Summary: Who could forget the pranks, the adventures, the sheer fun of Tom Sawyer? From....+
Who could forget the pranks, the adventures, the sheer fun of Tom Sawyer? From Tom’s sly trickery with the whitewashed fence to his and Becky Thatcher’s calamities in Bat Cave, the enjoyment never ends.
Just what did boys do in a small town during the mid-1800s, a time when there were no televisions, no arcades, and no videos? They whitewashed fences, floated down rivers, traded marbles, formed secret societies, smoked pipes, and, on occasion, managed to attend their own funerals. Yes, they may have been a bit mischievous, but as Aunt Polly said of Tom when she believed him to be dead, “He was the best-hearted boy that ever was.” Aunt Polly’s sentiments reveal one of Mark Twain’s cardinal philosophies: In this deceitful and infirm world, innocence can be found only in the heart of a boy.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a humorous and nostalgic book depicting the carefree days of boyhood in a small Midwestern town. The characters are based on Twain’s schoolmates and the town, Hannibal, Missouri, is where Twain grew up.
Summary: Huck Finn is an orphaned drifter who loves freedom more than respectability.....+
Huck Finn is an orphaned drifter who loves freedom more than respectability. He isn’t above lying and stealing, but he faces a battle with his conscience when he meets up with a runaway slave named Jim, who provides him with his first experiences of love, acceptance, and a sense of responsibility.
The title character of this famous novel tells his own story in a straightforward narrative laced with shrewd, sharp comments on human nature. The boy’s adventures along the Mississippi River provide a framework for a series of moral lessons, revelations of a corrupt society, and contrasts between innocence and hypocrisy. The colorful cast of characters--including the crafty grifters, the Duke and the King--help make this a memorable classic.
Summary: This book is the inspiration for the Academy Award-nominated film, There Will....+
This book is the inspiration for the Academy Award-nominated film, There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
As he did so masterfully in The Jungle, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Upton Sinclair interweaves social criticism with human tragedy to create an unforgettable portrait of Southern California’s early oil industry.
Enraged by the oil scandals of the Harding administration in the 1920s, Sinclair tells a gripping tale of avarice, corruption, and class warfare, featuring a cavalcade of characters, including senators, oil magnates, Hollywood film starlets, and a crusading evangelist. At the center of the novel are an oil developer and his son. As the story moves forward, the divide between father and son grows until the young man is fighting the very industry that brought his father great success.
Sinclair’s glorious 1927 epic endures as one of our most powerful American novels of social injustice.
Summary: Few works have captured the seamy side of American urban life with such graphic....+
Few works have captured the seamy side of American urban life with such graphic immediacy as Frank Norris’s McTeague. Heredity and environment play the role of fate in this portrayal of human degradation in turn-of-the-century San Francisco.
McTeague, a strong but stupid dentist, marries Trina, introduced to him by her cousin Marcus Schouler. When Trina wins $5,000 in a lottery and increases the sum by shrewd investment, Schouler, who had wanted to marry Trina himself, feels cheated. In revenge, he exposes McTeague’s lack of diploma or license. Forbidden to practice, McTeague becomes mean and surly, but the miserly Trina refuses to let him use her money, and they sink into poverty. What follows is a descent into the ultimate crime--murder--and life as a fugitive, in a tale that moves toward its harrowing conclusion with the grim power and inevitability of Classic tragedy.
Summary: One of the great works of American literature, Moby-Dick is the epic tale of....+
One of the great works of American literature, Moby-Dick is the epic tale of one man’s fight against a force of nature. The outcast youth Ishmael, succumbing to wanderlust during a dreary New England autumn, signs up for passage aboard a whaling ship. The Pequod sails under the command of the one-legged Captain Ahab, who has set himself on a monomaniacal quest to capture the cunning white whale that robbed him of his leg: Moby-Dick. Capturing life on the sea with robust realism, Melville details the adventures of the colorful crew aboard the ship as Ahab pursues his crusade of revenge, heedless of all cost. This masterfully symbolic drama of the conflict between man and his fate has a special intensity that listeners will not soon forget.
