A Reading List for IB English Students
Part of reading at this stage of school is about developing your own interests
as a reader. This list is full of quality, classic, contemporary and
groundbreaking reads.
A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland
Do not be overwhelmed by the number of titles on this list! Be led by your
interest in ideas, genres, time periods and subject matter to browse through
the different categories and then read the summary of a text to get a sense of
whether you might enjoy it. There is such diversity on this list there is
something here for everyone but remember, your eyes can only read one
book at a time!
Two fantastic overviews of both Literature and Language are detailed below.
They’re both very readable and a great way to set the scene.
Empire, colonization and post-colonial
Science, man, nature and science fiction
History, Class, Power, War and Conflict
Spy, Crime, Detection, Thriller
Great Women
American Classics
21th Century Modern Classics
A Global View
Short Stories
Great Non-Fiction
10 Great Plays
10 Great English Language Poets
A Little Book of Language by David Crystal
1. Empire, colonization and post-colonial
Heart of
E. M.
A Passage
to India
Things Fall
Monica Ali
Brick Lane
Dark allegory describes the narrator’s journey up the Congo River and his meeting with, and fascination by, Mr. Kurtz, a
mysterious personage who dominates the unruly inhabitants of the region. Masterly blend of adventure, character
development, psychological penetration. Considered by many Conrad’s finest, most enigmatic story.
When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel
trapped by its insular and prejudiced 'Anglo-Indian' community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and
explore the 'real India', they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a
mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon
finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A
masterly portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals
caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.
Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which centre around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an
Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives,
and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict
between the individual and society. The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the
book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of
aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by
an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the
soul. Things Fall Apart is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as
seen from within.
A captivating read from a debut novelist, Brick Lane brings the immigrant milieu of East London to vibrant life. With great
poignancy, Ali illuminates a foreign world; her well-developed characters pull readers along on a deeply psychological,
almost spiritual journey. Through the eyes of two Bangladeshi sisters—the plain Nazneen and the prettier Hasina—we
see the divergent paths of the contemporary descendants of an ancient culture. Hasina elopes to a "love marriage," and
young Nazneen, in an arranged marriage, is pledged to a much older man living in London.
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-yearold professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a
comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his
position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his
attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces
one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.
2. Science, man, nature and science fiction
Frankenstein 1818
H. G. Wells
The War of
the Worlds
Brave New
Never Let
Me Go
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance,
and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor
Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter,
Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the
creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a
campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Martians invade Great Britain, causing destruction in turn-of-the-century London. This tale of conquest by superior
beings with super-advanced technology is so nightmarishly real that an adaptation by Orson Welles and the Mercury
Theater sent hundreds of impressionable radio listeners into panicked flight forty years after the story's original
Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering,
brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone
harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old,
imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress...
The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell's prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were
becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of "negative utopia" -a startlingly original and
haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four
words. No one can deny the novel's hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions -a
power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.
As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English
countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their
charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life,
and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them
special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.
3. History, Class, Power, War and Conflict
For Whom
Hemmingway the Bells
Pat Barker
Regeneration 1991
The Reader
Hilary Mantel
Wolf Hall
In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance.
Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight", For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story
of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the
mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of
Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La
Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong
and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise.
The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited looks back to the golden age before
the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidlydisappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic
family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize only his spiritual and social distance from
Regeneration, one in Pat Barker's series of novels confronting the psychological effects of World War I, focuses on
treatment methods during the war and the story of a decorated English officer sent to a military hospital after publicly
declaring he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more. Written in sparse prose that is shockingly clear -- the
descriptions of electronic treatments are particularly harrowing -- it combines real-life characters and events with
fictional ones in a work that examines the insanity of war like no other. Barker also weaves in issues of class and
politics in this compactly powerful book. Other books in the series include The Eye in the Door and the Booker Award
winner The Ghost Road.
Hailed for the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and
compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany. When he falls ill on his way home from
school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then
she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous
crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a
secret she considers more shameful than murder.
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed
by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of
Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both
idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day
tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
4. Spy, Crime, Detection, Thriller
The Hound
of the
The Big
The Third
John Le
The Spy
Who Came
in From the
P. D. James
A Taste for
Holmes and Watson are faced with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors
around the Baskerville family's home warns the descendants of that ancient clan never to venture out in those dark
hours when the power of evil is exalted. Now, the most recent Baskerville, Sir Charles, is dead and the footprints of a
giant hound have been found near his body. Will the new heir meet the same fate?
