The 100 Most-Often Recommended Works
This list of the 100 works most frequently recommended by colleges and universities is compiled from the pre-college reading lists, freshmen syllabi, and core programs detailed in Reading Lists for College Bound Students (edited by D. Estell, M. Satchwell, & P. Wright). The annotations will help you decide which books you'd like to read.
The author's nationality and the date of publication are in parentheses before each annotation. Most of these books are available in many editions. At the end of each annotation you are given a selected edition, identified by publisher, with the number of pages in that particular edition. If you are interested in other works by the same author, alternate suggestions that were consistently mentioned by colleges appear in parentheses. A key to the abbreviations for the publishers and the authors' nationalities is included at the end of the list.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice (BR, 1813)
A novel about love and marriage among the English country gentry of Austen's day. The hero's pride in his social class conflicts with the heroine's prejudice against him based on first impression. WSP 464 pp. (Emma)
Baldwin, James. Go Tell It on the Mountain (AM, 1953)
This semi-autobiographical novel about a 14-year-old black youth's religious conversion is based on Baldwin's experience as a young storefront preacher in Harlem. DP 224 pp. (Notes of a Native Son)
Bellow, Saul. Seize the Day (AM, 1956)
In this novella, a son grapples with his love and hate for an unworthy father. When he won the Nobel Prize in 1976, Bellow was cited for "the human understanding and the analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work." VKP 107 pp. (Henderson the Rain King)
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre (BR, 1847)
This romantic novel introduced a new type of heroine to English fiction. Jane Eyre is an intelligent, passionate, and not especially beautiful young woman who falls in love with a strange moody man tormented by dark secrets. SC 461 pp.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights (BR, 1847)
One of the masterpieces of English romanticism, this is a novel of love and revenge. The demonic passion of the hero-villain Heathcliff destroys his beloved Catherine, her family, and eventually himself. WSP 460 pp.
Camus, Albert. The Stranger (FR, 1942)
An existential novel in which a young man, observing rather than participating in life, commits a senseless murder. While in prison awaiting execution, he comes to value life. Camus won the Nobel Prize in 1957. VIN 154 pp.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (BR, 1865)
A fantasy in which Alice follows the White Rabbit to a dream world. The characters she encounters (the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and others) are part of the adult world she must deal with. Sir John Tenniel's illustrations have become as classic as Carroll's story. NAL 143 pp. with annotations. (Through the Looking Glass)
Cather, Willa. My Antonia (AM, 1918)
A realistic novel about immigrant pioneers as they strive to adapt to the Nebraska prairies. It is the story of the struggles of Antonia and other women who are strengthened by the harsh realities of life. HM 238 pp. (Death Comes for the Archbishop)
Cervantes, Miguel de. Don Quixote (SP, 1605,1617)
A novel in which an eccentric old gentleman setting out as a knight goes "tilting at windmills" to right the wrongs of the world. This work, made up of twelve stories, "has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible." (L.H. Hornstein) VKP 653 pp.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening (AM, 1899)
This is the story of a New Orleans woman who abandons her husband and children to search for love and self-understanding. A controversial book when it was published because of the character's extramarital affair, the book was virtually ignored for 50 years. BC 208 pp.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness (BR, 1902)
A probing psychological novel that explores the darkness in the soul of each man. Conrad's narrator Marlow makes a journey into the depths of the Congo where he discovers the extent to which greed can corrupt a good man. SC 93 pp. (bound with The Secret Sharer). (Lord Jim)
Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage (AM, 1895)
This Civil War novel, which Crane called "a psychological portrayal of fear," reveals the grim aspects of war in the life of an ordinary soldier. Henry Fleming joins the army full of romantic visions of battle which are shattered by combat. WSP 224 pp.
Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe (BR, 1719)
Based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk's experiences, this novel is about the adventures of a man who spends 24 years on an isolated island. With the help of an islander whom he names Friday, Crusoe shows courage and ingenuity in meeting the challenges of his predicament. BC 288 pp.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations (BR, 1860-61)
A novel about Pip, a poor boy, who is made rich by a mysterious benefactor, sets out to realize his "great expectations," and finally becomes a man of worth and character. As in all his works, Dickens populates this novel with memorable and eccentric characters. WSP 466 pp.
