Reviews by Author

Things Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart takes place in Nigeria, Africa in the late 1890s when primitive village life was interrupted by Christian missionaries. Published over 50 years ago, Chinua Achebe’s classic quickly won international acclaim for it’s originality in modern African literature. ★★

Superior Women by Alice AdamsSuperior Women by Alice Adams

Superior Women is about 5 girls who meet at Radcliffe in 1943, their freshman year of college. Alice Adams tells this vintage tale, following them beyond the school years through most of their adult lives. ★★★★+

Things Chinese by Rita AeroThings Chinese by Rita Aero

An “A to Z” encyclopedia of all things Chinese. ★★★+

Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana AlexievichVoices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

The radiation emitted from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was the equivalent of 350 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. A large portion of Russia is contaminated forever, and yet over 2 million people still live on this poisoned land. ★★★★★

Rules for Radicals by Saul AlinskyRules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky

Serious concerns about the direction our country is headed? Read this book. Rules for Radicals is a controversial instruction manual on how to take from the “haves” to give to the “have-nots”. President Obama and Hillary Clinton both studied Alinsky’s radical doctrine. ★★★★★

Grace Notes by Charlotte Vale AllenGrace Notes by Charlotte Vale Allen

Grace Notes is a novel about spousal abuse. Grace Loring is a successful author, divorced, living with her teenage daughter and gay brother. A devoted fan writes to her asking for advise about an abusive husband and Grace becomes personally involved.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Lucky Jim is a British farce. It should have been a movie in the 1940s starring W. C. Fields and Mickey Rooney. Too bad it wasn’t written until the 1950s. And today it is utterly passe – and not a bit funny. ★

babi-yarBabi Yar by A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov)

If you were only ever going to read one WWII book told by civilians living in occupied territory, Babi Yar is the book to read. Taking place in Russia it is a war story, a survivor story, a story of genocide, horror, hardship, and devastation. ★★★★★

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood AndersonWinesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Written in 1919, Winesburg Ohio is Sherwood Anderson’s collection of short stories about various residents of the fictional town. Among them: a spinster, a religious fanatic, a shy introverted loner, and a grumpy old man. A Modern Library classic. ★★★★+

The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels AngladaThe Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels

Marie Angels Anglada writes a contemporary novel about a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942. The talented violin craftsman finds solace and refuge in designing and constructing a violin for a German Commander. ★★

A Woman in Berlin by An Anonymous WriterA Woman in Berlin by An Anonymous Writer

A Woman in Berlin is a memoir of one woman’s experience living in Germany during the last 8 weeks of the WW II. The Russian troops conquered Berlin and all they had in mind was food, alcohol, and sex. ★★★★

In the Shadow of the Red Banner by Yitzhak AradIn the Shadow of the Red Banner by Yitzhak Arad

A documentary of World War II –  Soviet Jews in the war against Nazi Germany; the army, the underground, the partisan activities, and detailed explanations of ghetto uprisings. ★★★★★

Cat’s Eye by Margaret AtwoodCat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Richly developed characters and an intriguing plot in this novel about a fifty year old woman who is plagued with memories of being bullied by childhood friends. ★★★★

Persuasion by Jane AustinPersuasion by Jane Austin

A classic love story during the Regency Era: pure and innocent, comical and romantic. ★★★

Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustinSense and Sensibility by Jane Austin

Two sisters searching for love. A genuine experience of the past in this 200 year old classic. ★★★+

Stronger Than Iron, the Destruction of Vilna Jewry 1941-1945 An Eyewitness Account by Mendel BalberyszskiStronger Than Iron, the Destruction of Vilna Jewry 1941-1945: An Eyewitness Account by Mendel Balberyszski

Stronger Than Iron exposes the depth of monstrous evil acts of which human beings are capable. But above all, it is an inspirational memoir of one mans ability to survive the Holocaust without losing faith or relinquishing his dignity. ★★★★★

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James BaldwinGo Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Go Tell it on the Mountain was James Baldwin’s first novel – number 39 on the Modern Library list of 100 greatest novels. It’s a fictional observation of the spiritual life of a black family in Harlem in the 1930’s, unpretentious, moving and authentic. ★★★★

Pere Goriot by Honore De BalzacPere Goriot by Honore De Balzac

Pere Goriot is a story of French society, money , power, ambition, and love. Balzac creates an intricate plot full of colorful descriptions and exaggerated drama. ★★★★+

Death to the Infidels; Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews by Mitchell BardDeath to the Infidels; Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews by Mitchell Bard

Death to the Infidels by Mitchell Bard is about the radical Muslim groups: ISIS, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Fatah and al-Qaeda – their religious war – Palestine and the Jews – Shiites and Sunnis – the entire middle east. A must read! ★★★★★

MEXICO: Stories by Josh Barkan

The collection consists of 12 short stories told by people of differing vocations located in several Mexican cities. The common thread – they all have run-ins with drug dealers or gang members which result in death threats, violence, or some major crime… murder, kidnapping, arson, and theft. ★★

Zuleika Dobson by Max BeerbohmZuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

Max Beerbohm, famous for his artistic caricatures, penned the novel Zuleika Dobson. This parody of social life during the Edwardian Era is an absurd tale of tragic love. Zuleika has to be the most wicked woman in the history of English literature. ★★★

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold BennettThe Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

Bennett’s masterpiece The Old Wives’ Tale is about 2 sisters; Sophia and Constance. The plot takes some unexpected twists and turns, and just like real life, things do not always work out the way they intended. ★★★★★

Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight by Howard Bingham and Max WallaceMuhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight by Howard Bingham and Max Wallace

Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight is the story of his battle with the United States government to be accepted as a conscientious objector. Muhammad Ali’s  courage to stand up for his religious beliefs was his greatest victory. ★★★

The Chinese Looking Glass by Dennis BloodworthThe Chinese Looking Glass by Dennis Bloodworth

A fascinating documentary about China: A combination of some history, politics, sociology, and culture. ★★★★

Writing Your Life A Guide to Writing Autobiographies by Mary BorgWriting Your Life: A Guide to Writing Autobiographies by Mary Borg

Writing Your Life is not about writing a get-rich-quick sensationalized drama based on something that “might” have happened in your life. It’s an aid to help adults document their life – memorabilia to pass down – much like a family scrap book. ★★★★★

The Death of The Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

The Death of the Heart takes place in England, circa 1930’s. It’s the story of Portia Quayne, a typical sixteen year old coming of age. And amidst the uncertainty and discomfort of growing up to be a respectable young woman, she has the added burden of suddenly becoming an orphan- sent to live with an estranged step-brother and his snobby, bourgeois wife. ★★★

The Sheltering SkyThe Sheltering Sky, Let it Come Down, and the Spider’s House by Paul Bowles

Intrigue, horror, and psychological thriller; three complete novels, each one a gem. Having lived in Morocco during the writing of the book, Paul Bowles brings vivid authenticity to the characters and North African scenery. ★★★★

Chronicles of the Civil War by John Bowman
The history of the Civil War told from start to finish. All information is aided by photos, maps, and drawings to enhance the reading experience. It includes an A to Z illustrated encyclopedia of generals, battles, cities where fighting occurred and much more. ★★★★★
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s classic futuristic dystopia novel. Reading is prohibited, thinking is discouraged, and all entertainment is government censored. ★★★★

Across Many Mountains A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom by Yangzom BrauenAcross Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom by Yangzom Brauen

A memoir of three generations of Tibetan women. ★★★

The Britannica Guide to Modern ChinaThe Britannica Guide to Modern China

A reference book on China. ★★

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte’s first published novel Jane Eyre is a gothic love story. Jane is a poor abandoned orphan raised by a wicked aunt. She becomes a teacher and a governess and falls in love with her boss – the master of an English estate. ★★★

Strangers by Anita Brookner

Strangers is the story of a 70 year old man who is alone in the world… no family, no friends, and no children. Anita Brookner won the Booker Prize for her novel Hotel Du Lac, but this novel falls far short of prize material. ★★
 

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor BrownThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

As the story begins, three sisters use their own personal failures and fears as an excuse to move back in with their parents when they discover mom has breast cancer. ★★+

The Good Earth by Pearl BuckThe Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Step back in time and read about the ancient customs of China in this Pulitzer Prize winning novel; the first book in The House of Earth trilogy. ★★★★★

A House Divided by Pearl BuckA House Divided by Pearl Buck

The final segment of the House of Earth trilogy. After reading The Good Earth and Sons this is a must read. Follow the Wang family for 3 generations right up to China’s civil war and revolution in the 1930’s. ★★★★★

Imperial Woman by Pearl BuckImperial Woman by Pearl Buck

A historical novel about the last Empress of China under the Manchu Dynasty. ★★★★★

Pavillion of Women by Pearl BuckPavillion of Women by Pearl Buck

A novel that focuses on the women of the Wu family. Madame Wu experiences a mid-life crisis. ★★★+

Sons by Pearl BuckSons by Pearl Buck

Part 2 of The House of Earth Trilogy; the story of the three generations of the Wang family. Sons picks up where The Good Earth ends. Wang Lung is on his death bed and his sons are about to take over the family legacy. ★★★★

THE GREEK MYTHS by Robert Graves versus BULFINCH’S MYTHOLOGY

Interested in Mythology? Here’s a comparison of Robert Graves’ Greek Myths and Bulfinch’s Mythology. Between the two books you’ll discover all the immortals. Aside from Greek Myths, stories of the Age of Chivalry, Robin Hood, Heracles, and the Trogan War.

