason becomes the head of the family and steals money that Caddy sends to support Miss Quentin’s upbringing.  Miss Quentin grows up to be an unhappy and rebellious and promiscuous girl constantly in conflict with her uncle Jason.

On Easter Sunday 1928, Miss Quentin steals several thousand dollars from Jason and runs away with a man from the traveling show.  As Jason chases Miss Quentin to no avail, Dilsey takes Benji and her family to Easter services.

Date Finished April 7, 2020

7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller

This satirical novel follows U.S. Captain John Yossarian and his squadron of World War II fighters as they navigate the horrors and paradoxes of war. Based on American author Joseph Heller’s own wartime experiences, the novel explores the many facets of war and employs a unique narrative structure. Catch-22 is widely seen as one of the most significant American novels of the twentieth century. The New York Times called it “a dazzling performance that will outrage nearly as many readers as it delights.”
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8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler

Set in the midst of Stalin’s 1936–1938 purges—when Stalin executed as many as 1.75 million peasants, government officials, and Communist party members—Darkness at Noon is the story of a man named Rubashov, who is arrested in the middle of the night by the state’s secret police. The Party he has long served tortures him and demands he confess to crimes they know he has not committed. Darkness at Noon sold over 400,000 copies when it was published and its portrait of Communism was a major factor in the Communist Party’s defeat in France.
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Characters Nikolai Salmanovity Rubashov is in his 50s and is a stand-in for old Bolsheviks as a group.

Number 402 is a Czarist army officer and veteran inmate with an archaic sense of personal honor.

Rip Van Winkle was driven to madness by 20 years of solitary confinement and further imprisonment

Interrogators are Ivanov (a comrade from Civil War and old friend) and Gletkin (a young man with starched uniforms that cracks and groans when he moves)

Themes Contrast between rank and file Communists and the Party Elite.

Transcendentalism – end justifies the means

Communism (brutality) versus simplicity and tradition of Christianity.

Moscow Confessions

Summary

The novel is set in 1939 during the Stalinist Great Purge and Moscow Show Trials.  The party is the Soviet Government and the Dictatorship is Nazi Germany.  Joseph Stalin is “Number One”.

The book was written in German while Koestler lived in Paris in 1940. A copy was sent to Publisher Ewill Oprecht in Switzerland but was assumed to be lost until 2015, when it was discovered by a Doctoral candidate.  The new English translation was published in 2019.

The book makes reference to Job 5:14 “They meet with darkness in the daytime and grope in the noonday as in the night.”

Stalin was consolidating his dictatorship by eliminating potential rivals within the Communist party.

The book is broken into 4 parts, the First Hearing, the Second Hearing, the Third Hearing and Grammatical Fiction.

Rubashov is arrested in the middle of the night by two men from the Secret Police while Rubishov had recurring dream about when the Gestapo arrested him.  Old policeman is formal and the younger is brutal.  Passing of older civilized generation and barbarism of successors.

Rubishov communicates with Number 402 using tap code (ABCDE/FGHIJ/LMNOP/QRSTU/VWXYZ).

Rubishov, Ivanov and Gletkin speculate about historical processes and how individuals are affected by them.  History will absolve vile actions – the end justifies the means.  Suffering of a few thousand for the benefit of millions.

Gaining Socialist utopia will cause imposed suffering to be forgiven.

Rubishov is in a quandary – communism (brutality) versus simplicity and tradition of Christianity.

In 1933, Rubishov was to purge and reorganize German Communists.  Richard distributed material contrary to Party line and must be expelled.  Pieta – Christian imagery.

After released from imprisonment, Rubishov was sent to Belgium to enforce Party discipline among dock workers.

Little Lowey – sacrificed much for the Party, but is still dedicated.  He hangs himself when the party denounces his cell by name.

Ivanov was an old Bolshevik – Rubishov convinced him not to commit suicide when his leg was amputated.

Rubashov can lessen his sentence to 10 years by confessing instead of execution, but he won’t cooperate.

Charges are not discussed because they are not relevant.

Gelkin urges harsh physical methods.

Michael Bogrov, a one-time distinguished revolutionary naval commander is to be executed.  Prisoners drum on walls to signal brotherhood.

Bogrov execution is orchestrated by Gleken to weaken Rubishov’s resolve.

#402 and Rubashov argue about honor.

Ivanov was executed.

Rubishov confesses to false charges.  Thinks about how he betrayed Richard the young German, Little Lowey in Belgium, Orlana his mistress secretary.  He is ultimately treated with the same ruthlessness.

Rubishov confesses to these false charges publicly.

Final section – “show us not the aim without the way” by Ferdinand Lasalle.

Novel ends with Rubishov’s execution.

Date Finished April 12, 2020

9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence

This intensely autobiographical novel recounts the story of Paul Morel, a young artist growing to manhood in a British working-class family rife with conflict. The author’s vivid evocation of life in a Nottingham mining village in the years before the First World War and his depiction of the all-consuming nature of possessive love and sexual attraction make this one of Lawrence’s most powerful novels. The poet Philip Larkin said, “If Lawrence had been killed off after writing [Sons and Lovers], he’d still be England’s greatest novelist.”Click here to read more about SONS AND LOVERS

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Characters
  • Gertrude Morel – a sophisticated woman married to a drunken miner Walter Morel who mistreats her after their earlier years together when the two had fun and danced. She is a very controlling mother.
  • Walter Morel – an uneducated and hardened miner who drinks too much and doesn’t take fatherhood seriously enough.
  • William Morel – the oldest and favorite of the Morel children. He takes a job in London, falls for a spoiled and shallow woman (who treats the Morels like servants), gets sick and ultimately dies a few years later.
  • Paul Morel – the second son and object of Gertrude’s affection but only after William dies. He also nearly dies from pneumonia.
  • Annie Morel – the second child who plays a greater role at the end of the book when she helps to give a dying Gertude morphine.
  • Arthur Morel is the youngest brother who plays a minimal role in the tory after he is sent off to school.
  • Miriam Leivers – a family friend and farmer neighbor that has a platonic relationship with Paul for years, much to the disapproval of Gertrude. After Gertrude dies, Miriam begs Paul to be together but he chooses to be alone instead.
  • Carla Dawes – a suffragette separated from her husband that met Paul through Miriam. She encourages Miriam to have a relationship with Paul despite taking an interest in him too.  They have an affair, putting Carla in a situation of choosing between Paul and Baxter.
  • Baxter – husband of Carla Dawes who ends up becoming enemies and then friends with Paul
Themes Overbearing mothering and inability to let kids pursue their own destiny.

Abusive relationships

Childhood, adolescence and clash of generations

Expression and lack of love

Summary While Walter was a fun man and a great dancer when he met Gertrude, he turned into an abusive and hard-drinking husband who has no true skills and is forced to fend for his family as a miner.  Their arguments often result in physical harm to Gertrude.  Over time, Gertrude takes too great a personal interested in her sons’ love lives, becoming very controlling of each of them, with one serving as an object of affection at a time.

William, is Gertrude’s favorite, and she takes it as a personal affront when he accepts a job in London and is introduced to higher income and a new class of people interested in him.  William gets sick and dies, and Gertrude hardly notices that one of her children Paul also becomes sick and nearly dies.  Without William around, Paul becomes the new object of Gertrud’s affection.

When Paul falls in love with Miriam Leivers, from a neighboring farm, they have a very close but platonic relationship.   Miriam is never accepted by Mrs. Morel, which largely serves a the reason Paul doesn’t pursue is interest in her.

Miriam introduces Paul to Clara Dawes, a suffragette who is separated from her husband.  After Clara encourages Paul to pursue Miriam, Paul and Miriam sleep together and are briefly happy, but shortly afterward Paul decides that he does not want to marry Miriam.

Paul then spends more time with Clara and they begin an extremely passionate affair. However, she does not want to divorce her husband Baxter.

Miriam begins to get ill and Paul takes care of her.  After she dies, Paul decides that he prefers to be alone.

Date Finished March 1, 2020

10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck

Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, this 1939 novel follows the Joad family as they leave the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and travel to California in search of work. A moving story about migration and abject poverty, The Grapes of Wrath is a candidate for the Great American Novel. Steinbeck himself claimed that he wanted the book “to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for [the Great Depression and its effects].”
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11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry

November 2, 1938: It is the Day of the Dead, and Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic bureaucrat, is stumbling around the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac in a last-ditch attempt to win his wife back. Set over the course of the day, Under the Volcano follows Firmin as he drinks wine, beer, mezcal, and tequila in a world that is as menacing and meaningless as it is exhilarating. Many publishers rejected this book but Lowry defended it as “a kind of symphony, or in another way as a kind of opera—or even a horse opera. It is hot music, a poem, a song, a tragedy, a comedy, a farce.”
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Characters
  • Geoffrey Fermin is an alcoholic British Consul in a Mexican town of Quauhnahuac.  He was a naval officer in WWI.  he was decorated for actions aboard submarine destroyer where German officers were burned alive in a boiler.  He was appointed to Consular Service.
  • Yvonne is a former actress with a career in movies starting at age 14.  She had affairs with both Hugh and Jacques Laruelle.
  • Hugh is the half-brother singer/songwriter that supports Republicans in Spanish Civil War, visits Mexico to report on Fascist activity for the London Globe.  He is leaving the next day to board a ship bringing ammunition to Spanish government forces.
  • Jacques Laruelle is a French film director, and childhood friend of the Consul.  He had an affair with Yvonne and didn’t get over her.
Themes Symbolism – there is the #7 on a horse branding.  Chapter 1 ends at 7 pm, Yvonne returns at 7 am, Day in Chapters 2-12 end at 7 pm, cock crows 7 times at Consul’s death.
Summary The book takes place on November 1, 1938 on the Day of the Dead.  Two volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, overshadow the town.  Lowrey lived in Mexico, was frequently drunk and his first marriage was breaking up.  The book was rejected by many publishers and rewritten.  The book now has 12 chapters, the first of which is one year later.  The remaining 11 chapters are all on one day.  There are symbolically 12 hours in a day and 12 months in a year.

In Chapter 1, on November 2, 1939, Jacques Laruelle and Dr. Vigil drink anisette at the Hotel Casino de la Selva on a hill above Quauhnahuac.  They discuss the Consul’s alcoholism, his unhappy marriage, and his striking wife named Yvonne.  When the Consul and Laruelle were very young, Lauruelle spent the summer season with the Consul’s adopted family, the Taskersons, who had hard-drinking sons.  He stayed at their summer cottage on the English Channel.  Laruelle receives a book he borrowed a year and half prior from Consul – Elizabethan plays for Faustus myth film, finding a desperate letter from the Consul to Yvonne, containing a plea to return.  Laruelle burns the letter.

In Chapter 2, the Consul is at a bar at 7:00 a.m. after a Red Cross Ball.  Yvonne enters and wonders if the Consul can return from stupid darkness.  They stop and Laruelle’s house and in the Garden see a sign that reads No Se Puede Vivir Sin Amar.  One cannot live without loving.  Hugh is also in town.  A pariah dog follows them into the garden.

In Chapter 3, the garden is in chaos.  The Consul visits the Cantina and falls down in the street and is almost run over by an English MG driver.  The Consul’s unsuccessful attempt at making love to Yvonne symbolizes his impotence and despair, as all he seems to think about is a bottle of Johnny Walker that he knows is outside.  He murmurs “I love you” to the bottle of whiskey.

In Chapter 4, Hugh’s point of view is known.  His clothes were impounded and he puts a news dispatch inside the consul’s jacket pocket that he has borrowed from the Consul.  Hugh’s friend Juan Cerillo is a Mexican that was in Spain with Hugh.  Hugh had past affair with Yvonne.  Hugh and Yvonne go on a horse ride together.

In Chapter 5, in the garden, the Consul has visions of Farovita, a bar in Parian.  Instead of Dr. Vigil’s offer of a day trip to Guanajuato, they decide instead to go to Tomalin, near Parian.

In Chapter 6, Hugh ruminates upon his career as a sailor.  He is a journalist and a musician.  He considers himself responsible for Battle of Ebro.  In the past, Hugh was trying to be a musician-Bolowski was his hired publisher.  Bolowski didn’t publish his songs.  Hugh sleeps with his wife. Bolowski then sues Hugh for plagiarism.  A postcard arrives from Yvonne one year before when she traveled the world.

In Chapter 7, the scene changes to Jacques Laruelle’s home.  The Consul is looking for his copy of Eight famous Elizabethan plays.  Consul gets drunk while Laruelle counsels him on his drinking.  Consul takes ride at a carnival called the “Infernal Machine” and loses his possessions.  He has a drink at the Terminal Cantina el Bosque, where a pariah dog follows him in and then leaves.

In Chapter 8, Consul, Yvonne and Hugh travel to Tomalin by bus.  Hugh notices a dead dog at the bottom of a barranca.  A pelado is on the bus. Hugh spots a man in the road asleep.  The man is actually an Indian who is dying rather than sleeping.  Nobody helps him because the law makes good Samaritans liable as an accessory.  The Pelado from the bus stole money from the Indian and used it to pay his bus fare.

In Chapter 9, Arena Tomalin is the location of a bullfight.  Yvonne discusses her life as an actress in Hollywood.  She had dreamed of a future she would like to have with the Counsel in Canada in peace with nature.  Hugh then jumps into the bullfight as the Consul and Yvonne profess their love to each other.

In Chapter 10, the Consul has drinks at the Salon Ofelia.  The Consul leaves dinner party after arguing politics with Hugh and lashing out at Yvonne’s and Hugh’s concerns about his drinking.

In Chapter 11, Hugh and Yvonne search for the Consul.  They must choose one of paths, choosing the one with 2 cantinas on it on the way to Parian.  Yvonne is trampled by a horse with the #7 on it and imagines seeing her dream house in Canada burn down as she dies.