Dostoevski, Feodor. Crime and Punishment (RU, 1866)
A psychological novel about a poor student who murders an old woman pawnbroker and her sister. After the crime, his conscience bothers him until he confesses. He is sent to Siberia, and finally becomes truly repentant. BC 496 pp. (The Brother Karamozov)
Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss (BR, 1860)
The Victorian world of male supremacy is the background for this novel of a stormy relationship between a brother and sister. Maggie Tulliver's life is miserable because her brother Tom disapproves of her choices of romances. BC 474 pp. (Middlemarch)
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man (AM, 1947)
"I am an invisible man," begins this novel of an unnamed black man's search for identity as an individual and as a member of his race and his society. This story goes beyond one man's search and chronicles every man's struggle to find himself. VIN 568 pp.
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury (AM, 1929)
The theme for this Nobel Prize-winning author's novel is the decline of the Southern family. Presented through four points of view, it examines the deterioration of the Compson family. VIN 371 pp. ("The Bear")
Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones (BR, 1749)
A humorous novel about the adventures of an amorous young man whose impulsiveness often leads him into difficult situations. PC 874 pp. (Joseph Andrews)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (AM, 1925)
A novel in which a young man corrupts himself and the American Dream in order to regain a lost love. The Great Gatsby "belongs not only to American but to world literature...to the tragic predicament of humanity as a whole." (A.E. Dyson) S 182 pp.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary (FR, 1857)
A realistic novel in which a young wife is bored with her husband. In her extramarital affairs, she seeks unsuccessfully to find the emotional experiences she has read about in romantic novels. PC 361 pp.
Forster, E.M. A Passage to India (BR, 1924)
A pessimistic novel about man's inhumanity to man. A young English woman in British-ruled India accuses an Indian doctor of sexual assault; her accusation causes racial tension between the British and Indian communities and destroys the young man's career. HBJ 322 pp.
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude (CO, 1967)
This Latin American novel portrays seven generations in the lives of the Buendia family. Garca Marquez employs a technique called magic realismÐthe use of magic, myth, and religion to intensify reality. AV 383 pp.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies (BR, 1954)
In this novel a group of English schoolboys who are stranded on an island without adults become savages. This moral fable implies that defects in society are caused in part by defects in individuals. PU 190 pp.
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D'Urbervilles (BR, 1891)
A Victorian novel in which the happiness and marriage of Tess and her husband are destroyed because she confesses to him that she bore a child as the result of a forced sexual relationship with her employer's son. BC 414 pp. (The Return of the Native)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter (AM, 1850)
A novel about an adulterous Puritan woman who keeps secret the identity of the father of her illegitimate child. Her sin and the secret sin of the father are dwarfed by the vengefulness of her husband. WSP 276 pp.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms (AM, 1929)
In this semi autobiographical novel that takes place during World War I, an American lieutenant falls in love and runs away with the woman who nurses him to health. Hemingway, winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize, is known for his journalistic style. S 336 pp. (The Sun Also Rises)
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God (AM, 1937)
A novel about a woman's search for a happy life. "The image of the black woman as the mule of the world becomes a metaphor for the roles that Janie repudiates in her quest for self-fulfillment..." (Sherley Williams) UIP 286 pp.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World (BR, 1932)
In this bitter satire about the future, Nobel Prize-winner Huxley conceives a world controlled by advances in science and social changes. Individuals are no longer important and their lives are planned out for them. BC 177 pp.
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw (AM, 1898)
This novella is a study of good and evil in which the children are "the arena and the victim" (Hortense Calisher). A governess in charge of two children discovers they are under the evil influence of ghosts and attempts to save them. BC 103 pp. (Portrait of a Lady)
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (IR, 1916)
A novel about a young man growing up in Ireland and rebelling against family, country, and religion to become an artist. Joyce's uses of stream-of-consciousness has influenced many modern writers. P 253 pp.