Robert Graves Greek Myths ★★★★★ Bulfinch’s Mythology ★★★

 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange is Anthony Burgess’ controversial dystopia satire. The book, Stanley Kubrick’s film, and the final chapter that American publishers refused to publish all spark a philosophical debate about good and evil and individual rights. ★★★★★

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. CainThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

The Postman Always Rings Twice was James Cain’s first murder mystery. It holds the coveted position of number 98 on Modern Library’s list of 100 best novels of all time. Memorable characters, a suspenseful plot, non-stop action, and racy sex scenes. ★★★★

Tobacco Road by Erskine CaldwellTobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell

Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road takes place during the depression, in the rural countryside of Georgia. Banned for many years in the south because of it’s offensive politically incorrect content…digest this book at your own risk. ★★★★

The Plague by Albert CamusThe Plague by Albert Camus

Albert Camus’ novel The Plague illustrates his philosophy of Absurdism. Much like Existentialism it is based on the premise of the meaninglessness of life. As the plague strikes a French town a Dr., priest, and journalist share their views of life. ★★★★

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

O Pioneers! is the first novel of the Great Plains Trilogy. Published over 100 years ago, Willa Cather offers great descriptions of the primitive lifestyle on the Nebraskan prairie. ★★+

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

The Song of the Lark is the tale of prairie life in rural Colorado 100 years ago centering on Thea Kronborg, a young Swedish girl who’s ambition is to be a famous musician. ★★★+

My Antonia by Willa Cather

My Antonia is the quintessential tale of life on the American prairie in the early 1900s. Childhood memories are what My Antonia is all about… beautiful, irreplaceable childhood memories. ★★★★★

Life with My Sister Madonna by Christoper CicconeLife with My Sister Madonna by Christoper Ciccone

Madonna’s brother shares intimate details of growing up in Michigan and Madonna’s rise to fame. No longer on speaking terms, he feels compelled to let the world know what Madonna is really like. ★★+

The Basic Works of Cicero by Cicero with Introduction and Notes by Moses HadasThe Basic Works of Cicero by Cicero with Introduction and Notes by Moses Hadas

Cicero: lawyer, philosopher and statesman during the time of Pompey, Julius Caesar, and the Roman civil war. He was Rome’s greatest orator. Unfortunately, his controversial speeches caused his beheading in 43 BC. ★★★★

The Clancys of Queens  by Tara Clancy

Tara Clancy writes a memoir of her early years in The Clancys of Queens. Was The Clancys of Queens supposed to be funny? Beats me. It does read like one long joke. ★+

 

Disgrace by J M. Coetzee

J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace is a post-apartheid drama taking place in South Africa. The story of an aging professor who gets fired for having an affair with a student, and his earthy, bohemian daughter. Winner of the 1999 Booker Prize. Rated ★★★★★.

Lord Jim by Joseph ConradLord Jim by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim is a combination high-seas adventure, romance, and psychological character study. The book offers an entertaining plot – colorful descriptions and exotic characters. Number 85 on Modern Library’s list of best 100 novels. ★★★+

Glitter and Glue by Kelly CorriganGlitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

Kelly Corrigan’s memoir Glitter and Glue is advertised as “a new memoir that examines the bond – sometimes exasperating, occasionally divine – between mothers and daughters.” It’s a nice story but lacks depth – I expected so much more. ★★

The Rise of the House of Rothschild by Count Egon Caesar CortiThe Rise of the House of Rothschild by Count Egon Caesar Corti

From the Jewish Ghetto in Germany, Meyer Amschel Rothschild built a financial empire spanning 5 countries; Germany, England, Italy, Austria, and France. This book gives details of exactly how he did it. ★★★★+

The Romanovs by Virginia CowlesThe Romanovs by Virginia Cowles

An overview of the Romanov Dynasty which lasted from 1613 to 1917. It’s not a pretty picture! ★★★+

Mao II by Don DeLilloMao II by Don DeLillo

Mao II is a short novel revolving around four main characters: a famous recluse writer, his obsessive compulsive assistant, a teenager who got brainwashed by the Reverend Moon of the Unification Church, and a professional photographer. ★★★

Together Alone by Barbara DelinskyTogether Alone by Barbara Delinsky

Three women deal with sending their only child off to college. It forces them to face personal issues: an unhappy marriage, the idea of aging, loneliness and boredom, and the challenge of finding a new purpose in life. ★★★

Deliverance by James Dickey

The book Deliverance is just as gruesome as the infamous movie from the 1970s, but more personal with psychological and philosophical elements. Intense drama, adventure, murder, and rape. Storytelling that earned the book a rating of number 42 on Modern Library’s list of top 100. ★★★★+.

Ragtime by E. L. DoctorowRagtime by E. L. Doctorow

Ragtime is a fictional story about racial discrimination in the early 1900s, but E. L. Doctorow includes anecdotes of real people from that era: J. Pierpont Morgan, Houdini, Henry Ford, the radical revolutionary Emma Goldman, and Booker T. Washington. ★★★

The Ginger Man by J. P. DonleavyThe Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy

Donleavy’s The Ginger Man is number 99 on the Modern Library list of 100 best novels. Forget all the nasty, evil, fictitious characters you’ve ever come across… they are all mild compared to The Ginger Man’s Sebastian Dangerfield. ★+

1919, Book 2 of the U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos1919, Book 2 of the U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos

John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. Trilogy includes The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money. Covering a span of time from 1900 to the mid 1930’s the second volume “1919” carries the reader through the turbulent years of World War I. ★★★★★

The 42nd Parallel, Book 1 of the U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos PassosThe 42nd Parallel, Book 1 of the U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos

John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. Trilogy includes The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money. Covering a span of time from 1900 to the mid 1930’s the first volume is about labor organizers, socialist rebels, unions strikes, and life prior to World War I. ★★★

The Big Money, Book 3 of the U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos PassosThe Big Money, Book 3 of the U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos

John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. Trilogy includes The 42nd Parallel, 1919, and The Big Money covering a span of time from 1900 to the mid 1930’s. In the grand finale World War I is over and everyone is scrambling to make “The Big Money”. ★★★★★

Crime and Punishment by Feodor DostoevskyCrime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of the greatest Russian novels ever to be published. ★★★★★

THE DOUBLE and THE GAMBLER  by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Double and The Gambler present richly crafted, intensely dramatic character studies. One novella involves the actions of a man deeply troubled and confused, and the other novella explores the personality and actions of a compulsive gambler. ★★★★★
Notes from Underground by Fyodor DostoevskyNotes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic, Notes From Underground, scrutinize the thoughts and actions of a Russian nihilist as he takes pleasure in wallowing in pain and suffering while living underground totally alienated from society. ★★★★+

The Radiant Way by Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble’s The Radiant Way is the story of three women; their marriages and family life, their careers, their social life, and their friendship with each other. The story mostly covers women’s issues, but also delves into psychological problems, mental illness and crime, socialism, and the arts and literature. ★★★

Sister Carrie by Theodore DreiserSister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

During the telling of Sister Carrie Dreiser paints a vivid picture of the social and cultural conditions in Chicago and New York during the early 1900’s: moral issues, women’s limitations in the work place, social immobility, poverty and crime. ★★★★+

An American Tragedy by Theodore DreiserAn American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy is the story of Clyde Griffiths. Fleeing his poor, conservative, ultra-religous upbringing – in search of love, money, and prestige – Clyde ends up on trial for murder. Based on a true crime of the 1920’s. ★★★★+

Rebecca by Daphne Du MaurierRebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca is a classic suspense novel. It is apparent from the very beginning that something dreadful is going to happen. Daphne Du Maurier creates an atmosphere that can give a jaded mystery fan goose bumps. ★★★★+

Cartwheel by Jennifer DuboisCartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

Jennifer Dubois’ novel Cartwheel is loosely based on the true story of the Amanda Knox murder case. An American student studying abroad in Argentina is accused of murdering her room-mate. She appears to be guilty, but did she really do it? ★★★+

The Life of Greece by Will Durant

The Life of Greece is the history of Greek civilization from the very beginning to the collapse of the empire; government and politics, religion, philosophy, the arts, and facts about social and domestic life…. this book has it all. ★★★★★

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell

The Alexandria Quartet is 4 individual novels titled: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea. Taking place in Egypt during the onset of WWII, Lawrence Durrell writes about drama, love, intrigue and espionage. A unique reading experience – listed on Modern Library’s Top 100 novels. ★★★★

EVELYN WAUGH, A Life Revisited by Philip Eade

Evelyn Waugh has three books on the Modern Library list of best novels of all time. His biography Evelyn Waugh A Life Revisited gives details about his personal life with focus on how the social and political climate of his time effected the content of his novels. ★★★★

 

Marriages by Alan EbertMarriages by Alan Ebert

Alan Ebert’s Marriages is the story of one year in the life of three old friends. They haven’t seen each other in years but decide to celebrate their 40th birthdays together. ★+

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy EganThe Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

The Dust Bowl is Timothy Egan’s award-winning documentary about America’s mid-west in the 1930s. It tells the events that led to the tragedy and stories from a variety of people who lived through the Dust Bowl. An enthralling, heartbreaking tale. ★★★★★

Bianca by Robert Elegant

Bianca is a novel loosely based on the life of Francesco de Medici and Lady Bianca Capello. Francesco was a member of the long line of Italy’s famous ruling family and was in power for a little over 20 years in the 1500s.  This is Bianca’s story, told from her point of view.   ★★★

Invisible Man by Ralph EllisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man is the story of one black man’s journey to self discovery. And, oh what a journey it is! From segregation and unrestrained discrimination in the south, to Harlem and the Brotherhood. Won the National Book Award in 1952 – still a best seller. ★★★★★

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Hausfrau is one of the saddest novels I’ve ever read. It is the story of an American expatriate – wife of a Swiss banker – who is mentally unstable and uses casual indiscreet sexual affairs with random strangers to numb her mental anguish. ★★★★★

Middlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesMiddlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex is a Pulitzer Prize winning saga involving three generations of a Greek family. Lots of Greek history, culture, mythology, and customs, but primary focus: a grandchild tragically born a hermaphrodite. ★★★★

Consequence, A Memoir by Eric Fair
Eric Fair reveals his negative experience working for a private independent contractor interrogating prisoners for the United States government during the Iraq conflict in 2003 and 2004. The hiring process, interrogation techniques, conditions in Iraq at the time, and his personal story. ★★
Studs Lonigan Trilogy by James T. Farrell

The Studs Lonigan Trilogy depicts life in the south side of Chicago in the 1920s. Prohibition, the stock market crash, and the Great Depression. Number 29 on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels of all time. ★★★★★