In Chapter 12, the final number on a clock.  The Consul is talking to a man from Farolito.  Diosdado (the Elephant) hands the Consul a stack of letters written by Yvonne.  Consul gets into a disagreement with local police chiefs, who discover Hugh’s papers in the Consul’s jacket.  They push him outside the bar, shoot him, and push him off a ravine.  The shot startled the horse that ran off and trampled Yvonne.  A dead dog is then thrown in the ditch with the Consul

Date Finished April 20, 2020

12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler

Written between 1873 and 1884 but not published until 1903, Butler’s novel about the fortunes of the Pontifex family is a thinly veiled account of his own upbringing and a scathingly funny depiction of the hypocrisy underlying nineteenth-century domestic life. George Bernard Shaw hailed the novel as “one of the summits of human achievement” and William Maxwell claimed that it was the one Victorian novel he would save if his house caught on fire.Click here to read more about THE WAY OF ALL FLESH

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Characters
  • John Pontifex is the oldest ancestor covered in the book, born in the 1720s. He constructs an organ and has a variety of skills…master of none but adept at many.
  • Ruth Pontifex is the wife of John Pontifex. She is said to have been John’s master, didn’t come from lots of money, and her husband “bowed before her stormy moods.”
  • George Pontifex is the son of John and Ruth Pontifex. He marries, but the name of his wife is not mentioned in the book.  He was fond of his parents, but nobody else really.  He makes his way into his uncle’s (Mr. Fairlie, his mother’s sister’s husband) good graces as a teenager and eventually joins the publishing business (primarily religious works) after living with his aunt and uncle in London.
  • Eliza and Maria Pontifex and Georges’ eldest children, who never marry.
  • John Pontifex is George’s third child who marries but has an unnamed son years after Theobold has a son.
  • Theobald Pontifex is George’s fourth child and second son who marries Christina Allaby, later having 3 children. He becomes a minister under pressure from his father.
  • Christina Allaby Pontifex eventually married Theobold, largely the result of her Mother’s forcing the situation. She played a card came with her sisters to determine which of the sisters would pursue Theobold for marriage.  As the second unmarried daughter at 27 years old, Christina was four years older than Theobold, and her sisters thought it was throwing a husband away to let her try and catch him for she was older and shouldn’t have much of a chance.
  • Alethea Pontifex is George’s fifth child who loves Overton, the narrator, but never marries him. Her mother dies in childbirth when she is born.  She was her grandfather’s favorite grandchild. She comes to inherit money from her parents and has no heirs to leave the money, sending her on a quest to get to know and bond with her nephew Ernest.
  • Ernest Pontifex is the main character, the oldest son of Theobald & Christina Pontifex.
  • Dr Skinner is Ernest’s teacher.
  • John is Theobald & Christina’s coachman who is later found to be the father of Ellen’s illegitimate child. John marries Ellen but leaves her when he discovers her drinking problem.
  • Ellen is Ernest’s wife and former housemaid for Theobald & Christina; pregnant by John the coachman who she wed in 1851, separated; and then became a bigmist when she married Ernest. She has drinking problems and eventually leaves for America.
  • Joseph and Charlotte Pontifex are the children of Theobald & Christina, with Joseph becoming a minister like his father and Charlotte marrying later in life after being bitter with her brother for not presenting her more opportunities to find suitors.
  • Alice and Georgie Pontifex are the illegitimate daughter and son of Ellen & Ernest.
  • Mr Edward Overton is the the narrator who loved Alethea Pontifex but never married her.  He serves as the trustee of Althea’s estate.  He is also Ernest’s godfather
Themes Hypocrisy of religion.

Money is the root of all evil.

Victorian Snobbery.

Abusive relationships, particularly physical and emotional abuse of Ernest by Theobold.

Summary The story covers many generations of the Pontifex family, beginning in the early 1800s with  John Pontifex, a carpenter; and his wife Ruth.  Their son son George learns the publishing trade from an uncle, becoming successful.  George’s son Theobald becomes a minster under pressure from George.  Theobold is manipulated to marry Christina, a 27 year old daughter of a clergyman after she wins a card game with her sisters that determines which sister gets to pursue Theobold.  Ernest Pontifex is the oldest son of Theobald and Christina.

The book mostly focuses on Ernest and his hypocritical and controlling parents. His aunt Alethea dies before she can influence Ernest’s life and help him come out from under his parents’ constant pressure.  Before dying, Althea arranges for Overton to serve as an executor responsible for keeping a small fortune for Ernest to be turned over when he turns twenty-eight.

While Ernest starts out as an Evangelical Christian minister, he then is influenced by a fellow clergyman who not only convinces him to pursue a different religious sect, but also steals his money from his parents.  He decides that he want to live among the poor, but he begins to lose his faith in the Bible and ultimately attempts a sexual assault on a woman he incorrectly believes lacks morals.  He ends up serving a prison term. His parents disown him. And his health later deteriorates.

As he recovers in prison, he learns how to tailor clothing and decides to become a tailor once he gets out of prison. After losing his faith, he marries Ellen, a former housemaid of his parents.  They have two children and set up a second-hand cloting shop.  Ernest discovers that not only is Ellen a bigamist, but she is also a terrible alcoholic. Overton pays Ellen an allowance to keep her away from Ernest, but Ernest isn’t a successful tailor without her.  Ellen later leaves for America. Overton hires Ernest as a bookkeeper to teach him how to be responsible with money.  Together Overton and and Ernest go on a trip through Europe.

When Ernest turns 28, he receives his aunt Alethea’s money. His parents request that he return home to visit his dying mother.  Ernest becomes a successful author of controversial literature by pretending that the opposing viewpoints are written by multiple knowledgeable people that are secretly stating their positions (scientists, versus ministers, etc.).

Date Finished August 8, 2020

13. 1984 by George Orwell

The most famous dystopian novel of all time, 1984 is the story of Winston Smith as he struggles to survive in the sinister world of Big Brother. This novel has so defined the twentieth century that many terms from it—Big Brother, doublethink, thought police—have seeped into popular culture. When it was first published in 1949, the novelist V. S. Pritchett commented: “I do not think I have ever read a novel more frightening and depressing; and yet, such are the originality, the suspense, the speed of writing and withering indignation that it is impossible to put the book down.”
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Characters Winston Smith – low member of the ruling party in London in Oceania (39 years old).  Winston is desperately tries to understand how and why the Party exercises such absolute power in Oceania.

Julia – in love with Winston Smith and similarly hates the Party.

O’Brien – powerful member of the Inner Party who tricks Winston into believing that he is a member of the revolutionary group called the Brotherhood.

Mr. Charrington – a widower, owner of a second-hand shop in the prole district of London, and a member of the Thought Police.

Themes War – a state of war forces the population to be more productive and fearful.

Totalitarianism – control of information and history, independence, and identity.

Summary The “Party”, “big brother”, watches all activity through telescreens.  The party prohibits free thought, sex, and individuality.  Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth, ironically rewriting history and altering historical records.  Winston illegally purchases a journal from a secondhand store, in which a rented apartment upstairs from the shop becomes a location where he and his love interest Julia secretly meet.   After several secret trysts, Winston and Julia go to O’Brien’s house, where O’Brien indoctrinates them into the Brotherhood and gives Winston a copy of the manifesto.  Later, Mr. Charrington, the owner of the secondhand store, is revealed to be a member of the thought police.  Winston is brought to the Ministry of Love, where O’Brien, a party spy, spends months torturing Winston in Room 101.  There, Winston confronts his worst fears with a cage of rats strapped to his head, which stops when he requests for Julia to be tortured instead of him (giving up Julia is what O’Brien wanted all along).  After he is released, Winston meets Julia on the street and feels nothing for her.  He has accepted the party entirely and has learned to love Big Brother.
Date Finished February 17, 2020

14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves

A classic of historical fiction, this book is the fictionalized autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, born partially deaf and afflicted with a limp, and his rise to power. Along the way, you see the inner workings of the First Family of Rome and the vicious, murderous in-fighting and poisonings that Claudius—considered too stupid, lame, and ugly to fear—observes. The book ends with Claudius’s ascension to emperor; Graves continues the saga in Claudius the God (also worth reading, though not on this list).
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Summary Claudius tells his story at the age of 51, looking back at a crazy set of episodes that led to his ascension as the fourth Emperor of Rome, despite his physical challenges (as an infant, he had numerous diseases, including malaria, measles, erysipelas, and colitis which caused deafness in one ear, a permanent limp from infantile paralysis, and tics and stammers).  The book begins with Claudius learning from the Sibyl that he will eventually become the Emperor and will speak clearly in 1900 years, which he assumes must mean that he must write an autobiography.

The Claudian line has “good apples” and “bad apples”, but most seem to be bad except for Claudius and a few other characters (most of whom support a Roman republic).  Livia, Claudius’ grandmother and the wife of Augustus (first Emperor of Rome), is one of the worst “bad apples”, killing many people to get what she wants throughout the novel.  Through her manipulation, Augustus takes power and becomes king, although he is really a republican at heart.  Livia claimed she was pregnant by Augustus to convince him to marry her, divorcing Claudius’ actual grandfather (the true father of the unborn child).  Claudius’ father was raised with his natural father and brother Tiberius, but he mysteriously dies (poisoned by Livia) suddenly after teaching the boys about a republic.

Livia and Augustus never consummate their marriage, and she uses his guilt about this fact to control him.  She is very vocal about her thoughts regarding the heir he will eventually need to name.  When Augustus favors Marcellus, the husband of his daughter Julia, Livia creates a sort of struggle between Agrippa (Augustus’s dearest friend) and Marcellus.  After Marcellus started to take on more important roles, Livia poisoned him causing his death.  She intends for Julia to marry her son Tiberius, giving him a better chance at being an heir, but Augustus instead agrees for Julia to marry Agrippa.  Eventually, Livia also has Agrippa killed, and Julia must then marry Tiberius (her third marriage after deaths of two husbands at Livia’s hands), a step-son that Augustus never even liked.  Tiberius himself did not want to marry Julia because he was in love with his wife Vipsania, but Julia loved Tiberius since they were children and he married her anyway (to carry out his mother’s plan).

Livia intercepts a letter from Claudius’ father to Tiberius in which he explains the problems with the current system of government. The letter is also critical of Livia, so Livia ultimately kills him too.

If it wasn’t enough that Claudius’ grandmother Livia was rotten to Claudius, so was his own mother Antonia, who views him as a worthless idiot.  Ironically, when Claudius was 8 years old, he caught a wounded wolf cub that fell from the sky after several eagles fought for it overhead, prophesying Claudius’ eventual destiny as a protector of Rome.  As a boy, Claudius enjoyed the company of his brother, Germanicus, and Julia’s son, Postumus, both of whom protected him from the cruel treatment by the rest of the family.  Athenodorus, a philosopher, became another friend of Claudius, teaching him the skills of a historian and helping him to control his stuttering when public speaking.

As the story continues, Livia gives Julia a “love philtre” (an aphrodisiac intended to help her relationship with Tiberius) which instead causes Julia to become very promiscuous with just about anyone.  Livia agrees to allow Tiberius to leave Rome, exacerbating Julia’s behavior with many different men. Eventually Julia becomes so reckless that Augustus chooses to banish her for life, much to the satisfaction of Livia.  While Tiberius is away, Augustus starts to grow closer to Julia’s son’s Gaius and Lucius, making them a threat to Tiberius as possible heirs.  After a few months, they both die mysteriously (yes, Livia again). Augustus requests that Tiberius return to Rome, where he and Postumus will likely become Augustus’ sons and heirs.

Claudius gives more details about his childhood, telling a story about his first engagement at age 13.  While Livia wanted Claudius to marry Aemilia, Augustus decides to marry Claudius to Medullina Camilla, the granddaughter of one of Augustus’ generals.  Claudius was in love with her and was devastated when she was stuck with a poison needle, dying on the day of the wedding.  Livia then had second thoughts about Aemilia because her parents could get in the way of Tiberius becoming the sole successor, so she accused the parents of treason and broke off the engagement.  Livia then agreed to marry Claudius to her friend Urgalania’s ugly daughter, Urgulanilla as a private joke.  The mothers laugh at the horrible sight of the two of them together.  The marriage is somewhat successful because the two of them are indifferent to one another.  They have a son Drusillus.

To ensure that there are no further threats to Tiberius becoming the next emperor, Livia arranges for the deaths of Lucius, Gaius, and Camilla while preventing Julilla, Aemilius, and Julia from becoming a threat.  Claudius isn’t viewed as a threat, which is what protects him from being killed off like his relatives.

As Claudius was growing up, he interacted with two important historians, Livy and Pollio, whom he respected for their literary style and accuracy, respectively.  The historians are impressed by Claudius’ intellect while most people think of him as an idiot.  Pollio tells Claudius to exaggerate his limp and stuttering and playing the fool to keep himself alive!

Becaue Livia views Postumus as a threat to Tiberius, she devises a way to remove Postumus as an obstacle so that Tiberius will be a sole rule of Rome.  Postumus tells Claudius that he has been banished because he has been accused of raping Livilla, Claudius’ sister. Livilla was involved in a scheme with Livia.  Postumus was then caught and banished to a small island in the Mediterranean.

Germanicus tells Augustus about the truth behind Postumus’ so-called rape of Livilla, and Augustus exchanges Postumus for a slave that takes his place. When Livia discovers the plot, she starts to poison Augustus’ fig tree – the only thing he will eat because he believes it is safe to do so.  After Augustus’ death, Tiberius needs Senate support.  Germanicus gives Tiberius his full support.

The Roman regiments stationed in Germany began to mutiny in protest of the limited funds they had received in Augustus’ will. Germanicus gets them under control by forging a letter from Tiberius agreeing to double their funds.  Tiberius is envious of Germanicus and suspects him (incorrectly) of wanting to be Emperor.  Sejanus, the Commander of the Guards, becomes Tiberius’ close ally and convinces Tiberius that Germanicus can’t be trusted.

Claudius begins a relationship with Calpurnia, a kind-hearted prostitute who becomes his companion and one true friend for the next several years.  Claudius receives a secret message from a beggar that he knows is from Postumus.  When Tiberius learns that Postumus is in Rome attempting to gain support against him and Livia, Sejanus’ soldiers ambush Postumus and his supporters, and Tiberius has Postumus beheaded. Claudius realizes that his letters were  intercepted by Tiberius and Livia.

After Germanicus tells Tiberius about all of Livia’s plots, Tiberius tells Livia .  Germanicus suddenly falls ill and becomes convinced that his illness is the result of witchcraft. Caligula was responsible for his father’s death by using  fear and superstition to drive his father mad and essentially frighten him to death.

Livia grows unpopular because people suspect her of her wrongdoing. Tiberius grows more suspicious of his relatives at Sejanus’s urging.  When Vipsania dies, Tiberius begins perverted sexual exploits that make him an even more despicable figure.

With Germanicus’ death, Sejanus tries to get more power by suggesting that his daughter and Claudius’ son marry.  Livia has Drusillis strangled to prevent Sejanus from getting closer to the imperial family.

Sejanus and Livilla plot to become emperor and empress by plotting the deaths of Germanicus’ sons Nero, Drusus, and Caligula, each of which was a potential heir to Tiberius. Sejanus again tries to  join the imperial family through marriage by suggesting that  Claudius divorce Urgulanilla to marry Sejanus’ adopted sister, Aelia. Livia and Tiberius become estranged.

On her birthday, Livia invites Claudius to dine with her. Claudius overcomes his fear of Livia when she tells him that Caligula will become emperor and Claudius will avenge his death. Livia then begs Claudius to promise that he will make her a goddess and she then tells him about all of the smurders that she has committed over the course of her life.

Tiberius declares Caligula as his heir but continues to honor Sejanus with high political positions. Tiberius deceives Sejanus and orders his execution.

At Antonia’s request, Tiberius allows Antonia to determine Livilla’s punishment, and Antonia locks Livilla in her room until she starves to death. For the next five years of his reign, Tiberius continues in the same vein of paranoia and random execution. Nero, Agrippina, Drusus, and Gallus all die during their imprisonment. Caligula becomes Tiberius’ closest friend and they enjoy common sexual vices that bind them.

At seventy-eight years old, Tiberius becomes increasingly feeble but unwilling to admit that he may be in poor health. Caligula orders Macro to smother to death.

Caligula falls ill with a “brain fever” and is feared to be near death after several years as a successful emperor.  The illness makes him go insane and he begins to believe that he is undergoing a physical metamorphosis and becoming a god. Caligula banishes Lesbia and Agrippinilla on the charge of adultery, only after he constructed a brothel in the palace and sold sexual favors from Lesbia and Agrippinilla to help Rome’s money problems. Caligula’s madness continues until he is assassinated by Cassius Chaerea and several other soldiers at the Palatine Festival. The assassins also murder Caligula’s most-recent wife, Caesonia, and their young daughter, Drusilla.

Claudius tries to hide in the midst of the riot but is discovered by a group of soldiers. Instead of killing him, as Claudius expects, the soldiers proclaim him emperor. Claudius realizes that the omen of the wolf cub and the Sibyl’s prophecy have finally come true.