When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters,
Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a
few of the complications he gets caught up in.
Rollo Martins' usual line is the writing of cheap paperback Westerns under the name of Buck Dexter. But when his old
friend Harry Lime invites him to Vienna, he jumps at the chance. With exactly five pounds in his pocket, he arrives only
just in time to make it to his friend's funeral. The victim of an apparently banal street accident, the late Mr. Lime, it
seems, had been the focus of a criminal investigation, suspected of nothing less than being "the worst racketeer who
ever made a dirty living in this city." Martins is determined to clear his friend's name, and begins an investigation of his
In this classic, John le Carre's third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any
previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le
Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his
career but undertakes one final, bone-chilling assignment. When the last agent under his command is killed and Alec
Leamas is called back to London, he hopes to come in from the cold for good. His spymaster, Control, however, has other
plans. Determined to bring down the head of East German Intelligence and topple his organization, Control once more
sends Leamas into the fray -- this time to play the part of the dishonored spy and lure the enemy to his ultimate defeat.
When the quiet Little Vestry of St. Matthew's Church becomes the blood-soaked scene of a double murder, Scotland
Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh faces an intriguing conundrum: How did an upper-crust Minister come to lie, slit throat
to slit throat, next to a neighborhood derelict of the lowest order? Challenged with the investigation of a crime that
appears to have endless motives, Dalgliesh explores the sinister web spun around a half-burnt diary and a violet-eyed
widow who is pregnant and full of malice--all the while hoping to fill the gap of logic that joined these two disparate men
in bright red death.
5. Great Women
Jane Austen
Pride and
Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar
First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners - one of the most popular novels of
all time - tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet's five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr Bingley and his
status-conscious friend, Mr Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a
single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins the novel, that features splendidly
civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited
courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.
Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and
Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine's father. After Mr Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by
Catherine's brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering
Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former
miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex
structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make
this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.
Sylvia Plath's shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. Esther
Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time.
In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such
intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A
deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary
accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as
Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not
free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new
home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word:
Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize
laureate Toni Morrison.
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to
walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She
must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining
births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before,
when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had
a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
6. American Classics
Mark Twain
F. Scott
The Great
J. D.
Catcher in
the Rye
Harper Lee
To Kill a
Tom Wolfe
The Bonfire
of the
Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn. Intended at first as a simple story of a boy's adventures in the Mississippi Valley - a sequel to The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer - the book grew and matured under Twain's hand into a work of immeasurable richness and
complexity. More than a century after its publication, the critical debate over the symbolic significance of Huck's and
Jim's voyage is still fresh, and it remains a major work that can be enjoyed at many levels: as an incomparable adventure
story and as a classic of American humor.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel
of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love
for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the
national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
"...the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my
parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going
into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would
have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."
Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent."
Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in
a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about
what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the
eternal teenage experience of alienation.
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A
Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to
win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.
Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior—to
innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.
Tom Wolfe's modern American satire tells the story of Sherman McCoy, a Wall Street "Master of the Universe" who has
it all - a Park Avenue apartment, a job that brings wealth, power and prestige, a beautiful wife, an even more beautiful
mistress. Suddenly, one wrong turn makes it all go wrong, and Sherman spirals downward in a sudden fall from grace
that sucks him into the ravenous heart of a New York City gone mad during the go-go, racially turbulent, socially hilarious
7. 21th Century Modern Classics
Zadie Teeth White Teeth 1999 Epic and intimate, hilarious and poignant, White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie,
the other by Archie's best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II,
Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful,
toothless Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie (the Jamaican word for "no
problem"). Samad —devoutly Muslim, hopelessly "foreign"— weds the feisty and always suspicious Alsana in a
prearranged union. They have twin sons named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-militant Muslim and the
other an insufferable science nerd. The riotous and tortured histories of the Joneses and the Iqbals are fundamentally
intertwined, capturing an empire's worth of cultural identity, history, and hope.
2001 The Lamberts – Enid and Alfred and their three grown-up children – are a troubled family living in a troubled age. Alfred
is ill and as his condition worsens the whole family must face the failures, secrets and long-buried hurts that haunt them
if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs. Stretching from the Midwest in the mid-century to Wall
Street and Eastern Europe in the age of globalised greed, The Corrections brings an old-time America of freight trains and
civic duty into wild collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and
New Economy millionaires. It announces Jonathan Franzen as one of the most brilliant interpreters of American society
and the American soul.