As I Lay Dying by William FaulknerAs I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

William Faulkner’s classic As I Lay Dying is on the 100 best American Novels list. This Nobel Prize winning author writes about a dysfunctional family from Mississippi. A cast of characters you will never forget. ★★★★★

The Sound and the Fury by William FaulknerThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

William Faulkner’s first novel, The Sound and the Fury is rated no. 6 on Modern Library’s best 100 novels of all time, but I have no idea why. Taking it’s title from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it is a dysfunctional novel about a dysfunctional family. ★★★

Light in August by William FaulknerLight in August by William Faulkner

William Faulkner’s Light in August is written in his typical style of “down home” southern pathos. He skillfully presents an eclectic assortment of characters within a harsh tale of bigotry and cultural ignorance. ★★★★+

A Week in December by Sebastian FaulksA Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

A contemporary novel: out of control greed, unethical manipulation of the financial markets, terrorism, gauche “reality TV shows”, and “virtual reality” web-sites. ★★★+

Next to Love by Ellen FeldmanEllen Feldman’sNext to Love by Ellen Feldman

Ellen Feldman’s Next to Love is a novel of World War II survivors which addresses anti semitism, racial relations, rape, inter-faith marriage, veterans, grieving, love, marriage, and friendship. ★+

Civilization The West and the Rest by Niall FergusonCivilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

Ferguson traces the rise and fall of many powerful civilizations and then compares the similarities of how they rose and why they failed with the current decline of the modern west – which includes the United States. ★★+

Revolutionary Russia 1891-1991, a History by Orlando FigesRevolutionary Russia 1891-1991, a History by Orlando Figes

Orlando Figes book Revolutionary Russia covers the 25 years prior to the 1917 revolution, WW I, the dethroning of the Tsar, civil war, the new redistribution of power, and all the years thereafter until the Soviet Union finally collapsed. ★★★★★

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an expert short story writer, and only he could have packed 159 pages so completely with a fast paced intricate plot and the elaborate detailed colorful characters to compose this timeless classic – The Great Gatsby. ★★★★★

Tender is the Night by F. Scott FitzgeraldTender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tender is the Night mirrors the pain and confusion in Fitzgerald’s own life. Nicole and Dick Diver seem like the perfect couple, but their relationship spirals out of control as they struggle to find themselves and deal with their tumultuous lifestyle. ★★★★

The Last Tycoon by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Last Tycoon was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel, incomplete upon his death, but published nonetheless. An iintriguing view of Hollywood in the 1930’s – including a 33 page addendum of Fitzgerald’s outline and notes of the complete story. ★★★

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places is a contemporary novel – a dark psychological thriller of murder and intrigue. Named one of the best books of 2009 by the New Yorker magazine. ★★

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl is a story of murder, intrigue, infidelity, and drama. Gillian Flynn’s contemporary fiction reminds me of classic noir novels written by Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain. ★★★★

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Ken Follett’s novel The Pillars of the Earth presents a vivid illustration of domestic life, customs and rituals of the monks, and various levels of the king’s court, along with the intricacies of building a cathedral. ★★★

Bury Me Standing The Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel FonsecaBury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel Fonseca

Isabel Forseca traveled through Eastern Europe for 4 years living in Gypsy villages – documenting their stories. Bury Me Standing also includes historical references, photographs, direct quotes, posters and maps. ★★★★

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox FordThe Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier is number 30 on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels of all time. Ford’s forte is character development and the plot is told with great aplomb. A tale of 2 couples – infidelity, lies – and much more. ★★★★

The Sportswriter  by Richard Ford

The Sportswriter is Richard Ford’s first book of the Bascombe trilogy – followed by Independence Day which won the Pulitzer Prize, and The Lay of the Land. As the series begins, 38 year old Frank Bascombe is going through a mid-life crisis – unsatisfied with his job, divorced and drifting in and out of disappointing relationships. ★★★

Independence Day by Richard Ford

Independence Day is the second book of Richard Ford’s trilogy which won him the coveted Pulitzer Prize and sent many surprised readers out to purchase the by-passed book 1- The Sportswriter. ★★★+

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford

The Lay of the Land is book three of Richard Ford’s trilogy about the life of Frank Bascombe – following The Sportswriter, and the Pultzer Prize winning Independence Day. ★★★+

A Room With A View  by E. M. Forster
Forster’s A Room With a View is a turn of the century love story about a young woman from England who feels trapped in a relationship with a man she doesn’t love. Rated number 79 on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels of all time. ★★★★+
Howards End by E. M. ForsterHowards End by E. M. Forster

E. M. Forster’s Howards End, written in 1910, is about the ever present class struggle – the transition of British society from the elite living on inherited wealth to the merging class of self-made millionaires. A fairytale disguised as literature. ★★★

The Magus by John Fowles
John Fowles named his classic after the #1 Tarot card – The Magus – a man/beast with supernatural powers. This is a story of psychological games on an isolated Greek Island – where reality blends with fantasy… intriguing scenes and unpredictable events ★★★★★
The Corrections by Jonathan FranzenThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen’s The Correctons is a modern day novel about a dysfunctional American family with an old-fashioned, pompous, authoritative father who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. ★★★★

The Women's Room by Marilyn FrenchThe Women’s Room by Marilyn French

The Women’s Room is a heartrending, emotional narrative of the ordeals women suffered in the 1950’s with unhappy marriages, too many children, and unfulfilled ambitions, smothering social standards and insensitive demanding husbands. ★★★★+

The Bleeding Heart by Marilyn French

Marilyn French is known for her adamant position of seeking gender equality; advocating women’s rights and supporting women’s issues. The Bleeding Heart personifies the worst of both physical and mental abuse by men. ★★★★★

North Korea, State of Paranoia by Paul FrenchNorth Korea, State of Paranoia by Paul French

North Korea reveals details about the culture and philosophy of it’s people, the history since WW II, the economic situation, the ruling family and Kim Jong Un, the political atmosphere, the powerful military, and foreign relations. ★★★★+

PUMPKIN FLOWERS, A Soldier’s Story by Matti Friedman
Matti Friedman shares his experience of serving 3 years in the Israeli military protecting Israel from Hezbollah guerrilla attacks. He was stationed at a border security zone outpost called Pumpkin Hill.   ★★★★★
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

How do you describe a book like Outlander? Drama, fantastical adventure, magical realism, historical fiction, love story? It is all of these things, but above all, a heart-throbbing, maudlin, intensely passionate, soulful, beautiful love story. ★★★★★

Dragonfly in Amber  by Diana Gabaldon

Book 2 of the Outlander Series, Dragonfly in Amber is full of surprises – from the opening scene until the very last page – so be prepared. The continued story of Claire and Jamie will leave you hungry for more. ★★★★★

Voyager  by Diana Gabaldon

Book 3 of the Outlander Series is every bit as adventurous, romantic, spectacular, and melodramatic as Books 1 and 2. Diana Gabaldon is a wonderful, gifted writer with a boundless captivating imagination. ★★★

Drums of Autumn  by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn is the 4th book of the Outlander 8-book series… and the best so far. Covering 3 years from 1767 to 1770- or in real time from 1968 through 1970- there’s more time travel, Indian scenes, ocean voyages, life on the plantation, and primitive living in the wilds of North Carolina.

★★★★★

The Fiery Cross  by Diana Gabaldon

Book 5 of the Outlander Series is everything you would expect of this historic epic. The Fiery Cross follows the lives of Claire and Jamie Fraser as they struggle to survive in the back woods of North Carolina in the year 1771 as the American Revolution approaches.

★★★

Night Falls on the City by Sarah GainhamNight Falls on the City by Sarah Gainham

Night Falls on the City is the first book of a trilogy that takes place in Austria during the years 1938 through 1945. It is a realistic tale of the pain, sorrow, and loss suffered by a beautiful and famous Austrian theater actress and her Jewish husband. ★★★

A Place in the Country by Sarah GainhamA Place in the Country by Sarah Gainham

A Place in the Country is book 2 of a trilogy that began with Night Falls on the City. World War II is over in Vienna Austria yet the pain and suffering continue. This is fiction but Sarah Gainham did witness the after-affects of the war first-hand. ★★+

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It got huge publicity from Oprah and was recently made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and for those reasons alone my initial thoughts were “avoid it like the plague”. ★★★

Elective Affinities (Die Wahlverwandtschaften) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Elective Affinities is about social life in Germany at the onset of the 19th century. von Goethe was noted for participating in the literary classical romanticism movement known as “Strum und Drang”. ★★

Dead Souls by Nikolai Vasilevich GogolDead Souls by Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol

Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls is a satirical tale that renders colorful detailed descriptions of the rural Russian countryside, small town life, peasantry and gentry, an array of eccentric characters and a humorous account of Chichikov’s adventures. ★★★★+

Lord of the Flies by William GoldingLord of the Flies by William Golding

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a Modern Library classic. It’s an allegory about young boys stranded on a deserted island, struggling for survival. Heavy on Social Psychology, a gory plot, and lots of symbolism. ★★★★★

The Kings’ Mistresses by Elizabeth C. GoldsmithThe Kings’ Mistresses by Elizabeth C. Goldsmith

Elizabeth Goldsmith writes a biography of Princess Marie Mancini Colonna and Hortense Mancini the Duchess of Mazarin. During the reign of France’s King Louis XIV, the sisters were famous for their scandalous behavior. ★★

The Tin Drum by Gunter GrassThe Tin Drum by Gunter Grass

The Tin Drum is a fictional autobiography of Oskar Matzerath, a 30 year old dwarf, mental patient, and accused murderer. The story takes place in Poland during World War II. One of the most unusual narratives I’ve ever read. ★★★★+

THE GREEK MYTHS by Robert Graves versus BULFINCH’S MYTHOLOGY

Interested in Mythology? Here’s a comparison of Robert Graves’ Greek Myths and Bulfinch’s Mythology. Between the two books you’ll discover all the immortals. Aside from Greek Myths, stories of the Age of Chivalry, Robin Hood, Heracles, and the Trogan War.