Date Finished

15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf

The Ramsays spend summers in their holiday home off the coast of Scotland, welcoming a motley assortment of guests into their warm family fold. But the First World War looms, and when it has passed, everything will be changed. Writer Arnold Bennett criticized the novel’s slight narrative: “A group of people plan to sail in a small boat to a lighthouse. At the end some of them reach the lighthouse in a small boat. That is the externality of the plot.” But if the plot is superficially small, Woolf’s prose is infinitely expansive, capturing gorgeous, ephemeral moments of family joy and heartbreak.
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Characters Mrs. Ramsay – English Mother of 8 children on holiday in Scotland and acting as hostess at the family’s summer home on the Isle of Skye.  She pays a lot of attention to male guests, who she believes need constant support and sympathy (particularly Mr. Ramsay, who relies on his wife to boost his self-esteem).  She recognizes that her husband relies on her.  Her crowning achievement is the dinner party that she hosts in the first of the books.  Her death has lasting impact on the other characters.  She is far from submissive and is in fact the most powerful character in the book despite seemingly falling into a stereotypical role.

Mr. Ramsay – husband of Mrs. Ramsay who is a prominent metaphysical philosopher that had his finest achievements early in life and tries to continually improve as he ages. He seems selfish and harsh because he wants to be remembered, constantly fearing that his work is insignificant. While he loves his family, his need for constant sympathy and attention drives his wife, children and guests crazy.  His children often feel criticized by their father, seldom receiving any compliments or encouragement.

Lily Briscoe – A young friend of the Ramsay’s who fears that her painting lacks worth, largely the result of men like Charles Tansley who think that women cannot paint or write.  Her painting of Mrs. Ramsay, while started at the beginning of the book, is not completed until the end of the book, long after Mrs. Ramsay’s passing.

James Ramsay – The youngest of the Ramsay’s children, he has an Oedipal complex causing him to compete with Mr. Ramsay for Mrs. Ramsay’s affection.  In the third section of the book, James, Cam and Mr. Ramsay finally go to the lighthouse that James so badly wanted to visit in the first section (when he was 6 years old).  By this time, he has grown into a moody young man who has much in common with his father, whom he detests.

Paul Rayley –  a young and kind young man who follows Mrs. Ramsay’s wishes in marrying Minta Doyle.  He turns out to be a mean husband.

Minta Doyle – a female guest of the Ramsays who marries Paul Rayley after Mrs. Ramsay puts Paul up to asking her to marry him.

Charles Tansley – A pupil of Mr. Ramsay who is insecure, so much so that he must insult others (like Lily) to feel better about himself.

William Bankes – An older botanist who Mrs. Ramsay tries to set up with Lily Briscoe, although the two remain good friends.

Themes Transcience of life and work – Mr. Ramsay reflects that most people will neer be remembered.  Even the most enduring of reputations, such as Shakespeare’s, are doomed to eventual oblivion.

Preservation – Only Lily Briscoe finds a way to preserve her experience, and that way is through her art. Mrs Ramsay’s social interations and Mr. Ramsay’s intellect will eventually be forgotten.

Summary In the first section of the book, “The Window”, the Ramsay family (Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay and their eight children) spend the summer in the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides of Scotland. Weather causes James Ramsay not to be able to visit the lighthouse, for which he resents his father.

The Ramsays host a number of guests, including Charles Tansley, Lily Briscoe, William Bankes, Paul Rayley ,and Minta Doyle.  On the day of a dinner party that Mrs. Ramsay hosts, Paul proposes to Minta, Lily begins her painting of Mrs. Ramsay, and Mr. Ramsay displays his insecurities. Lily also takes offense to Charles Tansley’s suggestions that women can neither paint nor write. Even with all the commotion, the guests have a great dinner party.  This section ends when night falls, all events taking place the same day.

In “Time Passes”, the second section, 10 years are summarized.  Mrs. Ramsay dies suddenly as do the children with the most promise (Andrew a young man adept at mathematics dies in battle and the beautiful Prue dies from an illness stemming from childbirth). The vacation house is not visited throughout the 10 years and the house falls into a bad state.  Mrs. McNab, the family’s housekeeper, gets the house back together in time for the next section of the book.

In “The Lighthouse” section, time slows down again.  Mr. Ramsay, James and Cam finally visit the lighthouse. Before leaving, Mr. Ramsay hovers around Lily as she is trying to continue her painting of Mrs. Ramsay.  She does not budge when he seeks her sympathy, only discussing his nice boots.  James and Cam come around after being annoyed by their father’s self pity after Mr. Ramsay praises his son’s sailing abilities.  Lily finally completes her painting, finally having achieved her vision.

Date Finished July 28, 2020

16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser

Published in 1925, An American Tragedy is the story of the naive Clyde Griffiths and his desperate search for success. Dreiser based the story on a 1906 murder trial, and the resulting novel paints a damning portrait of early twentieth-century society. Over nine hundred pages long, this isn’t a quick read, but if you enjoy long studies of sexual obsession and ambition gone horribly wrong, this is the book for you.
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17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers

Published in 1940, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter follows a handful of outsiders in a small Georgia town: a young girl, a doctor, a deaf-mute, the owner of a diner, and an antagonistic wanderer. The novel was an overnight sensation and made Carson McCullers extremely famous. When it was first reviewed in The New York Times, Rose Feld wrote: “No matter what the age of its author, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter would be a remarkable book. . . . When one reads that Carson McCullers is a girl of 22 it becomes more than that. . . . [McCullers] writes with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming.”Click here to read more about THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER

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18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut

An American classic, Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden that Vonnegut, then a POW, himself survived, Slaughterhouse-Five includes time travel, a voyage to an alien planet, a love affair with a movie star, and an assassination in its vast scope. Despite these fantastical elements, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives. Michael Crichton, author of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, praised Slaughterhouse-Five as “beautifully done, fluid, smooth, and powerful.”Click here to read more about SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE

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19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man is one man’s story of how the world around him has decided that he is invisible, and therefore disposable. Moving from the unnamed hero’s high school days, to the campus of a Southern college and then to New York’s Harlem, the hero is sometimes befriended but more often deceived and betrayed by the duplicity of others. Winner of the 1953 National Book Award, and described by Saul Bellow as “a book of the very first order, a superb book,” Invisible Man is a bold classic whose take on race in America remains as searing today as when it was first published.Click here to read more about INVISIBLE MAN

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Characters
  • The narrator – symbolically not named.  He develops as an individual throughout the book, but he considers himself invisible because people never see his true self beneath the roles that stereotypes and racial prejudice play.
  • Brother Jack – The white and blindly loyal leader of the Brotherhood, a political organization that professes to defend the rights of the socially oppressed
  • Ras the Exhorter – represents the black nationalist movement, which advocates the violent overthrow of white supremacy
  • Dr. Bledsoe – the president at the narrator’s college, who is selfish and awful to the narrator, sabotaging his chances at a future.
Themes Innocence prevents the narrator from recognizing truth.

Racism is an obstacle to the narrator’s identity.

Other’s errant behavior is what leads the narrator to fulfill their misguided expectations.

Vulnerability to identity that thrusts him into a role as an African American man.

One must define oneself against society’s expectations.

Summary Invisible man is not a physical condition, but instead the result of refusal of others to see him.  He has been hiding underground stealing electricity from the Monopolated Light and Power Company, burning 1,369 light bulbs and listening to Louis Armstrong – “what did I do to be so black and blue?”

As a young man in the 1920s and 1930s, he lived in the South.  As a gifted public speaker, he was invited to give a speech in town.  His reward was a briefcase and a scholarship to a prestigious black college where he must fight in a battle royal (fist-fighting other black men in blindfolds).  Later, he fights in an electrified ring where he and others fight for coins that each contestant scrambles to collect (they actually have no value).

In a dream, the narrator describes a paper saying “to whom it may concern…keep this ni**** boy running.”

Three years later, he drives a trustee Mr. Norton around campus.  Norton takes an interest in Jim Trueblood – a poor black man that had an incestuous relationship with his daughter, causing her pregnancy.  Norton needs a drink so the narrator brings him to Golden Day, a saloon/brothel.

Reverend Homer Barbee gives a long sermon honoring one of the University’s founders.  Dr. Bledsoe, the college president, then chastises the narrator for taking Mr. Norton to slave quarters and the Golden Day.  He should have shown the white man an idealized view of blacks.

Narrator is expelled with seven letters addressed to white trustees to look for a job in New York City.  The narrator goes to Harlem, but has no success in his job hunt, because the letters effectively told the trustees not to hire him.  The letters portray the narrator as unreliable and dishonorable.  Young Emmerson helps the narrator get a low paying job at the Liberty Paints Plant.  Their trademark color is “Optic White”.  Narrator is an assistant to Lucius Brockway, an anti-union man.  The narrator is knocked unconscious when  a tank explodes.  In a hospital at the factory, a white doctor conducts electric shock experiments and provides the narrator with settlement papers so he won’t sue the plant.

Narrator ends up being helped by Mary, who lets him live with her for free in Harlem.  Narrator gives and impassioned speech about an elderly couple’s eviction.  Brother Jack overhears the speech and offers the narrator a Brotherhood Spokesman role.  The narrator takes the job to pay back Mary.  The Brotherhood gives him a new name and apartment.  He is inducted to the Brotherhood at the Corinthian Hotel.  He is trained by white Brother Hambro.  He then meets Todd Clifton,  a youth leader, and also becomes familiar with Ras the Extorter.  He receives an anonymous note that says “Remember your Race”.

Brother Wrestrum, a self-absorbed jerk, accuses the narrator of advancing a selfish desire for personal distinction.  The committee investigates the charges.  He is moved to a women’s rights post.  He is then seduced by a white woman who has sexual fantasies of black men.  The brotherhood then sends him back to Harlem.

Clifton disappears and other Brotherhood members have left the group.  Clifton is selling sambo dolls, stereotypically representing lazy slaves.  Clifton scuffles with the police who shoot him.  The narrator holds a funeral for Clifton, treating him like a hero.  Brother Jack is furious about the funeral, so much so that his glass eye falls out during an angry fit.

Ras confronts the narrator, so he disguises himself, being mistaken for Rinehart, a pimp, bookie, and reverend.  Hambro tells the narrator that people are tools and that the larger interests of the brotherhood are what matters.

The narrator wants to undermine the brotherhood.  He chooses Sybil, but she just wants to be seduced.  Chaos ensues from Ras the Extorter/Destroyer.  The narrator sets fire to the tenement building.  Ras calls for the narrator to be lynched.  Policemen suspect the narrator stole loot that is in his briefcase.  They chase him and he falls down a manhole, and the police put the cover over it so he can’t get out.  The end of his story is also the beginning of another story.  He must honor his individual complexity and remain true to his identity without sacrificing his responsibility to his community.  He is now ready to emerge from underground.

Date Finished March 14, 2020

20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright

The story of Bigger Thomas, a poor, twentysomething African-American man living in Chicago, Native Son unflinchingly portrays the damage poverty and racism can inflict. Bigger Thomas is a difficult, even unsympathetic character, but his experiences force the reader to confront the real cost of societal injustice. Loosely based on a series of “brick bat” murders in 1939, Native Son was an immediate bestseller, selling 250,000 copies within three weeks of its publication.
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21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow

Eugene Henderson is an American millionaire living off his inherited wealth. Dissatisfied with his life, he leaves his comfortable world behind and travels to Africa. In a fictional village his prayers for rain are answered, transforming him into a messiah figure. Saul Bellow also wrote The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, and Humboldt’s Gift, but Henderson the Rain King was his personal favorite.
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22. APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O’Hara

In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, PA, social circuit is filled with parties and dances, rivers of liquor and music playing late into the night. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English, the envy of friends and strangers alike. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent—the book takes place over thirty-six hours—toward self-destruction.  A twentieth-century classic, Appointment in Samarra is the first and most widely read book by the writer Fran Leibowitz called “the real F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
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23. U.S.A.(trilogy) by John Dos Passos

A collection of three novels—The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money—this work by Dos Passos combines the stories of different characters with current events, small biographies of famous men, and stream-of-consciousness moments to create a portrait of the United States itself. A massive 1,300-page saga, U. S.A. was hailed by The Washington Post as “the most ambitious attempt by any American writer of fiction to contain this vast, heterogeneous and elusive nation.”
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Characters
  • Fainy McCreary (“Mac”) is a working man from an immigrant family that started out as a typesetter/printer, becomes a train-hopping newspaperman, and eventually marries a woman he met in California (Maisie Spencer). He is a wanderer that leaves behind his wife and two children after the weight of poverty, work, and family responsibilities take their toll.  He abandons his life to move to Mexico where he can be a champion for workers.
  • Janey Williams is a young, poor, working class secretary from Washington, D.C. As a young girl, the boy she loved (Alec) and best friend of her brother Joe is killed in a motorcycle accident.  After dating a string of terrible men, she quits her job at a pro-German firm and moves to New York City. She  becomes J. Ward Moorehouse’s stenographer and eventually his secretary, taking trips with him all over the country and in Mexico.  Oddly, she is the only female acquaintance that doesn’t have a sexual relationship with him.
  • Joe Williams, Janey’s brother, is a dropout that wanders from place to place, eventually joining the Navy but then going AWOL. He becomes a more prominent character in 1919 and The Big Money.  While he always wants a job on land, he keeps finding success on the seas, ending up in Europe.  On Armistice Day, in St. Nazaire, Joe attacks someone that is dancing with a girl he knows and believes to be his.  He dies after being hit over the head with a bottle.
  • Eleanor Stoddard is a cold, young social climber from a well-off upper-middle class family from Georgetown. She and her friend Eveline Hutchins start a business as decorators.  After moving to New York to puruse a costuming and design job, she meets J. Ward Moorehouse and does decorating work for him.  She become a close platonic friend of which Moorehouse’s wife is envious.  She works for the Red Cross during the war and then, in the 1920s, uses connections in fashion to meet and become engaged to a Russian nobleman.
  • Eveline Hutchins is the daughter of a minister, an artist and interior decorator, and a protégé of Eleanor Stoddard. She is not a happy person and has romantic views of the world, mostly impressed by wealth.  She has many relationships, never finding what she is looking for.  She and Eleanor are frienemies – friends and rivals with a relationship complicated by jealousy.  In the later novels, she becomes a more central and successful figure living a luxurious life.  In France, while she is Eleanor’s assistant in the Red Cross, she marries a shy young soldier named Paul Johnson.  Later she has an affair with Charley Anderson.  In the Big Money, Eveline, who becomes something of a socialite, kills herself with sleeping pills after one of her big parties.
  • J. Ward Moorehouse (“Johnny” as a child and later “J.W.”) is the character that seems to tie all the other characters together in some way. He is from a middle-class family and well-educated.  He first marries Annabelle Strang, a wealthy pregnant American woman who cheats on him during their honeymoon in Paris.  Using some connections he made while in Paris, after returning to the United States, he ends up in Pittsburgh, where re marries Gertrude Staple and becomes a journalist.  He begins his new business with a firm doing high-level public relations using capital from his new wife’s wealthy family.  After the war, he becomes one of the leading advertising executives in the country, however he has no true depth or substance even with all his success and he is not happy.  He has a heart attack and survives, soon after making Dick Savage a partner in his firm.
  • Charley Anderson is from Minnesota and ends up working as a mechanic in Minneapolis. He falls in love, but his best friend gets his girlfriend pregnant, causing him to travel the country looking for a purpose.  He becomes a flying ace during the war after he and his friend William H Rogers (“Doc”) enlist in the ambulance corps.  Having been a war hero, he becomes a wealthy airplane manufacturer and marries and divorces.  In Florida, after a plane crash, he meets Margo Dowling.  His drunkenness causes him to die a pathetic businessman after getting hit by a train that he was racing in a car.  His success, greed, and lust eventually lead to his downfall.
  • Richard (“Dick”) Ellsworth Savage is a teenager that works at a summer hotel where he sleeps with a minster’s wife who is interested in his poetry. A government official pays for Dick to attend Harvard. After graduation, he avoids the draft by becoming a member of the ambulance service.  He later becomes one of J. Ward Moorehouse’s employees, looking to make the big money after being introduced by Eveline and Eleanor.  When he is sent to Rome on an errand, he meets Anne Elizabeth Trent, they have an affair, and she gets pregnant.  He isn’t in love with her and convinces her to have an abortion.
  • Anne Elizabeth Trent (“Daughter”) is a volunteer nurse during the war. She becomes very anti-war after her brother is killed flying a training airplane in Texas as a member of the air force. She is convinced that the plane was not well made by a company that was cutting corners to make more money. When she meets Dick Savage she falls wildly in love, has sex with him and gets pregnant. He wants nothing to do with her or the baby and urges her to get rid of the baby.  She dies in a plane crash after convincing a drunk pilot to take her up in his plane.
  • Ben Compton is a law student and labor activist that falls in love with Mary French but loses interest in her as he becomes more of an activist.  When Ben hears Mary talk about getting married and having kids, he tells her to wait until the U.S. government is overthrown in a violent uprising.
  • Mary French is doctor’s daughter from Colorado that becomes a journalist and labor activist who eventually is an inconsequential worker for the labor revolution, even at the expense of her personal relationships. As a girl, her father treated the downtrodden in Trinidad, and her mother never felt he measured up.  Her mother inherited a lot of money after destroying her husband’s spirit.  Mary’s friend Ada is also influential in Mary’s life.
  • Margo Dowling is an ambitious and uninhibited young Hollywood actress that starts out as a child actress who is sexually abused by her step-mother’s boyfriend.  As a young adult, Margo marries Tony, a Cuban guitar player with a drinking problem and ultimately becomes a mistress and a showgirl.  Tony reappears and steals Margo’s money.
Themes
  • Conflict of rich and privileged versus poor and powerless.
  • Ambition and selfishness lead to bad decisions, self-absorption, and a missed opportunities.
  • Racism plays out with references to African Americans, Asians and Mexicans and immigrants in general.
  • Ward Moorehouse’s story best represents the American Dream.
  • Materialism – the characters most financially successful (Moorehouse, Dowling and Stoddard) are those that are the most greedy, superficial and materialistic while those that are altruistic (Compton and French) live in poverty.
  • Exploitation of the working class (Mac and Joe and Janey Williams) – the system is set up to crush the workers.
  • Decay of traditional values – despite their upbringing, none of the characters end up with healthy families or ore relationships.
Summary U.S.A. is a trilogy written by John Dos Passos in the 1930s, covering three distinct time periods:

