Featured List

Tom Wolfe, RIP

We have lost a giant – one of the very best reporters and writers in American history.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Tom Wolfe, the best-selling alchemist of fiction and nonfiction who wrote “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” “The Right Stuff” and countless other novels and works of journalism, died of pneumonia in a New York hospital yesterday. He was 88 years old.

I first met Mr. Wolfe through “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Then I read everything else. Being in his company was pure pleasure, and inspiring. Try ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

China Men

China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston (1980). Kingston won the National Book Award for this richly detailed, multigenerational novel about the Chinese American experience. Drawing on ancient legends, family lore, and history, she begins in the 1840s, with the building of the transcontinental railroad, and continues through the challenges posed by the Vietnam War era.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (1983). Everyone knows that Santiago Nasar will be murdered by Pedro and Pablo Vicario when the bishop comes to bless their sister’s marriage. The story of Nasar’s last hours is recounted by his cousin, a reporter who returns to the small South American town twenty-seven years later to find out what happened.

Clarissa

Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1747–48). This long epistolary novel—full of sexual tension, violence, and psychic conflict—tells the tale of the virtuous Clarissa Harlowe and her rakish suitor, Robert Lovelace. Disowned by her family, confined in a brothel and raped, Clarissa pays a high price for her morality.

Clockers

Clockers by Richard Price (1992). When cocaine dealer Strike Dunham’s hardworking brother confesses to murder, burnt-out detective Rocco Klein is convinced that Strike is behind the crime. As Klein turns the ulcer-ridden nineteen-year-old’s world upside down, Price provides a street-level look at America’s drug epidemic and searing portrayals of addiction—to drugs, power, status, and action.

Closely Watched Trains

Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal (1965). As if he doesn’t have enough trouble living in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II, Milos Hrma learns he is impotent during his first sexual encounter. After trying to commit suicide, he returns to his job tending German trains while imagining ways to reassert his manhood.

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997). Frazier won the National Book Award for Fiction for his first novel, set in North Carolina during the Civil War. In rich language that evokes his nineteenth-century landscape, Frazier tells two interconnected stories exploring the themes of love and war and the natural world.

Confessions of Zeno

Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo (1923). Hypochondriac, philanderer, dilettante, neurotic, and raconteur, Zeno is a hyperconscious modern man. His subversive memoirs, ostensibly undertaken as a psychoanalytic “cure,” relate youth, courtship, marriage, affairs, and business misadventures with a disarming blend of frankness and humbug.

Continental Drift

Continental Drift by Russell Banks (1985). Working-class New Hampshirite Bob Dubois flees his existence as an oil burner repairman for what he assumes will be a warmer future in Florida. Not far from his new home, but in another social universe, Vanise Dorsinvilles undergoes a much more brutal journey to the sunshine state from her native Haiti.

Correction

Correction by Thomas Bernhard (1975). This dense philosophic novel consisting of two long paragraphs begins with the suicide of an Austrian scientist named Roithamer.

Cousin Bette

Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac (1847). Lisbeth (Bette) Fischer, a seamstress for the demimonde of actresses and courtesans and the poor relation of Baron Hulot, has a secret: she is helping to support a poor but noble Polish sculptor. Baron Hulot’s daughter Hortense discovers the secret and helps herself to the handsome sculptor.

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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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