Robert Graves Greek Myths ★★★★★ Bulfinch’s Mythology ★★★

 

Loving by Henry Green

Loving is similar to Downton Abbey – a story of servants at a large estate in Ireland and the wealthy landowners during the late 1940s.  ★★★ 

Water for Elephants by Sara GruenWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Life with a traveling circus in the 1930’s. Sara Gruen’s extensive research into the archives of circus life provided a wealth of information for Water for Elephants, details, facts, and anecdotes, which she cleverly used to bring the story to life. ★★★

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon is Dashiell Hammett’s classic murder mystery. 1920s pulp fiction – pure and delicious. Made into a movie in 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart and nominated for three Academy Awards. On Modern Library’s 100 greatest novel list. ★★★+

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Reading this tiny gem is akin to finding a treasured trunkful of letters- yellowed with age- in an old and musty attic. 84 Charing Cross Road  is a book of correspondence – the first letter is dated October 5, 1949. ★★★★

Enon by Paul HardingEnon by Paul Harding

Paul Harding’s Enon is a story of a father’s grief about losing his daughter. Not very impressive after his Pulitzer Prize winning book Tinkers. ★★

Tinkers by Paul HardingTinkers by Paul Harding

Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize winning Tinkers is heavy on mood, light on plot, shrouded in gloom, partially told through the eyes of someone mentally challenged, and takes a lot of introspection to absorb. Worthy of the Pulitzer? That’s questionable. ★★★

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas HardyTess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

One of Thomas Hardy’s most famous novels, Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a story of England in the late 1800’s. A tragic tale focusing on the uncompromising double standard which left women helplessly suffering discrimination and abuse. ★★★★+

Catch-22 by Joseph HellerCatch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is a black comedy. The theme anti-war and anti-government. Focusing on an Air Force Headquarters during WW II, Heller portrays the officers as inept, ignorant, self-serving, and irrational. Number 7 of the Modern Library list of best novels. ★★★★★

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway took a simple fishing story and turned it into a timeless classic. The Old Man and the Sea is a short, intense, very descriptive adventurous Pulitzer Prize winning tale.. ★★★★★

 

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwayThe Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Overt bigotry and anti-semitism flow freely in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Was it just the circumstances, the obnoxious vulgar characters, the attitude of the general population in the 1920’s…or was it Hemingway’s own personal sentiment? ★★★★+

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest HemingwayA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Another Hemingway classic. A Farewell to Arms is based on Hemingway’s own experience as an enlisted Red Cross ambulance driver for Italy during World War I. Written in Hemingway’s typical Modernist style he tells this poignant tale of love and war. ★★★★

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest HemingwayThe Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s short stories are all about manly issues – war, recovering from serious war injuries, hunting, boxing, fathers and sons, gambling, drinking, and relationships with women. The most well-known short story: The Snows of Kilimanjaro. ★★★+

A Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwayA Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway writes about life in Paris in the 1920s. He talks about his first wife Hadley, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, and Gertrude Stein…. writing, reading, drinking and day to day life. ★★★★+

The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall  by Christopher Hibbert

For over 300 years the De Medici’s influence carried over into all aspects of life in Italy – wars, religion, finances, festive holidays, the arts and architecture.  The House of Medici brings to life the Italian Renaissance recounting stories of all the greatest artists: Donatello, Botticelli, and Michelangelo and speaks of Machiavelli and Galileo.  ★★★★

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

Oscar Hijuelos‘ Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, takes the reader back to the 1950s – traveling from Cuba to New York City, in the world of entertainment at the height of the Latino big-band era. ★★★★★

Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler by Oliver Hilmes

Alma Mahler’s claim to fame was being the wife and muse to her marriage partners; the brilliant composer Gustav Mahler, and author Franz Werfel. Malevolent Muse takes the reader to the heart of the cultural center of Austria during the mid 1900s.  ★★★★

 

THE Iliad by Homer

The Iliad is truly a timeless classic. A story of war and power struggle among men who are fearless barbaric super-heros – with huge egos and bionic strength. Action, violence, humor, melodrama and a sense of magical realism. ★★★★★
 

The Odyssey by Homer

Homer’s The Odyssey – an epic poem of Greek literature. The Trojan War is over and Odysseus is on his way home. Like a book of Aesop’s fairytales it includes giants, cannibals, a beautiful immortal nymph, a trip to the dark underworld of death, threats and premonitions, monsters, and men turned into pigs. ★★★★
 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan and his first novel The Kite Runner invites the reader into the heart of the exotic middle eastern Muslim world. ★★★★★

The Rich Are Different by Susan HowatchThe Rich Are Different by Susan Howatch

Susan Howatch’s The Rich are Different is build around the powerful Wall Street banking industry between 1922 and 1940. A world of scandals and “last man standing mentality” corruption, subservient wives and adultery. ★★★★

sins of the fathersSins of the Fathers by Susan Howatch

Susan Howatch’s Sins of the Fathers is the sequel to The Rich are Different. An epic saga about love and hate, lust, power, money, greed, revenge, alcoholism, and violence. ★★★★★

The Wheel of Fortune by Susan HowatchThe Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch

Susan Howatch’s Wheel of Fortune is a saga of epic proportions covering 5 generations of a Welsh family. This novel has great dialogue, presents complex realistic characters, and has no difficulty holding the readers’ interest with intrigue and drama. ★★★★+

Look at Me Now by Thomas J. HubschmanLook at Me Now by Thomas J. Hubschman

A contemporary novel written in diary form; Deirdre Davis leaves her husband after 23 years of marriage. Although the subjects of spousal abuse and oppression are timeless and relevant, I found the story, condescending, shallow, and a waste of time.

Apache Wars by Paul Andrew Hutton
Subtitled: The Hunt for Geronimo, The Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started the Longest War in American History. Apache Wars is an exceptional documentary about the Apache’s battles with Mexico, America, and other Indian tribes.  ★★★★★
Brave New World by Aldous HuxleyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World reveals a “New World Order” as a totalitarian government uses excessive controls to achieve and maintain social stability: test tube babies, cloning, and genetic engineering. A classic dystopia novel. ★★★★

The Ambassadors by Henry JamesThe Ambassadors by Henry James

Written in 1903 – society at the turn of the century. Considered to be Henry James most perfect novel. ★★★★

The American by Henry James

The American appears to have lacked publicity and maintained less of an enduring popularity than some of Henry James’ other novels such as The Ambassadors and The Portrait of a Lady, though in every way the book is just as enjoyable. ★★★★+

The Turn of the Screw by Henry JamesThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a classic first published in 1891. It is a ghost story, told by a governess who takes a job at an old family estate in a remote location in Essex, England. ★★★

The Wings of a Dove by Henry JamesThe Wings of a Dove by Henry James

Henry James novel The Wings of a Dove is about a young woman and her penniless fiance who scheme to become wealthy by preying on a very ill heiress. Listed as one of the Modern Library’s 100 best novels in spite of it’s dry, mind-numbing prose. ★★+

ContamiNation: My Quest to Survive in a Toxic World by McKay Jenkins
ContamiNation addresses the risks and consequences of over exposure to poisonous chemicals and dangerous toxins found in everything from home furnishings, cleaning products, cosmetics, lawn products, toys, the air we breathe and the water we drink. ★★★★★
IN WARTIME, Stories from Ukraine by Tim Judah

Tim Judah tackles an analysis of an incredibly complex conflict- the on going war in the Ukraine. This documentary brings to light several very profound observations. ★★★★★

The Trial by Franz KafkaThe Trial by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka’s The Trial is a psychological thriller. A story of a man who is on trial in a world where the Law is a feared bureaucracy, having complete and absolute power. A world where you are guilty until proven innocent. ★★★★

The Castle by Franz KafkaThe Castle by Franz Kafka

Kafka’s black comedy The Castle is about isolation and alienation. Like a bad nightmare – you are never quite sure where the plot is going – or why. Told with the Kafkaesque quality of keen awareness and surreal distortion, it’s a “5 Star” classic. ★★★★★

Collected Stories of Franz Kafka-Everyman’s Library EditionCollected Stories of Franz Kafka – Everyman’s Library Edition

This compilation of short stories includes Kafka’s most famous work: The Metamorphosis, The Stoker and In the Penal Colony. It is obvious from his choice of subjects and the painful interaction of his characters that life was a struggle for Kafka. ★★★

India Becoming A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash KapurIndia Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur

Akash Kapur writes about modern India, traveling from major cities to the countryside, interviewing a variety of people: a farmer, lawyer, call-center employee,steer broker, a consultant, a real estate developer, and a gypsy trash picker. ★★+

Street Without a Name-Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria by KapkaStreet Without a Name-Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria by Kapka Kassabova

Kapka Kassabova grew up in Bulgaria – left in 1989 when the Iron Curtain fell, and returned in more recent years to visit. She wrote Street Without a Name as a memoir. Tales of her childhood and vivid descriptions of Bulgaria’s geography and history. ★★★

Ironweed by William KennedyIronweed by William Kennedy

Ironweed was part of William Kennedy’s Albany Cycle series winning him the Pulitzer Prize. Three days in the life of an alcoholic homeless bum. The film featured Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Bleak realism at it’s best. ★★★★★

On the Road by Jack KerouacOn the Road by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical On the Road is the story of 2 years in the lives of Jack and Neal Cassady – mostly road trips – visiting friends, smoking pot, drinking, listening to jazz, picking up women, laughing, crying, and sharing stories. ★★★★+

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Time travel back to 11/22/63 in this Stephen King science fiction drama about the fateful day J.F.K. was killed. This novel includes lots of factual details about Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. ★★★★★

Lisey's Story by Stephen KingLisey’s Story by Stephen King

Yet another wildly entertaining, unpredictible, scary drama, combined with a poignant love story. ★★★

It by Stephen KingIt by Stephen King

Stephen King is indeed the king of the horror genre, and It is the mother of all horror stories. An evil, terrifying black blob of a monster, who cleverly poses as a clown, creates chaos by possessing human souls and feeding on little children. ★★★★★