2001 Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of
a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister,
Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult
motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows
that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century,
Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine
Kafka on the 2002 Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home
either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging
simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that,
like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that
convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits
slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers
at the peak of his powers.
The Road
2006 A searing, post-apocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece. A father and his son walk alone
through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack
stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what,
if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk
the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
8. A Global View
Years of
The Kite
a Ngozi
Half of a
Yellow Sun
The Narrow 2013
Road to the
Deep North
One Hundred Years of Solitude is perhaps the most important landmark of the so-called Boom in contemporary Latin
American fiction. Published in 1967, the novel was an instant success, running to hundreds of editions, winning four
international prizes and being translated into 27 languages. In 1982, its author received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Michael Wood places the novel in the context of modern Colombia's violent history, and helps the reader to explore
the rich and complex vision of the world which Garcia Marquez presents in it.
A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan
over the last thirty years. Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns.
Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond
is torn by Amir's choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the
dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that
Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had. The Kite
Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of
reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption.
With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African
history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late
1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old
houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful
young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young
Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative
novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.
At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to
night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting . . . Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of
America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He
thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan
society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore. But in the wake of September 11,
Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by
the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more
fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love. Richard Flanagan's story — of
Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of
Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison
to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the
impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its
horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no
reason, and a love story unfolds.
9. Short Stories
The Lady
with the Dog
and Other
James Joyce
Jorge Luis
Alice Munro
Dear Life
The Lady with the Dog is a short story by Anton Chekhov first published in 1899. It tells the story of an adulterous
affair between a Russian banker and a young lady he meets while vacationing in Yalta. The story comprises four
parts: (I) describes the initial meeting in Yalta, (II) the consummation of the affair and the remaining time in Yalta,
(III) Gurov's return to Moscow and his visit to Anna's town, and (IV) Anna's visits to Moscow. Vladimir Nabokov
declared that it was one of the greatest short stories ever written.
This work of art reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century, and by rejecting euphemism, reveals to the
Irish their unromantic reality. Each of the 15 stories offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, and
collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.
If Jorge Luis Borges had been a computer scientist, he probably would've invented hypertext & the World Wide
Web. Instead, being a librarian & one of the world's most widely read people, he became the leading practitioner
of a densely layered imaginistic writing style that's been imitated throughout this century, but has no peer
(Umberto Eco sometimes comes close). His stories are redolent with an intelligence, wealth of invention & a tight,
almost mathematically formal style that challenge with mysteries & paradoxes revealed only after several
readings. Highly recommended to anyone who wants their imagination & intellect to be aswarm with
philosophical plots, compelling conundrums & a wealth of real & imagined literary references derived from an
infinitely imaginary library.
Carver has a reputation as one of the most celebrated short-story writers in American literature—his stories are a
haunting meditation on love, loss, and companionship, and finding one’s way through the dark These seven
stories were the last that Carver wrote. Among them is one of his longest, 'Errand', in which he imagines the death
of Chekhov, a writer Carver hugely admired and to whose work his own was often compared. This fine story
suggests that the greatest of modern short-story writers may, in the year before his untimely death, have been
flexing his muscles for a longer work.
With her peerless ability to give us the essence of a life in often brief but spacious and timeless stories, Alice
Munro illumines the moment a life is shaped -- the moment a dream, or sex, or perhaps a simple twist of fate
turns a person out of his or her accustomed path and into another way of being. Suffused with Munro's clarity of
vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, these stories (set in the world Munro has made her own: the
countryside and towns around Lake Huron) about departures and beginnings, accidents, dangers, and
homecomings both virtual and real, paint a vivid and lasting portrait of how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary
the ordinary life can be.
10. Great Non-Fiction
A Room of
One’s Own
Down and
Out in Paris
and London
The Selfish
Oliver Sacks
The Man
Mistook His
Wife for a
Hat and
A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on 24 October 1929, the essay was based
on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges at Cambridge
University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore
women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled
"Women and Fiction", and hence the essay, are considered non-fiction. The essay is generally seen as a feminist text,
and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated
by patriarchy.
This semi- autobiographical account narrates without self-pity and often with humor the adventures of a penniless
British writer among the down-and-out of two great cities. The Parisian episode is fascinating for its expose of the
kitchens of posh French restaurants, where the narrator works at the bottom of the culinary echelon as dishwasher, or
plongeur. In London, while waiting for a job, he experiences the world of tramps, street people, and free lodging
houses. In the tales of both cities we learn some sobering Orwellian truths about poverty and society.
