Koen Book Distributors Top 100 Books of the Past Century by themodernnovel.com

Intended as a companion to the infamous Modern Library ranking of the top 100 books of the past century, this list represents a different viewpoint--that of the booksellers themselves. Compiled from the responses of over 150 Koen Book Distributors customers, the following titles represent the very best in modern literature.

  1. 1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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    As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses is...


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

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    The Catcher in the Rye is a 1945 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, the novel has become a common part of high school and college curricula throughout the English-speaking wo...


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

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    The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age". Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roar...


  4. 4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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    Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a ...


  5. 5. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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    Catch-22 is a satirical, historical novel by the American author Joseph Heller, first published in 1961. The novel, set during the later stages of World War II from 1943 onwards, is frequently cite...


  6. 6. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

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    The story follows the life of one seemingly insignificant man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime's propaganda by falsifying records and political literatur...


  7. 7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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    Gone With the Wind is set in Jonesboro and Atlanta, Georgia during the American Civil War and Reconstruction and follows the life of Scarlett O'Hara, the daughter of an Irish immigrant plantation o...


  8. 8. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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    Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on female black life during the 1930s in the Southern United States, addressing the numerous issues including their exceedingly low position ...


  9. 9. Beloved by Toni Morrison

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    Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison...


  10. 10. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

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    The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by philologist and Oxford University professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children'...


  11. 11. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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    The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby...


  12. 12. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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    Lord of the Flies discusses how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, but with disastrous results....


  13. 13. Animal Farm by George Orwell

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    Animal Farm is a dystopian novella by George Orwell. Published in England on 17 August 1945, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. Orwell, a democrat...


  14. 14. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

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    This is the epic saga of an earthling, Valentine Michael Smith, born and educated on Mars, who arrives on our planet with "psi" powers--telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and the ability to take...

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  15. 15. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

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    A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel written by John Kennedy Toole, published in 1980, 11 years after the author's suicide. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Perc...


  16. 16. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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    The novel addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans in the early twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marx...


  17. 17. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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    The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist dystopian novel, a work of science fiction or speculative fiction, written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985...


  18. 18. Ulysses by James Joyce

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    Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904. The title parallels and alludes to Odysseus (Latinised into Ulysses), the hero of Homer's Odyss...


  19. 19. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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    The novel explores the lives and values of the so-called "Lost Generation," chronicling the experiences of Jake Barnes and several acquaintances on their pilgrimage to Pamplona for the annual San F...


  20. 20. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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    An anti-war science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim.


  21. 21. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

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    The moving story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan, in which the author presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social u...


  22. 22. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

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    A fantasy novel and children's book by J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving Bilbo Baggins to win a share ...


  23. 23. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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    On the Road is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of the post...


  24. 24. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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    Set in the London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embod...


  25. 25. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

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    Tragic story of wasted lives, set against a bleak New England background. A poverty-stricken New England farmer, his ailing wife and a youthful housekeeper are drawn relentlessly into a deep-rooted...


  26. 26. Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

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    Angela’s Ashes is a memoir by Irish-American author Frank McCourt and tells the story of his childhood in Brooklyn and Ireland. It was published in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or ...


  27. 27. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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    A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners suddenly realizes their merit

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  28. 28. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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    Rebecca is considered to be one of her best works. Some observers have noted parallels with Jane Eyre. Much of the novel was written while she was staying in Alexandria, Egypt, where her husband wa...


  29. 29. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

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    This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that ...


  30. 30. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

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    The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The novel centers on the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their fa...


  31. 31. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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    The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and se...


  32. 32. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

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    The novel tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praisin...


  33. 33. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

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    Bastard Out of Carolina was the first novel published by author Dorothy Allison. The book, which is semi-autobiographical in nature, is set in Allison's hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Narr...


  34. 34. My Antonia by Willa Cather

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    In Willa Cather's own estimation, My Antonia, first published in 1918, was "the best thing I've ever done." An enduring paperback bestseller on Houghton Mifflin's literary list, this hauntingly elo...


  35. 35. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

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    The Age of Innocence centers on an upperclass couple's impending marriage, and the introduction of a scandalous woman whose presence threatens their happiness. Though the novel questions the assump...


  36. 36. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

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    The Killer Angels (1974) is a historical novel by Michael Shaara that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. The book tells the story of four days of the Battle of Gettysburg in the Am...


  37. 37. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

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    The story centers on Quoyle, a newspaper worker from upstate New York whose father had emigrated from Newfoundland. Shortly after the suicide of his parents, Quoyle's unfaithful and abusive wife Pe...


