Books That Mattered To Me
Recommended by Chris, a patron of the Canton Public Library
Check our other Fave Five lists, too!
Anyone from the Midwest can probably identify with much of this book. Franzen created a group of fascinating characters in the Lamberts, a midwestern family struggling to hold things together for one last Christmas at home; the novel also offers a great portrait of life in America at the end of the nineties boom.
I read this because I heard it was one of the great and most controversial works of the twentieth century. That is true. The book manages to be funny, and sad, and horrifying, sometimes all in the same paragraph. Even though English was a second or third language for Nabokov, his command of it is amazing, and much of the fun in reading this book comes from the dazzling prose style.
This book, about slavery in antebellum Virginia, should be required reading in school, which would also allow us to give The Great Gatsby a rest. Jones wrote very powerfully about the impossibility of having the rule of law, or even leading an individual moral life, in a society where some people can own others.
Snooty critics usually say that James' novels The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl are his best, but tackling one of those can be a yearlong project, if it works at all. This one, on the other hand, is very readable. It tells the story of Isabel Archer, an American expat in Europe torn between a decent (although dying) man and a mysterious, sophisticated stranger.
This was Hardy's last novel: the outcry over his honest critique of Victorian hypocrisy on sexual matters convinced him to stick to poetry.