Summary: Jack London’s masterpiece describing the timeless bonds between man, dog,....+
Jack London’s masterpiece describing the timeless bonds between man, dog, and wilderness
Buck, half St. Bernard and half Scotch shepherd, is a bold-spirited dog living the good life in the Santa Clara Valley. But when a treacherous act of betrayal results in his kidnapping, he is stripped from his comfortable life on the California estate and thrust into the rugged terrain of the Yukon, where he is made a sled dog. Strong dogs are in high demand as the Klondike gold rush rages on, and Buck must battle the bitter cold and savage lawlessness of man and beast, striving to serve the man who shows him kindness. Can he rise to the challenges he faces and once again become the master of his realm?
Summary: A rare pearl is fought over during a hurricane on a South Sea island. A zealous....+
A rare pearl is fought over during a hurricane on a South Sea island. A zealous missionary sets out to spread the gospel in a land of cannibals. The son of a Polynesian chief becomes the slave of a white man. These stories and others portray life in the South Seas in the days of tall ships over a century ago. In powerful and compelling language that seems not the least bit dated, Jack London tells eight tales of high daring and great savagery, of bravery and death, even of occasional humor, that could only take place in the exotic South Sea islands. Based around themes London considered important--race, culture, justice, and heroism--the stories derive their intensity from the author’s own far-flung adventures, conveying an impassioned, unsparing vision borne only of experience.
Included here are the following stories: “The House of Mapuhi,” “The Whale Tooth,” “Mauki,” “Yah! Yah! Yah!” “The Heathen,” “The Terrible Solomons,” “The Inevitable White Man,” and “The Seed of McCoy.”
Summary: Set in a crumbling Venetian villa, The Aspern Papers is a story about the heart’s....+
Set in a crumbling Venetian villa, The Aspern Papers is a story about the heart’s romantic ambitions and the pragmatic methods we use to pursue them. An American editor arrives in Venice on a quest to acquire some unpublished letters written by his favorite Romantic poet, Jeffrey Aspern. He tracks down the mistress to whom the letters were addressed, a now elderly Miss Bordereau's and presents himself as a prospective lodger. In hopes of gaining access to the secret papers, he begins courting Miss Bordeaux’s plain spinster niece, Miss Tina. As his obsessive mission leads him into increasingly unscrupulous behavior, he finds that his desire can be obtained only at the price of his honor. Written with taut suspense and brilliant insight into complex human motivations, The Aspern Papers is one of Henry James’ most acclaimed stories.
Summary: Written in 1831, Washington Irving’s dreamlike description of the Alhambra,....+
Written in 1831, Washington Irving’s dreamlike description of the Alhambra, the beautiful Moorish castle that defined the height of Moorish civilization, and of the surrounding territory of Granada remains one of the most romantic and entertaining travelogues ever written of this region in Spain.
Enhanced here with exquisite Spanish guitar music, the narrative is a heady mix of historical fact, medieval myth and mystery, sensual descriptions, and an appreciation for a civilization that valued beauty, philosophy, literature, science, and the arts on an equal level with warrior skills. Secret chambers, desperate battles, imprisoned princesses, palace ghosts, and fragrant gardens, described in a wistful and dreamlike eloquence, will transport listeners to a paradise of their own.
Summary: This powerful novel explores the dynamics of the financial world during the....+
This powerful novel explores the dynamics of the financial world during the Civil War and after the stock market panic caused by the Chicago fire. Frank Cowperwood, a ruthlessly dominating broker, climbs the ladder of success, with his loving mistress championing his every move.
Based on the life of flamboyant financier C. T. Yerkes, Theodore Dreiser's portrayal of the unscrupulous magnate Cowperwood embodies the idea that behind every great fortune there is a crime. Although Dreiser is not known for his literary finesse, his great intensity and keen journalistic eye give this portrait a powerful reality.