Kafka, Franz. The Trial (CZ, 1925)
In this novel a man is tried for a crime he knows nothing about, yet he feels guilty and is executed. W.H. Auden described Kafka as "the author who comes nearest to bearing the same kind of relation to our age [that] Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe bore to theirs..." SCN 288 pp. (Metamorphosis)
Lawrence, D.H. Sons and Lovers (BR, 1913)
An autobiographical novel about a youth who is torn between a dominant working-class father and a possessive genteel mother. "Lawrence has been one of the most influential figures in Anglo-American literature and life of this century." (Martin Seymour-Smith) SI 406 pp.
Lewis, Sinclair. Babbitt (AM, 1922)
A satirical novel about a middle-class businessman in an average Midwestern city. Babbitt becomes a pathetic yet comical character because of his exaggerated sense of his importance. Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize. SC 319 pp. (Main Street)
Malamud, Bernard. The Assistant (AM, 1957)
A novel in which a Gentile hoodlum Ôout of a compelling pity' goes to work for a Jewish grocer who he has robbed. Finally taking the grocer's place, he becomes a Jew himself and accepts all that is Jewish. AV 304 pp.
Mann, Thomas. Death in Venice (GE, 1912)
In this novella an author becomes aware of a darker side of himself when he visits Venice and fantasizes a love for a young boy he sees there. This story alludes frequently to Greek literature and mythology. BC 68 pp.
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick (AM, 1851)
A complex novel about a mad sea captain's pursuit of the White Whale. To Clifton Fadiman, "as we turn the pages, our hands close about an imaginary harpoon...in our ears rings the cry: ÔThere she blows!' " WSP 466 pp.
Morrison, Toni. Sula (AM, 1973)
A novel about the lifelong friendship of two vastly different women who become estranged when one causes the other's husband to abandon her. "Its humor is earthy and delightful, and its dialogue is especially sharp." (Jonathan Yardley) NAL 176 pp. (*Beloved)
O'Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find (AM, 1955)
A triad of short stories set in Georgia. The title story is about the deadly confrontation between a religious grandmother and a mad murderer. O'Connor's characters "hold their fears at bay with a rustic religiosity that is as functional as their speech or dress." (James Greene) HBJ 251 pp.
Olsen, Tillie. Tell Me a Riddle (AM, 1956-60)
A group of short stories including a novella about the problems of aging. An old man and woman quarrel bitterly about whether to stay in their own home or to move to the Haven, a retirement home. DP 125 pp.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm (BR, 1945)
The classic satire of communism in which the pigs lead the other farm animals in a revolution against the humans, setting up their own government where "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." SC 128 pp. (1984)
Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country (SA, 1948)
A novel about a black minister in South Africa who goes in search of his children and finds them corrupted and destroyed by white society. The roots of both the generational and racial conflicts of black South Africans are explored in this story. S 283 pp.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Great Tales and Poems (AM, 1839-45)
Poe is considered the father of detective stories and a master of supernatural tales. The stories most often recommended are: "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Purloined Letter," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Tell-Tale Heart." WSP 373 pp.
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye (AM, 1951)
A novel in which a prep school dropout rejects the "phoniness" he sees all about him. Catcher is "one of those rare books that influenced one generation after another, causing each to claim it as its own." (Adam Moss) BC 212 pp.
Scott, Sir Walter. Ivanhoe (BR, 1820)
A story of chivalry in which the Norman hero Wilfred finally wins his true love, the Saxon Rowena, with the help of the Black Knight (Richard the Lion-Hearted in disguise) and brings about a temporary peace between the Normans and the Saxons. SC 467 pp. (Heart of Midlothian)
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein (BR, 1818)
A gothic tale of terror in which Frankenstein creates a monster from corpses. Because everyone who sees him fears him, the monster despairs and turns on his creator. BC 206 pp.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath (AM, 1939)
A historical novel by the 1962 Nobel Prize-winner about the desperate flight of tenant farmers from the Midwest during the Depression. The Joad family struggles to retain their humanity and dignity in the face of the hostility they find in California. P 581 pp.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels (BR, 1726)
A satire on mankind in which an 18th-century Englishman visits foreign lands populated by bizarre creatures who illuminate many of the vices and weaknesses of his society. BC 217 pp.
Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair (BR, 1847-48)
A novel of 19th-century upper-middle-class British society that portrays 20 years in the lives of two young women very opposite in character: gentle, sentimental Amelia and lively, cunning Becky. P 797 pp.
