The Modern Library | 100 Best Novels by Modern Library

  1. 1. 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...


  2. 2. 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...


  3. 3. 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...


  4. 4. 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...


  5. 5. 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...


  6. 6. 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...


  7. 7. 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...


  8. 8. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

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    Darkness At Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portrayal of the nightmare politics of our time. Its hero is an aging revolutionary, imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the Party to which ...


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

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    Sons and Lovers is one of the landmark novels of the twentieth century. When it appeared in 1913, it was immediately recognized as the first great modern restatement of the oedipal drama, and it is...


  10. 10. 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 ...


  11. 11. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

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    To describe his perennial theme, Lowry once borrowed the words of the critic Edmund Wilson: "the forces in man which cause him to be terrified of himself." You see exactly what he means in this cor...

    - Time

  12. 12. Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler

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    'The Way of All Flesh' 'exploded like a bomb' in Edwardian England. Based on Samuel Butler's own life and published posthumously, it indicts Victorian bourgeois values as personified in five genera...


  13. 13. 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...


  14. 14. 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...


  15. 15. 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...


  16. 16. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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    Clyde Griffiths is a young man with ambitions. He's in love with a rich girl, but it's a poor girl he has gotten pregnant, Roberta Alden, who works with him at his uncle's factory. One day he takes...

    - Time

  17. 17. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

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    Written in Charlotte, North Carolina in a house on East Blvd, it is about a deaf man named John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the U.S. state of Georgia.


  18. 18. 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.


  19. 19. 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...


  20. 20. 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...


  21. 21. Henderson The Rain King by Saul Bellow

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    Bellow's glorious, spirited story of an eccentric American millionaire who finds a home of sorts in deepest Africa.


  22. 22. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

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    Appointment in Samarra, published in 1934, is the first novel by John O'Hara. It concerns the self-destruction of Julian English, once a member of the social elite of Gibbsville (O'Hara's fictional...


  23. 23. U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos

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    The U.S.A. Trilogy is the major work of American writer John Dos Passos, comprising the novels The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919, also known as Nineteen Nineteen (1932), and The Big Money (1936). The ...


  24. 24. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

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    Before Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who, with Winesburg, Ohio, charted a new direction in American fiction — evoking with lyrical simplicity quiet mo...


  25. 25. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

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    A Passage to India is set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. The story revolves around four characters: Dr. Aziz, his British friend Cyril Fi...


  26. 26. Wings of the Dove by Henry James

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    One of the masterpieces of James' final period, this novel tells the story of Milly Theale, an American heiress stricken with a serious disease, and her impact on the people around her. Some of the...


  27. 27. The Ambassadors by Henry James

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    This dark comedy, one of the masterpieces of James' final period, follows the trip of protagonist Lewis Lambert Strether to Europe in pursuit of his widowed fiancée's supposedly wayward son. Streth...


  28. 28. 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 ...


  29. 29. Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell

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    'Studs Lonigan, ' the story of an Irish-American youth growing to adulthood in Chicago, is considered by many to be one of the finest American novels from the first half of the twentieth century, a...


  30. 30. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

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    Ford Madox Ford wrote The Good Soldier, the book on which his reputation most surely rests, in deliberate emulation of the nineteenth-century French novels he so admired. In this way he was able to...


  31. 31. 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...


  32. 32. The Golden Bowl by Henry James

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    Set in England, this complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some critics have called the "major phase" of James' career. The Golden Bowl explores the tangle of interrelation...


  33. 33. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

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    When a girl leaves home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better, or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse....


  34. 34. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

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    In A Handful of Dust Waugh satirises the upper class, the mercantile class and the establishments (for example: the Church) using many effective literary devices which characterise most of his work...


  35. 35. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

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    The book is told in stream of consciousness writing style by 15 different narrators in 59 chapters. It is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family's quest—noble or selfish—to honor he...


  36. 36. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

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    All the King's Men portrays the dramatic political ascent and governorship of Willie Stark, a driven, cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s.


  37. 37. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

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    The Bridge of San Luis Rey is American author Thornton Wilder's second novel, first published in 1927 to worldwide acclaim. It tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse...


  38. 38. 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...


  39. 39. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

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    The novel examines the role of the Christian Church in the lives of African-Americans, both as a source of repression and moral hypocrisy and as a source of inspiration and community. It also, more...


  40. 40. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

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    The Heart of the Matter deals with Catholicism and moral change in the protagonist, Scobie (a police officer). Greene was a British intelligence officer stationed in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He drew...


