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: The artifact is a vast circular ribbon of matter, some 180 million miles across,....+
The artifact is a vast circular ribbon of matter, some 180 million miles across, with a sun at its center. Pierson’s puppeteers--strange, three-legged, two-headed aliens--discovered this “Ringworld” in a hitherto unexplored part of the galaxy. Curious about the immense structure, but frightened by the prospect of meeting the builders, they set about assembling a team to explore it:
Louis Wu, human--old and bored with having lived too fully for too many years, seeking an adventure, and all too capable of handling it.
Nessus, puppeteer--a trembling coward from a species with an inbuilt survival pattern of nonviolence. This particular puppeteer, however, is insane.
Speaker-to-Animals, kzin--large, orange-furred, and carnivorous. The kzin are one of the most savage life-forms known.
The party’s expedition, however, goes disastrously wrong when their ship crash-lands and its motley crew faces a daunting trek across thousands of miles of Ringworld territory.
Summary: Jimmy, Gerald, and Cathy hope to find adventure when they set off to explore....+
Jimmy, Gerald, and Cathy hope to find adventure when they set off to explore the woods, but they get far more than they bargained for when they discover the Enchanted Castle. At first, they seem to be in a fairy tale come true, until a friend turns invisible, thanks to a magic ring she can’t remove. Adventure follows adventure as they seek to control the magic--but the magic has a will of its own, and it is all they can do to keep up. Faced with sleeping princesses, magic rings, and moonlit gardens filled with magic, the children must use all their courage and ingenuity to control the magic and solve the mystery surrounding the Enchanted Castle.
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: He was born Temujin, the son of a khan, raised in a clan of hunters migrating....+
He was born Temujin, the son of a khan, raised in a clan of hunters migrating across the rugged steppe. Temujin’s young life was shaped by a series of brutal acts: the betrayal of his father by a neighboring tribe and the abandonment of his entire family, cruelly left to die on the harsh plain. But Temujin endured--and from that moment on, he was driven by a singular fury: to survive in the face of death, to kill before being killed, and to conquer enemies who could come without warning from beyond the horizon.
Through a series of courageous raids against the Tartars, Temujin’s legend grew--and so did the challenges he faced, from the machinations of a Chinese ambassador to the brutal abduction of his young wife, Borte. Blessed with ferocious courage, it was the young warrior’s ability to learn, to imagine, and to judge the hearts of others that propelled him to greater and greater power, until Temujin was chasing a vision: to unite many tribes into one, to make the earth tremble under the hoofbeats of a thousand warhorses, to subject unknown nations and even empires to his will.
Summary: Hardy’s harrowing novel of seduction and abandonment introduced his most....+
Hardy’s harrowing novel of seduction and abandonment introduced his most memorable tragic heroine, Tess, whose vivid, breathing life was remarkable even for the author: “I have not been able to put on paper all that she is, or was, to me.”
On her morning journey to earn money for her impoverished family, Tess’s horse has an accident, forcing to go to some newly-rich relatives to seek assistance. There, she is vigorously pursued by Alec, who corners her in a field one night and takes advantage of her. After bearing a child who quickly dies, Tess meets and falls is love with Angel, a minister’s son who is infatuated with the image of Tess as the pure country maid. But when he learns the truth of her past, he shuns his new bride and leaves Tess once again to fend for herself in a world where she is only valued for her uses to others.
Summary: Silas Marner, a gentle linen weaver, is framed by his best friend for a heinous....+
Silas Marner, a gentle linen weaver, is framed by his best friend for a heinous theft. Exiled from his small community, Marner retreats into bitter and miserly reclusion, caring only for the gold he receives for his work. When his small treasure horde is stolen, Marner feels betrayed by life yet again--until one fateful New Year’s Eve, an abandoned golden-haired child appears mysteriously on his doorstep. Through his unselfish love for this child, Marner’s heart reawakens to spiritual rebirth and true happiness. George Eliot shows how good character is rewarded in this ageless, heartwarming novel of redemption.
Summary: Dorothea Brooke is a thoughtful and idealistic young woman determined to make....+
Dorothea Brooke is a thoughtful and idealistic young woman determined to make a difference with her life. Enamored of a man whom she believes is setting this example, she unwittingly traps herself into a loveless marriage. Her parallel is Tertius Lydgate, a visionary young doctor from the city, whose passionate ambition to spread the new science of medicine to the village is complicated by his love for the wrong woman.
Featuring a panoply of complex, brilliantly drawn characters from every walk of life, Eliot’s masterpiece is a rich and teeming portrait of provincial life in Victorian England. Yet her characters’ struggles to retain their moral integrity in the midst of temptation and tragedy are strikingly modern in their painful ironies. The incomparable psychological insight of Middlemarch was pivotal in the shaping of twentieth-century literary realism.