Summary: When small-town girl Carrie Meeber sets out for Chicago, she is equipped with....+
When small-town girl Carrie Meeber sets out for Chicago, she is equipped with nothing but a few dollars, a certain unspoiled beauty and charm, and a pitiful lack of preparation for the complex moral choices she will face. Adrift in an indifferent city, she struggles from the sweatshop to stage success, and inspires an obsessive love in a married man twice her age which threatens to destroy him.
Dreiser transforms the conventional fallen-woman story into a genuinely original work of imaginative fiction. He hurls his impressionable eighteen-year-old heroine into the amoral world of the big city and reveals, with powerful insight, the driving forces of our culture: America’s restless idealism, glamorous material seductions, and spiritual innocence.
Summary: Set during the French and Indian Wars, The Deerslayer vividly captures the....+
Set during the French and Indian Wars, The Deerslayer vividly captures the violence and rugged beauty of the American frontier. In the wilds of New York, where tensions rage between tribal Indians and white pioneers, a white hunter known as Deerslayer is initiated into the moral codes of wilderness society. When he and his loyal Mohican friend attempt the daring rescue of an Indian maiden, they are caught in the crossfire between a cunning enemy and two merciless white bounty hunters who kill for profit.
A fine combination of romance, adventure, and morality, this classic novel is an eloquent beginning for Cooper's great wilderness saga, the Leatherstocking Tales--and an unforgettable introduction to the famous character who has been said to embody the conscience of America: the noble woodsman Deerslayer.
Summary: First published in 1899, this revolutionary novel so disturbed critics and....+
First published in 1899, this revolutionary novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, The Awakening has been hailed as an early vision of woman’s emancipation. Rooted in the romantic tradition of Melville and Dickinson, it is the story of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier, a surprisingly modern woman trapped in a dehumanizing marriage and in search of self-discovery. Turning away from convention and society toward her primal instincts for passion and freedom, Edna abandons her family to realize herself as an individual. But her quest leads to her destruction by a society that grants no place for those unfulfilled by marriage and motherhood.
Set in New Orleans and the Southern Louisiana coast, The Awakening is one of the most important novels written by an American woman in the nineteenth century and a landmark work of early feminism.
Summary: Willa Cather’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel tells of the making of a young....+
Willa Cather’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel tells of the making of a young American soldier.
Claude Wheeler, the sensitive, aspiring protagonist, resembles the youngest son of a peculiarly American fairy tale. His fortune is ready-made for him, but he refuses to settle for it. Alienated from his crass father and pious mother, all but rejected by a wife who reserves her ardor for missionary work, and dissatisfied with farming, Claude is an idealist without an ideal to cling to. It is only when his country enters the First World War that Claude finds the purpose he has been searching for all his life. His yearnings impel him toward a frontier wilder and more violent than the one tamed by his pioneer ancestors.
One of Ours is a canny and vital portrait of an American psyche at once skeptical and romantic, restless and heroic.
Summary: Widely recognized as Willa Cather’s finest book and one of the outstanding....+
Widely recognized as Willa Cather’s finest book and one of the outstanding novels of American literature, My Ántonia tells of the life of early American pioneers in Nebraska.
Through Jim Burden’s endearing, smitten voice, we revisit the remarkable vicissitudes of immigrant life in the Nebraska heartland with all its insistent bonds. Guiding the way are some of literature’s most beguiling characters: the Russian brothers plagued by memories of a fateful sleigh ride, Ántonia’s desperately homesick father and self-indulgent mother, and the coy Lena Lingard. Holding the pastoral society’s heart, of course, is the bewitching, free-spirited Ántonia.
Infused with a gracious passion for the land, My Ántonia is a deeply moving portrait of an entire community and its way of life.
Summary: In his National Book Award–winning novel Augustus, John Williams uncovered....+
In his National Book Award–winning novel Augustus, John Williams uncovered the secrets of ancient Rome. With Butcher’s Crossing, his fiercely intelligent, beautifully written western, Williams dismantles the myths of modern America.