On Writing-a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen KingOn Writing-a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Stephen King’s On Writing is a cross between a how-to book and a memoir. It’s loaded with great writing tips: good and bad habits, do’s and don’ts, things to avoid, plenty of examples, info about agents and editors, and a list of his favorite books. ★★★★★

THE STAND by Stephen King

In The Stand, Stephen King pits good against evil. As an apocalyptic virus sweeps the United States, the few remaining survivors make their way across country to join the group of their choice. ★★★★★

A Separate Peace by John KnowlesA Separate Peace by John Knowles

A classic coming of age story at an exclusive prep school in New England. The events that occur are the turning point in the lives of this group of boys, and it is a haunting tale indeed. ★★★★+

Darkness at Noon by Arthur KoestlerDarkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Arthur Koestler wrote Darkness at Noon after leaving the communist party during Stalin’s Moscow Trials. The fictional character Rubashov alllows Koestler to describe his Bolshevik acquaintances and gives voice to his disdain for the totalitarian system. ★★★★★

HALF the SKY Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunnHALF the SKY: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

An up close and personal look at atrocities inflicted on women in many parts of the world. It will rip your heart out to read this book! ★★★

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting includes seven snapshots of fiction: humerous, bleak, thought provoking and provocative, Kundera shows the reader examples of the joy and danger in both the emotion of laughter and the human capacity to forget. ★★★★★

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a book of contrasts – philosophically complex, touching on topics like soul versus the body, love versus sex, fate versus circumstance, and rational communication versus absurd miscommunication. ★★★★★

Slowness by Milan Kundera

One might say Kundera is a modern day philosopher. Slowness revolves around his thoughts on pain and pleasure, slowness versus speed, fame and glory and the art of conversation. ★★+

Interpreter of Maladies-Stories by Jhumpa LahiriInterpreter of Maladies-Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies offers drama, humor, and refreshingly simple unpretentious real-life human interest stories. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Pen/Hemingway Award. ★★★★

The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonThe Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

This book relives the best and the worst of Chicago’s history during the final decade of the nineteenth century; the planning and construction of the Chicago World’s Fair, and the true story of the worlds most menacing, evil, psychotic, serial killer. ★★★+

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. LawrenceLady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence’s notorious classic Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned for many years because of it’s explicit love scenes and lewd language. ★★+

The Rainbow by D. H. LawrenceThe Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and it’s sequel Women in Love were both banned in the early 1900’s because they were considered pornographic. In spite of that they reign as No. 48 and 49 on the Modern Library list of 100 best novels of all time. ★★★+

Sons and Lovers by D. H. LawrenceSons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

Sons and Lovers is rated No. 9 on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels. D. H. Lawrence tells a semi-autobiographical tale about relationships, marriage, and family. ★★★★+

Women in Love by D. H. LawrenceWomen in Love by D. H. Lawrence

Women in Love is D. H. Lawrence’s sequel to The Rainbow. Both books were banned for what was considered pornographic writing in the early 1900s. They are still rated No. 48 and 49 on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels of all time. ★★+

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming of age story that takes place in the mid 1930s in Alabama. The story of a black man on trial for allegedly raping a white woman. ★★★★★

The Golden Notebook by Doris May LessingThe Golden Notebook by Doris May Lessing

Was this really the intellectual and moral climate in the 1950s or was it just one unhappy, bitter, mentally unstable, woman’s distorted perception? The Golden Notebook by Doris May Lessing is a unique and brilliant novel. ★★★★

Kosher Chinese Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion by Michael LevyKosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion by Michael Levy

Michael Levy joins the Peace Corp and spends 2 years teaching at a university in the remote city of Guiyang in the heart of China. Informative, witty and laugh-out-loud funny. ★★★★+

Babbitt by Sinclair LewisBabbitt by Sinclair Lewis

Sinclair Lewis’ controversial novel Babbitt depicts life in an American mid-western city in the 1920’s. Amidst the political unrest, class division, and social angst – conservative Republican, George Babbitt has a mid-life crisis. ★★★★+

The Most Wanted Man in China by Fang Lizhi

Fang Lizhi’s story of life in China after the Communist takeover – from Mao’s Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution… including the protests at Tiananmen Square. Lizhi went from honored scientist to a fugitive enemy of the state. ★★★★★
 

Aphrodite by Pierre Louys

Aphrodite is a Modern Library classic – not about the Greek goddess Aphrodite, but a novel about the most beautiful courtesan of Alexandria, Egypt during the days of ancient Greece. ★★★+

We Were Europeans by Werner M. LovalWe Were Europeans by Werner M. Loval

An extraordinary autobiography. Follow Werner Loval from a childhood within the confines of the Third Reich to a diplomatic career with the Foreign Ministry in Israel. ★★★★

The Aquitaine Progression by Robert LudlumThe Aquitaine Progression by Robert Ludlum

Robert Ludlum specializes in conspiracy theory thrillers and The Aquitaine Progression is no exception. A secret society of wealthy powerful men plan to take over the government of the United States, Israel, and a greater part of Europe. ★★★

Trevayne by Robert LudlumTrevayne by Robert Ludlum

Robert Ludlum, famous for his espionage and international terrorist novels, as well as the Jason Bourne series of movies, wrote Trevayne under the pseudo-name Jonathan Ryder. It’s a government conspiracy involving defense contractors. ★★★

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

The reading of Roman history wouldn’t be complete without some Machiavelli.  The Prince is Machiavelli’s  masterpiece which contains the essence of his political thoughts.  During the Renaissance Machiavelli was an ambassador for many of the Florentine governors including several of the de Medici’s. ★★★★

 

 

Chanel A Woman of Her Own by Alex MadsenChanel: A Woman of Her Own by Alex Madsen

This is a fascinating book about Coco Chanel. It tells all; Chanel’s success in the fashion industry, her personal triumphs and failures, and the details about her family, friends, lovers, and rivals. ★★★★+

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

The German Classic and Nobel Prize winning Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann is a novel of epic proportions – beginning in 1835 – it carries the reader through 4 generations of Buddenbrooks. Rated ★★★★+.

Solomon's Oak by Jo-Ann MapsonSolomon’s Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson Glory

Solomon is hosting weddings at her farm under the old oak tree. Dogs, horses, a troubled foster child, and an injured ex-cop – a good script for a “made for TV” movie. ★★

Life of Pi by Yann MartelLife of Pi by Yann Martel

This is a novel of Pi Patel’s miraculous survival 227 days on the open sea on a lifeboat; an emotionally draining, dark, uncensored, gruesome, nauseating tale.

Capital and Other Writings by Karl MarxCapital and Other Writings by Karl Marx

Delve into the heart and soul of Marx’s philosophical dogma – communism; including excerpts from the 2,200 page tome of Das Kapital and the full script of The Communist Manifesto. ★★★★

Catherine the Great Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. MassieCatherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

A biography written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Details of Catherine’s life from cradle to grave: her relationships with family and friends, her love life, and her philosophy. Richly entertaining! ★★★★★

Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset MaughamCakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham

Maugham’s Cakes and Ale is a novel written in 1930 about a famous author, and his promiscuious, flamboyant wife; (the author scandalously bears an uncanny resemblance to Thomas Hardy). A poignant tale with an exceptional ending. ★★★★+

Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset MaughamChristmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham

A classic 1930’s Maugham drama. Twenty-three year old British college grad, Charley Mason, gets an  expense paid Christmas vacation to Paris from his proud parents. ★★★

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

Somerset Maugham’s timeless classic is a beautiful story of life; the pain and struggles of dealing with uncontrollable circumstances, the challenges of conquering personal goals, the achievements, the conflict of inner emotions and outer obstacles, the beauty of love, and the glory of discovering the meaning of life.   ★★★★★

 
Then and Now  by W. Somerset Maugham

Then and Now is a novel covering three months of the year 1502 in the life of Niccolo Machiavelli who was born and raised in Florence during the great Italian Renaissance. He served under Cesare Borgia- the Duke of Romagna- as a political ambassador. He also wrote several books… the most famous being The Prince, and his most recognized quote (and his general philosophy in life) is “the ends justifies the means”. ★★★

 

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
All the Pretty Horses is book 1 of Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. Two teenage boys from Texas cross the border into Mexico seeking adventure. Unfortunately they are unprepared for the lawless brutality, lying thieves, and evil inhumanity of some of the Mexicans.  ★★★★★
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
The Crossing is book 2 of McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. Two teenage brothers take the law into their own hands as they seek justice for the murder of their parents, and theft of the family ranch livestock. The wild-wild west may be over in the USA, but across the Mexican border it is still lawless and barbaric. ★★★★+
Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
Cities of the Plain is Book 3 of McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. It is a raw emotional tale that brings together the characters of All The Pretty Horses and The Crossing for final episode. Bleak realism – with a powerfully haunting epilogue.  ★★★★+
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Try to imagine an apocalyptic event destroying most of the earth; scorching fire, eerie darkness, total devastation and death. Against all odds, an unnamed father and son take to the road traveling on foot foraging for food, shelter, and salvation. ★★★★★

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullersThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Carson McCuller’s classic tale about a deaf mute. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter takes place in 1939 in the deep south – a time of unsophisticated parental guidance, explosive racial tensions, and ignorant attitudes towards people with handicaps. ★★★★+

Antony and Cleopatra-Masters of Rome Series-Book 7 by Colleen McCulloughAntony and Cleopatra-Masters of Rome Series-Book 7 by Colleen McCullough

The Masters of Rome series grand finale – Mark Antony and Cleopatra try to overthrow the Roman government so Cleopatra’s son can become king of the Roman/Egyptian Empire. Reading McCullough’s interpretation of historical events was pure enjoyment. ★★★★★

Caesar-Masters of Rome Series-Book 5 by Colleen McCulloughCaesar-Masters of Rome Series-Book 5 by Colleen McCullough

The drama intensifies in the Masters of Rome series book 5 – Caesar – as Rome descends into total chaos and the most powerful leaders struggle for control: Cato, Pompey, Caesar, and Clodius. McCullough does an amazing job of bringing these historical figures to life. ★★★★★

Caesar’s Women-Masters of Rome Series-Book 4 by Colleen McCulloughCaesar’s Women-Masters of Rome Series-Book 4 by Colleen McCullough