Landmark, groundbreaking, classic—these adjectives barely do justice to the pioneering vision and lasting impact of
The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it gave a pitch-perfect description of “the problem that has no name”: the
insidious beliefs and institutions that undermined women’s confidence in their intellectual capabilities and kept them
in the home. Writing in a time when the average woman first married in her teens and 60 percent of women students
dropped out of college to marry, Betty Friedan captured the frustrations and thwarted ambitions of a generation and
showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled
with fascinating anecdotes and interviews as well as insights that continue to inspire.
Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as
much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole
nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands of readers to rethink their beliefs about life. In his
internationally bestselling, now classic volume, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins explains how the selfish gene can also be a
subtle gene. The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and
yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature. Bees, for example, will commit suicide when they
sting to protect the hive, and birds will risk their lives to warn the flock of an approaching hawk.
In his most extraordinary book, Oliver Sacks recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently
inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of
individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and
with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are
stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have
been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. If inconceivably strange, these
brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks's splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling
against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our
hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine's ultimate
responsibility: "the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject."
Jung Chang
of China
Naomi Klein
No Logo
The Tipping
Point: How
Things Can
Make a Big
Dance: A
History of
Behind the
Berlin Wall
Anna Funder
The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic
sweep of eyewitness history. An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female
experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives
and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young
idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the
Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot
doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping,
moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others
caught in the whirlwind of history.
No Logo employs journalistic savvy and personal testament to detail the insidious practices and far-reaching effects of
corporate marketing—and the powerful potential of a growing activist sect that will surely alter the course of the 21st
century. This is an infuriating, inspiring, and altogether pioneering work of cultural criticism that investigates money,
marketing, and the anti-corporate movement. As global corporations compete for the hearts and wallets of consumers
who not only buy their products but willingly advertise them from head to toe—witness today’s schoolbooks,
superstores, sporting arenas, and brand-name synergy—a new generation has begun to battle consumerism with its
own best weapons. In this provocative, well-written study, a front-line report on that battle, we learn how the Nike
swoosh has changed from an athletic status-symbol to a metaphor for sweatshop labor and how teenaged McDonald’s
workers are risking their jobs to join the Teamsters.
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads
like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push
cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in
which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way
people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas. Gladwell introduces us to the
particular personality types who are natural pollinators of new ideas and trends, the people who create the
phenomenon of word of mouth. He analyzes fashion trends, smoking, children's television, direct mail, and the early
days of the American Revolution for clues about making ideas infectious, and visits a religious commune, a successful
high-tech company, and one of the world's greatest salesmen to show how to start and sustain social epidemics.
Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes
examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself--its character, spiritual essence, and
destiny. Skillfully interweaving the great works--by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall--with folk embroidery, peasant
songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, Figes reveals the spirit of "Russianness" as rich and uplifting,
complex and contradictory--and more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited and East Germany ceased to exist. In this
book, Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany, including the story of
Miriam, who as a 16-year-old might have started World War III.
11. 10 Great Plays
Oscar Wilde
of Being
The Cherry
A Street
Car Named
Arthur Miller
Death of a
Party and
The Room
Athol Fugard
Harold and
the Boys
One of the most powerful and enduring of Greek tragedies, Medea centers on the myth of Jason, leader of the
Argonauts, who has won the dragon-guarded treasure of the Golden Fleece with the help of the sorceress Medea.
Having married Medea and fathered her two children, Jason abandons her for a more favorable match, never
suspecting the terrible revenge she will take. Euripides' masterly portrayal of the motives fiercely driving Medea's
pursuit of vengeance for her husband's insult and betrayal has held theater audiences spellbound for more than
twenty centuries.
Oscar Wilde's madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers’ entanglements still delights
readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen
Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon
has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack's ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack's country home on the
same weekend the "rivals" to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the "Ernests" to claim their beloveds’
pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!
In Chekhov's tragi-comedy - perhaps his most popular play - the Gayev family is torn by powerful forces, forces rooted
deep in history and in the society around them. Their estate is hopelessly in debt: urged to cut down their beautiful
cherry orchard and sell the land for holiday cottages, they struggle to act decisively. Tom Murphy's fine vernacular
version allows us to re-imagine the events of the play in the last days of Anglo-Irish colonialism. It gives this great play
vivid new life within our own history and social consciousness.