  • The 42nd Parallel – 1900 up to World War I
  • 1919 – World War I and the Treaty of Versailles
  • The Big Money – 1920s boom to 1930s bust

Along with stories of seemingly ordinary characters, many of which carry  through the three books, Dos Passos included Chicago Tribune newspaper headlines and songs (“Newreels”), personal thoughts (“Camera Eye”), and biographies of key historical figures (like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison).  While the stories of each character seem disconnected, they eventually merge together.  Through the stories of the characters, USA provides a broad view of life in the United States in the periods covered.

Date Finished July 20, 2020

24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson

Sherwood Anderson’s timeless cycle of loosely connected tales—in which a young reporter named George Willard probes the hopes, dreams, and fears of a small Midwestern town at the turn of the century—embraced a new frankness and realism that helped usher American literature into the modern age. “Here [is] a new order of short story,” said H. L. Mencken when Winesburg, Ohio was published in 1919. “It is so vivid, so full of insight, so shiningly life-like and glowing, that the book is lifted into a category all its own.”Click here to read more about WINESBURG, OHIO

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Characters Many characters in smaller subplots described below
Themes Small town loneliness, life, and despair in the early 20th century

Struggle to be understood and not lost in a crowd

Shedding the shackles of loneliness

Summary In the first chapter of Winesburg, Ohio the author describes people as “grotesques”.  All of the chapters that follow describe different residents of Winesburg, with some characters that continue through several chapters in pursuits of various truths.

“Hands” is the story of Wing Biddlebaum, a recluse and former school teacher with remarkable hands, who was falsely accused of molesting a boy at the school where Biddlebaum used to teach, causing him to move.

“Paper Pills” describes Doctor Reefy, who marries a young patient that dies six months later.

“Mother” is about Elizabeth Willard, George Willard’s (the narrator) mother.  Elizabeth is ill and unhappily married to George’ father and the two struggle to influence their son.  Elisabeth and Tom Willard own a boarding house in Winesburg, which is perpetually on the verge of failure, like their marriage.

In “The Philosopher”, Doctor Parcival imagines that a lynch mob is after him, and tells George Willard that “Everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified”.   Doctor Parcival has a small medical practice, but never seems to run out of money. There is question about whether he has a criminal past.  The doctor oddly asks George to promise him that if anything happens after he doesn’t treat a local girl that George will write a book containing the secret of human life–“that everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified.”

In “Nobody Knows,” George sleeps with a girl named Louise Trunnion whom he doesn’t love, leaving him feeling guilty afterward. After feeling an odd mix of pride and embarrassment George says to himself, “she hasn’t got anything on me.  Nobody knows.”

“Godliness” is four stories about Jesse Bentley, a wealthy farmer that inherits the family farm after his brothers die in the Civil War and believes that he is a biblical figure chosen by God. He shows no love to his daughter, Louise Bentley (a smart girl tormented by the family with which she lives), who later marries unhappily.  Louise’s son David Hardy later lives with his grandfather Jesse.  When Jesse and David search for a message from God, Jesse is so scared by his grandfather (who sacrifices a lamb in front of his grandson) that Jesse leaves Winesburg for good.

“A Man of Ideas” is about Joe Welling dating a woman whose father and brother are notorious thugs.  Joe organizes a local baseball team, making him a well-respected manager. He starts dating Sarah King, a “lean, sad-looking woman” whose father and brother are widely considered dangerous. Instead of risking his life, he ends up impressing the family with a “tidal wave of words.”

“Adventure” is about Alice Hindman, an unmarried 27 year-old woman whose true love (as she considers him), Ned Curie, left Winesburg for Chicago years ago and has never returned even though he told her he would come back for her. Even though she is getting older, she cannot imagine herself marrying anyone but “Neddie.” One night, she decides on a whim to run outside in the rain.  Aashamed, she rushes back inside and lies down to face the wall and accept “bravely the fact that many people must live and die alone.”

“Respectability” is about an obese and antisocial telegraph operator in Winesburg, Wash Williams, who despises all women because his wife was unfaithful to him and his mother-in-law is horrible.  Wash is bitter because he loved his wife very much, only to discover that she was cheating on him with a number of men. He left her immediately and tried to reconcile with her, realizing later that women are depraved and deceitful.

“The Thinker” is about Seth Richmond, who dates a banker’s daughter but later decides to leave town for good.  He leaves town thinking about how Helen will probably end up in love with “some fool… some one like that George Willard.”

“Tandy” tells the story of a little girl named Tandy Hard whose first name comes from a drunken man’s description of the perfect woman.   Oddly, after hearing the story, she demands that her father always call her “Tandy Hard.”

In “The Strength of God”, Reverand Curtis Hartman is a Peeping Tom Presbyterian minister who lusts after Kate Swift, a local schoolteacher that he can see from a church bell tower window into her apartment. Having little experience with women he is fascinated by Kate, giving passionate minstiry as he fights his sexual temptations.  He is no longer tempted when he sees her praying naked one evening.

“The Teacher” takes place on the same night, but this time Kate Smith (the same teacher in the prior chapter) is attracted to George Willard.  George is confused by Kate and unsure of her affection.  George also encounters the Reverend Hartman who is oddly speaking about Kate’s holiness.

In “Loneliness”, Enoch Robinson moves from Winesburg to New York, where he lives among imaginary friends that move out of his apartment after he tells his female neighbor about them.

In “An Awakening”, George Willard tries to talk to Belle Carpenter (whom he is dating) about a realization he has had.  However, Ed Handby, someone else interested in Belle beats up George.  Afterward, George notices that all the magic has vanished from an evening–and a town–that now seem “squalid and commonplace.”

In “Queer”, Elmer Cowley is an unsuccessful curiosity store owner’s son that feels judged as “odd” by Winesburg, and this sentiment manifests itself particularly through George Willard.  Elmer beats up George and jumps onto a passing train out of Winesburg.

In “The Untold Lie”, Hal Winters asks another farmhand named Ray Pearson (married with six children) for advice about whether to get married after getting a girl pregnant, causing Ray to reflect on his own marriage that disgusts him.  It turns out that Ray also got married when he got a girl pregnant.  Ray tells Hal not to get married and to stay free at whatever cost. Hal decides to marry the girl. As Ray walks home, a pleasant memory of his children seems to come to him, and he realizes that whatever he would have told Hal, “it would have been a lie.”

“Drink” is about Tom Foster’s first drunken experience.  George Willard happens to walk by Tom and Tom says that he has made love to Helen While.  George, who has feelings of his own for the girl, tries to quiet Tom, but Tom takes his hand and tells him that he is glad to be drunk because it has taught him something and allowed him to suffer like everyone else.

In “Death,” Elizabeth Willard and Doctor Reefy spend time together and begin to fall in love, as she slips toward death. She dies, finally, having never told of $800  that her father left her and she hid under a floorboard.  She dies before Doctor Reefy gets to see her before death and George decides to quit Winesburg forever.

In “Sophistication,” George and Helen White go out walking together on the night of the county fair, and run around like children as they are about to leave town. “For some reason they could not have explained, they had both got from their silent evening together the thing needed.”

The final story “Departure” is about leaving Winesburg for good, letting his life there “become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.”  As the train pulls away from the station, he leans back in his seat and remembers little details of life in Winesburg. When he looks up, the town has disappeared, and has “become but a background on which to paint the dreams of his manhood.”

Date Finished February 21, 2020

25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster

In E. M. Forster’s epic yet intimate 1924 novel, his last to be written and published in a long lifetime, a day trip to explore the enigmatic Marabar Caves explodes into accusations of sexual assault. Forster’s beautifully rendered characters illuminate the tensions of British-occupied India and make A Passage to India a work not only of historical impact but of deep humanity. Of Forster’s masterworks, including A Room with a View, Howards End, and the long-suppressed Maurice, A Passage to India may well be the richest and most ambitious. The Guardian recently described it as “a strangely timeless achievement . . . eerily prescient on the subject of empire.”
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26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James

Published in 1902 and set amid the splendor of fashionable London drawing rooms and gilded Venetian palazzos, The Wings of the Dove concerns a pair of lovers who conspire to obtain the fortune of Milly, a doomed American heiress. But the naïve young woman becomes both their victim and their redeemer in James’s meticulously designed drama of treachery and self-betrayal.  Writing in 1959, James Thurber described the book as “a kind of femme fatale of literature . . . a masterpiece.”Click here to read more about THE WINGS OF THE DOVE

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27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James

Henry James’s 1903 novel, written at the peak of “The Master’s” powers, follows the trip of Lewis Lambert Strether to Europe in pursuit of Chad, his widowed fiancée’s supposedly wayward son. Charged with bringing back the young man to the family business, Lewis soon encounters unexpected complications and a world of subtlety previously unknown to him. A finely drawn portrait of a man’s awakening to life, The Ambassadors is a timeless masterpiece of James’s late period, and the book that James himself considered his best.
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Characters
  • Lewis Lambert Strether – The 55 year old protagonist of the novel on a mission to return his fiancee’s son to run the family business.  As an editor of an intellectual magazine in Woollett, Massachusetts, Strether has learned as much about himself on his mission as he has about Chad.  Strether quickly realizes that his life in Woollett is a boring routine. At the end of the novel, Strether returns to Woollett, but his outlook on life is forever changed.
  • Chadwick Newsome – A handsome bachelor currently involved in a love affair with the older Madame Marie de Vionnet. Paris affects Chad only superficially, and he looks forward to returning home to Woollett after his enjoyable, but not profound, experience in Europe.

Themes Live life to the fullest

Americans abroad – some love the experience while others think they have all they need at home

Contrast of city (Paris – debauchery) versus Woollett, MA (puritan)

Summary Lambert Strether arrives in Europe with a purpose.  He is there earlier than Waymarsh, who will meet him at a hotel.   Strether is on a mission for Mrs. Newsome of Woollett Massachusetts, who has sent many letters that await Strether at the hotel.  While he wants to take in the city of London and the theater, he is there for a mission and not a holiday, or maybe it will be both.

Strether and Mrs. Newsom are connected in several ways.  She pays for a review of the arts for which Strether is the editor and is also his fiancée.  Strether is trying to retrieve Chad Newsome in part to demonstrate his loyalty to Mrs. Newsome.  The family wants Chad to return to run the family business and to marry Mamie Pocock, a bright pretty girl and also the sister of Jim Pocock.  While Strether says he has nothing to gain by returning Chad to Woollett, he has much to lose if he misses his errand.

Chad has been resident in Paris and seldom communicates with home.  Chad has darkened his widowed mother’s life.  Chad has had free use of the family money that comes from a family business – the article produced is of common domestic use, but it is never revealed.  Jim Pocock sits on the Board of that business.

As Strether gets more accustomed to Europe, he walks the Tuileries Garden and takes in the city, nostalgic for his youth and possibility, feeling young and free.  Visiting Boulevard Malsherbes, Chad’s apartment, Strether meets Charles Little Bilham, a short man who often goes by “Little Billham”.  Chad had traveled to Cannes a month ago but is expected back in a week.  Little Billham is an aspiring artist from the US.

Waymarsh and Strether meet afterward, and Waymarsh insists that Chad ought to go home.  Waymarsh is grouchy and not a fan of Europe.  The next day, Strether and Waymarsh meet Little Billham for breakfast, being introduced to Mrs. Barace, a friend of Little Billham who annoys Waymarsh.  The description of Chad the man at breakfast is different from the Chad that left for Europe years ago.

With Miss Gostrey, Strether visits the Louvre.  He discusses how Little Billham promised to write favorably of Strether, which will entice Chad to come back to Paris.  Miss Gostrey asks many questions, as she does throughout the book.  Later, Strether and Gostrey visit Little Billham’s studio, as Chad is funding Little Billham’s art show.

Gostrey invites Strether to the opera, and Waymarsh joins.  Miss Gostrey discusses how Chad has been playing the situation to his advantage.  During the performance, Chad arrives but nobody can speak for a half hour because the arrival was in the middle of the performance.  They left the play together and noticed Chad’s “awfully old gray hair”, and proposed that Chad should come home, a final break with Paris.  Chad challenges Strether by remarking that he would be bringing Chad home as a wedding president.

Chad tells Strether that he likes Paris itself and it isn’t necessarily a woman that is keeping him there, to which Strether says that there should be no reason not to return.  There are many reasons to pretend there isn’t a woman.  Chad has heard a lot about Mamie.  Gloriani the sculptor will have a party that Chad invites Strether to attend.  Strether is shocked that Chad keeps such important company.

Strether takes Billham aside and they discuss how Chad has changed.  He acknowledges a refined virtuous attachment, but doesn’t spell out what the relationship consists of.  A mother and daughter are that virtuous attachment.  Chad describes them as his best friends in the world.