Caesar’s Women expands on the domestic and cultural sides of Roman life. Colleen McCullough writes about religion and the Vestal Virgins, the first Italian Mafia, Caesar’s love life and family – and of course – politics and war. ★★★★★

The First Man of Rome-Masters of Rome Series-Book 1 by Colleen McCulloughThe First Man of Rome-Masters of Rome Series-Book 1 by Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough’s The First Man of Rome covers 10 years of life during the Roman Empire. Politics and pageantry, military campaigns, the Roman culture and customs, marriages and relationships. A fictional book based on real historical events. ★★★★

Fortune’s Favorites-Masters of Rome Series-Book 3 by Colleen McCulloughFortune’s Favorites-Masters of Rome Series-Book 3 by Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough’s Fortune’s Favorites is adventure and drama to the max. Julius Caesar is on the rise along with Pompey, Spartacus, and Cicero. This series is addictive. ★★★★+

The Grass Crown-Masters of Rome Series-Book 2 by Colleen McCulloughThe Grass Crown-Masters of Rome Series-Book 2 by Colleen McCullough

The Grass Crown picks up where The First Man of Rome left off. McCullough’s fictional series based on the true history of the Roman Empire. Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla vie for power. War, intrigue, murder, adventure, romance. ★★★★★

The October Horse-Masters of Rome Series-Book 6 by Coleen McCulloughThe October Horse-Masters of Rome Series-Book 6 by Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough’s 6th book of the Masters of Rome series, The October Horse, relives a moment by moment description of Julius Caesar’s assassination. But not before Caesar manages to have a hot steamy love affair with Cleopatra. ★★★+

The Party The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers by Richard McGregorThe Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor

A documentary about the Communist party elite. ★★★★+

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryLonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove, 1986 Pulitzer Prize winner, is a tale of the final days of the legendary wild, wild west. This book has it all: humor, drama, love, loss, sorrow and tragedy. ★★★★+

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtryThe Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry

The Last Picture Show takes place in small town in Texas in the 1950s, Sonny and Duane are wild, tough, and flooded with testosterone – best friends and stars of the school football team. The film won several Academy awards. ★★★★+

Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin Writers Running Wild in the TwentiesBobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties by Marion Meade

A biographical compilation of four American female writers in the 1920’s: Zelda Fitzgerald (married to F. Scott), Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, and Enda Ferber. Each one was fascinating, intriguing, and fiercely independent. ★★+

Tea Party Patriots: ThTea Party Patriots The Second American Revolution by Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martine Second American Revolution by Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin

What is the Tea Party? How did it get started? What does it stand for? What is their vision for the future? Did they really just fade into oblivion, or are they still a force to be reckoned with? Get answers to all these questions….and much more. ★★★★★

The Romance of Leonardo Da Vinci by Dimitri Merejkowski

Leonardo da Vinci lived during the height of the Italian Renaissance. Merejkowsk’s novel is a timeless classic. The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci not only tells Leonardo’s life story but shares many factual details about what was happening during that era in politics, within the Catholic church, and among the lives of the ruling class players of the time.     ★★★★★

Red Fortress History and Illusion in the Kremlin by Catherine MerridaleRed Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin by Catherine Merridale

Catherine Merridale’s Red Fortress is a concise history of Russia with emphasis on the architectural, cultural, and geographical significance of the Kremlin. From barbarians to a Royal Dynasty – Tsar to communism. A great travel guide. ★★★★

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Peyton Place is a story about small town America back in the 1930s. When the book was first published in 1956 the plot was scandalous; pregnancy out of wedlock, incest, murder, suicide, rape and more….. ★★★★

Fugitive Pieces by Anne MichaelsFugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Fugitive Pieces is a contemporary novel about a World War II Holocaust survivor. A young boy hides in a cupboard while his family is massacred by the Nazis. ★+

Tropic of Cancer by Henry MillerTropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is a semi-autobiographical story of sexual exploits with prostitutes while living in Paris in the 1930’s. As Miller promises, it is “a kick in the pants of God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, and Beauty.”

Red Azalea by Anchee MinRed Azalea by Anchee Min

Anchee Min’s memoir of her struggle to survive in China under the power of Mao’s communist government….years when the communist party controlled every aspect of everyone’s life including where they lived, how they lived, and if they lived. ★★★★★

Nicholas Winton’s LOTTERY OF LIFE by Matej Minac

Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life is the documentary on Sir Nicholas Winton, a British citizen who literally saved the lives of nearly 700 Czechoslovakian Jewish children from the clutches of Hitler’s Nazis. ★★★

The Russian Revolution by Alan MooreheadThe Russian Revolution by Alan Moorehead

The Russian Revolution by Alan Moorehead gives the reader the feeling that they are actually living through the Russian Revolution. An exceptional, passionately written documentary. Marxism and the key players: Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin. ★★★★+

Jazz by Toni MorrisonJazz by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s Jazz takes place in Harlem in the 1920s. It is a tale of  adultery, murder, and revenge. ★★

A Nervous Splendor Vienna 1888-1889 by Frederic MortonA Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889 by Frederic Morton

The Habsburg Empire was on the decline and signs were visible throughout Vienna. Follow the lives of Brahms, Bruckner, Freud, Herzl, Mahler and the royal family during 2 turbulent years of Austrian history in Frederic Morton’s A Nervous Splendor. ★★★★+

The Last Convertible by Anton MyrerThe Last Convertible by Anton Myrer

Anton Myrer wrote the novel The Last Convertible after dropping out of Harvard in 1942 to join the US Marines and fight World War II. He captures vivid images of good times on campus in the “swing band era”, WW II, and post-war years. ★★★+

Reading Lolita in Tehran A Memoir in Books by Azar NafisiReading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi, now living in the United States, is a professor, who taught English Literature in Tehran, Iran during the turbulent years of the Iranian revolution when Iran was intent on purging the country of “decadent western culture”. ★★★

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Irene Nemirovsky was Jewish. Her family escaped anti-semitic persecution from the Russian government during the 1917 revolution. She relocated to France, and after being arrested in 1942 died in the concentration camp Auschwitz at the age of thirty-nine. ★★★★★
Appointment at Samarra by John O’HaraAppointment at Samarra by John O’Hara

John O’Hara’s first novel Appointment at Samarra won him national acclaim, and the esteemed place of number 23 on the Modern Library list of best novels. A scathing depiction of small town life in America in the 1930’s. ★★★★+

Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin DugardKilling Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus is a concise history of life in the Roman Empire and Judea during the time of Jesus and how that history relates to his birth and crucifixion. But perhaps you should read Ernest Renan’s “The Life of Jesus” instead. ★★★

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was written 65 years ago and gained instant recognition. It is the story of a eerie dystopian world of government control. Number 13 on Modern Library’s list of best novels of all time. Rated ★★★★★.

The Last Empress Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China by Hannah PakulaThe Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China by Hannah Pakula

Detailed information about the struggles of Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen, and Mao Tse-tung for control of China. ★★★★+

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan PamukThe Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

The Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk writes a new novel. The Museum of Innocence takes place in Turkey in the 1970’s. Kemal Basmaci becomes a kleptomaniac and hoarder to ease the pain of his broken heart. A tale of love, lust, and uncontrollable obsession. ★★★★

My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul

Pamela Paul, Editor of the New York Times Book Review, decided at age 17 to keep a list of all books she’s read through her teen years, college, world travels, career, and domestic family life raising her own children. In My Life With Bob subtitled Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, she shares many titles in her “book of books”, along with associated memories. ★★★★

The Moviegoer by Walker PercyThe Moviegoer by Walker Percy

Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer is touted as a novel about existentialism. 29 year old Binx Bolling has a college degree and is a Korean War veteran. He spends much of his leisure time alone watching movies. Winner of the National Book Award in 1961.

franklin and lucyFranklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherfurd and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life by Joseph Persico

Through extensive research, Persico portrays a very personal, intimate view of FDR’s private life; a love story of self-indulgence and betrayal, sacrifice and compromise, political power and ambition. ★★★★+

Prague by Arthur PhillipsPrague by Arthur Phillips

Arthur Phillips Prague is story of four American ex-patriots and one Canadian, who inadvertently meet in Budapest, Hungary, in 1990. Juxtaposing these spoiled young adults with the local Hungarians provides an interesting contrast indeed. ★★

September by Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde Pilcher is well-known for her novels taking place in Scotland. September cleverly integrates the old world charm of Scottish custom and tradition into a modern family saga. ★★★★

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde PilcherWinter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

A story of five lonely people brought together unexpectedly to spend the holidays in a quaint victorian house in a snow-covered village in Scotland. ★★★

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde PilcherThe Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers is about a 64 year old woman who knows her days of earth are numbered. The theme: make the most of each day and enjoy the simple things in life. Problem is, that’s not the opinion of her 3 grown children. ★★★+

Blessings by Belva PlainBlessings by Belva Plain

Published over 20 years ago, but still about relevant issues: teen pregnancy, adoption, class barriers, career women. ★★★

The Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I was impressed, but I didn’t realize how huge an impact The Bell Jar had on me until I awoke in the middle of the night after a dark, terrifying nightmare and couldn’t go back to sleep. Sylvia Plath’s battle with mental illness. ★★★★

Chinese Lessons by John PomfretChinese Lessons by John Pomfret

Life in modern China. An American exchange student shares his experience at the Nanjing University and the personal stories of five Chinese classmates. ★★★★★

In Search of Lost Time: The Captive by Marcel Proust

In Volume V. of In Search of Lost Time Marcel is consumed with neurotic passion for the wild, unpredictable, promiscuous Albertine. He holds her captive by showering her with expensive gifts and vague promises of a future filled with exotic trips and possibly an engagement ring. ★★★★★

In Search of Lost Time: The Fugitive by Marcel Proust

Volume VI. The central theme of The Fugitive is elusive love, rejection, and the tendency “to be drawn towards that which makes us suffer”. The Fugitive was also published under the names The Sweet Cheat Gone and Albertine Gone. ★★★★★

