- “The Ox-Bow Incident” by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
As far as I know, this is the first western we’ve read here. In Clark’s first published novel, “The Ox-Bow Incident” follows two drifters who are drawn into a lynch mob looking to exact justice on three men who are presumed to be cattle rustlers and killers. The booming was made into a classic film a few years after publication with Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan.
- "Passing" and "Quicksand" by Nella Larsen
It's African-American History Month, and so we're going to discuss the two novels written by Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen. Her first, "Quicksand," is about a woman who, like Larsen herself, is born to a white mother and a Black father, and who tries to find a place for herself where she doesn't feel different. "Passing," meanwhile, explores the consequences of a light-skinned Black woman's decision to pass as white, including marrying a racist white man. Both of these novels sound fascinating, and I'm excited for the discussion!
- "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin
It's January, which can only mean that it's time to read a Russian novel! This time, we're reading "We," a dystopian novel by Soviet dissident Zamyatin about "a world of harmony and conformity within a united totalitarian state" (per Wikipedia). The book (initially published in English, interestingly enough) is considered a precursor to "1984" and "Brave New World," with Orwell claiming that "Brave New World" had to be partially derived from "We."
- "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens
It's been a long time since we've read Dickens, so we're going to revisit him. Among the shortest of Dickens's novels and the only one not to take place in London, "Hard Times" shares with his other books a sense of social justice. This time, Dickens focuses on the poor treatment of workers in the fictional mill town of Coketown, as well as the fallacy of emphasizing rationalism and facts to the exclusion of imagination and fantasy.
- “Democracy: An American Novel” by Henry Adams
November seems to be the right time for a political novel, no? Published anonymously in 1880, “Democracy: An American Novel,” engendered speculation about its authorship that was similar to that of “Primary Colors” more than 100 years later. Set at the beginning of a new (fictional) Presidential administration, “Democracy” focuses on a young widow and the most powerful member of the Senate, using their story to detail the acquisition, use, and abuse of political power.
- “The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells
You know the story — scientist accidentally turns himself invisible and all hell breaks loose. For October, or what we call around here “Horror Month,” we’re going back to the source — H.G. Wells’s 1897 sci-fi horror classic. Cementing Wells as the “father of sci-fi,” “The Invisible Man” is one of the most enduring stories, and characters, in fiction, adapted countless times in countless corners of popular culture.
- “The Makioka Sisters” by Junichiro Tanizaki
Called the “greatest cosmopolitan novel” since the restoration of practical imperial rule in 1868, “The Makioka Sisters” details the decline of an upper middle-class Osaka family against the background of World War II and the Allied Occupation. It revolves the search for a husband for the third of four sisters and the ways each sister responds to their changing circumstances. Goodreads calls this arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the 20th century.
- “Main Street” by Sinclair Lewis
“Main Street, Sinclair Lewis’s small-town satire, is considered his most famous book and led in part to his Nobel Prize for Literature 10 years after publication. Using his own unhappy childhood in small-town Minnesota, Lewis uses the story of Carol Milford, a college graduate who tries to bring culture to the town of Gopher Prairie, to skewer what he saw as the conformity and dullness of Midwestern village life.
- “The Plague” by Albert Camus
It seems appropriate to read this now. “The Plague” is considered an absurdist classic (or “existentialist,” even though Camus didn’t like that label) about the French Algerian town of Oran, which is swept by the titular plague. Camus used as his basis a cholera epidemic than killed many of Oran’s residents in 1899, although he moves the time period to the 1940s. Warning: This book is reputed to be bleak. But I think we can take it.
- “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
We’ve been threatening to read this book for months, nay, years, and now it’s going to happen — “Invisible Man.” It’s a National Book Award winner, deemed by Time magazine as “the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century,” and used by Barack Obama as a model for his memoir “Dreams From My Father.” It’s also one of the most important novels written about the Black experience in the 20th century. I anticipate some really good discussion about this.