Featured List

Tom Perrotta

     “Disappointment plagues the characters in [Tom] Perrotta’s novels,” writes Laura Miller in the New Yorker, “from the disaffected parents in Little Children to the divorced sex-education instructor in The Abstinence Teacher. Their marriages lack passion, their spouses cheat, their kids demand too much from them. They thought ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

Dreamtigers

Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges (1964). Borges called this “straggling collection” of tiny prose pieces and poems his most personal book. It contains meditations on the usual Borges themes: doubles, time as a fiction, the incursion of literature on reality.

Dubliners

Dubliners by James Joyce (1916). Although many of these largely autobiographical stories evoke themes of death, illness, and stasis, nearly all offer their characters redemption—or at least momentary self-knowledge—through what Joyce called “epiphanies,” in which defeat or disappointment is transformed by a sudden, usually life-altering flash of awareness.

Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965). Winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, and one of the best-selling works in science fiction history, Dune is a Shakespearean drama set on a withered planet. Conflict centers on Melange, a miraculous substance that extends life, grants psychic powers, and makes space travel possible.

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952). A retelling of Cain and Abel set in California’s Salinas Valley between the Civil War and World War I, this novel takes off when Adam Trask realizes that maybe he shouldn’t have married the lovely yet soulless prostitute Cathy Ames: on their wedding night she betrays him with his brother.

Edisto

Edisto by Padget Powell (1984). Imbued with a strong sense of place—an isolated strip of South Carolina coast called Edisto—this novel centers on one Simons Everson Manigault, a twelve-year-old possessed of a vocabulary and sophistication way beyond his years and a preadolescent bewilderment with the behavior of adults.

Eleven Kinds of Loneliness

Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates (1962). Yates’s debut collection set the tone for what his career would bring: quiet, well-crafted stories and novels about people whose dearest hopes were thwarted, often by their own inability to realize them. Unrelentingly realistic in setting and subject matter, Yates repudiates any easy redemption in these stories.

Embers

Embers by Sándor Márai (1942). Henrik, a nobleman of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Konrad, a humble man with ambition, became best friends in military school. They remained inseparable, even after Henrik married Konrad’s friend. Then, one night, their relationship ruptured.

Emma

Emma by Jane Austen (1816). The story of Miss Woodhouse—busybody, know-it-all, and general relationship enthusiast—is a comedy of manners deftly laced with social criticism. The charm largely inheres in Emma’s imperfections: her slightly spoiled maneuverings, her highly fallible matchmaking, her inability to know her own heart. Emma teeters from lovable one moment to tiresome and self-centered the next.

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New List

Francine Prose

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839). (See below.)
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
6. The stories of Mavis Gallant (1922– ).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).

 

Classic List

Amy Bloom

 

1. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).
2.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
3. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman (1995–2000).
4.The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1995).
5.The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003).
6. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (1978).
7. The Plot Against Americaby Philip Roth.
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998).
9. Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier (1951).
10. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997).

 

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