Captain Ahab’s hunt for the white whale drives the narrative at a relentless pace, while Ishmael’s mediations on whales and whaling, on the sublime indifference of nature, and on the grimy details of the extraction of oil provide a reflective counterpoint to the headlong idolatrous quest. Sometimes read as a terrifying study of monomania or a critical inquiry into the sinister effects of reducing life to symbols, Moby-Dick also offers colorful and often comic glimpses of sea-faring life.
A Brief History of Time
Told in language we all can understand, A Brief History of Time plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and “arrows of time,” of the big bang and a bigger God—where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.
The Fountainhead (Centennial Edition HC)
The story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him. This edition contains a special Afterword by Rand’s literary executor, Leonard Peikoff which includes excerpts from Ayn Rand’s own notes on the making of The Fountainhead. As fresh today as it was then, here is a novel about a hero—and about those who try to destroy him.
War and Peace
War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men. As Napoleon’s army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers—as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture.
Cutting for Stone
Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, and unreadable. In a famous 1933 court decision, Judge John M. Woolsey declared it an emetic book–although he found it sufficiently unobscene to allow its importation into the United States–and Virginia Woolf was moved to decry James Joyce’s “cloacal obsession.” None of these adjectives, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book.
The Satanic Verses
The Name of the Rose
In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville is sent to investigate a wealthy Italian abbey whose monks are suspected of heresy. When his mission is overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths patterned on the book of Revelation, Brother William turns detective, following the trail of a conspiracy that brings him face-to-face with the abbey’s labyrinthine secrets, the subversive effects of laughter, and the medieval Inquisition. Caught in a power struggle between the emperor he serves and the pope who rules the Church, Brother William comes to see that what is at stake is larger than any mere political dispute–that his investigation is being blocked by those who fear imagination, curiosity, and the power of ideas.
Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra
“Don Quixote, a lanky scarecrow of a man with his withered face and lantern jaw, dons his rusty armour and mounts his ramshackle steed, Rozinante. With lance couched he still rides through our lives, followed by his potbellied squire Sancho Panza.” With these words, Walter Starkie launches the introduction to his highly esteemed translation and abridgment of Cervantes’s great classic—a book that has enchanted generations of readers throughout the world.
Brimming with humor, rich in idealism and earthy common sense, vivid in its characterizations of men and women from every walk of life—nobles, priests, impassioned damsels, simple country girls, rogues, and romantics—Don Quixote, in this zestful translation, will win many new friends.
Louis de Bernieres
The story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad. Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island’s shores in the form of the conquering Italian army.
Caught in the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island. Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, Corelli’s Mandolin is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving.
Described by William Faulkner as the best novel ever written and by Fyodor Dostoevsky as “flawless,” Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and thereby exposes herself to the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel’s seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness.
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.
We’ve all done it (well okay, most of us have done it). A certain book comes up in conversation and we smile and nod and say enough about it to lead people to believe we actually finished it. But we didn’t. Often times these are doorstoppers (Ulysses) or classics we should have finished in school (Moby Dick) or contemporary novels we know are brilliant but we just can’t seem to get into them no matter how we try (Infinite Jest). So let’s confess! And by all means, let us know if you’ve finished and loved any of the books here. Your recommendation might be just what we need to finally pick up that book we’ve been meaning to finish.
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