Tolstoy, Leo. War and Peace (RU, 1865-69)
A historical novel of the Napoleonic Wars that celebrates the Russian spirit and shows the effect of war and peace on every social class in Russian society. SC 1,453 pp.
Turgenev, Ivan. Fathers and Sons (RU, 1862)
In this novel two young men experience difficulty in their relationships with their parents and with their women friends. "The aspirations of Russia's liberal youth are pitted against those of the conservative landowning gentry..." (R. Freedman) BC 203 pp.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (AM, 1886)
In this novel Huck takes a trip down the river with a runaway slave and learns the worth of life. According to Ernest Hemingway, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." BC 292 pp.
Updike, John. Rabbit, Run (AM, 1961)
The first of the Rabbit Angstrom novels in which an immature young man still longing for the lost glory of his youth runs away from his responsibilities and abandons his wife and child. FA 284 pp.
Voltaire. Candide (FR, 1759)
A satire against those who complacently accept life's disasters. This bitter criticism is disguised as a rollicking travel story in which Candide is puzzled because everything bad happens to him in this "best of all possible worlds." BC 128 pp.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five (AM, 1969)
A semi-autobiographical novel about the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. In the story a time traveler, Billy Pilgrim, finds peace in a future world where he is "grateful that so many of those moments are nice." DP 205 pp. (Cat's Cradle)
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple (AM, 1982)
A novel that focuses on "the role of male domination in the frustration of the black woman's struggle for independence." (Mel Watkins) In this story a young black girl sees herself as property until another woman teaches her to value herself. WSP 295 pp.
Welty, Eudora. Thirteen Stories (AM, 1965)
A collection of short stories about people and life in the deep South. Most often mentioned by colleges are "Why I Live at the PO," "The Worn Path," and "The Petrified Man." HBJ 243 pp.
Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence (AM, 1920)
A novel about a couple condemned to a loveless marriage by the conventions of their social class. "Wharton's work formed a bridge from the 19th-century novel to the magazine fiction of the present." (Louise Brogan) S 384 pp. (The House of Mirth)
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse (BR, 1927)
Written in stream-of-consciousness, this semi autobiographical novel describes the Ramsey family's life in their country home. The lighthouse they see from the window is a symbolic goal for them all. HBJ 310 pp. (A Room of One's Own)
Wright, Richard. Native Son (AM, 1940)
In this novel Bigger Thomas, a young black man from the Chicago slums, lashes out against a hostile society by committing two murders. The book is based partly on Wright's experiences, partly on an actual murder case. H&R 398 pp.
Aeschylus. Orestia (GR, 458 BC)
A triad of plays in which a son seeks revenge against his mother for the murder of his father. In the final play he is exonerated for killing his mother by a tribunal of Athenian judges and the goddess Athena. P 182 pp.
Aristophanes. Lysistrata (GR, 411 BC)
In this comedy the women of warring Athens and Sparta go on a marital strike until their men end their fighting. "Aristophanes made in this play a last appeal, half farcical, half serious, for peace." (Sir Paul Harvey) BC 42 pp. (In The Complete Works of Aristophanes)
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot (IR, 1952)
A Theater of the Absurd play in which two tramps sit endlessly waiting for someone named Godot who never arrives. GRO 68 pp.
Brecht, Bertolt. Mother Courage and Her Children (GE, 1941)
In this antiwar play set during the Thirty Years War, Mother Courage moves her wagon from battlefront to battlefront peddling her wares. One by one her three children are killed even though she seeks to profit from war, not become personally involved in it. GRO 68 pp.
Chekhov, Anton. The Cherry Orchard (RU, 1904)
The members of an aristocratic family in this play are unwilling and unable to face the loss of their property. Their plight depicts the decline of the powerful Russian land-owners following the end of the feudal system in 1861. HE 67 pp. (The Three Sisters)
Euripides. Medea (GR, 431 BC)
In this tragedy of vengeance, Medea is a passionate woman whose love turns to hate when her husband deserts her. It climaxes with her killing their two sons. P 85 pp. (The Bacchae)
Goethe, Johann von. Faust, Part I (GE, 1808)
A play about the legendary scholar who sells his soul to the devil. In this poetic drama, Faust is attracted to a young peasant girl. The devil's plans for his soul are temporarily defeated because Faust's lust for her turns to love. AN 355 pp.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House (NO, 1879)
In this drama the main character slams the door and walks out on a marriage based on inequality. Her revolt against her marriage to a selfish, hypocritical man who treats her as a doll rather than an individual gave impetus to the fight for women's rights. P 231 pp.
