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Almost everyone is familiar with the most popular novels of all time. Whether you've read them or not, you probably have at least a rough idea of what happens in1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Whether you've read many influential novels or none at all, there are scores of slightly less mainstream classics that are also worth reading. The next time you're perusing the titles at your local library, consider picking up one of these memorable literary gems.
This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Best known for the flapper-era classic The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald made his literary debut with the post-World War I novel This Side of Paradise. This colorful classic paints a rich picture of the changing cultural landscape emerging in the early 1920s. The story centers on the life of Amory Blaine, a young, handsome, egocentric prep school student. Though Amory learns much about history and literature during his years at Princeton, the tragedies of life and love are the true sources of his self-discovery. Though some sections of Paradise tend towards verbosity, the novel remains a fascinating and powerful coming-of-age tale. Fans of Fitzgerald and the "Roaring Twenties" are sure to enjoy This Side of Paradise.
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
Those familiar with Oscar Wilde are most likely acquainted with the writer's plays, including the perennial favorite The Importance of Being Earnest. Unlike his funny and light-hearted play, The Picture of Dorian Gray explores the darker side of humanity. At the novel's outset we meet Dorian Gray, a young and exceptionally beautiful young man. Gray's good looks lead him to become the popular subject of an artist's portraiture. Unfortunately, vanity causes Dorian to fall prey to a hedonistic life of sin and indulgence. Those who enjoy eerie Gothic novels and Victorian literature are sure to love The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Seventeen years before George Orwell published 1984, Aldous Huxley released Brave New World, a riveting and shockingly modern dystopian masterpiece. The novel begins by introducing Bernard Marx, a man placed in the "Alpha" class of the new World State. Despite his social standing, Bernard feels inferior to his peers and begins questioning the ethics of the World State, a global government that uses embryo selection, social conditioning, hallucinogenic drugs and other technologies to create a happy and docile population. Bernard later meets John, a boy raised in a remote "savage" village. John's subsequent exposure to the World State raises further questions about this "brave new world" and its morality. Must truth and happiness always be at odds with one another? Brave New World brings many such philosophical questions to light.
In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
Most readers and film fans remember Truman Capote for his 1958 novel Breakfast at Tiffany's and its even more famous film adaptation. A few years later, Capote would write another popular work, In Cold Blood, a non-fiction true crime narrative. Capote paints an eloquent picture of the Clutters, a salt-of-the-earth, wholesome Kansas family. When parents Herbert and Bonnie and teenagers Nancy and Kenyon were found bound, gagged and shot, the news shocked the small town community. Who could have committed such a vicious crime? Though police followed sensible leads, they hit one dead end after another.
In Cold Blood paints a masterful portrait of both the victims and the perpetrators of the Clutter family murder. Combining a hard-hitting reporting style with a contemplative look at human suffering, Capote's work remains one of the most captivating crime novels of all time. To enjoy a rich psychological analysis of a heinous crime, delve into Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.
If none of these classics speak to you, consider asking a librarian for recommended titles in your favorite genre. Grab a cup of tea, curl up in a comfortable chair and spend an afternoon diving into a "new" classic!
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