Spoon River Anthology (1915) – Edgar Lee Masters
This lesser known book is well worth reading. Spoon River Anthology is a collection of short free verse poems epitaphed in the graveyard of the fictional town of Spoon River. Free verse poems, especially shorter poems, are fun and easy to read. The Masters Spoon River Anthology explores the complexities of the human soul through tombstones describing joy, sorrow, kindness and evil.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) – Erich Maria Remarque
“Silence on the Western Front” masterfully tells the story of the hardship and isolation of German soldiers in the trenches of World War I. Remarque gets to the point. “This book is intended to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is no adventure for those who face it. It will attempt to simply tell of a generation of men who, though they may have escaped (his) shells, were devastated by war.”
As I Lay Dying (1930) – William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying is a gothic novel that is consistently ranked among the best books of the 20th century. Faulkner’s “Stream of Consciousness” writing style traverses the perspectives of 15 characters in 59 chapters. It tells the story of Addie Bundren’s death and her family’s attempts to accommodate her wish to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi, set in Faulkner’s apocryphal Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. “As I Lay Dying” focuses on our mortality and our causes to grapple with our own existence.
Brave New World (1932) – Aldous Huxley
Considered the first true dystopian novel, A Brave New World is set in the futuristic society of the world state where. technical rationality rules and the social hierarchy is based on pre-programmed intelligence. The main characters wrestle with forbidden nonconformity in the midst of a world where “everyone belongs to everyone else”.
In Cold Blood (1966) – Truman Capote
“In Cold Blood” is considered a seminal novel within the true crime genre. Capote weaves a story based on the story of a quadruple homicide in Holcomb, Kansas. The victims, the Clutter family, are particularly poignant because of their soulful innocence. The two killers – Perry Smith and Richard Hickcock – take on atypical Bonnie and Clyde roles and sidestep the law together. “In Cold Blood” weaves together a tragic story of the inevitability of fate that is definitely worth reading.