- Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. 1957.
Achebe's first novel portrays the collision of African and European cultures in people's lives.
- Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. 1979.
Just before the Earth is destroyed, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect.
- Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies. 1994.
Set during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, this novel tells the story of the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands.
- Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio. 1919.
In a deeply moving collection of interrelated stories, this American classic illuminates the loneliness and frustrations— spiritual, emotional and artistic— of life in a small town.
- Baldwin, James. Go Tell It On the Mountain. 1953.
Using as a frame the spiritual and moral awakening of 14-year-old John Grimes during a Saturday night service in a Harlem storefront church, Baldwin lays bare the secrets of a tormented black family during the Depression.
- Bradbury, Ray. Something Wicked This Way Comes. 1962.
When Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show rolls into town, best friends Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade learn the secret of its smoke, mazes and mirrors as they confront a nightmarish evil that will change their lives forever.
- Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange. 1962.
This is Burgess' modern classic of youthful violence and social redemption.
- Burns, Olive Ann. Cold Sassy Tree. 1984.
The unforgettable characters of Cold Sassy, Georgia, are presented in this heartwarming story of modern times coming to a small Southern town.
- Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. 1985.
When aliens threaten humanity with extinction, Earth's ultimate savior may be one small boy. Andrew "Ender" Wiggins thinks he is only playing computer games, but he is really commanding Earth's last great fleet.
- Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. 1984.
This greatly admired and bestselling book about a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago depicts a new American landscape through its multiple characters.
- Conroy, Pat. The Great Santini. 1976.
The moving drama of a family torn apart by a headstrong father— Bull Meecham, a Marine fighter pilot— who demands loyalty, courage and obedience from his wife and children.
- du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. 1938.
The new mistress of Manderley's Cornwall estate must constantly compete with the memory of Maxim de Winter's first wife, Rebecca.
- Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1947.
An African-American man's search for success and the American dream leads him out of college to Harlem and a growing sense of personal rejection and social invisibility.
- Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. 1930.
Faulkner's work revolves around a grim yet darkly humorous pilgrimage, as Addie Bundren's family sets out to fulfill her last wish: to be buried in her native Jefferson, Mississippi, far from the miserable backwater surroundings of her married life.
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925.
A young man, newly rich, tries to recapture the past and win back his former love, despite the fact that she is married.
- Gaines, Ernest. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. 1971.
This novel spans 100 years of American history— from the early 1860s to the onset of the civil rights movement in the 1960s— in following the life of the elderly Jane Pittman, who witnessed those turbulent years.
- García-Márquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. 1967.
"One Hundred Years of Solitude" tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family.
- Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. 1954.
Set during World War II, the story describes the plight of a group of British schoolboys stranded on a Pacific island after their plane was shot down en route to England.
- Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier. 1973.
When Patty, a 12-year-old Jewish girl, decides to help a German prisoner of war escape the camp in her Arkansas hometown, the consequences will change her life forever.
- Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. 1955.
Set during World War II, this grotesque, comic novel recounts the amazing adventures of a bomber squadron.
- Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. 1940.
The story of Robert Jordan, an American fighting during the Spanish Civil War, with the anti-fascist guerillas in the mountains of Spain.
- Hinton, S. E. The Outsiders. 1967.
This novel chronicles the struggle of three brothers to stay together after their parent's death, and their quest for identity among the conflicting values of their adolescent society.
- Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937.
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person— no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.
- Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1932.
Huxley's story shows a futuristic World State where all emotion, love, art and human individuality have been replaced by social stability.
- Irving, John. A Prayer for Owen Meany. 1989.
In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys are playing in a Little League baseball game. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument.
- Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. 1957.
This bible of the Beat Generation is a modern classic of the unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and passion of the 1950s.
- Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. 1963.
Here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her.
- Keyes, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. 1966.
As a mentally handicapped young man is transformed into a genius through surgery and medication, his pleasure is mixed with a growing fear that the experiment's effects may only be temporary.
- Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House. 1959.
The four visitors at Hill House— some there for knowledge, others for adventure— are unaware that the old mansion will soon choose one of them to make its own.
- Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. 1960.
Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer, has just started school; but her carefree days come to an end when a black man in town is accused of raping a white woman, and her father is the only man willing to defend him.
- London, Jack. Call of the Wild. 1903.
This masterpiece recounts the gripping adventures of Buck, a courageous creature forced into the brutal life of sled-dog during the Alaskan gold rush. Forced to relinquish the safety of his familiar world, Buck survives and ultimately prevails through the discovery of his own primitive nature.
- Lowry, Lois. The Giver. 1993.
When Jonas turns 12 and is chosen to receive special training from the Giver, he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his seemingly ideal world.
- Morrison, Toni. Sula. 1973.
Nobel Prize winner Morrison evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people.
- O'Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: a work of fiction. 1990.
This ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination and the redemptive power of storytelling depicts the men of Alpha Company, including the character Tim O'Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of 43.
- Orwell, George. 1984. 1949.
This modern classic of "negative utopia," portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all activities.
- Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country. 1948.
Paton's story of Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set against the backdrop of a land and people riven by racial inequality and injustice, remains the most famous and important novel in South Africa's history.
- Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1963.
Plath's harrowing autobiographical novel traces Esther Greenwood's journey from the glamorous world of magazine publishing in New York to the isolating world of the asylum.
- Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. 1929.
Paul Bäumer is just 19 years old when he and his classmates enlist. They are Germany's Iron Youth who enter the war with high ideals and leave it disillusioned or dead. Paul watches his Second Company —150 men strong— reduced in a single battle to 32 weary survivors.
- Salinger, J. D. Catcher in the Rye. 1951.
In an effort to escape the hypocrisies of life at his boarding school, 16-year-old Holden Caulfield seeks refuge in New York City.
- Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 1974.
Shaara tells a fictional, but generally historically accurate, story about the four-day series of events and battles that surrounded and comprised the Battle of Gettysburg.
- Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. 1906.
"The Jungle" not only exposed the inhumane conditions of Chicago's stockyards and the laborer's struggle against industry and "wage slavery," it also led to new regulations that forever changed workers' rights and the meatpacking industry.
- Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. 1947.
Growing up in the slums of Brooklyn, Francie Nolan lives under the burden of suffering, but her imagination and resourcefulness help her thrive even under these rough conditions.
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. 1962.
Illuminating a dark chapter in Russian history, the story is at once a graphic picture of work camp life and a moving tribute to man's will to prevail over relentless dehumanization.
- Steinbeck, John. Cannery Row. 1945.
Steinbeck interweaves the stories of Doc, Henri, Mack and the boys in a world where only the fittest survive.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again. 1937.
This enchanting prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a quiet and contented hobbit whose life is turned upside down when he joins the wizard Gandalf and 13 dwarves on their quest to reclaim stolen treasure.
- Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-five. 1969.
This anti-war book centers on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany. Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.
- Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. 1982.
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her.
- Wilder, Thornton. The Bridge of San Luis Rey. 1927.
After five travelers fall to their deaths when a footbridge in Peru breaks, one witness, a Franciscan friar, is committed to discovering what manner of lives these five people led— and whether it was divine intervention that took their lives, or a capricious fate.
- White, T. H. The Once and Future King. 1958.
Based on medieval Arthurian legends, this version of young Arthur's quest for the sword Excalibur and his claim to the throne of England includes many well-known episodes with the sorcerer Merlyn and the witch Morgan La Fay.
- Wright, Richard. Native Son. 1940.
Set in Chicago in the 1930s, this is the story of a young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.
- Angela's Ashes: a memoir by Frank McCourt. 1996.
McCourt recounts his childhood in Depression-era Brooklyn as the child of Irish immigrants who decide to return to poverty in Ireland when his infant sister dies.
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. 1952.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Frank's diary has since become a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and a testament to the human spirit.
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley. 1965.
For nearly two years, Haley interviewed Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand and anti-integrationist. Here, Malcolm X tells the story of his life and chronicles the growth of the Black Muslim movement.
- Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth by Richard Wright. 1945.
Wright's unforgettable and eloquent autobiography of growing up in the Jim Crow South offers an unsurpassed portrait of the struggles against the ingrained racism and poverty faced by African Americans.
- Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden. 1999.
This is a brilliant account of the longest sustained firefight involving American troops since the Vietnam War. Bowden's gripping narrative captures the heroism, courage and brutality of battle.
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown. 1970.
This New York "Times" bestseller documents the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the 19th century.
- A Child Called "It:" One Child's Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer. 1993.
This book chronicles one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history.
- Death Be not Proud: A Memoir by John Gunther. 1949.
A father's recollection of his son's courageous and spirited battle against the brain tumor that would take his life at the age of 17.
- Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger. 1990.
The classic, bestselling story of life in the football-driven town of Odessa, Texas.
- Hiroshima by John Hersey. 1985.
Told through the memories of six survivors, this book describes what happened during the days immediately following August 6, when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
- The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. 1995.
"The Hot Zone" tells the story of a highly infectious, deadly virus that suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. 1969.
This memoir captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry and the wonder of words that can make the world right.
- In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences by Truman Capote. 1965.
As Capote reconstructs the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial and execution of the killers, he generates suspense and empathy.
- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. 1996.
Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, Krakauer searches for the clues to the drives and desires that propelled 24-year-old Chris McCandless to leave civilization behind and head into the remote Alaskan wilderness.
- Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela. 1995.
In his memoir, Mandela tells the extraordinary story of his life— an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope and ultimate triumph.
- Maus: A Survivor's Tale I by Art Spiegelman. 1986.
The story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself.
- Night by Elie Wiesel. 1958.
Wiesel's account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps
- Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose. 1996.
Ambrose follows the Lewis & Clark expedition from Thomas Jefferson's hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart-stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis' lonely demise on the Natchez Trace.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig. 1974.
This is a lyrical, evocative, thought-provoking journal of a man's quest for truth— and for himself.
revised May 2010