Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847). Like Wuthering Heights, this is a romance set in the isolated moors of rural England the Brontës called home. Its title character is an exceptionally independent orphan who becomes governess to the children of an appealing but troubled character, Mr. Rochester.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884). Hemingway proclaimed, “All modern American literature comes from . . . ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ” But one can read it simply as a straightforward adventure story in which two comrades of conve nience, the parentally abused rascal Huck and fugitive slave Jim, escape the laws and conventions of society on a raft trip down the Mississippi.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927). The Ramsays and their eight children vacation with an assortment of scholarly and artistic houseguests by the Scottish seaside.
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27). It’s about time. No, really. This seven-volume, three-thousand-page work is only superficially a mordant critique of French (mostly high) society in the belle époque.
Stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904). The son of a freed Russian serf, Anton Chekhov became a doctor who, between the patients he often treated without charge, invented the modern short story. The form had been overdecorated with trick endings and swags of atmosphere.
Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72). Dorothea Brooke is a pretty young idealist whose desire to improve the world leads her to marry the crusty pedant Casaubon. This mistake takes her down a circuitous and painful path in search of happiness.
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (1979).This novel tells the story of Cornelius Suttree, who has forsaken a life of privilege with his prominent family to live in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee River near Knoxville. Remaining on the margins of the outcast community there--a brilliantly imagined collection of eccentrics, criminals, and squatters--he rises above the physical and human squalor with detach
Charming Billy by Alice McDermott (1998). In a small bar somewhere in the Bronx, a funeral party has gathered to honor Billy Lynch. Through the night, his friends and family weave together the tale of a husband, lover, dreamer, and storyteller, but also that of a hopeless drunk whose immense charm was but a veil over a lifetime of secrets and all-consuming sorrow.
A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence; a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from occupied Iraq; a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list; a teenage runaway who is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena; a cabal of dangerous mystics and their enemies – these are some of the characters in David Mitchell’s acclaimed new novel, The Bone Clocks. As in his previous five novels, Mitchell rearranges time and space – transporting readers through six different worlds, from the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future – to tell the interlocking stories of his far-flung characters.
“Ever since her stunning debut novel Final Payments in 1978,” Fran Hawthorne writes in The National Journal, “Mary Gordon has been one of the premier fiction writers in the US, although too often pigeonholed as an “Irish Catholic” author. Her 16 books, including novels, short-story collections, essays, memoirs and a biography of Joan of Arc, have won multiple awards.”