  38. 38. The World According to Garp by John Irving

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    The story deals with the life of T. S. Garp. His mother, Jenny Fields, is a strong-willed nurse who wants a child but not a husband. She encounters a dying ball turret gunner known only as Technica...


  39. 39. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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    A landmark novel of high modernism, the text, centering on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920, skillfully manipulates temporality and psycholog...


  40. 40. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

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    Ayn Rand's epochal novel, first published in 1957, has been a bestseller for more than four decades as well as an intellectual landmark. It is the story of a man who said that he would stop the mot...


  41. 41. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

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    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, first serialized in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915 and published in book form in 1916. It depicts the formativ...


  42. 42. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

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    The plot concerns a previously domesticated and even somewhat pampered dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events finds him serving as a sled dog in the treacherous...


  43. 43. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

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    Set on the fictional San Piedro Island in the northern Puget Sound region of the state of Washington coast in 1954, the plot revolves around a murder case in which Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese Americ...


  44. 44. Watership Down by Richard Adams

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    Watership Down is a heroic fantasy novel about a small group of rabbits, written by British author Richard Adams. Although the animals in the story live in their natural environment, they are anthr...


  45. 45. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

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    The Red Badge of Courage is an 1895 war novel by American author Stephen Crane. It is considered one of the most influential works in American literature. The novel, a depiction on the cruelty of t...


  46. 46. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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    Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. Based on Steinbeck's own experiences a...


  47. 47. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

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    The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) is the debut novel by Isabel Allende. Initially, the novel was rejected by several Spanish-language publishers, but became an instant best ...


  48. 48. Dune by Frank Herbert

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    Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, published in 1965. It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and also the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune was also the first bestselling h...


  49. 49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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    The title is taken from an old Cockney expression, "as queer as a clockwork orange" and alludes to the prevention of the main character's exercise of his free will through the use of a classical co...


  50. 50. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

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    In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mo...


  51. 51. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

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    As a boy in Brooklyn's Red Hook projects, James McBride knew his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say 'I'm light-skinned.' Later he wondered if he was different too, a...

    - Google

  52. 52. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

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    Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she ...

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  53. 53. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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    In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Bertha is the madwoman locked in the attic by her husband Rochester, the simmering Englishman whose children Jane has been hired to tutor. In Bronte's novel we lear...

    - Time

  54. 54. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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    Jane Eyre is a first-person narrative of the title character, a small, plain-faced, intelligent and honest English orphan. The novel goes through five distinct stages: Jane's childhood at Gateshead...


  55. 55. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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    The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway's most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordea...


  56. 56. Native Son by Richard Wright

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    The novel tells the story of 20-year old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s. Bigger was always getting into troubl...


  57. 57. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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    The novel is told through the point of view of Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army during World War I.


  58. 58. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

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    From the esteemed author of The Age of Innocence--a black comedy about vast wealth and a woman who can define herself only through the perceptions of others. Lily Bart's quest to find a husband who...


  59. 59. Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer

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    Kane and Abel is a 1979 novel by British author Jeffrey Archer. The title and story is a play on the Biblical brothers, Cain and Abel. Released in the United Kingdom in 1979 and in the United State...


  60. 60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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    The American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended ...

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  61. 61. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

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    British social comedy examines a young heroine's struggle against strait-laced Victorian attitudes as she rejects the man her family has encouraged her to marry and chooses, instead, a socially uns...


  62. 62. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

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    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It was developed concurrently with Stanley Kubrick's film version and published after the release of the film. The story...


  63. 63. White Noise by Don DeLillo

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    Set at a bucolic midwestern college known only as The-College-on-the-Hill, White Noise follows a year in the life of Jack Gladney, a professor who has made his name by pioneering the field of Hitle...


  64. 64. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

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    Larry Cook is an aging farmer who decides to incorporate his farm, handing complete and joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is...


  65. 65. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

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    The Joy Luck Club (1989) is a best-selling novel written by Amy Tan. It focuses on the game and four Chinese American immigrant families who start a club known as "the Joy Luck Club," playing the C...


  66. 66. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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    The story is that of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychoanalyst and his wife, Nicole, who is also one of his patients. It would be Fitzgerald's first novel in nine years, and ...


  67. 67. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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    Written and set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, it was published in two parts in 1868 and 1869. The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Am...


  68. 68. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

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    It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a communist guerilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is ...


  69. 69. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

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    Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation's Citation for Fiction. An eleven-year-old heroine tells her unforgett...

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  70. 70. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

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    On July 5, 1906, scandal breaks in the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia, when the proprietor of the general store, E. Rucker Blakeslee, elopes with Miss Love Simpson. He is barely three weeks a wi...