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus (BR, 1604)
In this play, Faust is torn between his lust for knowledge as a means to power and his awareness of the sinfulness of his desires. Because the legend of Faust appears so frequently, the term Faustian has come to mean a willingness to sacrifice spiritual values in return for knowledge or power. WSP 208 pp.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman (AM, 1949)
A Pulitzer Prize-winning play in which a traveling salesman "riding on a smile and a shoeshine" realizes that his dreams will never be real, and, unable to cope with the failures of his life, commits suicide. P 138 pp.
Moliere. The Misanthrope (FR, 1566)
Alceste, the leading character in this comedy, is admirable in hating the hypocrisy in his society. In his zeal for complete honesty, however, he succeeds in becoming a complete fool. P 75 pp. (Tartuffe)
O'Neill, Eugene. Desire Under the Elms (AM, 1924)
A naturalistic drama about love, lust, and greed that contrasts a sensitive, emo-tional son with his severe, puritanical father. VIN 55 pp. (The Emperor Jones)
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet (BR, 1600)
A great tragedy in which a prince is troubled by his inability to act to avenge the "murder most foul" of his father. William Hazlett says the play "abounds most in striking reflections on human life..." WSP 174 pp. (Many colleges urge students to read as much Shakespeare as possible: at least one tragedy, one comedy, and one history.)
Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion (BR, 1913)
A play in which a professor of phonetics interferes with the social order by teaching a Cockney girl to act and speak like a duchess. WSP 176 pp. (Saint Joan)
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex (GR, 430 BC)
The tragedy of a king who unwittingly has killed his father and married his mother. When he discovers what he has done, he blinds himself for "there is nothing beautiful left to see in this world." WSP 108 pp.
Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest (BR, 1895)
A worldly and cynical farce about a confusion of identities that ends happily when the real Earnest turns out to be a long-lost infant whose nurse had absent-mindedly misplaced him. AV 83 pp. (Lady Windermere's Fan)
Wilder, Thornton. Our Town (AM, 1938)
In the Pulitzer Prize-winning play the stage manager speaks directly to the audience from a set bare of props. The play tells the story of two families as they experience daily life, love and marriage, and death. H&R 103 pp.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie (AM, 1945)
The mother in this play dwells on the past and longs to find "a gentleman caller" for her crippled daughter who has withdrawn into the world of her glass animals. As in many of Williams' plays, the characters live in a world of unfulfilled dreams. NDB 115 pp. (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Allison, Alexander, Ed. Norton Anthology of Poetry (Shorter Edition)
A collection of poetry by American and British poets. The poets most frequently recommended by colleges are: William Blake ("Songs of Innocence and Experience"); Robert Browning; Emily Dickinson; T.S. Eliot ("The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"); Robert Frost; John Keats; William Shakespeare (the sonnets); Alfred, Lord Tennyson; William Wordsworth; and William Butler Yeats. NO 628 pp.
Anonymous. Beowolf (BR, c 700 AD)
In this adventurous Old English epic poem, Beowolf overcomes monsters and slays a fire-breathing dragon. The poem is based on Norse legends and historical events of the sixth century. ME 121 pp.
Anonymous. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (BR, c 1350-1400)
"The jewel of medieval English literature" (M. Gaston Paris), this Arthurian tale is about the ordeals an ideal knight undergoes to prove his courage and his virtue. The two main episodes are Gawain's beheading of the terrible Green Knight and his efforts to resist the advances of a beautiful lady. P 176 pp.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales (BR, c 1387-1400)
In this poetic narrative, Chaucer presents a colorful group of medieval travelers on their way to a religious shrine. On their journey they tell each other tales: some serious, some ribald. WSP 525 pp. (Many colleges suggest reading only the prologue and one or two tales.)
Dante. Inferno (IT, c 1320)
In this first book of The Divine Comedy, Dante's journey through Hell reveals the medieval view of sin. As he travels through the different levels of the Underworld, he witnesses the punishments for sin. BC 400 pp.
