This autobiography was immediately hailed as a masterpiece upon publication and has even been called the greatest nonfiction book ever written. Henry Adams, whose great-grandfather and grandfather were both U.S. presidents, fills his story with one unforgettably brilliant observation after another. Filled with uncommon wisdom, this book also serves as a thoughtful history of 19th-century America.
Most people know this book from the Academy Award-winning motion picture starring Winona Ryder. Now, introduce them to the sparkling American classic behind the movie: a charming portrait of the joys and hardships of the four sisters in Civil War New England. Separated by the war from their beloved parents, these "little women" struggle to find their place in the world.
On Prince Edward Island, aging siblings Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt a boy to help with chores around the farm. But when Mathew arrives at the train platform, the only living creature in sight, legs dangling from the piles of shingles where she sits, is a freckled, green-eyed, redheaded little girl. Mathew senses immediately that life at Green Gables is going to be very different. And how right he is.
Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, was Defoe’s first novel and survives as his best-known work. Loosely based on a true account of a Scottish sailor—Alexander Selkirk—it is a tale of one man’s fall from grace and progress to redemption. The account of Crusoe’s life, scratched out with rationed indigo ink on a dwindling supply of paper salvaged from the hull of a wrecked ship, speaks eloquently of the tenacity and ingenuity of the human spirit.
Transported back in time to the regal days of chivalry, the quick-witted, sharp-tongued Connecticut Yankee introduces the legendary King Arthur and his court to some "magic" even the wizard Merlin never dreamed of: the destructive power of gunpowder, and the ability to eclipse the sun itself!
It's 1871 in the contented Mormon town of Cottonwoods, Utah, and Elder Tull wants to marry wealthy rancher Jane Withersteen so desperately that he's willing to use the water supply - the precious lifeblood of the land - to force her hand. But that was before a mysterious, lone gunman called Lassiter showed up...
Spirited, romantic, and full of danger, Kidnapped is Robert Louis Stevenson's classic of high adventure. Beloved by generations, it is the saga of David Balfour, a young heir whose greedy uncle connives to do him out of his inherited fortune and plots to have him seized and sold into slavery. But honor, loyalty, and courage are rewarded.
Edith Wharton stands among the finest writers of early 20th-century America. In The Custom of the Country, Wharton’s scathing social commentary is on full display through the beautiful and manipulative Undine Spragg. When Undine convinces her nouveau riche parents to move to New York, she quickly injects herself into high society. But even a well-to-do husband isn’t enough for Undine, whose overwhelming lust for wealth proves to be her undoing.
Owen Wister’s The Virginian pre-dates the classic novels of Zane Grey and Max Brand and is considered by many to be the original Western. Dedicated to Wister’s friend and fellow outdoorsman Theodore Roosevelt, this timeless tale almost single-handedly established the cowboy archetype in literature. A quiet, noble foreman of a Wyoming cattle ranch in the 1870s, the Virginian falls for pretty schoolteacher Molly Wood. But when a rival suitor challenges his honor, the Virginian struggles to make his beloved Molly understand the harsh justice of the West.
Oscar Wilde’s classic story of a young man who sells his soul in exchange for eternal beauty and youth continues to thrill generations of readers. Written by a man who was every bit as flamboyant and unconventional as its hero, The Picture of Dorian Gray is as haunting today as when it first shocked the British public in 1891. Dorian Gray, young, intelligent, sophisticated, gazes on his freshly painted portrait.
“It would sweeten a man’s temper at any time to read it,” wrote essayist Charles Lamb some years after this novel was first published in 1653. Of course, The Compleat Angler is much more than just a 17th century “how-to” guide to catching and cooking fish.
When an eccentric Englishman named Phileas Fogg makes a daring wager that he can circle the globe in just eighty days, it’s the beginning of a breathlessly-paced world tour. With his devoted servant Passepartout at his side, Fogg sets off on an adventurous journey filled with amazing encounters and wild mishaps. Pursued all the way by the bumbling Detective Fix, who believes the two travelers are bank robbers on the run, Fogg and Passepartout must use every means of transportation known to 19th-century man - including a hot-air balloon, a locomotive, and an elephant - to win the bet.
First, a warning: If you haven’t read any Trollope, start with The Warden; it’s the first in a series of which Barchester is second. Next, a rather shocking warning: Trollope may be as addictive as a soap opera.
J.M. Synge, one of the greatest English language playwrites of the 20th century, immortalized the Aran Islands and its people with vivid written portraits that are among the greatest in modern literature. Synge’s vibrant language and earthy themes breathtakingly capture the folklore and way of life that has since perished on these remote northern islands.
Few books have so affected radical social changes as The Jungle, first published serially in 1906. Exposing unsanitary conditions in the meat-packing industry in Chicago, Sinclair's novel gripped Americans by the stomach, contributing to the passage of the first Food and Drug Act. If you’ve never read this classic novel, don't be put off by its gruesome reputation. Upton Sinclair was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who could turn even an exposé into a tender and moving novel.
Over 100 years ago, Reverend Charles Sheldon stepped up to the pulpit to deliver a sermon to his little flock of Congregationalists. Little did he know that his humble parable would evolve into a novel that would be published in 45 languages and affect the lives of at least 15 million people. A desperate, unemployed printer, looking for help in the mythical town of Raymond, is ignored until he’s on the verge of dying. His last words, as he collapses in front of a church congregation, point out the difference between believing in Christianity and actually living it.
Swann’s Way is the first and best-known part of Proust’s monumental work, Remembrance of Things Past. Often compared to a symphony, this complex masterpiece is ideally suited for audio. Listening lets you appreciate anew the incredible beauty of Proust’s language and the uniqueness of his style. The novel’s narrator, Marcel, finds the true meaning of experience in memories stimulated by some random object or event.
Open your eyes to one of the greatest naturalist writers of all time with these two short stories by William H.H. Murray. These stories, featuring John Norton, the trapper, were so well loved, that Murray performed them more than 500 times, on book tours in New England and New York. Written at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Murray’s stories of the Adirondack wilderness of the 1860s made outdoor activities like hiking and camping popular for the first time.
Herman Melville is one of the greatest figures in literary history. His classic Moby Dick is generally considered the finest novel ever written by an American. Yet in Melville’s day, Typee was a far more popular book. Largely autobiographical, this classic adventure story is set in the South Seas, where a runaway sailor is captured by the Typees. Described as “a fierce and unrelenting tribe of savages," the islanders have no intention of letting their captive go.
Although Katherine Mansfield was born in New Zealand in 1888, she spent much of her short life in England and on the Continent. As she wrote about the privileged worlds she encountered there, her stories quickly attracted literary attention. Prelude was hand-published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at their Hogarth Press. Readers today still applaud the grace with which Mansfield fuses image, mood and meaning. Here are ten of Katherine Mansfield’s extraordinary tales.