The story of A Streetcar Named Desire famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed
over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon
Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the
most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage
director of the ’40s and ’50s.
'For a salesman, there is no rock bottom to life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you
medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine.'
Willy Loman has been a salesman for 34 years. At 60, he is cast aside, his usefulness exhausted. With no future to
dream about he must face the crushing disappointments of his past. He takes one final brave action, but is he heroic
at last or a self-deluding fool?
In The Birthday Party, a musician who escapes to a dilapidated boarding house, where he falls victim to the shadowy,
ritualized violence of two men who have followed him from his sinister past. In The Room, a derelict boarding house
again becomes the scene of a visitation from the past when a blind man suddenly arrives to deliver a mysterious
message. Both plays are invested with the elements that make Pinter's work unique: the disturbing familiarity of the
dialogue, the subtle characterization, and the abrupt mood and power shifts among the characters, which can be by
turns terrifying, moving, and wildly funny.
A white teen who has grown up in the affectionate company of the two black waiters who work in his mother's tea
room in Port Elizabeth learns that his viciously racist alcoholic father is on his way home from the hospital. An ensuing
rage unwittingly triggers his inevitable passage into the culture of hatred fostered by apartheid.
Alan Bennett The History
Laura Wade
Arcadia takes us back and forth between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging over the nature of truth
and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on
our orbits in life. Focusing on the mysteries--romantic, scientific, literary--that engage the minds and hearts of
characters whose passions and lives intersect across scientific planes and centuries, it is "Stoppard's richest, most
ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and... emotion. It's like a dream of levitation: you're
instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you're about to plummet to
earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow...
An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in
pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and
hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes
undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, of their schooling. In The
History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy's life.
In doing so, he raises—with gentle wit and pitch-perfect command of character—not only universal questions about
the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today.
In an oak-paneled room in Oxford, ten young punks with cut-glass vowels and deep pockets are meeting, intent on
restoring their right to rule. Members of an elite student dining society, the boys are bunkering down for a wild night
of debauchery, decadence and good wine. Welcome to the Riot Club.
12. 10 Great English Language Poets
1757 - William Blake was born in London on November 28, 1757, to James, a hosier, and Catherine Blake. Two of his six siblings died in
infancy. From early childhood, Blake spoke of having visions—at four he saw God “put his head to the window”; around age nine,
while walking through the countryside, he saw a tree filled with angels. Although his parents tried to discourage him from “lying,"
they did observe that he was different from his peers and did not force him to attend conventional school. He learned to read and
write at home. Blake was a nonconformist who associated with some of the leading radical thinkers of his day, such as Thomas Paine
and Mary Wollstonecraft. In defiance of 18th-century neoclassical conventions, he privileged imagination over reason in the creation
of both his poetry and images, asserting that ideal forms should be constructed not from observations of nature but from inner
visions. In 1800 Blake moved to the seacoast town of Felpham, where he lived and worked until 1803 under the patronage of William
Hayley. He taught himself Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Italian, so that he could read classical works in their original language. In
Felpham he experienced profound spiritual insights that prepared him for his mature work, the great visionary epics written and
etched between about 1804 and 1820. Blake believed that his poetry could be read and understood by common people, but he was
determined not to sacrifice his vision in order to become popular.
1770 - On April 7, 1770, William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumbria, England. Wordsworth’s mother died when he was eight—
Wordsworth 1850
this experience shapes much of his later work. Wordsworth attended Hawkshead Grammar School, where his love of poetry was
firmly established and, it is believed, he made his first attempts at verse. While he was at Hawkshead, Wordsworth’s father died
leaving him and his four siblings orphans. After Hawkshead, Wordsworth studied at St. John’s College in Cambridge and before his
final semester, he set out on a walking tour of Europe, an experience that influenced both his poetry and his political sensibilities.
While touring Europe, Wordsworth came into contact with the French Revolution. This experience as well as a subsequent period
living in France, brought about Wordsworth’s interest and sympathy for the life, troubles, and speech of the “common man.” These
issues proved to be of the utmost importance to Wordsworth’s work. Equally important in the poetic life of Wordsworth was his 1795
meeting with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was with Coleridge that Wordsworth published the famous Lyrical Ballads in 1798.
