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Recommended Reads: Classics

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Emma by Jane Austen (FIC AUS)

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.

Readalikes: A Room With a View by E.M. Forster, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (FIC BRO)

Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard. But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?

Readalikes: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (FIC CAR)

Weary of her storybook, one "without pictures or conversations," the young and imaginative Alice follows a hasty hare underground--to come face-to-face with some of the strangest adventures and most fantastic characters in all of literature. The Ugly Duchess, the Mad Hatter, the weeping Mock Turtle, the diabolical Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat--each more eccentric than the last--could only have come from that master of sublime nonsense, Lewis Carroll. In penning this brilliant burlesque of children's literature, Carroll has written a farcical satire of rigid Victorian society, an arresting parody of the fears, anxieties, and complexities of growing up. 

Readalikes: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (FIC DIC)

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

Readalikes: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (FIC HAW)

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's dark novel, a single sinful act ruins the lives of three people. None more so than Hester Prynne, a young, beautiful, and dignified woman, who conceived a child out of wedlock and receives the public punishment of having to always wear a scarlet "A" on her clothing. She refuses to reveal the father of her child, which could lighten her sentence. Her husband, who Hester thought had died in a shipwreck but was actually being held captive by Native Americans, arrives at the exact moment, of her deepest public shaming and vows to get revenge. Her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, remains safely unidentified, but is wracked with guilt.

Readalikes: Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser, Hester: The Missing Years of the Scarlet Letter by Paula Reed

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (FIC HEM)

In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight", For Whom the Bell Tolls. The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving and wise. Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author's previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.

Readalikes: From Here to Eternity by James Jones, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (FIC IRV)

North of New York City lies Sleepy Hollow, a secluded glen said to be the home of countless phantoms and specters. Chief among them is the Headless Horseman, the ghost of a Hessian soldier whose head was removed by a stray cannonball in the Revolutionary War. He rides across the glen each night and disappears in a flash of fire and brimstone at the bridge near the Old Dutch Burial Ground. Ichabod Crane, a superstitious schoolteacher who recently arrived from Connecticut, wants to marry Katrina Van Tassel, the only child of a wealthy farmer. The locals spook him with stories about the ghosts of Sleepy Hollow. Late one night, he spies a menacing figure at a crossroads. Worse yet, the man’s head appears to be on his saddle. Crane has only one chance to survive—he has to make it to the bridge before it’s too late.

Readalikes: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (FIC SHE)

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator. 

Readalikes: Dracula by Bram Stoker, Grendel by John Gardner

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (FIC SMI)

The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century. Young, sensitive, idealistic Francie Nolan lives in Williamsburg, a Brooklyn slum. The daily experiences of Francie and her family are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded by with family connectedness. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience. 

Readalikes: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn