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Classics

Chosen, The – (Chaim Potok, 1967) In a world of New York’s East side, a loving father has not spoken to his son for six years except to discuss the Talmud. Danny is expected to become the seventh rabbi in his family and eventually to lead the tightly-knit religious community that has survived in transplantation to America. But his brilliant intellect is powerfully drawn to the secular prophets of Darwin and Freud. Told from the perspective of his best friend, Reuven, whose family represents the liberal tradition in Judaism, the novel recounts Danny’s search for religious identity.

Cry, The Beloved Country - (Alan Paton, 1948) The most famous and important novel in South Africa's history. This story is a deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.

Death of a Salesman – (Arthur Miller, 1949) In two acts and a requiem, this 1949 play shows how the illusions and false Gods of an aging suburban salesman have turned his life into a nightmare. A tragic hero of the American theatre,Willy Loman might be Everyman, his life the chronicle of a broken American dream.

84, Charing Cross Road – (Helene Hanff, 1970) Helene Hanff writes to a second-hand London bookstore for copies of books she cannot find in New York City.  A correspondence ensues, and this novel is the product of a relationship between a rather reserved Englishman and a brash American.  It evolves into a friendship and correspondence between herself and the entire shop. Their shared love for books and authors leads to a friendship which often has little to do with the books, but a great deal to do with human nature.

Elephant, The – (Slawomir Mrozek) From a Polish author described by The Spectator as “like Kafka, but funnier,” this collection of short stories is rich in satirical wit.

End of the Affair, The – (Graham Greene, 1951) This frank, intense account of a love-affair and its mystical aftermath is set in a suburb of London and told with the intimate informality of the first person. The story tells of the strange and callous steps taken by a middle-aged writer to destroy, or perhaps reclaim, the mistress who had unaccountably left him eighteen months before.

Frankenstein – (Mary Shelly, 1963) The original story of Victor Frankenstein and of the monstrous creature he created.  

Gone with the Wind – (Margaret Mitchell, 1936) The immortal love story and historic epic of the old South was published during the deep Depression of 1936.

Housekeeping – (Marilynne Robinson, 1980) After two teenage girls lose their mother to suicide (their father long since disappeared), the girls’ Aunt Sylvie, a 35-year-old interesting misfit, arrives to care for them. She has a gypsy-like quality which one of the teens, Ruth (the narrator) is drawn to, however contrary to the expectations of their 1950's society. A beautifully written, haunting story.

House on Mango Street, The - (Sandra Cisneros, 1984) A story of harsh realities and beauty unfold as Cisneros describes the story of the young girl, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in a latino section of Chicago. Depicted in a series of vignettes this novel produces a novel about this young girl “coming into her power, and inventing for herself what she will become.”

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit – (Daniel Quinn, 1992) This is the book that corporate leaders, politicians and ordinary citizens credit with changing forever the way they look at human beings’ relationship with the rest of nature. A suspenseful, inventive, and probing dialogue between a teacher and a pupil that may reshape the way you look at your life.

Moon and Sixpence, The – (Somerset Maugham, 1944) Loosely based on the life of French painter, Paul Gaugin, this novel exposes Edwardian society in all its hypocrisy and eccentricity. The unspoken question asked is whose life is more deplorable; that of the appearance-conscious Mrs. Strickland, or the cruel but truthful Charles Strickland.

Narrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave - (Frederick Douglass, 2000 Edition) This book calmly but dramatically recounts the horrors and the accomplishments of his early years-the daily, casual brutality of the white masters; his painful efforts to educate himself; his decision to find freedom or die; and his harrowing but successful escape.

Night Flight – (Antoine De Saint-Exupery) In this gripping, beautifully written novel, Saint-Exupery tells about the brave men who pilot night mail planes from Patagonia, Chile, and Paraguay to Argentina in the early days of commercial aviation.  They are impelled to perform their routine acts of heroism by a steely chief named Riviere, whose extraordinary character is revealed through the dramatic events of a single night.

Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass - (Isak Dinesen, 1937, 1960) This one volume contains both Out of Africa, the well-loved story of Isak Dinesen’s struggle on her coffee plantation in Kenya and additional stories and reminiscences about Africa gathered under the title Shadows on the Grass. The author’s poetic images and language make her book a delight to read.

Professor’s House, The (Willa Cather, 1925) A prize-winning historian and professor feels trapped in his life and tries to authenticate himself by editing a former student’s western journal.

Screwtape Letters, The – (C.S. Lewis, 1942) Set in Great Britain around the time of WWII, this clever and trenchant little book is cast in the form of letters from a senior devil to a much junior and far more bumbling devil, assigned to tempt a recent convert to Anglican Christianity. What would the devil make of such standard Christian doctrines as free will, faith, and the temptations of spiritual pride?

Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A - (Betty Smith, 1943) The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years.

West With the Night – (Beryl Markham, 1942) Growing up in East Africa, Beryl Markham describes her life as a pioneer aviator, a horse breeder, pilot of passengers and supplies in a small plane to remote corners of Africa, and became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

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