Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1606). The shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Macbeth runs along at breakneck speed, elevating Macbeth from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor to King of Scotland in two brief acts.


Mahabharata (fifth century b.c.e.). Said to be the second-longest epic poem in the world (behind Tibet’s Epic of King Gesar), the Mahabarata is also, along with the Ramayana, one of the two defining books of Hindu culture. Its core narrative relates the clashes between two groups of royal Indian cousins—one descended from gods, the other from demons.

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814). Fanny Price is the least loved of Austen’s heroines: “prig” is a common complaint of her critics. It’s true that reticent, unsure Fanny Price, sent to live with her cold, wealthy relatives, lacks the Austen spunk.

Mason & Dixon

Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (1997). Charles Mason (1728-1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779) were the British surveyors best remembered for running the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that we know today as the Mason-Dixon Line.

Maud Martha

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks (1953). Brooks is best known for her poetry about African American life in Chicago, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen (1949). In Maud Martha, Brooks switches to prose fiction, recounting the stages of a young woman’s life during the 1930s and 1940s.