Homer. The Odyssey (GR, c 9th century BC)
The epic of Odysseus' ordeals after the Trojan War as he tries for ten years to return home to Ithaca. On his journey he faces the dangers of the Cyclops, the Sirens, Circe, and others. Many other writers have used the character and the journey of Odysseus (Ulysses) in their works. WSP 352 pp. (The Iliad)
Milton, John. Paradise Lost (BR, 1667)
Considered the greatest epic in any modern language, this poem tells of Satan's temptation of Adam and Eve, their expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Paradise), and the promise of their eventual salvation by the Son of God. ME 344 pp.
Vergil. The Aeneid (IT, c 18 BC)
This epic poem recounts the troubled journey of Aeneas as he leads the survivors of Troy to Italy where they become the founders of Rome. P 361 pp.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass (AM, 1855)
In his use of free verse and his emphasis on the importance of the individual, Whitman was a fore-runner of modern poetry. In these twelve untitled poems he wanted to "elevate, enlarge, purify, deepen, and make happy the attributes of the body and soul of man." BC 440 pp.
Aristotle. Poetics (GR, 4th cent. BC)
A treatise on literary principles. The theories of tragedy in this work still influence Western drama. Called by Dante "the master of those who know," Aristotle is one of the world's greatest philosophers. UNC 70 pp.
Augustine, Saint. Confessions (IT, 397-401)
A spiritual autobiography of St. Augustine's early life and his conversion to Christianity. His is "the only detailed account of the childhood of a great man which antiquity has left us." (Maynard Mack) ME 350 pp.
A collection of the sacred literature of Judaism and Christianity. Much of our Western writing alludes to the language and the stories in the Bible. Many colleges suggest the King James Version for literary study. NAL 972 pp.
Darwin, Charles. Origin of Species (BR, 1859)
Darwin's book on his theories of natural selection and of evolution was a sellout the day it was issued and caused a storm of controversy that still continues today. ME 476 pp. (The Voyage of the Beagle)
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "The American Scholar" in Essays (AM, 1837)
An address at Harvard in which Emerson urged Americans to declare intellectual independence from Europe, to be thinkers and "not parrots of other men's thought." WSP 21 pp. ("Self-Reliance")
Franklin, Benjamin. Autobiography (AM, 1867)
An account of Franklin's life and achievements during the first 51 years of his life. In it Franklin appears "as a universal genius...the embodiment of what we like to call the American spirit." (S.E. Morrison) COL 156 pp.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents (GE, 1930)
A book about the conflict between the human desire for personal freedom and the demands of society. Freud writes that "The price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt." NO 109 pp. (Dora)
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology (AM, 1940)
A collection of Greek, Roman, and Norse myths and legends that are often alluded to in the language and literature of the Western world. NAL 355 pp.
Machiavelli, Niccol. The Prince (IT, 1532)
A treatise giving the absolute ruler practical advice on ways to maintain a strong central government. The term Machiavellian has for generations meant "ruthless and deceitful," because Machiavelli theorized that politics are above moral law. OUP 99 pp.
Marx, Karl. Communist Manifesto (GE, 1848)
Written with Friedrich Engels as the official platform of the International Communist League, this short book expresses Marx's belief in the inevitability of conflict between social classes and calls on the workers of the world to unite and revolt. WSP 143 pp.
Montaigne, Michel de. Selected Essays (FR, 1580)
The creator of the personal essay, Montaigne wrote about many subjectsÐcannibals, friendship, women, books, prayer. Though the entire work is a self-portrait, this book about one man is "really a book about all men." (Walter Kerr) MUP 344 pp.
Plato. Republic (GR, c 370 BC)
In this dialogue Plato creates an ideal society where justice is equated with health and happiness in the state and in the individual. Echoing Omar about the Koran, Ralph Waldo Emerson said of the Republic, "Burn the libraries, for their value is in this book." H 288 pp. (Apology)
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden (AM, 1854)
In this book Thoreau, an extreme individualist, advised "a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." Walden is about the 26 months he spent alone in the woods to "front the essential facts of life." SC 221 pp. (Civil Disobedience)
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