Featured List

Maxine Hong Kingston

Our newest Top Ten list comes from one of America’s most celebrated writers, Maxine Hong Kingston, who has used Chinese-American experiences to depict the human condition through several works of nonfiction and one novel.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants who operated a California gambling house in the 1940s and later a laundry, Kingston often blends autobiography and mythology in her work. Her first book – “The Woman Warrior” (1976) which won the National Book ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

    Aesop's Fables

    Aesop’s Fables (c. sixth century b.c.e.). Though their origins are vague—Aesop may have been born a slave in Asia Minor in 620 b.c.e.—these tales use talking animals to personify human virtues and vices. Fables such as “The Hare and the Tortoise,” “The Lion and the Mouse” and “The Fox Who Lost His Tail” show that “slow and steady wins the race,” “appearances can be deceiving,” and “misery loves company.”

    Ahab’s Wife

    Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (1999). “Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last” reads the opening line of this novel, which imagines the life of the woman married to the obsessive captain from ­Moby-Dick. And what a life it was—running away from home, posing as a boy to get aboard a whaling ship, tragedy at sea, cannibalism, and then domestic life in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

    Airships

    Airships by Barry Hannah (1978). Barry Hannah can make readers laugh about the grimmest subject while never for a second losing sight of the essential horror.

    All Quiet on the Western Front

    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (1929). Remarque drew on his military experience to craft this seminal antiwar novel. At the outset of World War I, Paul Baumer and his fellow Germans are gung-ho. As the senseless bloodbath continues, hope turns to disillusionment, and death comes to seem a welcome reprieve in this gritty and poignant tale.

    All the King's Men

    All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946). In perhaps the most famous American political novel, Warren tracks the unsentimental education of Jack Burden, an upper-class, college-educated lackey to Willie Stark, the populist governor of Louisiana (whom Warren modeled on Huey Long).

    Alligator

    (2) Alligator by Shelley Katz (1977). He’s the Moby-Dick of the Everglades—a twenty-foot-long alligator with eighty razor sharp teeth who stalks men for pleasure. Like all legendary beasts, this killer is a symbol of mankind’s weakness and a challenge to those who dream of proving their mettle.

    American Pastoral

    American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1997). As the close of the 20th century, the American century, Roth delivered an elegy for all of its promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss.

    Amours de Voyage

    Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough (1858). A nineteenth-century figure who expressed twentieth-century skepticism about action and belief, Clough set this tragicomic narrative poem during the unsuccessful Italian Revolution of 1848–49.

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    New List

    Joyce Carol Oates

    1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).
    2. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
    3. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929).
    4. The poems of Emily Dickinson (1830–86).
    5. The stories of Franz Kafka (1883–1924).
    6. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830).
    7. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence (1915).
    8. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence (1920).
    9. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
    10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).




     

    Classic List

    Mary Gaitskill

    1. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
    2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).
    3. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (1962).
    4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853).
    5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).
    6. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927).
    7. Gusev by Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
    8. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (1904).
    9. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842).
    10. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (1831).

     





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