It is the 1870s, and Will Andrews, fired up by Emerson to seek “an original relation to nature,” drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher’s Crossing, a small Kansas town on the outskirts of nowhere. Butcher’s Crossing is full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. Before long Andrews strikes up a friendship with one of them, a man who regales Andrews with tales of immense herds of buffalo, ready for the taking, hidden away in a beautiful valley deep in the Colorado Rockies. He convinces Andrews to join in an expedition to track the animals down. The journey out is grueling, but at the end is a place of paradisiacal richness. Once there, however, the three men abandon themselves to an orgy of slaughter, so caught up in killing buffalo that they lose all sense of time. Winter soon overtakes them: they are snowed in. Next spring, half-insane with cabin fever, cold, and hunger, they stagger back to Butcher’s Crossing to find a world as irremediably changed as they have been.
Summary: Madame de Treymes follows the fortunes of two innocents abroad: Fanny Frisbee....+
Madame de Treymes follows the fortunes of two innocents abroad: Fanny Frisbee of New York, unhappily married to the dissolute Marquis de Malrive, scion of a great house of the Faubourg St. Germain; and John Durham, her childhood friend, who arrives in Paris intent on persuading Fanny to divorce her husband and marry him instead. A scintillating picture of American and French society at the turn of the century, it is also a subtle investigation of the clash of cultures and the role of women in the social hierarchy.
This edition also includes the novellas Sanctuary and Bunner Sisters, two short works rich in the social satire and cunning insight that characterized Wharton’s acclaimed novels The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence.
Summary: Often regarded as Edith Wharton’s finest achievement, Ethan Frome contrasts....+
Often regarded as Edith Wharton’s finest achievement, Ethan Frome contrasts sharply with her usual ironic contemplation of fashionable New York society. Set in the bleak winter landscape of New England farmlands, this keenly-etched portrait of the simple inhabitants of a nineteenth-century village is a masterpiece of literary realism.
Ethan is a patient, rough-hewn man tormented by a passionate love for his sickly wife’s young cousin, Mattie, who has come to offer her domestic services. Restricted by the bonds of marriage--however loveless it may be--and the fear of public condemnation, Ethan’s desperate quest for happiness leads ultimately to pain and despair.
Ethan’s story, with its tragic implications of what might have been, has held irresistible fascination for readers for over a century. The tale of a decent man’s fall brought on by his finest feelings is a haunting study of the human conflict between desire and duty.
Summary: “I’ve struck it!” Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. “And....+
“I’ve struck it!” Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. “And I will give it away--to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.”
Thus, after dozens of false starts and hundreds of pages, Twain embarked on his “Final (and Right) Plan” for telling the story of his life. His innovative notion--to “talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment”--meant that his thoughts could range freely. The strict instruction that many of these texts remain unpublished for one hundred years meant that when they came out, he would be “dead, and unaware, and indifferent,” and that he was therefore free to speak his “whole frank mind.”
The year 2010 marked the one hundredth anniversary of Twain’s death. In celebration of this important milestone, here, for the first time, is Mark Twain’s uncensored autobiography, in its entirety, exactly as he left it. This major literary event offers the first of three volumes and presents Mark Twain’s authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave, as he intended.
Summary: In this mischievous yarn by Mark Twain, a Yankee mechanic named Hank Morgan....+
In this mischievous yarn by Mark Twain, a Yankee mechanic named Hank Morgan is knocked unconscious in a fight and awakens to find himself at Camelot in AD 528. Brought before the knights of the Round Table, he is condemned to death but saves himself by using his nineteenth-century scientific knowledge to pose as a powerful magician. After correctly predicting an eclipse, Hank is made minister to King Arthur, and goes on to counsel him on such matters as gunpowder, electricity, and industrial methods. But when he attempts to better the condition of the peasantry, he meets opposition from the church, knights, and sorcerers, and finds his efforts at enlightenment turned against him.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is both a rollicking romantic fantasy and a canny social satire that only one of America’s greatest writers could pen.