    - Google

  71. 71. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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    The Remains of the Day (1989) is the third published novel by Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of The Day is one of the most highly-regarded post-war British novels. It won the B...


  72. 72. War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

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    These two classic works capture the tide of world events even as they unfold the compelling tale of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom. The multimillion-copy...

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  73. 73. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

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    Maurice Bernard Sendak (born June 10, 1928) is an American writer and illustrator of children's literature. He is best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963.


  74. 74. Centennial by James A. Michener

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    Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier. Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story...

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  75. 75. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth

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    Call It Sleep is the story of an Austrian-Jewish immigrant family in New York in the early part of the twentieth century. Six-year-old David Schearl has a close and loving relationship with his mot...


  76. 76. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson

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    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that ha...

    - Google

  77. 77. The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

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    Jill Ker Conway is a noted historian, specializing in the experience of women in America, and was the first woman president of Smith College.

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  78. 78. Sula by Toni Morrison

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    Two girls who grow up to become women. Two friends who become something worse than enemies. In this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison tells the story of Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who meet ...

    - Google

  79. 79. The Stand by Stephen King

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    The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. It re-works the scenario in his earlier short story, Night Surf. The novel was originally published in 1978 and...


  80. 80. Time and Again by Jack Finney

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    When advertising artist Si Morley is recruited to join a covert government operation exploring the possibility of time travel, he jumps at the chance to leave his twentieth-century existence and st...

    - Google

  81. 81. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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    The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath's only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of...


  82. 82. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

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    The Fountainhead's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The book follows hi...


  83. 83. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

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    The Godfather is a crime novel written by American author Mario Puzo, originally published in 1969 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. It details the story of a fictitious Sicilian Mafia family based in New Yo...


  84. 84. Howards End by E. M. Forster

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    "Only Connect," Forster's key aphorism, informs this novel about an English country house, Howards End, and its influence on the lives of the wealthy and materialistic Wilcoxes; the cultured, ideal...


  85. 85. Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

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    The book is structured as a series of loosely-connected vignettes. Burroughs himself stated that the chapters are intended to be read in any order. The reader follows the narration of junkie Willia...


  86. 86. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

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    The Thorn Birds is a 1977 best-selling novel by Colleen McCullough, an Australian author. In 1983 it was adapted as a television mini-series that, during its television run March 27-30, became t...


  87. 87. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

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    Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin in September 1962. The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement. When Silent Spri...


  88. 88. The Alienist by Caleb Carr

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    The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszlo Kre...

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  89. 89. Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg

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    What do women talk about when they know they don't have forever? They talk about what they have always talked about, only they go deeper and more honest: with outrageous humor they try to mitigate ...

    - Google

  90. 90. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

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    Shifting in time, the novel tells the story of Penelope Keeling, the daughter of unconventional parents (an artist father and his much-younger French wife), examining her past and her relationships...


  91. 91. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

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    Rubyfruit Jungle is the first milestone novel in the extraordinary career of one of this country's most distinctive writers. Bawdy and moving, the ultimate word-of-mouth bestseller, Rubyfruit Jungl...

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  92. 92. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

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    Rabbit, Run depicts five months in the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life.


  93. 93. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

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    The stirring saga of a man’s journey to free his sister—and himself—from a tragic family history Tom Wingo has lost his job, and is on the verge of losing his marriage, when he learns that his twin...

    - Google

  94. 94. Possession by A.S. Byatt

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    Part historical as well as contemporary fiction, the title Possession refers to issues of ownership and independence between lovers, the practice of collecting historically significant cultural art...


  95. 95. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

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    Narrated by the gigantic but docile half-Indian "Chief" Bromden, who has pretended to be a deaf-mute for several years, the story focuses on the antics of the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, a ...


  96. 96. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

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    In this classic satire of small-town America, beautiful young Carol Kennicott comes to Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, with dreams of transforming the provincial old town into a place of beauty and cult...


  97. 97. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

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    I, Claudius deals sympathetically with the life of the Roman Emperor Claudius and cynically with the history of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty and Roman Empire, from Julius Caesar's assassination in 44...


  98. 98. Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

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    It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals, but as a cons...

    - Amazon

  99. 99. Hawaii by James Albert Michener

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    The epic saga of the fiftieth state traces its fascinating history from the fiery volcanoes that formed the islands to the strength and character of the original Polynesians to the early nineteenth...

    - Google

  100. 100. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

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    The Education of Little Tree tells of a boy orphaned very young, who is adopted by his Cherokee grandmother and half-Cherokee grandfather in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee during the Great ...

    - Google