  41. 41. 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....


  42. 42. Deliverance by James Dickey

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    Narrated in the first person by one of the main characters, graphic artist Ed Gentry, the novel begins with four middle-aged men in a large Georgia city planning a weekend canoe trip down the ficti...


  43. 43. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

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    A Dance to the Music of Time is a twelve-volume cycle of novels by Anthony Powell, inspired by the painting of the same name by Nicolas Poussin. One of the longest works of fiction in literature, i...


  44. 44. Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley

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    Aldous Huxley's lifelong concern with the dichotomy between passion and reason finds its fullest expression both thematically and formally in his masterpiece Point Counter Point. By presenting a vi...


  45. 45. 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...


  46. 46. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

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    In a corrupt London underworld of criminals, terrorists, and fanatics, Mr. Verloc is assigned to plant a bomb. The tragic repercussions for his family show how Conrad's ironic voice is concerned no...


  47. 47. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

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    Edited with an introduction and notes by Martin Seymour-Smith. In his evocation of the republic of Costaguana, set amid the exotic and grandiose scenery of South America, Conrad reveals not only th...


  48. 48. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence

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    Set in the rural midlands of England, The Rainbow revolves around three generations of the Brangwen family over a period of more than sixty years, setting them against the emergence of modern Engla...


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

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    Perhaps no other of the world’s great writers lived and wrote with the passionate intensity of D. H. Lawrence. And perhaps no other of his books so explores the mysteries between men and women–both...


  50. 50. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

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    Set in France (primarily Paris) during the 1930s, it is the tale of Miller's life as a struggling writer. Combining fiction and autobiography, some chapters follow a strict narrative and refer to M...


  51. 51. The Naked Dead by Norman Mailer

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    The Naked and the Dead is a 1948 novel by Norman Mailer. It was based on his experiences and exaggerations of that experience with the 112th Cavalry Regiment during the Philippines Campaign (1944–4...


  52. 52. Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

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    Of course it's vulgar. How could it not be? The sustained cry of a ferociously perplexed, ferociously lucid New York City Jew—you expected maybe Jane Austen? Roth's barbaric yawp of a book was a li...

    - Time

  53. 53. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

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    The novel is presented as a poem titled "Pale Fire" with commentary by a friend of the poet's. Together these elements form two story lines in which both authors are central characters. The int...


  54. 54. Light in August by William Faulkner

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    Lght in August is an exploration of racial conflict in the society of the Southern United States.


  55. 55. 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...


  56. 56. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

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    A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, ...


  57. 57. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

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    In creating his acclaimed masterpiece Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford "wanted the Novelist in fact to appear in his really proud position as historian of his own time . . . The 'subject' was the worl...


  58. 58. 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...


  59. 59. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

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    Zuleika Dobson is a highly accomplished and superbly written book whose spirit is farcical," said E. M. Forster. "It is a great work--the most consistent achievement of fantasy in our time . . . so...


  60. 60. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

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    The Moviegoer tells the story of Binx Bolling, a young stockbroker in post-war New Orleans. The decline of Southern traditions, the problems of his family and his traumatic experiences in the Korea...


  61. 61. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

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    Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory.


  62. 62. From Here to Eternity by James Jones

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    Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941. Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler. But when he refuses to join the company's boxing team, he gets "the treatment" that may break hi...


  63. 63. The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever

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    The Wapshot Chronicle is a 1957 novel by John Cheever about an eccentric family who live in a Massachusetts fishing village. The book won the National Book Award in 1958, and was later followed by ...


  64. 64. 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...


  65. 65. 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...


  66. 66. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

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    The first and most autobiographical of Maugham's masterpieces. It is the story of Philip Carey, an orphan eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief ...


  67. 67. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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    The story details an incident when Marlow, an Englishman, took a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Although Conrad does not specify the name of th...


  68. 68. 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...


  69. 69. 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...


  70. 70. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell

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    A critical and commercial success, the books present four perspectives on a single set of events and characters in Alexandria, Egypt, before and during World War II. As Durrell explains in his p...


  71. 71. A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

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    Set in the last century, this novel tells the story of a family of English children who, on being sent by their parents back to England from Jamaica, fall into the hands of pirates. As this voyage ...


  72. 72. A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

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    It is the story of Mr Mohun Biswas, an Indo-Trinidadian who continually strives for success and mostly fails, who marries into the Tulsi family only to find himself dominated by it, and who finally...