They all meet at Gloriani’s party, where is Strether is introduced as one of Chad’s mother’s great friends.  Chad introduces Marie de Vionnet to Strether, and the two talk together.  She asks if Miss Gostrey has mentioned her.  They have known each other for many years.

Strether incorrectly believes Jeanne, the Countess’ daughter, is the object of Chad’s desire.  Miss Gostrey and Mme de Vionnet knew each other from school in Geneva.  Miss Gostrey mentioned that the Count De Vionnet is a brute, but that the two have not divorced and can’t.

Chad and Strether walk the Rue de Rivoli and discuss the fact that Paris has been good for Strether.  Mme de Vionnet asks Strether to delay Chad’s return.  They allude to Miss. Gostrey’s disappearance from Paris.  It is in Strether’s hands to save Chad from returning.  Strether committed to try.  He spoke with Billham, and Strether recognized his attachment to the de Vionnets.

Strether reflected introspectively by visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral.  There he saw a lady in a chapel that was fixed in place until she recognized him; it was Mme. de Vionnet.  They went to a café together afterward.  Strether explained to Mme. De Vionnet how he communicated favorably about her to Mrs. Newsome.  She pleaded with Strether to stay in Paris, to which Strether replies that his work is done.  Strether thinks it is important that Mrs. Newsome see the great changes in Chad.

Part II of the book focuses on Strether’s realization that it is important to live while you can.

Strether gets a telegram to return to Woollett by the first ship, and shares the telegram with Chad in which the family communicated that they are on their way. Waymarsh had written as an agent against Strether.  While Chad is ready to go back, Strether isn’t ready and he asks Chad to stay abroad for a while.  And Miss Gostrey speculates that Mamie is the tool that Woollett chooses to make that happen.

Chad then received a telegram saying that the Pococks were on their way. And while

Strether sent a lot of letters, he received none.

Awaiting the arrival of the Pococks, Strether had breakfast with Waymarsh, who appeared at breakfast one day -sheepish and uneasy.  Waymarsh says that native reinforcements will ease his time abroad.  The relationship between Waymarsh and Strether was challenged.

Strether tried to visit Mme de Vionnet, but she is away in the country for three days.  He wanted to speak with her.  Sara is not going to be open to meeting or therefore liking Mme de Vionnet.  Strether and Jim rode together.  Jim says that he is on the trip to enjoy himself.  Jim says he wouldn’t give up Europe to return to the business.  Jim implies that things look bad from Woollett and that Strether is having too much fun in Europe.  Jim therefore sees an opportunity to see the varieties or the follies.

Strether visited Sara at the hotel.  Mme. De Vionnet was visiting Sara without Chad, offering advice that Sara was not open to receiving.  Strether finds he has to defend his relationship with Miss Gostrey.  Sara has plans for other countries and is only in Paris a short time. Mrs. Newsome was not strong enough for a sea crossing.

Unknown to Strether, Waymarsh and Sara had become good friends – “native reinforcements”.  Meanwhile, Strether and Mme. De Vionnet discuss Jeanne getting married, with Chad planning a lot of the event.  Strether realized that Chad had different intentions about returning home.

Strether tried to visit Sara again.  He ended up seeing Mamie instead of Sara.  Mamie said that she found Billham enchanting and that she adores the others, including Chad who she likes as a brother.  Sara mentions that any man is nice when he is in love.  And when Strether asks her if he is nice, she answers that the question is whether Strether is still in love.

Strether and Billham discuss how Mamie is interested in Billham.  Strether gives fatherly advice to Billham, lecturing him about living all he can.  It is a mistake not to.  Strether sees himself as old now so he encourages Billham to live.

Waymarsh delivers news to Strether that Sara would like him to meet her before she leaves for Switzerland.  Waymarsh tells him not to do anything he’d be sorry for.  Sara arrives, dressed for battle and then treats Strether rudely.  Chad informed Sara that he would leave in a moment if Strether gives the word.  Sara said to consider this the “word”.  Sara accuses Strether of exposing the family to humiliation.  She says that her instructions from Mrs. Newsome are her affair and that his conduct is an outrage.  She implies to Strether that Madame de Vionnet is not as good a woman as Sara and Mrs. Newsome.  Sara says that the most distinguished woman in the world sits insulted in her loneliness by incredible comparison to Mme. De Vionnet.

Chad told Strether how he told Sara to see Strether.  Strether describes how Sara was after him and not Chad.  Chad encourages Strether not to give up money (a good deal of it).  Sara hates Chad in Paris.  Strether remained independent for days introspective, relying on nobody to discuss his thoughts.  He appreciated the countryside and walked along the town.  He decided he would stay at a little place where he could rent a room.  Another couple was also staying in the same place and places were set for them to have dinner, but they were out on a boat.  As the boat advanced around a bend, the figures became more recognizable.  The figures seemed to recognize him.  It was Mme. De Vionnet and Chad.  It was a coincidence and Strether had wondered whether he was imagining that the couple was them.

While Strether had arranged a carriage after dinner to catch a train to Paris, it becomes obvious that the couple did not intend to leave that evening.  Strether feels bad for interrupting their last time together.  Mme. De Vionnet has a discussion with Strether once back in Paris.  She wants Strether to stay so they can all get together.  Where is his home now?  His life has been changed.  She recognizes that she is the loser in the end.

Strether visits Chad at midnight.  He tells Chad that he can’t forsake Mme. De Vionnet.  Chad has been away in London.  Strether doesn’t want Chad to be flippant about her.  Chad is discussing advertising.  There is a lot of money in advertising.

Strether and Miss Gostrey have a last encounter.  He asks for guidance.  He realizes that he should have seen something was going on.  He is returning home, and Miss Gostrey asks what he is going home to?  There is nothing she wouldn’t do for him.  He must go to be right.  He has been an ambassador for others and not for himself.  Strether chooses to return to the United States.

Date Finished September 5, 2020

28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott Fitzgerald’s final completed novel, Tender Is the Night, follows the charming American couple Dick and Nicole Diver—loosely based on real-life 1920s socialites Gerald and Sara Murphy—as they cavort around the French Riviera. One summer, Dick and Nicole befriend a young American actress named Rosemary Hoyt, but their idyllic life is threatened when the truth behind Dick and Nicole’s marriage is revealed. Fitzgerald claimed that this was his favorite of all his works, writing in a friend’s copy, “If you liked The Great Gatsby, for God’s sake read this. Gatsby was a tour de force but this is a confession of faith.”
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Characters
  • Rosemary Hoyt is an 18-year-old movie starlet vacationing in the French Riviera and falls in love with Dick Diver.
  • Dick Diver is a handsome American psychologist in his 30s.  He was a son of a clergyman on his way to success but falls to his ruin after marrying Nicole.
  • Nicole Diver is Dick’s wife who seems extraordinary with grace and sophistication.  She comes from a wealthy family and has a tragic past.
  • Tommy Barban is a half-American half-French mercenary soldier in love with Nicole.  He ultimately takes her from Dick.
  • Abe North is Dick’s best friend, a brilliant musician that drinks away his career and is killed in a speakeasy.
  • Mary North is Abe’s’ wife that marries a wealthy Compte di Minghetti after Abe dies.  There is a weird bath incident with dirty water that is an affront to Nicole.
  • Baby Warren is Nicole’s Anglophile sister.
  • Franz Gregorovius is Dr. Gregory, Dick’s clinic partner.
  • Devereu Warren is the wealthy father of Nicole and Baby, a sexual abuser who put his daughter in a metal clinic.
  • Albert McKisco is an obnoxious American intellectual with an inferiority complex who establishes himself as a prize author.  He had a duel with Tommy Barban
  • Violet McKisco is Albert’s obnoxious wife.
  • Collis Clay is Rosemary’s friend that gossips about Rosemary and rescues Dick from prison
  • Jules Peterson is a black man killed in Rosemary’s room in Paris on account of Abe North’s drunkenness.
  • Lanier and Topsy are Dick and Nicole’s children
  • Dr. Dohmler is a psychologist that tries to steer Dick away from Nicole.
Themes

The cultural world of mannered aristocracy

Definitions of fame and success

Tragedy of mental illness

Social class

Sexual abuse

Codependent love

Summary Rosemary discovers Dick comforting Nicole during a nervous breakdown.

Dick attended Yale, was a Rhodes Scholar and moved to Vienna to study clinical psychology.  Dick met Nicole; a 10-year-old who was being checked into the clinic he was leaving.

Nicole was a Chicago heiress who had been sexually abused by her father (Devereux) and developed a fear of men.  Dick and Nicole fell in love, with Dick eventually serving as both Doctor and husband.  They travel extensively and have two children.

Nicole relapses, so they buy a clinic in Switzerland.  Dick is accused of infidelity by a former patient, so Nicole runs their car off the road with jealousy (the story is not true).  Dick’s father dies in America, so he goes to the funeral.  Dick meets Rosemary at a hotel and they consummate the romance that they started a few years before.  Dick starts carousing, gets drunk, gets beat up and imprisoned and must be rescued by Baby Warren, Nicole’s sister.

As he drinks more, Dick is eventually asked to leave the clinic.  The Divers return to the Riviera, where Dick continues to drink and unravel, insulting their old friends.

Nicole has an affair with Tommy Barban and asks Dick for a divorce so she can marry Tommy.  Dick readily agrees.  Nicole overcame her psychological condition.  Dick disappears to America and settles into smaller and smaller towns, never settling down.

Date Finished March 21, 2020

29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell

Written during the Great Depression, these three novels (Young Lonigan; The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan; Judgment Day) follow their eponymous hero as he roams through raw, energetic, 1930s-era Chicago, complete with the American Nazi Party headquarters, the White Sox, and the stockyards. The first volume, Young Lonigan, was considered so incendiary when it was first published that it was issued in a wrapper identifying it as a “clinical document” to be read only by social workers and psychologists.
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30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford

The Ashburnhams and the Dowells are wealthy, charming, and refined. They have been close friends for years. Their lives are apparently perfect. But in this short novel set just before World War I, nothing is what it seems. Told by an unreliable narrator, with a nonlinear plot, this portrait of Edwardian society is, says Jane Smiley, “a masterpiece, almost a perfect novel” that depicts “the world of Jane Austen a hundred years on, depopulated, lonely, and dark.”
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31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell

This short novel, set on an English farm, is an allegory about the Soviet Union and its transition from an idealistic workers’ revolution to a brutal dictatorship. The young pigs Snowball and Napoleon lead a revolution, ousting the farmer in favor of animal self-rule. Their new regime is based on one core principle: “All animals are equal.” Complete with a wise donkey, rebellious hens, and suspiciously urbane pigs, this book is considered one of the best satires of all time.
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Characters
  • Old Major – prize boar that drams of a farm without humans to oppress and control the animals
  • Boxer – an old cart horse that continually works harder, bringing out his own death
  • Snowball – a boar that teaches animals to read
  • Napoleon – a boar that teaches puppies to become attack dogs
Themes Political power and oppression – Boxer represents the working class that is often illiterate and trusting.  Political power is always the same – the powerful are liars and manipulators.  The corrupting nature of power dooms all political systems to failure.
Summary When Old Major dies, three boars named Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer formulate Old Major’s dream into a philosophy called “animalism”.  After beating their owner Mr. Jones in battle, they rename the farm to “Animal Farm”.  Snowball teaches animals to read, and wants a windmill to power the farm.  Napoleon secretly teaches the puppies, turning them into attack dogs.  Snowball and Napoleon struggle for power and influence, until Napoleon’s puppies drive Snowball from the farm, blaming Snowball for sabotaging the windmill that was eventually built.  Eventually, any animal that opposes Napoleon meets instant death.  And Napoleon starts to sleep in a bed, drink, trade with humans etc., eventually walking upright, carrying whips and wearing clothes.  After Boxer works hard constructing a new windmill, Napoleon sells Boxer to a glue maker but lies to the other animals and says Boxer died in peace.  Song called the “Beasts of England”, which was a motivator for the animals is forgotten and the seven principals of animalism are reduced to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.  Napoleon renames Animal Farm to “Manor Farm”.  Eventually, nobody can tell the difference between the pigs and the humans.
Date Finished February 11, 2020

32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James

The Golden Bowl is the story of the rich American Adam Verver, and his daughter, Maggie. The two fall in love—Adam with Maggie’s friend Charlotte, and Maggie with Prince Amerigo, an impoverished Italian prince—unaware that Charlotte and Prince Amerigo are former lovers. The story is one of passion, betrayal, and manipulation, told in James’s signature elaborate style. Gore Vidal wrote that The Golden Bowl “is a story radiant with the art of a master fulfilled; and dark with the profound knowledge of how force [in this case, money] is motor to all our lives.”
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33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser

Sister Carrie transformed the conventional “fallen woman” story into a bold and truly innovative piece of fiction when it appeared in 1900. Naïve young Caroline Meeber, a small-town girl seduced by the lure of the modern city, becomes the mistress of a traveling salesman and then of a saloon manager, who elopes with her to New York. Both its subject matter and Dreiser’s unsparing, nonjudgmental approach made Sister Carrie a controversial book in its time, and the work retains the power to shock readers today.Click here to read more about SISTER CARRIE

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Characters
  • Carrie Meeber rises from an 18-year old low paid wage earner to a high paid actress. She is from Wisconsin but ends up in Chicago, New York, London, and back to New York.
  • George Hurstwood is an upper middle class manager who falls from a comfortable lifestyle to a man of the streets.
  • Charlie Drouet is a traveling salesman that introduces himself to Carrie on a train traveling from Waukesha, Wisconsin to Chicago.

Both main characters earn their fate through random circumstances

Themes

·      Identities are constantly changing

·      Modern American Experience

·      Developing a career in a capitalist economy

·      Conspicuous consumption – accumulation of material things is the surest route to high status.

·      A crime is in getting caught – not the act itself!

Summary Carrie Meeber leaves home with $4 and her sister’s address in Chiacago.  She meets Charlie Drouet, a traveling salesman, on the train from Waukesha, Wisconsin to Chicago.  She is carrying a cheap imitation alligator skin satchel and yellow snap purse and is trying to make a start in life.  Carrie’s sister Minnie and her husband Hanson are not very nice hosts; they immediately want Carrie to provide income.  After searching for a job, Carrie takes employment in a shoe factory because she has no relevant experience to land another job.  Employees eye Carrie as they would a commodity.  Carrie finds it ironic that she is making shoes that she can’t even afford.  Money and earning power seem to govern relationships between family members throughout the book.

Drouet goes to Fitzgerald and Moys, an upscale salon where George Hurstwood is the manager.  Soon after, Carrie encounters Drouet on the street and he takes her to lunch and gives her $20 and buys her new clothes  Drouet offers to rent a room for her.  She leaves her sister a note and departs and they never meet again.  Drouet invites Hurstwood to play cards and to introduce Carrie.  Drouet tries to appear wealthier than he really is.

We learn more about Hurstwood’s wife Julia, who hopes that their daughter Jessica will marry rich.  Around this time in the novel, Drouet doesn’t marry Carrie because he is still wrapping up a real estate deal (and always has an excuse).  Hurstwood meanwhile starts to fall for Carrie.  Drouet is boring by comparison.  Hurstwood is too busy at work to join outings with his wife, but thinks of an affair as a threat to his job and livelihood  (rather than a threat to his marriage!).  While Carrie is unhappy that she doesn’t have nice clothes, Julia wants a whole greater level of luxuries – European trips.

The more each character pretends to play his role, the harder it s to know what is really genuine.

