Recommended Reading List

Zora Neale Hurston: their eyes were watching god

A vivacious and true-feeling account of the life of Janie Crawford, a black woman living in the American deep south. Written in authentic dialogue with a terrific ear for a kind of English very different from the one familiar today, this book can be intimidating at first, but time spent acclimatising to its totally distinctive voice will pay off.

Willa Cather: My Ántonia

The story of Jim and Ántonia, told with as much thought and beauty as possible, which, in this case, seems to be quite a lot.

George Eliot: The Mill on the Floss

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, one of the nineteenth-century’s leading intellects, and one of the mightiest writers in world history. Captivating at the level of the sentence and superbly transferable to politics and philosophy, this is a book which has the power to reshape one’s view of things.

Carson McCullers: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Unbelievably, written when its author was twenty-two. The story of Mick, a troubled and dreamy adolescent who seeks out her towns freaks and outsiders.

JD Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye

A book which is as loathed as it is celebrated, both by those who think its subject matter much too grown up for the young adults who often read it, and those who claim that all the moral uproar is misplaced because the book just is not that well written. But most wind up so charmed by the obnoxious teenager at the centre of a grandly turbulent adventure in existential alienation that they find both camps of naysayers a little phony.

John Gardner: Grendel

A famous Old English heroic epic, Beowulf, retold from the perspective of the monster who is its villain. If Grendel’s sense of humour is compatible with yours, you’ll likely grow to like him despite his grumpy animosity.

Ted Hughes: The Iron Man

A frightening children’s story from one of the last hundred years’ strangest poets. You may look at mechanical objects a little differently forever after reading this. Then again, you may not.

Albert Camus: The Outsider

Go deep inside the absurd with one of the twentieth-century’s most influential thinkers.

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

It is startling how sad this novel can be about a way of life lost even while never losing track of that life’s petty nuisances and sporadic grim horrors. An eloquent an indictment of globalisation, Things Fall Apart is arguably more interesting on the personal level than on the allegorical one.

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