Summary: One of Dickens’ most popular novels, Oliver Twist tells the story of a young....+
One of Dickens’ most popular novels, Oliver Twist tells the story of a young workhouse orphan who escapes into the mean backstreets of Victorian London. There, he is thrust into a den of thieves where some of Dickens’ most depraved villains preside: the incorrigible Artful Dodger, the barbarous bully Bill Sikes, and the terrible Fagin, whose knavery threatens to send them all to the gallows. A novel with autobiographical overtones, this was the first of Dickens’ works to realistically portray London’s impoverished underworld and to illustrate his belief that poverty leads to crime. At the heart of the drama, however, is Oliver, the orphan whose unsullied goodness leads him to salvation, and who represents Dickens’ belief in the principle of good triumphing at last.
Summary: Dashing young Edmond Dantès has everything: a fine reputation, an appointment....+
Dashing young Edmond Dantès has everything: a fine reputation, an appointment as captain of a ship, and the heart of a beautiful woman. But his perfect life is shattered when three jealous friends conspire to destroy him. Falsely accused of a political crime, Dantès is locked away for life in the infamous Chateau d'If prison. But it is there that Dantès learns of a vast hidden treasure. After fourteen years of hopeless imprisonment, Dantès makes his daring escape and follows his secret map to untold fortune. Disguised now as the mysterious and powerful Count of Monte Cristo, Dantès seeks out his enemies--and nothing will stand in the way of his just revenge.
Filled with thrilling episodes of betrayal, romance, and revenge, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the greatest adventure stories ever written.
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: After spending four years in a Siberian penal settlement, during which time....+
After spending four years in a Siberian penal settlement, during which time he underwent a religious conversion, Dostoevsky developed a keen ability for deep character analysis. In The Brothers Karamazov, he explores human nature at its most loathsome and cruel but never flinches at what he finds.
The Brothers Karamazov tells the stirring tale of four brothers: the pleasure-seeking, impatient Dmitri; the brilliant and morose Ivan; the gentle, loving, and honest Alyosha; and the illegitimate Smerdyakov: shy, silent, and cruel. The four unite in the murder of one of literature’s most despicable characters--their father. This was Dostoevsky’s final and best work.
Summary: This sinister masterpiece was Dickens’ last completed novel and perhaps his....+
This sinister masterpiece was Dickens’ last completed novel and perhaps his ultimate vision of a dark, macabre London and the corrupting power of money. Opening with a father and daughter scavenging for corpses on the Thames, this chilling tale unfolds around drownings, disguises and doubles, violence, murder, and triumphant love.
Young John Harmon, presumed killed on his return home to England, is very much alive. The heir to a dust merchant’s fortune, he goes to work under an assumed name for his father’s current heirs, the amiable, elderly Boffins--who are about to be blackmailed by the unscrupulous one-legged Wegg.
So begins the intrigue in a novel that is quintessentially Dickensian in flavor--in its grotesque caricatures, its rich symbolism, and in the astonishing realism of its heroine, Bella Wilfer, one of Dickens’ most splendid female characters.
Summary: The most gorgeously theatrical of all Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby....+
The most gorgeously theatrical of all Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby follows the delightful adventures of a hearty young hero in nineteenth-century England. Nicholas, a gentleman's son fallen upon hard times, must set out to make his way in the world. His journey is accompanied by some of the most swaggering scoundrels and unforgettable eccentrics in Dickens’s pantheon.
From the dungeon-like Yorkshire boys’ boarding school run by the cruel Wackford Squeers to the high-spirited stage of Vincent Crummles’s extraordinary acting troupe, Nicholas Nickleby is a triumph of the imagination, bursting with color, humor, and poignant social commentary.
Summary: Possibly the first novel in the English language, Moll Flanders is the fictional....+
Possibly the first novel in the English language, Moll Flanders is the fictional autobiography of a delightfully scandalous young female rogue. Born in Newgate Prison in seventeenth-century England, Moll is predestined to poverty and lawlessness, yet relentlessly driven to overcome her fate. Donning whatever mask suits her best in the moment, she appraises theft, prostitution, and bigamy only in terms of their profit potential, her indomitable will undaunted by her bad luck. Eventually, however, a moral sense begins to intrude. Defoe creates a narrative that brilliantly commentates on morality and self-reliance within the period in which it is set.
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: Chaucer’s finest work begins at the Tabard Inn, where thirty travelers of....+
Chaucer’s finest work begins at the Tabard Inn, where thirty travelers of widely varying classes and occupations are gathering to make the annual pilgrimage to Becket’s shrine at Canterbury. It is agreed that each traveler will tell four tales to help pass the time during their long journey, and that the host of the inn will reward the best storyteller with a free supper upon their return.
Thus we hear, translated into modern English, the knight’s tale, the merchant’s tale, the miller’s tale, the wife of Bath’s tale, twenty-some tales in all. Some are bawdy, some spiritual, some romantic, some mysterious, some chivalrous. Between the stories, the travelers converse, joke, and argue, revealing much of their individual outlooks upon life as well as what life was like in late-fourteenth-century England.
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.