Hurstwood confesses his love for Carrie.  Drouet figures out about the affair over time.  There is some foreshadowing when, at a theater, a beggar asks for money.  Drouet gies money, Hurstwood doesn’t notice, and Carrie forgets.  Hurstwood’s family takes constant advantage of the lifestyle that Hurstwood offers them.  Drouet’s Elk Lodge has a furniture fundraiser play.  Carrie Madena is born.  This will protect her reputation if she is a failure.  The book implies that a woman only has social standing when a man desires her.  After a flop of a start to the play in which Carrie is performing, she becomes more comfortable and has a big finish.  Hurstwood and Drouet suddenly both become more serious in their attraction to her.

A chambermaid reveals the affair to Drouet.  Julia learns of the affair also, and a divorce ensues.  Julia had all of the couple’s property in her name and she threatens to reveal his affair at work, which would destroy his career.

After Carrie cuts off her ties with Droiet and Hurstwood, Hurstwood can’t be without her.  He steals $10,000 from a safe at work.  He flees and tells Carrie that Drouet is in the hospital.  They go to Montreal together, where a detective spots him.  Hurstwood then sends $9,500 back to avoid arrest.

Hurstwood purchases a one-third share in a small New York saloon, but it is not a good business and it fails.  He must learn to live on a small amount of money.  Mrs. Vance, a neighbor in New York, like Carrie and introduces her to her cousin Mr. Ames, who is charming and wealthy.  Hurstwood deteriorates and had not job.  He reads newspapers all day.  Carrie becomes a chorus girl for $12 a week and keeps getting better and being paid a  larger salary.  Carrie meets Lola, another performer, and shares an apartment with her.  She borrows $25 and give Hurstwood $20 before leaving him, effectively paying him pack the initial $20 he gave her.

Hurstwood gets ill and becomes a beggar.  Jessica marries a wealthy man.  Hurstwood commits suicide by leaving the gas on in a motel.  Carrie’s success gros but she suffers from unsatisfied desires.  She never learns of Hurstwood’s death.  Mrs. Vance seeks Carrie’s acquaintances after ignoring her.

Date Finished June 4, 2020

34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh

The title is a reference to a line from T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” (“I will show you fear in a handful of dust”) in this satire about a disaffected country squire who travels to the Brazilian jungle in order to find a meaningful life. In 2010 Time magazine named A Handful of Dust to its list of “All-Time 100 Best Novels” and wrote: “If this is Waugh at his bleakest, it’s also Waugh at his deepest, most poisonously funny.”
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35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner

In this harrowing stream-of-consciousness novel, Faulkner tells the story of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Narrated in turn by each of the family members—including Addie herself from beyond the grave—As I Lay Dying is a complex chorus of familial love and angst. Faulkner said of the novel that he “set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force,” and this family saga, which he wrote in just six weeks, certainly fits the bill.

Click here to read more about AS I LAY DYING

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36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren

Winner of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize, All the King’s Men is the story of the populist politician Willie Stark, as narrated by the reporter Jack Burden. Burden watches as Willie Stark rises to power, changing as he does from a naïve idealist to a charismatic, powerful, and corrupt state governor. Most people assume that Willie Stark was based on real-life politician Huey Long, a controversial senator who was assassinated in 1935, but Warren always disavowed any resemblance between the two.
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37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder

Winner of the 1928 Pulitzer Prize, The Bridge of San Luis Rey takes a single event—a bridge collapsing on July 20, 1714—and expands it into a meditation on life and faith. A monk named Brother Juniper witnesses the collapse and, curious about why God would allow such a tragedy, decides to compile a book about the five people who died in an attempt to understand God’s purpose.  A novella that carries the emotional weight of a much longer book, The Bridge of San Luis Rey was a bestseller when it was published and has never been out of print.
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38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster

Howards End, a story about who would inhabit a charming old country house (and who, in a larger sense, would inherit England), was the novel that earned E. M. Forster recognition as a major writer. Centered on the conflict between the wealthy, materialistic Wilcox family and the cultured, idealistic Schlegel sisters—and informed by Forster’s famous dictum “Only connect”—it is full of tenderness. Zadie Smith’s novel On Beauty is an homage to Howards End, with aspects of the plot and various characters drawn straight from Forster’s original.
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39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain, published in 1953, is Baldwin’s first major work, a novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles one day in the life of a fourteen-year-old boy. 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. “Mountain, Baldwin said, “is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else.”Click here to read more about GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

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40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene

Major Henry Scobie is an assistant police commissioner for a West African colony. Disillusioned but compassionate, he leads a quiet existence married to a woman he does not love. But when a new police inspector and a young widow arrive in town, the resulting love triangles and dilemmas will up-end his life. Generally considered Greene’s masterpiece, The Heart of the Matter was an immediate bestseller, selling 300,000 copies in the UK alone. In 1948, The New York Times raved: “From first page to last, this record of one man’s breakdown on a heat-drugged fever-coast makes its point as a crystal-clear allegory—and as an engrossing novel.”
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41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding

A group of British schoolboys are marooned on an island with no grown-ups. At first, they enjoy their freedom. But the realization that there are no rules, and the ensuing struggle for order and dominance, transforms this book into a brutal story about human nature. Written while Golding was teaching at a boys’ grammar school, The Lord of the Flies was famously dismissed by an editor as an “absurd and uninteresting fantasy . . . Rubbish & dull. Pointless.” However, a younger editor at the same publishing house disagreed, and the book was published in 1954. Since then it has sold over 10 million copies.
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42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey

Famously made into a 1972 film with Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, this story of a weekend canoe trip gone horribly, horribly wrong won critical acclaim when it was first published. The New York Times Book Review praised it as “a novel that will curl your toes . . . Dickey’s canoe rides to the limits of dramatic tension,” The New Yorker called it “a brilliant and breathtaking adventure,” and The New Republic called it “a tour de force.” It is impossible to put down and terrifying to read.Click here to read more about DELIVERANCE

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Characters
  • Ed Gentry is a graphic artist and the narrator of the book.
  • Bobby Trippe is an insurance salesman.
  • Drew Ballinger is a soft drink executive.
  • Lewis Medlock is a landlord and the driving force behind the trip.
Themes Masculinity – Lewis is an athletic outdoorsman and is tall, muscular, good-looking and seemingly capable of handling any natural emergency that may arise.  The fact that two of the men are raped by low-life unfit men calls into question many facets of masculinity.

Effects of civilization on society – city versus country and survival instincts

Rites of passage –

Summary Four men plan a weekend canoe trip on the Cahulawassee River in North Georgia wilderness.  The river valley will soon be flooded by a dam to create a reservoir.

At a gas station, Drew plays a guitar duet with Lonnie, a local boy that plays banjo.  Lonnie is an intellectually disabled, albino, inbred musical savant.

The men arrange with the Griner brothers, mechanics, to drive their cars to Aintry, where the men can retrieve their cars after their canoe voyage.

Ed awakens and goes hunting with his bow and arrow.  He shoots and misses a deer at the last minute because he loses his nerve.

Ed and Bobby set off in one canoe ahead of Lewis and Drew.  Two mountain men attack Bobby and Ed in the woods.  They tie Ed to a tree and cut him.  They then strip Bobby from the waist down and the older man violently rapes him, causing Bobby to scream.  Lewis and Drew hear the scream.  The other mountain man prepares to have Ed perform fellatio on him.  Lewis shoots the old guy with an arrow before it can happen.  Ed snatches the gun and the hillbilly dies.

Lewis wants to bury the body.  Bobby is worried that others will learn what happened and agrees to bury the body.  Drew wants to tell the authorities, but they decide to bury the body instead.

Drew falls out of a canoe in the falls and drowns.  Lewis breaks his leg and the canoe breaks apart.

Lewis declares that that Drew was shot by the escaped hillbilly.  Ed decides to climb the gorge to kill the remaining hillbilly.  Ed shoots him from a tree.  Ed gorges himself with an arrow when he falls from the tree escaping a gunshot.  Ed lowers the body from a cliff.  The dead body falls on its face.  The men weight and sink the corpse.  Ed throws any remaining evidence in the river.  They later find Drew’s body and sink it because the shot shows on his body and would ruin their alibi.

The men arrive at Aintry and say that they suffered a canoeing accident and Drew must have drowned.  Fragments of the wooden canoe were then found to be recovered a day earlier than the accident occurred, so they modify their story.

The Deputy Sheriff is highly suspicious of the men’s story because his brother-in-law is one of the missing hillbillies.  He assumes that men must have something to do with the disappearance.

After no sign of foul play after dragging the river, the Sheriff lets the men go.

Ed returns to city life.  The river is ultimately dammed.  And Bobby moves to Hawaii because he would always look like dead weight and remember the screaming.

Date Finished March 17, 2020

43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell

Inspired by the sixteenth-century painting by Nicolas Poussin, this series of novels chronicles one man’s life. Published from 1951 to 1975, these novels were critical darlings, with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. proclaiming them “an unsurpassed picture, at once gay and melancholy, of social and artistic life in Britain between the wars.” An excellent book for fans of Evelyn Waugh or Edward St. Aubyn’s “Patrick Melrose” novels.
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44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley

Point Counter Point follows a large cast of characters, many based on people Huxley actually knew, as they argue and sleep with one another. The title references musical counterpoint, a compositional technique that relies on melodic interaction to make independent voices or chords sound harmonic together—and, similarly, Huxley attempted to create a harmonic whole with independent characters, instead of a unifying plot. The storylines are linked but not always easy to follow; still, it is a humorous if dry satire of 1920s intellectual life.
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45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway

Perhaps the ultimate novel of the “Lost Generation,” The Sun Also Rises is the story of WWI veteran Jake Barnes, the beautiful and seductive Lady Brett Ashley, and the raucous café society of 1920s Paris. Written in Hemingway’s signature terse style, and populated by characters based on people Hemingway knew, the book came out to mixed reviews. Some critics found the characters unlikable, and older critics especially disliked Hemingway’s spare prose. Nevertheless, the book was a bestseller, making Hemingway famous, and it inspired a generation of readers and writers.
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46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad

One of Joseph Conrad’s most accessible novels, The Secret Agent is the chilling story of a terrorist plot. Based loosely on the failed Greenwich bombing of 1894, this short novel follows  Adolf Verloc, who appears to be a successful businessman, happily married and living in London, but is in fact an anarchist spy for an unnamed country. The New York Times called The Secret Agent “the most brilliant novelistic study of terrorism as viewed from the blood-spattered outside.”Click here to read more about THE SECRET AGENT

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47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad

Originally published in 1904, Nostromo is considered Conrad’s supreme achievement. Set in the imaginary South American republic of Costaguana, the novel reveals the effects of unbridled greed and imperialist interests on many different lives. Although each character’s potential for good is ultimately corrupted, Nostromo underscores Conrad’s belief in fidelity, moral discipline, and the need for human communion. The author himself described the book as “an intense creative effort on what I suppose will remain my largest canvas.”Click here to read more about NOSTROMO

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48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence

The Rainbow is the epic story of three generations of the Brangwens, a Midlands family. A visionary novel, it explores the complex sexual and psychological relationships between men and women in an increasingly industrialized world. Originally published in England in 1915, The Rainbow was the subject of an obscenity trial, as a result of which over a thousand copies were burned. Although it was available in the United States, it would be banned in England for many years.Click here to read more about THE RAINBOW

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49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence

A sequel to The Rainbow, Women in Love is D. H. Lawrence’s magnificent exploration of human sexuality in the days surrounding World War I. The story of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, Women in Love illuminates their characters and their relationships with the men that they love. The character of Ursula was based on Lawrence’s wife, Frieda, and Gudrun was loosely based on the writer Katherine Mansfield.Click here to read more about WOMEN IN LOVE

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50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller

Often described as lewd, outrageous, and pornographic, Tropic of Cancer is the story of Henry Miller, a writer living in Paris. Blurring the line between fact and fiction, this novel was banned in the United States until an obscenity trial in 1961. The trial went all the way up to the Supreme Court, which overturned a lower court’s ruling in 1964, allowing the book to be published in the United States. Norman Mailer called Tropic of Cancer “one of the ten or twenty great novels of our century, a revolution in consciousness equal to The Sun Also Rises.”
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Characters
  • Henry Miller is an impoverished writer that demands personal freedom and frequents prostitutes.
  • Collins is a drunken sailor that takes care of ill Henry.
  • Tania is a lover of Henry.  She is a beautiful Russian woman married to Sylvester.
  • Carl is a friend of Henry that is a complaining writer who is very negative and frequents prostitutes
  • Boris is a friend who is an intellectual writer that hates his wife and resents other writers.  He fades out of Henry’s life.
  • Fillmore is an American diplomat and heavy drinker that is rescued by Henry from fiancée
  • Mona is Henry’s wife, an elegant but poor woman that sends money to Henry from America
  • Van Norden is Henry’s friend that is a self-loathing writer and sex addict, misogynist and pessimist.
Themes Sex is like war – meaningless, mechanical and without emotion

Poverty and disease – starving artist and filth and despair

Writing and art – uninhibited self-expression

Death and dying – civilization has gone mad – reborn through art

Summary This book is largely responsible for free speech that we take for granted in literature.  It provoked obscenity trials in the 1960s.  In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the book is not obscene.

Set in France in the 1920s and 1930s, the story centers on Miller’s life as a struggling writer.  The book combined autobiography with fiction.  IT is immersive meditation on the human conditions.

Miller describes his experience of living among a community of Bohemians in Paris, where Miller suffers from hunger and homelessness, squalor, loneliness and despair over recent separation from his wife.

There are many sexual encounters.

Boris is a friend that rents rooms at the Villa Borghese.

Carl is a writer friend that complains about positive people, about Paris and about writing (he has a rich girlfriend)

Collins is a Sailor that befriends Fillmore and Miller

Fillmore is a young man in diplomatic service and invites Miller to stay with him

Mona is the estranged wife (2nd) in America

Tania is married to Sylvester

VanNorden is sexually corrupt – total lack of empathy for women – uses the C*** word a lot.