In Search of Lost Time The Guermantes WayIn Search of Lost Time: The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust

Volume III of Proust’s extraordinary series In Search of Lost Time; The Guermantes Way – leads the reader up the exclusive ladder of French high society to mingle with Dukes and Duchesses, Princes and Princesses.  ★★★★★

In Search of Lost Time Time Sodom and GomorrahIn Search of Lost Time Time: Sodom and Gomorrah by Marcel Proust

Volume IV of Proust’s epic masterpiece; In Search of Lost Time: Sodom and Gomorrah is the continued saga of French society. A subtle shift in social standards gradually opens the doors of aristocratic homes to the bourgeois. Marcel in love, in mourning, in shock to discover the great Baron de Charlus is gay. ★★★★

In Search of Lost Time Swann's WayIn Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time series is in a class all of it’s own…. the most beautiful prose I have ever read. Swann’s Way begins this semi-autobiographical journey that takes you right to the heart of French Society. ★★★★★

In Search of Lost Time Time Regained by Marcel ProustIn Search of Lost Time: Time Regained by Marcel Proust

Volume VII is the conclusion of Proust’s opus. Marcel shares philosophical reflections: his cynical view of society, growing old, the regrets of lost time, and the hope of regaining one last chance to find meaning in life. ★★★★★

In Search of Lost Time Within a Budding GroveIn Search of Lost Time: Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust

In 1919 Volume II of Proust’s seven book series won the Goncourt Prize for best literature and brought him instant fame. The semi-autobiographical narritive is told with heart-felt emotion presenting a kaleidoscope of thoughts, visions, feelings, and ideas. ★★★★★

Anthem by Ayn RandAnthem by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand shares her philosophical views in this futuristic novella which takes place in a post apocalyptic world. ★★★

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn RandAtlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged has it all: love, adventure, and intrigue. The plot involves a battle between good and evil, big business and big government, the brains and producers against the looters and moochers of the world. ★★★★★

The Virtue Of Selfishness by Ayn Rand

The Virtue of Selfishness is comprised of 19 essays in which Ayn Rand stresses the theory of Objectivist Ethics – the good of reason, purpose and self-esteem, productiveness, pride and rationality, and establishing values. ★★★★★

The Fountainhead by Ayn RandThe Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand’s  The Fountainhead illustrates her philosophy of Objectivism and Individualism. Much like Atlas Shrugged Rand tends to deal in absolutes and extremes juxtaposing good and evil. The story revolves around New York City’s architectural world in the 1920’s – 1930’s. ★★★★+

A Historical Tour of the Holy Land by Beryl RatzerA Historical Tour of the Holy Land by Beryl Ratzer

A Historical Tour of the Holy Land makes an excellent travel guide.  It is astounding that such a small geographical area could hold so much treasured history. ★★★★

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield'The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

Enjoy the intriguing concept of this uplifting New Age parable that embraces the power of positive thinking. The Celestine Prophecy offers analysis of personality types and advice on breaking out of poor communication patterns. ★★★

The Tenth Insight by James RedfieldThe Tenth Insight by James Redfield

The Tenth Insight is a follow-up to the Nine Insights offered in the The Celestine Prophecy. While The Celestine Prophecy deals with earthly relationships, The Tenth Insight is about spiritual connections to the afterlife. ★★★

The Twelfth Insight by James RedfieldThe Twelfth Insight by James Redfield

The Twelfth Insight is a  continuation of the Celestine Prophecy series. A melodramatic parable about the search for spiritual fulfillment. Redfield addresses issues that are germane to self-actualization, happiness, and world peace. ★★

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque

All Quite on the Western Front is a book about World War I told from the viewpoint of a German soldier. Published in 1929 in Germany – it was banned when the Nazi’s took power along with all Remarque’s work, and his German citizenship was hence revoked. ★★★★★

 

Country of Ash; A Polish Doctor in Poland, 1939-1945 by Edward ReicherCountry of Ash; A Polish Doctor in Poland, 1939-1945 by Edward Reicher

Country of Ash is the memoir of Edward Reicher’s journey through World War II in Poland (including imprisonment in the Warsaw Ghetto). Six million Jewish people died, yet here is one man, wife, and child who survived. Truly a miracle! ★★★★★

The Life of Jesus by Ernest RenanThe Life of Jesus by Ernest Renan

Ernest Renan’s The Life of Jesus is a Modern Library classic. Renan was both a religious scholar and an expert on ancient Middle East languages. Published in 1863 – A fascinating book about Jesus strictly from the historic perspective. ★★★★★

The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins

The Carpetbaggers is a vintage 1960s best selling novel complete with all the typical Robbins’ fare: corporate board room drama, Hollywood hype, illicit sex, and crimes of passion – loosely based on the life of Howard Hughes. . ★★★★

 

At Home with Carolyne Roehm by Carolyne Roehm and Melissa DavisAt Home with Carolyne Roehm by Carolyne Roehm and Melissa Davis

Carolyne Roehm’s At Home book is 320 pages of entertaining tips, glossy photos of beautifully appointed tables, flower arrangements, and recipes for all occasions. For those who love entertaining it is truly inspirational. ★★★★★

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip RothPortnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint is No. 52 on Modern Library’s list. Portnoy is Jewish and spends 8 hours straight telling his therapist how much he hates his religion, hates his parents, hates Christians, and hates himself. Heavy on exhibitionism.

Midnight’s Children by Salman RushdieMidnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is stories within stories, some with history of India and Pakistan including politics, war, and religion. Themes of superstition, dreams, and destiny. Magical realism and eloquent mesmerizing prose. ★★★★+

Bridge of Sighs by Richard RussoBridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Family, friendship, romance, adultry, childhood bullying, spousal abuse, segregation and racism, and upward mobility in a small town society. ★★★

Empire FallsEmpire Falls by Richard Russo

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is about small-town life in America. Interesting characters and great plot. ★★★★

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was unique at the time of publication in 1951 – covering topics like sex, prostitution, gender identity, atheism, and juvenile delinquency all viewed with a cynical eye, from the eyes of a 17 year old boy. ★★★★★

Nausea by Jean-Paul SartreNausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre is famous for philosophical works expounding his theory of Existentialism. Finding it difficult to express the essence of Existentialism by definition alone, Sartre found literary expression in this powerful novel Nausea. ★★★★+

The Reader by Bernhard SchlinkThe Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader addresses many issues: illiteracy, child molestation, the holocaust, how the post WWII younger generation of German’s dealt with the guilt and shame, and the psychological “numbness” that befell anyone who scrutinized the Nazi horror. ★★

The Class by Erich SegalThe Class by Erich Segal

A novel about Harvard’s class of 1958; following the lives of 5 students from various backgrounds and diverse walks of life. School years through graduation and 25 years beyond. Blood, sweat, and tears; politics, business, the arts, and academia. ★★★+

The German Trauma Experiences and Reflections 1938-2000 by Gitta SerenyThe German Trauma; Experiences and Reflections 1938-2000 by Gitta Sereny

Gitta Sereny wrote The German Trauma after experiencing WW II and dedicating the rest of her life to investigative journalism – attending the Nuremberg Trials and personally interviewing Albert Speer and many other war criminals. ★★★★★

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields 
The Stone Diaries is the life story of a ordinary woman. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is enthralling, emotional, thought provoking, and laden with beautifully written lyrical prose. ★★★★★
Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land by David K. Shipler

David Shipler’s Pulitzer Prize winning documentary Arab and Jew offers a broad perspective of what life is like on a daily basis for many Israelis and Palestinians from a totally objective, impartial, and journalistic point of view.   ★★★★★
 

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That is a contemporary novel about the exorbitant cost of health care in the United States, caring for terminally ill patients, dysfunctional marriage, and surgical procedures to enhance body image. An interesting plot with a surprise ending.   ★★★★

The Summer Garden by Paullina SimonsThe Summer Garden by Paullina Simons

A romance of epic proportion: Tatiana and Alexander, refugees who escaped World War II, war torn Russia, travel around the United States in their RV camper trying build a new life and heal their broken spirtis. ★★★

Chef A Novel by Jaspreet SinghChef: A Novel by Jaspreet Singh

Kip Singh reminisces about his 5 years in the Indian army serving as chef for the General; lessons he learned, regrets, and unresolved personal issues, while India and Pakistan continue the 50 year conflict over portions of Kashmir. ★★★

The Spirit of Hungary by Stephen SisaThe Spirit of Hungary by Stephen Sisa

Stephen Sisa’s The Spirit of Hungary traces the history of the Magyars from 670 AD to 1990 detailing their struggles with Genghis Khan, The Ottoman Empire, The Habsburg Empire, Napoleon, the Romanians, the Germans and the Russians. ★★★+

MOO A Novel by Jane SmileyMOO: A Novel by Jane Smiley

Skip this book! Jane Smiley has an incredible command of the English language. It’s too bad she put it to such poor use. ★+

The Last Girls by Lee SmithThe Last Girls by Lee Smith

The Last Girls is a contemporary novel about 4 women who reunite after 34 years, to repeat a trip down the Mississippi River. The last time they were young carefree college students. This time they intend to scatter the ashes of a deceased friend. ★★+ 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander SolzhenitsynOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitzyn’s autobiographical description of one random day in the infamous Russian forced labor camp prison system, the Gulag. ★★★★★

The Ancient Greeks by Chester G. Starr

The Ancient Greeks is a brief overview of the history of Greece from the year 1600 BC to 30 BC. Chester Starr schools the reader on geography, government and politics, economics, religion, the arts, and philosophy. ★★★★

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude SteinThe Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein during the 1920’s in Paris – told through The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Gertrude talks about Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and herself, She manages to squeeze in a word or two about Alice. ★★★

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden is a study of man’s deepest emotions: love, hate, pride, envy, and guilt. Exploring the philosophical complexities of good and evil, Steinbeck’s intricate plot helped win him the coveted Nobel Prize for this important contribution to literature.  ★★★★+

Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I started reading Of Mice and Men late one evening and never put the book down until I finished the last page. Harsh, crude, powerful, dramatic….an endless list of adjectives could describe Steinbeck’s classic. ★★★★★