While the poems themselves are some of the most influential in Western literature, it is the preface to the second edition that
remains one of the most important testaments to a poet’s views on both his craft and his place in the world. In the preface
Wordsworth writes on the need for “common speech” within poems and argues against the hierarchy of the period which valued epic
poetry above the lyric. Wordsworth’s most famous work, The Prelude (1850), is considered by many to be the crowning achievement
of English romanticism. The poem, revised numerous times, chronicles the spiritual life of the poet and marks the birth of a new
genre of poetry.
1840 - Thomas Hardy, the son of a stonemason, was born in Dorset, England, on June 2, 1840. He trained as an architect and worked in
London and Dorset for ten years. Hardy’s poetry explores a fatalist outlook against the dark, rugged landscape of his native Dorset. He
rejected the Victorian belief in a benevolent God, and much of his poetry reads as a sardonic lament on the bleakness of the human
condition. A traditionalist in technique, he nevertheless forged a highly original style, combining rough-hewn rhythms and colloquial
diction with an extraordinary variety of meters and stanzaic forms. Hardy forged a modern style that nonetheless hewed closely to
poetic convention and tradition. Innovative in his use of stanza and voice, Hardy’s poetry, like his fiction, is characterized by a
pervasive fatalism. In the words of biographer Claire Tomalin, the poems illuminate “the contradictions always present in Hardy,
between the vulnerable, doomstruck man and the serene inhabitant of the natural world.” Hardy’s lyrics are intimately and directly
connected to his life: the great poems of 1912 to 1913 were written after the death of Emma on November 27, 1912. Some of these
1830 1886
1893 1918
1939 2013
works are dated as early as December 1912, a month after her death, and others were composed in March of the following year,
after Hardy had visited St. Juliot, Cornwall, where he first met Emma. Tomalin described Emma’s death as “the moment when
Thomas Hardy became a great poet,” a view shared by other recent critics. Hardy’s Emma poems, Tomalin goes on to point out, are
some the “finest and strangest celebrations of the dead in English poetry.”
Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Throughout her life, she seldom left her home and
visitors were few. By the 1860s, Dickinson lived in almost complete isolation from the outside world, but actively maintained many
correspondences and read widely. Dickinson’s poetry was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century
England, as well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town, which encouraged a
Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity. While Dickinson was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly
enclosed poems in letters to friends, she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. Upon her death, Dickinson’s family
discovered forty handbound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems, or “fascicles” as they are sometimes called. Dickinson assembled these
booklets by folding and sewing five or six sheets of stationery paper and copying what seem to be final versions of poems. The
handwritten poems show a variety of dash-like marks of various sizes and directions (some are even vertical).
On March 18, 1893, Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born in Shropshire, England. Interested in the arts at a young age, Owen began
to experiment with poetry at 17. By 1915, he had become increasingly interested in World War I and enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles
group. After training in England, Owen was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was wounded in combat in 1917 and evacuated
to Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh after being diagnosed with shell shock. There he met another patient, poet Siegfried
Sassoon, who served as a mentor and introduced him to well-known literary figures such as Robert Graves and H. G. Wells. It was at
this time Owen wrote many of his most important poems, including “Anthem for Doomed Youth” and “Dulce et Decorum Est.” His
poetry often graphically illustrated the horrors of warfare, the physical landscapes that surrounded him, and the human body in
relation to those landscapes. His verses stand in stark contrast to the patriotic poems of war written by earlier poets of Great Britain,
such as Rupert Brooke.
Elizabeth Bishop was born on February 8, 1911, in Worcester, Massachusetts. When she was less than a year old, her father died, and
shortly thereafter, her mother was committed to a mental asylum. Bishop was first sent to live with her maternal grandparents in
Nova Scotia and later lived with paternal relatives in Worcester and South Boston. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar
College in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1934. Bishop was independently wealthy, and from 1935 to 1937 she spent time traveling to
France, Spain, North Africa, Ireland, and Italy and then settled in Key West, Florida, for four years. Her poetry is filled with
descriptions of her travels and the scenery that surrounded her. Unlike her contemporary and good friend Robert Lowell, who wrote
in the Confessional style, Bishop’s poetry avoids explicit accounts of her personal life and focuses instead with great subtlety on her
impressions of the physical world. Her images are precise and true to life, and they reflect her own sharp wit and moral sense. She
lived for many years in Brazil, communicating with friends and colleagues in America only by letter. She wrote slowly and published
sparingly (her Collected Poems number barely one hundred), but the technical brilliance and formal variety of her work is astonishing.