Date Finished May 6, 2020

51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer

Based on Mailer’s own experiences during World War II, The Naked and the Dead is the story of a U.S. platoon in the Philippines. Mailer’s decision to use a range of characters instead of a single hero was inspired by Leo Tolstoy; Mailer used to read parts of Anna Karenina every morning, before he worked on his own writing. Perhaps as a result, he felt that The Naked and the Dead was “the greatest war novel since War and Peace.”
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52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth

A long monologue delivered by Alexander Portnoy to his psychologist, many U.S. libraries banned the book because of its unbelievably frank and incredibly detailed accounts of the female form, masturbation, and fellatio (among other things). The literary critic Irving Howe dismissed the book as “vulgar” and claimed that “the cruelest thing anyone can do with Portnoy’s Complaint is to read it twice.” But the novel was a literary sensation, selling millions of copies and making Philip Roth a household name overnight.
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53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov

Pale Fire is a stylistic masterpiece in true Nabokovian fashion: a 999-line poem by reclusive genius John Shade with an adoring foreword and commentary by Shade’s self-styled Dr. Boswell, Charles Kinbote, adding up to a satiric novel of literature and intrigue. Nabokov loved wordplay, and this novel shows his skills at their finest. While Time initially dismissed Pale Fire as “an exercise in agility – or perhaps bewilderment,” this did not prevent the magazine from naming it one of their top 100 English-language novels, and it remains one of Nabokov’s most popular works to date.
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54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner

Light in August, 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. The book was originally called Dark House, but Faulkner changed it to Light in August, based on a comment that his wife made.Click here to read more about LIGHT IN AUGUST

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55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

A loosely fictionalized version of Kerouac’s road trips with Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty, in the novel), this novel’s tone captures the wild rhythm of life on the road. Jack Kerouac described On the Road as “a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him.” When Kerouac delivered his 120-foot-long scroll of a manuscript to his publisher, Robert Giroux, he supposedly unfurled the scroll and “tossed it right across the office like a piece of celebration confetti.”
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56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett

When Sam Spade is hired by the sultry, gorgeous Miss Wonderly to track down her little sister, he does not realize that he’s been brought into the search for an incredibly valuable figurine of a falcon. But as events unfold (and the body count rises), it becomes clear that Spade can trust no one—least of all his beautiful client. The Maltese Falcon is the detective novel that introduced the archetype of the world-weary, cynical private detective to a wide audience, and the 1941 movie based on the novel (starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor) is considered the first major film noir.
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57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford

Set before, during, and slightly after World War I, Parade’s End is the story of Christopher Tietjens, whose decency is consistently taken advantage of by his beautiful and devious wife Sylvia. When Tietjens meets Valentine Wannop, a suffragette with an independent spirit, the stage is set for a love triangle that touches on class, money, and a changing world.
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58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton

Newland Archer saw little to envy in the marriages of his friends, yet he prided himself that in May Welland he had found the perfect woman—tender and impressionable, with equal purity of mind and manners. Enter Countess Olenska, a woman of quick wit sharpened by experience, determined to find freedom in divorce. Against his judgment, Newland is drawn to the socially ostracized Ellen Olenska. He knows that he can expect stability and comfort in a marriage with sweet-tempered May. But what new worlds could he discover with Ellen? Written with elegance and wry precision, this is a Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece and a tragic love story.Click here to read more about THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

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59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm

Written in 1911, just before World War I, the various absurdities of plot and all of the characters are best seen as a satire of Downton Abbey–era society, class, and wealth. A beautiful young woman goes to Oxford and meets the handsome, rich, and snobbish Duke of Dorset. He proposes, and Zuleika, believing that she can only love someone who doesn’t love her, refuses him. More men fall in love with Zuleika, and chaos is unleashed in suitably ridiculous, Oscar Wilde­–ish fashion. The Guardian called Zuleika Dobson “the finest, and darkest kind of satire: as intoxicating as champagne, as addictive as morphine.”Click here to read more about ZULEIKA DOBSON

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60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy

Binx Bolling is a young Korean War veteran, adrift in his own life. He goes to movies and has a series of meaningless flings with his secretaries. But in this laconic novel, this premise expands to become a meditation on emotion and self-examination. Walker Percy won the National Book Award for The Moviegoer, beating the following nominees, among others: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger, and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.
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61. DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP by Willa Cather

Based on the life of Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the first archbishop of the (newly created) diocese of New Mexico, Death Comes for the Archbishop portrays the clash between Old World, New World, and Native American culture. Cather’s love for American land shines through the beautiful prose as the reader moves from scene to scene, following hero Jean Marie Latour as he wrestles with corruption and the requirements of his mission.
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62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones

Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941: Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler. But when he refuses to join the company’s boxing team, he gets “the treatment” that may break him or kill him. First Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden knows how to soldier better than almost anyone, yet he’s risking his career to have an affair with the commanding officer’s wife.  In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier’s life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence, and passions of men and women in the most important American novel to come out of World War II, a masterpiece that captures as no other the honor and savagery of men.Click here to read more about FROM HERE TO ETERNITY

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63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever

Winner of the 1958 National Book Award, The Wapshot Chronicle is the story of Moses and Coverly Wapshot, two brothers growing up in the fictional New England town of St. Botolphs, Massachusetts. Both brothers wrestle with the lessons and expectations of their father, and both struggle to create their own identity away from St. Botolphs. A story of eccentric, warm characters in an archetypal Massachusetts fishing community, The Wapshot Chronicle established John Cheever as a novelist (he had previously focused on short stories) and a humorist.
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64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is Holden Caulfield, a sixteen-year-old who leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. As we spend time in his head, we see him experience the pain and pleasure of adolescence, and the particular ache of finding one’s place in the world. Holden Caulfield made his first appearance in the short story “Slight Rebellion off Madison,” which was published in The New Yorker in 1946. Among the book’s many fans is Bill Gates, who proclaimed it his favorite read.
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65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess

In A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess depicts a dystopian future where gangs of teenage criminals rule the streets; among them a fifteen-year-old “droog” named Alex. Narrated in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology, Alex’s story is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. Burgess has offered several explanations for the meaning of the novel’s mysterious title—from East London Cockney slang to a pun on the Malay word “orang,” meaning “man,” to an oxymoronic juxtaposition of the mechanical and the organic.
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66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham

Originally published in 1915, this story of infatuation begins with Philip Carey, a sensitive boy raised by a religious aunt and uncle. Philip yearns for adventure, and at eighteen leaves home to pursue a career as an artist in Paris. When he returns to London to study medicine, he meets the androgynous but alluring Mildred and begins a love affair that will change the course of his life. “Here is a novel of the utmost importance,” wrote Theodore Dreiser on the book’s publication. “One feels as though one were sitting before a splendid Shiraz of priceless texture and intricate weave, admiring, feeling, responding sensually to its colors and tones.”Click here to read more about OF HUMAN BONDAGE

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67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad

Originally published in 1902, and written several years after Conrad’s grueling sojourn in the Belgian Congo, the novel tells the story of Marlow, a seaman who undertakes his own journey into the African jungle to find the tormented white trader Kurtz. Rich in irony and spellbinding prose, Heart of Darkness is a complex meditation on colonialism, evil, and the thin line between civilization and barbarity. The basis for Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now, Heart of Darkness remains one of the most searing and relevant books of the twentieth century.Click here to read more about HEART OF DARKNESS

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  • Marlow is an introspective sailor who takes a journey up the Congo River to meet Kurtz, an idealistic man of great abilities.  As a kid Marlow was fascinated by the blank spaces on the map of Africa.
Themes Hypocrisy of imperialism

Madness as a result of imperialism

Absurdity of evil – hypocrisy, ambiguity, and moral confusion

futility – European presence in Africa

Contradiction and ambivalence

Hollowness – hollow emptiness = imperialism robbed Europeans of their moral substance.

Kurtz painted a woman draped and blindfolded carrying a lighted torch.

Summary Marlow takes a job at a Belgian concern trading in the Congo.  There is widespread inefficiency and brutality in the Company’s stations.  Natives are forced into the company’s service and suffer terribly from overwork and ill treatment at the hand of the company’s agents.  Cruelty and squalor of imperial enterprises contrasts sharply with the impassive and majestic jungle that surrounds the white man’s settlements, like tiny islands among a vast darkness.  At Central Station, General Manager is not wholesome and is conspiratorial.

Steamship has been sunk and will take months for parts to repair it.  Manager and brickmaker fear that Kurtz is a threat to their position.  Kurtz is rumored to be ill.

Marlow sets out with a few agents and the manager and some cannibals.  They are pilgrims that carry long wooden staves.

Marlow and crew come across a hut with stacked firewood with a note saying to approach cautiously.

The ship is attacked by a band of natives firing arrows from the forest, killing the African helmsman.  Marlow frightens the natives with the ship’s steam whistle.  They arrive at Kurtz’s inner station.

A Russian trader had left firewood – claims Kirtz has enlarged his mind and cannot be subjected to the same moral judgements as normal people.

Kurtz has established himself as a God with natives and has gone on brutal raids in surrounding territory in search for ivory.

Severed heads adorn fence posts.

Manager brings Kurtz aboard steamer while Kurtz’s mistress, a native woman, appears on shore and stares out at the ship.  The Russian reveals that Kurtz ordered an attack on the steamer to make them believe he was dead.  The Russian leaves by canoe.  Kurtz disappears in the night and Marlowe goes out in search of him, finding him crawling on all fours toward the native camp.

Marlow convinces Kurtz to return to ship and they set off down river next morning but Kurtz’s health is failing fast.

Marlow listens to Kurtz talk while he pilots the ship and Kurtz entrusts Marlow with personal documents including eloquent pamphlet on civilizing savages which ends with “exterminate all the brutes”.

Steamer breaks down and they stop for repairs.

Kurtz dies, uttering “the horror, the horror”.

Marlow falls ill but survives.

Marlow visits Kurtz’s fiancée (intended).  She is still in mourning and praises Kurtz as a paragon of virtue and achievement. The intended asks what were Kurtz’s last words.  Marlow says that Kurtz’s last words were here name.

Date Finished May 2, 2020

68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis

When Carol Milford marries Will Kennicott, she moves to his small hometown of Gopher Prairie but is quickly dismayed by the backwardness of her new surroundings. She endeavors to reform the town and the people around her in this satire about the rapid modernization of early twentieth-century America. Lewis Mumford observed: “Young people had grown up in this environment, suffocated, stultified, helpless, but unable to find any reason for their spiritual discomfort. Mr. Lewis released them.&rdquoClick here to read more about MAIN STREET

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69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton never wrote a more compelling or tragic heroine than the beautiful Lily Bart, whose attempts to navigate turn-of-the-twentieth-century society founder on her lack of the only commodity that matters: money. As Lily is brought low by circumstance, Wharton brings to life the alluring, dangerous, and stifling world of Old New York.  Published in 1905, The House of Mirth is the first of Edith Wharton’s major novels—Ethan Frome, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence and it remains a memorably vibrant, and still wrenchingly heartbreaking, masterpiece.Click here to read more about THE HOUSE OF MIRTH

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70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durrell

Set in Alexandria, Egypt, these interlinked novels explore the city over the 1930s and 1940s.  Justine was published in 1957, Balthazar and Mountolive in 1958, and Clea in 1960. The novels follow the same characters, but from different perspectives and different times—a tactic that Durrell claimed was inspired by Einstein’s theory of relativity (which gives you some idea of his ambitions for this tetrology).
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71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes

Set in the nineteenth century, this novel revolves around six children who are seized by pirates on a voyage from Jamaica to England. What begins as an adventure becomes a darker story about the childrens’ naïve lack of morality. In a 1969 interview with The New Yorker, Hughes claimed he was inspired by an old lady’s description of being captured by surprisingly considerate pirates as a child. Hughes commented, “This was a new idea—that pirates were sentimental about children. I began to wonder what would happen if a group of pirates were suddenly landed with a group of children. In the ensuing conflict, which side would go under?”
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72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul

Mohun Biswas is born with an extra finger and inadvertently causes his own father’s death. Affable but unlucky, Mr. Biswas grows up, gets a job, and inadvertently proposes to a woman (whose family accepts on her behalf). What he really wants, though, is a home of his own. The novel’s premise is simple, but the language is rich, textured, and humorous. Naipaul, who would win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, confessed: “Of all my books A House for Mr. Biswas is the one closest to me. It is the most personal, created out of what I saw and felt as a child. It also contains, I believe, some of my funniest writing.”
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73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West

A panoramic account of the desperate ambitions, and equally desperate miseries, of an array of Los Angeles denizens at the height of the Hollywood studio era, this 1939 novel is as unsparing as it is compulsively readable. With a cast of characters including an avaricious, only marginally talented starlet, an innocuous-seeming retiree under whose dull surface violence lurks, and the painter whose vision of a “Burning of Los Angeles” canvas imagines the apocalypse of the American Dream, The Day of the Locust is a grisly masterpiece—a “nightmare of lust and violence, of distortions and cruel comedy,” as The New York Times described it.
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74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

Frederic Henry is an American paramedic in the Italian Army during World War I. He meets Catherine Barkley, a nurse, and they fall in love. Loosely based on Hemingway’s relationship with Red Cross nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, A Farewell to Arms was censored for its expletives and frank descriptions of Frederic and Catherine’s romance. Fun fact: When Ernest Hemingway sent a draft of A Farewell to Arms to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald wrote back with ten pages of suggestions and possible edits. Hemingway’s response? “Kiss my ass.”
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75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh

A send-up of tabloid journalism in the 1930s, Waugh drew inspiration for Scoop from his time working as a special correspondent for the Daily Mail. In the novel, the two biggest newspapers, The Daily Beast and The Daily Brute, report on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. As the newspapers (and their megalomaniacal owners) vie for supremacy, they create news as needed and report the war as they see fit. Even The Atlantic admitted, “There is perhaps no more uproarious burlesque of the workings of the press.” This is a wickedly funny novel that feels all too relevant in the age of Internet journalism.
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76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark

“Give me a girl at an impressionable age,” the title character boasts, “and she is mine for life.” The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie tells the story of a glamorous, unconventional schoolteacher and her favorite students, who worship but ultimately betray her.  Upon its 1961 publication, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which is frank in its exploration of sexuality, was deemed “not read-aloudable” by the audiobook industry, a code for “too X-rated.”
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77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce

When James Joyce finished writing Ulysses—his long, complicated masterpiece about one day in the life of Dublin—he decided to write Finnegans Wake: a long, complicated novel about one night in the life of Dublin. A nonlinear dream narrative, the first sentence of Finnegans Wake reads: “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” The book defies summary, though many critics and scholars have tried. Still, Joyce maintained that Finnegans Wake made sense—he told his biographer that he could “justify every line of this book.”
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78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling

Kim is the tale of an Irish orphan raised as an Indian vagabond on the rough streets of colonial Lahore: a world of high adventure, mystic quests, and secret games of espionage played out between the Russians and the British in the mountain passages of Asia. Kim is torn between his allegiance to the ascetic lama, who becomes his beloved mentor, and the temptations of those who want to recruit him as a spy in the “great game” of imperial conflict. In a series of thrilling escapades, he crisscrosses India on missions both spiritual and military before the two forces in his life converge in a dramatic climax in the high Himalayas.Click here to read more about KIM

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79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster

Published in 1908 to both critical and popular acclaim, A Room with a View is a whimsical comedy of manners that owes more to Jane Austen than perhaps any other of Forster’s works. The central character is a muddled young girl named Lucy Honeychurch, who runs away from the man who stirs her emotions, remaining engaged to a rich snob. Forster considered it his “nicest” novel, and today it remains probably his most well liked. Its moral is utterly simple: Throw away your etiquette book and listen to your heart.Click here to read more about A ROOM WITH A VIEW

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  • Lucy Honeychurch – young middle class girl from Surrey that visits a pension in Florence, Italy with her cousin Charlotte.  Her piano skills show that she has potential for great passions, but she will have to ignore expected social codes. She ultimately chooses to follow the true instincts of love (George) over social expectations (Cecil).
  • Charlotte Bartlett – Lucy’s older spinster cousin and chaperone with old-fashioned values who disproves of the Emersons. After standing in the way of Lucy’s happiness she ultimately helps Lucy find marital happiness.
  • George Emmerson – A young man with an appreciation for truth, he falls in love with Lucy in Italy, encouraging her not to marry Cecil and helping her follow her heart.
  • Mr. Emmerson – While a genuine person, he has an abrupt manner and regularly offends proper societal conventions. He is integral to Lucy’s decision to know her true desires.
  • Cecil Vyse – a pretentious, unkind and disrespectful wealthy man engaged to Lucy.  He expects her to be submissive, but he is awkward and loses her respect.
Themes Strict Victorian values versus liberal morals.

Social boundaries are arbitrary.

Beauty exists even where people find it inappropriate.

Follow the heart.