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is one of the greatest American novels of all time. Winner of the 1940 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the Nobel Prize for literature, and number 10 on the Modern Library best 100 novels. A tragic tale of the mid-west Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  ★★★★★

The Moon is Down by John SteinbeckThe Moon is Down by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck wrote The Moon is Down during World War II with one purpose in mind – to boost morale in the occupied territories. The theme of this parable – the enemy can not break man’s spirit permanently. ★★★+

Dracula by Bram StokerDracula by Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the quintessential horror story – a monstrous vampire roams the night in search of a warm body to suck the fresh blood and nourish his tortured flesh. His soul possessed by the devil in eternal limbo. A classic gothic novel. ★★★

The Trial of Socrates by I. F. Stone

The Trial of Socrates tells the story of Socrates rise to fame, and his sentence to death by the citizens of Ancient Greece. I. F. Stone’s documentary focuses on politics, culture, and philosophy during the Greek Classical Period of Democracy. ★★★★★

The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

The Agony and the Ecstasy is a novel about  Michelangelo based on all the facts and details of his real life. Blessed to be born in Tuscany during the height of the Italian Renaissance, he dedicated his life to the arts. Stone provides colorful descriptions of every day life in Florence and Rome and tells of the bitter rivalry between Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.    ★★★★★

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher StoweUncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published 13 years before slavery was abolished in the United States.  The purpose of the book was to awaken sympathy and feeling for the African race. And indeed it did! ★★★+

Sophie’s Choice  by William Styron

Sophie’s Choice addresses the Holocaust, concentration camps, and the Nazi genocide. Sophie is a Polish Catholic World War II refuge. After the war she tries to begin a new life in New York City. William Styron’s novel is on the Modern Library’s 100 best list and Meryl Streep had an Academy Award winning performance as Sophie. ★★★★★

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

Nat Turner was the leader of the infamous uprising of slaves in Virginia in 1831. Based on Nat Turner’s true confession, William Styron creates descriptions, dialogue, and a captivating analogy of the events that occurred during the 31 years of Nat Turner’s life in this Pulitzer Prize winning story. ★★★★★

 
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

The Magnificent Ambersons is the story of a wealthy family in a small American town in the early 1900s. Pulitzer Prize winner and on the Modern Library list of best 100 novels of all time. ★★★★

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is all about murder and intrigue. Taking place on a college campus – involving an elite group of students, Greek mythology, and all the secretive cult-like atmosphere of The Dead Poet’s Society…. only more lethal. ★★★★★

A Summons To Memphis by Peter Taylor

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 A Summon to Memphis is the story of an upper-class family from Tennessee. As the novel begins, Phillip Carver a 40-something successful business man living in Manhattan gets a phone call from his two hysterical sisters begging him to come home because their 81 year old father is about to re-marry.  ★★★★

Lenin; Genesis and Development of a Revolutionary by Rolf H. W. TheenLenin; Genesis and Development of a Revolutionary by Rolf H. W. Theen

A biography of Lenin and the Bolshevik party. Lenin once wrote “a successful proletarian revolution would lead to the establishment of a stateless and classless society; characterized by rationality, perfect equality, social harmony and justice. Utopia!” ★★★★+

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is a tragic love story set in the heart of Russia towards the conclusion of the Tsarist autocracy. In this great Russian classic Tolstoy presents an array of characters creating plenty of scenarios that illustrate various customs, controversies, social attitudes and religious beliefs. ★★★★★

The Eustace DiamondsThe Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

The Eustace Diamonds is one of Anthony Trollope’s “Palliser” novels. The theme: Lizzie Eustace’s greed and the extent she will go to for wealth and status. ★★★+

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

The Way We Live Now is Trollope’s opus. it is a British victorian novel with the added twist of financial corruption. A 19th century “Bernie Madoff – Jay Gatsby” all rolled into one mysterious man. Great character development – excellent example of changing times. ★★★★

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler is the tale of a dysfunctional family… on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize in spite of the greatly flawed plot. Rated only ★+.

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

The Amateur Marriage is the story of a young couple who meet during a war parade rally, and barely knowing each other, marry hastily at the onset of World War II. What follows is the melancholy content of this Anne Tyler novel.   ★★★+

 

Rabbit Run by John Updike

John Updike’s Rabbit Run is the first volume of a 4 book award winning series. Drop back to 1959 and the intimate details of the early years of Janice and Harry”Rabbit” Angstrom’s marriage. ★★★+

Rabbit Redux by John Updike

Book 2 of Updike’s Rabbit Series is all about sex and drugs. Rabbit Redux presents a snapshot of the hippie era from the perspective of a working class urban neighborhood. ★★★

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike

Book 3 – the continuing story of Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom. Harry’s career. Harry’s marriage. Harry’s sex life. And Harry’s son Nelson. Harry’s got problems! ★★★★+

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike

John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest is the final volume of a 4 book award winning series. With intensity and passion the plot builds to a crescendo. The nickname “Rabbit” is long forgotten as Harry Angstrom faces old age. ★★★★★

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, JrSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr

An abstract tale of Billy Pilgrim’s World War II experience, and life thereafter. ★★

The Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My first reaction to The Glass Castle was “You’ve got to be kidding me. This is no more a memoir than “A Million Little Pieces”. I got the feeling that Jeannette Walls was not being completely honest with us. ★★

Brideshead Revisited The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder by Evelyn WaughBrideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder by Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh’s most famous novel Brideshead Revisited is a story of English upper-class society prior to WW II with strong emphasis on the Catholic church and declining moral values….divorce, adultery, alcoholism and alternative life styles. ★★★★+

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn WaughA Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh’s famous novel A Handful of Dust is a scathing satire of the English upper-class during the 1930’s. Number 34 on the Modern Library top 100 novels of all time. A witty comedy and at the same time darkly grotesque. ★★★★+

Scoop by Evelyn WaughScoop by Evelyn Waugh

Scoop is Evelyn Waugh’s satirical comedy of errors. Could someone please explain to me why Scoop is number 75 on the Modern Library list of 100 greatest novels? ★+

The Optimist’s Daughter  by Eudora Welty 
This isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed by a Pulitzer Prize winner and it probably won’t be the last…. but for heavens sakes – what were the judges thinking?  The Optimist’s Daughter falls short on all fronts.  ★★
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

The Day of the Locust is a novel about Hollywood in the 1930s. This obscure little gem may be dated, but still rates number 73 on Modern Library’s list of best 100 novels of all time. ★★★★★

 
Age of Innocence by Edith WhartonAge of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Age of Innocence is a classic love story taking place in the 1870’s – the Victorian Era. High society: formal dinner parties, the Opera, afternoon teas, intimate trysts, and much more. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921.   ★★★★★

The House of Mirth by Edith WhartonThe House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton paints a cynical picture of the New York elite in The House of Mirth. Eloquent writing, captivating story, tragic plot. Contains outdated morals and customs but a timeless tale of wanna-be social climbers. ★★★★★

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Bonfire of the Vanities is about a married Wall Street tycoon who has an unscrupulous affair with a “foxy lady” and ends up in a world of trouble when they are involved in a hit-and-run accident. Wolfe addresses racism, media bias, class divisions, and political motivations in this wildly entertaining novel. ★★★★★

Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe

Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe is a group of abstract essays and one novella – all reflecting how the United States has changed in the past 50 years regarding education, the media, business, theology and relationships. One briliant essay addresses the origin of “political incorrectness”. ★★★★.

Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine by Tom WolfeMauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine by Tom Wolfe

A series of essays covering the late 60s – early 70s; life in America during the “ME DECADE” The spotlight jumps around from an apartment in New York to a Navy ship headed for the coast of Vietnam, from college campuses to the streets of San Francisco. ★★★★

Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic & Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers is 2 journalistic essays involving New York City’s left-wing intellectuals and celebrities, the Black Panthers, and the evolution of community organizing which began in the 1960s in San Francisco. ★★★★★
 

Mozart-His Life and Times by Peggy WoodfordMozart-His Life and Times by Peggy Woodford

Mozart – His Life and Times written by Peggy Woodford is a delightful coffee table book. It is the story of both his private and public life and contains diary entries, personal letters, copies of original sheet music, portraits, and much more. ★★★★★

To the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfTo the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse has not much of a plot, rather it is a novel of characters, images, emotion and love presented in Virginia Woolf’s unique stream of conscious writing style, taking place at a vacation home on the Isles of Skye where the lighthouse represents a beacon of hope. ★★★★

Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar is the tale of a young Jewish girl in New York City during the 1930s. Romance, drama, and great depiction of cultural norms of that era. Natalie Wood starred in the vintage movie.★★★★.

Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son is number 20 on the Modern Library list. The story takes place on the south side of Chicago in the 1930s. Segregation, discrimination, racial conflict, riots, and ultimately…. murder. A classic that is still relevant today  Rated ★★★★★.

Far from Innocence by Lois WyseFar from Innocence by Lois Wyse

Lois Wyse’s novel Far From Innocence is an inspirational story of a woman who launches a successful business career from her kitchen during the depression – spanning from 1926 to1961 also focusing on love, family, and related issues. ★★+

Love's Executioner Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin YalomLove’s Executioner & Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom

Enter the sanctum of Dr Yalom’s private office and observe 10 real psychotherapy cases. Patients suffer from obesity, low self-esteem, lonliness, grief, fear, obsessive love, cancer, and more…… ★★★

The Easter Parade by Richard YatesThe Easter Parade by Richard Yates

The Easter Parade is a tragic tale of the Grimes sisters: spousal abuse, promiscuity, women’s lib, and dysfunctional relationships. Yates at his best. ★★★★★

Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard YatesEleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates

A collection of short stories. Yates excels in character development and uses a wide range of colorful personalities to demonstrate the emotion of loneliness. ★★★★

Revolutionary Road by Richard YatesRevolutionary Road by Richard Yates

It’s the 1950s. A young married couple leaves New York City for a life in the suburbs of Connecticut. Revolutionary Road is not a “Leave it to Beaver” fantasy….it’s a novel of bleak realism. ★★★★+

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