  73. 73. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

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    The Day of the Locust is a 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, depicting the alienation and desperation of a disparate group of i...


  74. 74. 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.


  75. 75. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

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    In Scoop, surreptitiously dubbed "a newspaper adventure," Waugh flays Fleet Street and the social pastimes of its war correspondants as he tells how William Boot became the star of British super-jo...


  76. 76. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

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    A slender novel but far from flimsy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie enrolls the reader at Edinburgh's fictional Marcia Blaine School for Girls under the tutelage of one Jean Brodie, a magnetic, unco...

    - Time

  77. 77. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

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    Having done the longest day in literature with his monumental Ulysses (1922), James Joyce set himself an even greater challenge for his next book — the night. "A nocturnal state.... That is what I ...


  78. 78. Kim by Rudyard Kipling

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    Kim is an orphan, living from hand to mouth in the teeming streets of Lahore. One day he meets a man quite unlike anything in his wide experience, a Tibetan lama on a quest. Kim's life suddenly acq...


  79. 79. 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...


  80. 80. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

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    Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is a novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh, first published in 1945. Waugh wrote that the novel "deals with what is t...


  81. 81. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

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    The Adventures of Augie March (1953) is a novel by Saul Bellow. It centers on the eponymous character who grows up during the Great Depression. This picaresque novel is an example of bildungsroman,...


  82. 82. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

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    Angle of Repose tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, in the S...


  83. 83. A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

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    In the "brilliant novel" ("The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man--an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isol...


  84. 84. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

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    The Death of the Heart is a 1938 novel by Elizabeth Bowen set between the two world wars. It is about a sixteen year old orphan, Portia Quayne, who moves to London to live with her half-brother Tho...


  85. 85. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

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    Conrad's great novel of guilt and redemption follows the first mate on board the Patna, a raw youth with dreams of heroism who, in an act of cowardice, abandons his ship. His unbearable guilt and i...


  86. 86. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

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    Ragtime is a 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow. This work of historical fiction is mostly set in New York City from about 1900 until the United States entry into World War I in 1917. A unique adaptation...


  87. 87. The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett

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    It deals with the lives of two very different sisters, Constance and Sophia Baines, following their stories from their youth, working in their mother's draper's shop, into old age. It is generally ...


  88. 88. 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...


  89. 89. Loving by Henry Green

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    Loving tells the story of the servants in Kinalty Castle, an upper-class Irish household during World War II.


  90. 90. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

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    Midnight's Children is a loose allegory for events in India both before and, primarily, after the independence and partition of India, which took place at midnight on 15 August 1947. The protagonis...


  91. 91. Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell

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    Set during the Depression in the depleted farmlands surrounding Augusta, Georgia, Tobacco Road was first published in 1932. It is the story of the Lesters, a family of white sharecroppers so destit...


  92. 92. Ironweed by William Kennedy

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    Ironweed is set during the Great Depression and tells the story of Francis Phelan, an alcoholic vagrant originally from Albany, New York, who left his family after accidentally killing his infant s...


  93. 93. The Magus by John Fowles

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    A man trapped in a millionare's deadly game of political and sexual betrayal. Filled with shocks and chilling surprises, "The Magus" is a masterwork of contemporary literature. In it, a young Engli...


  94. 94. 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

  95. 95. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

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    Murdoch, a philosophy don at Oxford, was that rarity, a philosophical novelist who could create real characters, not premises with names attached. Born in Ireland, she revered Wittgenstein, who fos...

    - Time

  96. 96. Sophie's Choice by William Styron

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    It concerns a young American Southerner, an aspiring writer, who befriends the Jewish Nathan Landau and his beautiful lover Sophie, a Polish (but non-Jewish) survivor of the Nazi concentration camp...


  97. 97. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

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    The story centers on Port and Kit Moresby, a married couple originally from New York who travel to the North African desert accompanied by their friend Tunner. The journey, initially an attempt by ...


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

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    An amoral young tramp. A beautiful, sullen woman with an inconvenient husband. A problem that has only one grisly solution — a solution that only creates other problems that no one can ever solve. ...


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

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    It follows the often racy misadventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American living in Dublin with his English wife and infant daughter and studying law at Trinity College. This book may b...


  100. 100. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

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    The novel and trilogy traces the growth of the United States through the declining fortunes of three generations of the aristocratic Amberson family in a fictional Midwestern town, between the end ...