Summary When Lucy and Charlotte check into the pension in Florence, they are assigned a river view room, even though they prefer “a room with a view”.  Mr. Emmerson offers his room and Charolotte is offended by his lack of propriety, but eventually agrees to take the room.  Mr. Beebe enjoys how Lucy plays piano with gusto for the guests.  When Lucy visits the Santa Croce church and the Piazza Signora, one of two quarreling houligans stabs the other, and George rescues her to ensure that she doesn’t get wrapped up in the aftermath.  George then kisses her.  Charlotte witnesses George kiss Lucy a second time in a field of violets, and Charlotte and Lucy leave for Rome the next morning.  After Lucy returns to Surrey, a young effeminate man Cecil proposes to Lucy and she accepts.  Cecil doesn’t approve of Lucy’s unsophisticated family.  As a joke, Cecil offers to rent a villa to the Emmersons, and they move in.  George outshines Cecil in a tennis match, and eventually in many other ways.  Cecil reads aloud from a book written by Miss Lavish (another guest of the pension in Florence), and the story is about Lucy and George in the field of violets, so Lucy realizes that Charlotte must have revealed the story to Miss Lavish.  George kisses her again and says that Cecil is too controlling and unappreciative of people, and Lucy breaks off her engagement.   Mr. Emmerson tells Lucy that she loves George and that she should marry him – it is what her soul wants.  Lucy realizes he is right, and Charlotte also helps the situation, so Lucy eventually marries George.  They live happily ever after in Florence in a room with a view.
Date Finished 2/21/2020

80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh

In post–World War I England, a young middle-class man is infatuated with an aristocratic family and their glittering but decaying way of life, particularly the family’s flamboyant younger son and beautiful older daughter.  There are many autobiographical facts in Waugh’s life that are tantalizingly close to elements of Brideshead, but the novel opens with this author’s note: “I am not I; thou art not he or she; they are not they.”
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81. THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH by Saul Bellow

“I am an American, Chicago born, and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted.” So begins The Adventures of Augie March, a modern picaresque (a genre of literature that follows a loveable rogue through a series of misadventures) that won the 1954 National Book Award is considered a contender for the Great American Novel Apparently the novel was very easy to write—Saul claimed that “the book just came to me. All I had to do was be there with buckets to catch it.”
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82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 1971, Wallace Stegner’s American classic centers on Lyman Ward, a historian who relates a fictionalized biography of his pioneer grandparents. Through a combination of research, memory, and exaggeration, Ward voices ideas concerning the relationship between history and the present, art and life, parents and children, husbands and wives. Set in many parts of the West, Angle of Repose is a story of discovery—personal, historical, and geographical—that endures as Wallace Stegner’s masterwork.
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83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul

First published in 1979, A Bend in the River is a profound and richly observed novel of postcolonial Africa. Salim, a young Indian man, moves to a town on a bend in the river of a recently independent nation. As Salim strives to establish his business, he comes to be closely involved with the fluid and dangerous politics of the newly created state, the remnants of the old regime clashing inevitably with the new.
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84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen

Portia is sixteen, recently orphaned, and living in London with her brother and Anna, his fashionable but unfriendly wife. Then she meets Eddie, a young man and a friend of Anna’s; the novel follows Portia as she discovers the delights of first love and the sorrow of heartbreak. Bowen is often compared to Jane Austen—she skewers drawing-room society with similarly exquisite writing and explores the intricacies of the human heart with the same sharp-eyed wisdom. John Banville, winner of the Booker Prize, has stated: “Had Elizabeth Bowen been a man she would be recognized as one of the finest novelists of the twentieth century.”
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85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad

Lord Jim is the story of Jim, a sailor who abandons a sinking ship and its passengers to near-certain death; but, as with any Conrad novel, this novel only loosely captures this startling masterpiece. Conrad, who also wrote The Heart of Darkness, Nostromo, and The Secret Agent (all of which appear on the Top 100), is regarded as one of the greatest writers to write in English, despite it being his third language. His stories portray the weight of outside forces—globalism, racism, colonialism—as they compress and constrain individuals, in prose that is like liquid gold.Click here to read more about LORD JIM

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86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow

Ragtime opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow’s imagined family and other fictional characters. The New Yorker called Ragtime “an extraordinarily deft, lyrical, rich novel that catches the spirit of this country.”Click here to read more about RAGTIME

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87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett

First published in 1908, The Old Wives’ Tale tells the story of the Baines sisters—shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia—over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the sisters’ lives from childhood during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of Staffordshire to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris, while the action moves from the subdued domestic routine of the Baines household to the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.Click here to read more about THE OLD WIVES’ TALE

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88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London

Buck, a dog stolen from his home and sold to become a sled dog during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s, is the central character of this classic adventure novel. Faced with new challenges and an unforgiving environment, Buck is forced to learn the harsh rules of the wild. A novel of survival, loyalty, and the realities of nature, The Call of the Wild is “a story well and truly told” (E. L. Doctorow).  Jack London lived in the Klondike for almost a year, gaining inspiration for the story that would become one of his most popular.Click here to read more about THE CALL OF THE WILD

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89. LOVING by Henry Green

Set in an Irish country house during World War II, Loving is a literary version of Gosford Park. The Tennants are an aristocratic family, and Eldon, their loyal butler, manages the household staff. But the seemingly calm appearance of the Tennants and their staff masks the relationships, insecurities, and rivalries roiling beneath the surface; meanwhile, the country is at war, bombarded and bracing for a German invasion. In 2013, the Los Angeles Review of Books declared: “No English novel of the 1940s has better stood the test of time.”
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Characters Mrs. Tennant – the head of the household while Mr. Tennant fights in the war.

Eldon, the aging butler, calls out “Ellen” as he is dying.

Agatha Burch sits with Eldon as he lies dying.

Edith – young object of Raunce’s affection and servant for the Tennants.

Mrs. Swift – the heavy-drinking nanny.

Charley Raunce is the head footman that instructs Burt on how to siphon whiskey from Eldon’s decanter.  After Eldon dies, Raunce becomes butler, so he retrieves Eldon’s account book and diary to understand the preferences of visitors, leading to better tips.

Themes Henry Green explores  ordinary life against the background of the larger world at war.
Summary In the absence of the employers, the Tennants, servants enact their own battles and conflict amid rumors about war in Europe, pilfering, gossip and love.  The story is set in an Irish Manor during World War II, with staff comprised of some English and some Irish help, most of whom are aware that they can’t be replaced easily.  The English staff is terrified of the IRA and fears returning to England for fear of being drafted.  Mr. Tennant joined the army as Germany bombs London.  Raunce, once made butler, wants to receive tea in the mornings by Edith, whom he likes.  He continues to pursue her romantically despite their 20-year age difference.  Edith discovers Mrs. Jack (the Tennant’s daughter-in-law) in bed with a neighbor Captain Davenport.  When a peacock turns up dead, everyone tries to cover up the incident.  Later, a sapphire ring goes missing.  Mrs. Tennant and Mrs. Jack leave for England to visit Mr. Tennant.  Mrs Swift and Ms. Burch retreat to bed, leaving Edith in charge of Moira and Evelyn, the Tennant grandchildren.  Charley and Edith pursue a relationship and make plans for a life together after leaving the house.  The ring is found by Edith, but she wants credit, but it goes missing again when a guest’s misbehaving son takes it.  Mrs. Tennant can’t give up questioning what happened to the sapphire even after it was returned.  Charley is in poor health and aging faster than he should, end calls out Edith’s name similar to how Eldon called out Ellen.  Charley and Edith go to England and live happily ever after.
Date Finished February 23, 2020

90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie

Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn that his every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; and, most remarkably, his telepathic powers link him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children.” Midnight’s Children won the 1981 Booker Prize and the “Booker of Bookers” in 1993, when it was voted the most beloved novel to have ever won the Booker.Click here to read more about MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN

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91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell

Set in Georgia during the Great Depression, Tobacco Road follows the Lesters, a family of poor white sharecroppers. Caldwell’s blunt, grotestque portrayal of the Lesters infuriated Southern readers, but the novel has sold over 10 million copies since it was published in 1932. The New York Times critic Dwight Garner wrote of the novel: “You can’t stop turning the pages, because you want to see how much further your jaw can drop. . . . The pulpiest—and arguably the most unforgettable—Southern novel you’ll ever read.”
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92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy

Francis Phelan is a former basketball player, now grave digger, living in Albany. An alcoholic who accidentally killed his son many years ago, Phelan now wanders around town, occasionally encountering the ghosts of his son and other people he killed. Ironweed won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984, despite being rejected by thirteen publishing houses.
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93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles

The Magus is a genre-bending story about a young Englishman drawn into the manipulative psychological games of a wealthy recluse. The novel was widely praised when it was published in 1966; in perhaps the most effusive review of all time, The New York Times called The Magus “a pyrotechnical extravaganza, a wild, hilarious charade, a dynamo of suspense and horror, a profoundly serious probing into the nature of moral consciousness, a dizzying, electrifying chase through the labyrinth of the soul, an allegorical romance, a sophisticated account of modern love, a ghost story that will send shivers racing down the spine.”Click here to read more about THE MAGUS

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94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys

In this “beautiful and subversive” novel (The Paris Review), Rhys gives a backstory to Bertha Mason, first wife of Edward Rochester and the “insuperable impediment” to marriage between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. In Rhys’s telling, Bertha is a lively and inquisitive Creole heiress, growing up in the unstable and racially charged environment of the West Indies. Her marriage to an unnamed Englishman, and her forced move to chilly England, heightens her unhappiness. If you have read Jane Eyre, you know how the story ends—but Rhys’s interpretation will transform your understanding of the classic, too.
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95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch

Under the Net catalogues the comic trials and tribulations of Jack Donaghue, an unsuccessful writer and shameless mooch, as he attempts to become a successful writer. Iris Murdoch was a philosopher at St. Anne’s College, Oxford whose work on free will and choice shaped twentieth-century moral philosophy. Her novels, however, are intellectually stimulating and easy to read, in part because of Murdoch’s belief that the ideal reader was  “someone who likes a jolly good yarn and enjoys thinking about the book as well, about the moral issues.”
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96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron

Three stories are told in Styron’s National Book Award–winning novel: a young Southerner journeys to New York, eager to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between Nathan, a brilliant Jew, and Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman who survived internment at Auschwitz; and of an awful wound in Sophie’s past that impels both her and Nathan toward destruction. The Washington Post called it “Styron’s most impressive performance. . . . It belongs on that small shelf reserved for American masterpieces.”Click here to read more about SOPHIE’S CHOICE

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97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles

Kit and Port Moresby are an American couple touring North Africa with another man, Turner. As they travel deeper into the Sahara desert, tensions rise and a love triangle emerges: the landscape informs the emotional lives of the characters, who are by turns suffocated by their surroundings and moved by its beauty. Writing in The New York Times, Tennessee Williams called The Sheltering Sky “enthralling . . . powerful, bringing to mind one of those clouds that you have seen in summer, close to the horizon and dark in color and now and then silently pulsing with interior flashes of fire.”
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98. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain

Roughly one hundred pages long, this dark tale of lust and murder was banned in 1934 for its then-shocking depictions of sex and violence. The Postman Always Rings Twice even managed to shock fellow noir writer Raymond Chandler, who called Cain “a Proust in greasy overalls” and The Postman “the offal of literature.” Cain, who also wrote Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity, has since been recognized as one of the great noir writers, with The New York Times noting that “Cain can get down to the primary impulses of greed and sex in fewer words than any writer we know of.”
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99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy

The Ginger Man is the story of Sebastian Dangerfield, an American student studying in post-WWII Dublin (but mostly getting drunk and sleeping around). Now considered a modern classic, The Ginger Man has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Jay McInerney claimed that the book “has undoubtedly launched thousands of benders, but it has also inspired scores of writers with its vivid and visceral narrative voice and the sheer poetry of its prose.”
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100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

Today The Magnificent Ambersons is best known through the 1942 Orson Welles movie, but it won the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1918. A chronicle of the changing fortunes of three generations of an American dynasty, The Magnificent Ambersons follows George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled and arrogant grandson of the founder of the family’s magnificence. Eclipsed by a new breed of developers, financiers, and manufacturers, this pampered scion begins his gradual descent from the midwestern aristocracy to the working class.Click here to read more about THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS

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  • George (Georgie) Minafert – “At the age of nine, George Amberson Minafer, the Major’s one grandchild, was a princely terror…”.  George is a rude, spoiled, cruel, and obnoxious  child that grows into a into a snobby and self-righteous young adult. He ultimately gets his due when the family loses its fortune and he must fend for himself.
Themes The last vestiages of American “old money”.

Entrepreneurship/dawn of the Industrial Age/birth of a modern nation.

Inability to adapt to a changing world.

Blind love and inability to see the faults of a loved one.

Summary The Magnificent Ambersons is the second book of a trilogy documenting the downfall of the aristocratic Amberson family.

Major Amberson, the eldest character, produced the family fortune, and provided a very comfortable life for his family, providing his daughter Isabel a home on his expansive property.  Young Isabel must choose between two men, Wilbur Minafer the quiet businessman and Eugene Morgan an adventurous lawyer who ruins his chances with Isabel after an intoxicated evening on the Amberson estate.  Isabel marries Wilbur, and they have a son, George Amberson Minafer.  George is a spoiled young boy who disrespects others and exhibits many bad behaviors, with many who encounter him seeking his comeuppance.

As a college student, George meets and falls in love with Lucy Morgan at a ball hosted at the Amberson mansion, not realizing that Lucy is the daughter of Eugene Morgan.  George is unkind about Morgan, insulting him to Lucy.  Lucy is unimpressed by George’s lack of ambition and wanting to live off of his family wealth instead of “doing things”.

Over time, it becomes obvious that Morgan never got over Isabel, even though he married and is now a widower.  Morgan was an inventor who eventually began to manufacture horseless carriages.  On a sleigh ride with Lucy, George tries to outrun the horseless carriage that Morgan was driving and crashes the sleigh, leaving George no option but to accept a ride back to town in Morgan’s horseless carriage.

George’s father has declining health which is compounded by failing business dealings that he and his brother-in-law George (Georgie’s namesake) entered into.   Wilbur is sickened by the fact that their business will bring misfortune to many of the friends and family that trusted George and Wilbur with their money.

After George returns from a semester at college, he learns of a rumor that Lucy may be engaged to Fred Kinney, causing him to make a competing proposal.  Lucy will not give George an answer because she is still troubled by his lack of ambition.

Back at college, George learns that Wilbur died and that their failed business has left Uncle George and Aunt Fanny broke. George Minafer offers his father’s insurance money to Fanny as compensation, mostly because he believes his fortune will never run out and because he feels guilty for mistreating her for his whole life.

After college, George returns to the Amberson estate, which now has new houses constructed on the property.  Major Amberson invetsed in the houses to try to save the family’s fortune.

George stands in the way of his mother’s pursuit of a friendship with Morgan and does so under the guise of protecting the family name.  He convinces Isabell to cut off contact and Isabel and George go on a grand vacation together.

When Major Amberson dies, George finally gets his comeuppance.  Not only does the Amberson estate goes bankrupt, the new houses don’t produce the fortune expected, and other invesments continue to decline.  George must “do something” and chooses to study law, but has to instead take a job at an explosives plant to earn money to keep himself and his Aunt Fanny alive.  While the Amberson family declines, the rest of the town is prosperous.  George is humiliated, topped off by being hit by a car!  Eugene goes to visit George in his hospital room, seeking to repair the relationship with George and ultimately reunite with Isabel, who has died without ever getting to say goodbye to Eugene (because George had prevented them from meeting a final time).

Date Finished August 15, 2020