Seamus Heaney was born on April 13, 1939, in Castledawson, County Derry, Northern Ireland. He earned a teacher’s certificate in
English at St. Joseph’s College in Belfast and in 1963 took a position as a lecturer in English at that school.He produced numerous
collections of poetry. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt
everyday miracles and the living past." Heaney taught at Harvard University (1985-2006) and served as the Oxford Professor of Poetry
(1989-1994). He died in 2013. Heaney has attracted a readership on several continents and won prestigious literary awards and
honors, including the Nobel Prize. As Blake Morrison noted in his work Seamus Heaney, the author is "that rare thing, a poet rated
highly by critics and academics yet popular with 'the common reader.'" Part of Heaney's popularity stems from his subject matter—
modern Northern Ireland, its farms and cities beset with civil strife, its natural culture and language overrun by English rule. The New
York Review of Books essayist Richard Murphy described Heaney as "the poet who has shown the finest art in presenting a coherent
vision of Ireland, past and present." Heaney's poetry is known for its aural beauty and finely-wrought textures. Often described as a
regional poet, he is also a traditionalist who deliberately gestures back towards the “pre-modern” worlds of William Wordsworth and
John Clare.
Sylvia Plath
1932 - Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts. Even in her youth, Plath was ambitiously driven to succeed. She
kept a journal from the age of eleven and published her poems in regional magazines and newspapers. In 1950, Plath matriculated at
Smith College. She was an exceptional student, and despite a deep depression she went through in 1953 and a subsequent suicide
attempt, she managed to graduate summa cum laude in 1955. After graduation, Plath moved to Cambridge, England, on a Fulbright
Scholarship. In early 1956, she attended a party and met the English poet Ted Hughes. Shortly thereafter, Plath and Hughes were
married, on June 16, 1956. Plath returned to Massachusetts in 1957 and began studying with Robert Lowell. Her first collection of
poems, Colossus, was published in 1960 in England, and two years later in the United States. She returned to England, where she
gave birth to her children Frieda and Nicholas, in 1960 and 1962, respectively. In 1962, Ted Hughes left Plath for Assia Gutmann
Wevill. That winter, in a deep depression, Plath wrote most of the poems that would comprise her most famous book, Ariel. In 1963,
Plath published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Then, on February 11, 1963, during
one of the worst English winters on record, Plath wrote a note to her downstairs neighbor instructing him to call the doctor, then she
committed suicide using her gas oven. Plath’s poetry is often associated with the Confessional movement, and compared to the work
of poets such as Lowell and fellow student Anne Sexton. Often, her work is singled out for the intense coupling of its violent or
disturbed imagery and its playful use of alliteration and rhyme.
1963 - Simon Armitage was born on May 26, 1963, in the village of Marsden, in West Yorkshire, England. He received an undergraduate
degree from Portsmouth University in geography, followed by a master’s degree in social work from Manchester University where he
researched the impact of television violence on young offenders. Before he began to write full-time, Armitage worked as probation
officer in Greater Manchester for six years. Widely considered an inheritor of Philip Larkin‘s dark wit, Armitage has become one of
England’s most respected poets. A reviewer for the Sunday Times in England wrote: “Armitage creates a muscular but elegant
language of his own out of slangy, youthful, up-to-the-minute jargon and the vernacular of his native Northern England. He combines
this with an easily worn erudition...and the benefit on unblinkered experience...to produce poems of moving originality.”
Carol Ann
1955 - On December 23, 1955, Carol Ann Duffy was born in Glasgow, Scotland to Mary Black and Frank Duffy, both of Irish Catholic descent.
Together with her four younger brothers, she was raised in Staffordshire in the West Midlands of England where her father worked as
a fitter with English Electric. She received a degree in philosophy from Liverpool University in 1977. Her first job was writing for
television shows, followed by a C. Day Lewis Fellowship to work as a writer-in-residence in East End schools of London from 1982 and
1984. Dramatic characters and narratives, voiced with a sharp edge of wit and social critique, characterize Duffy’s early work, while
her recent collections have wrestled more directly with dark and tangled themes of love. Writing for The Independent, Ruth Padel
called Rapture “a superb demonstration of … Duffy’s formidably inventive artistry, her dedication to the craft and tradition of poetry,
and above all the love poem.”
Summaries from: www.goodreads.com , www.poets.org and www.poetryfoundation.org
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