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Uncle Tom's Cabin is American author Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel about the evils of slavery. Published in 1852, the novel had a profound effect on the world's view of African-Americans and slavery, so much so in the latter case that people have said the book laid the groundwork for the American Civil War. The novel focuses on the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering Black slave around whose life the stories of other characters—both fellow slaves and slave owners—revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the harsh reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love and faith can overcome something as evil as enslavement of fellow human beings. Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of the 19th century, following the Bible. The book's impact was so great that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the American Civil War, Lincoln is often quoted as having declared, "So this is the little lady who made this big war." The book also helped create a number of common stereotypes about Blacks, many of which endure to this day. These include the affectionate, dark-skinned mammy; the Pickaninny stereotype of black children; and the Uncle Tom, or dutiful, long-suffering servant faithful to his white master or mistress. In recent years, the negative associations with Uncle Tom's Cabin have to a large degree overshadowed the historical impact of the book as a "vital antislavery tool."
To Kill a Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was instantly successful upon its release and has become a classic of modern American fiction. The novel is loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. The novel is renowned for its warmth and humor, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality. The narrator's father, Atticus Finch, has served as a moral hero for many readers, and a model of integrity for lawyers. One critic explained the novel's impact by writing, "[i]n the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism." As a Southern Gothic novel and a bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence, but scholars have also noted that Lee addresses the issues of class tensions, courage and compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South. The book is widely taught in schools in English-speaking countries with lessons that emphasize tolerance and decry prejudice. Despite its themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has been the target of various campaigns to have it removed from public classrooms.
La Cousine Bette is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of Bette, an unmarried middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family. Bette works with Valérie Marneffe, an unhappily married young lady, to seduce and torment a series of men. The book is part of the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of Balzac's novel sequence La Comédie humaine. In the 1840s, a serial format known as the roman-feuilleton was highly popular in France, and Balzac wanted to prove himself the most capable feuilleton author in France. Writing quickly and with intense focus, Balzac produced La Cousine Bette, one of his longest novels, in two months. It was published in Le Constitutionnel at the end of 1846, then collected with a companion work, Le Cousin Pons, the following year. The story explores themes of vice and virtue, as well as the influence of money on French society. Bette's relationship with Valérie is also seen as an important exploration of homoerotic themes. La Cousine Bette is considered Balzac's last great work. His trademark use of realist detail combines with a panorama of characters returning from earlier novels. Several critics have hailed it as a turning point in the author's career, and others have called it a prototypical naturalist text.
Pattern Recognition is a novel by science fiction writer William Gibson (pictured) published in 2003. Set in August and , the story follows Cayce Pollard, a 32-year-old marketing consultant who has a psychological sensitivity to corporate symbols. The action takes place in London, Tokyo, and Moscow as Cayce judges the effectiveness of a proposed corporate symbol and is hired to seek the creators of film clips anonymously posted to the internet. The novel's central theme involves the examination of the human desire to detect patterns or meaning and the risks of finding patterns in meaningless data. Other themes include methods of interpretation of history, cultural familiarity with brand names, and tensions between art and commercialization. The September 11, 2001, attacks are used as a motif representing the transition to the new century. Critics identify influences in Pattern Recognition from Thomas Pynchon's postmodernist detective story The Crying of Lot 49. The novel is Gibson's eighth and the first to be set in the contemporary world. Like his previous work, it has been classified as a science fiction and postmodern novel, with the action unfolding along a thriller plot line. Critics approved of the writing but found the plot unoriginal and some of the language distracting. The book peaked at No. 4 on the New York Times Best Seller list, was nominated for the 2003 British Science Fiction Association Award, and was shortlisted for the 2004 Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Awards.
The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane. Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound--a "red badge of courage"--to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer. Although Crane was born after the war, and had not at the time experienced battle firsthand, the novel is known for its realism. He began writing what would become his second novel in 1893, using various contemporary and written accounts (such as those published previously by Century Magazine) as inspiration. It is believed that he based the fictional battle on that of Chancellorsville; he may also have interviewed veterans of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the Orange Blossoms. Initially shortened and serialized in newspapers in , the novel was published in full in . Several of the themes that the story explores are maturation, heroism, cowardice, and the indifference of nature. Adapted several times for the screen, the novel became a bestseller. It has never been out of print, and is now thought to be Crane's most important work and a major American text.
El Señor Presidente is a 1946 novel by Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan writer Miguel Ángel Asturias. A landmark text in Latin American literature, El Señor Presidente explores the nature of political dictatorship and its effects on society. Asturias also makes early use of a literary technique that would come to be known as magic realism. One of the most notable works of the dictator novel genre, El Señor Presidente developed from an earlier Asturias short story, written to protest social injustice in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in the author's home town. Although El Señor Presidente does not explicitly identify its setting as early twentieth-century Guatemala, the novel's title character was inspired by the 1898–1920 presidency of Manuel Estrada Cabrera. Asturias began writing the novel in the 1920s and finished it in 1933, but the strict censorship policies of Guatemalan dictatorial governments delayed its publication for a further thirteen years. The character the President rarely appears in the story but Asturias creates a number of other characters to show the terrible effects of living under a dictatorship. The style of El Señor Presidente influenced a generation of Latin American authors. In 1967, Asturias received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his entire body of work. This international acknowledgment was celebrated throughout Latin America, where it was seen as a recognition of the region's literature as a whole. Since then, El Señor Presidente has been adapted for the screen three times.
Candide is a 1759 French satire by the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. The novella begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his tutor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this existence, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not outright rejecting optimism, advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". Candide is known for its sarcastic tone and its erratic, fantastical, and fast-moving plot. With a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman or picaresque novel, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. Today, Candide is recognised as Voltaire's magnum opus.
La Peau de chagrin is an 1831 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). Set in early 19th-century Paris, it tells the story of a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen that fulfills his every desire. For each wish granted, however, the skin shrinks and consumes a portion of his physical energy. La Peau de chagrin belongs to the Études philosophiques group of Balzac's sequence of novels, La Comédie humaine. Although the novel uses fantastic elements, its main focus is a realistic portrayal of the excesses of bourgeois materialism. The book's central theme is the conflict between desire and longevity. The magic skin represents the owner's life force, which is depleted through every expression of will, especially when it is employed for the acquisition of power. Ignoring a caution from the shopkeeper who offers the skin to him, the protagonist greedily surrounds himself with wealth, only to find himself miserable and decrepit at the story's end. La Peau de chagrin firmly established Balzac as a writer of significance in France and abroad. His social circle widened significantly, and he was sought eagerly by publishers for future projects. It inspired Giselher Klebe's opera Die tödlichen Wünsche and may have influenced Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Le Père Goriot is an 1835 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac, included in the Scènes de la vie privée section of his novel sequence La Comédie humaine. Widely considered as Balzac's most important novel, it marks the first serious use by the author of characters who had appeared in other books, a technique that distinguishes Balzac's fiction and makes La Comédie humaine unique among bodies of work. It is also noted as an example of his realist style, using minute details to create character and subtext. Set in Paris in 1819, Le Père Goriot follows the intertwined lives of three characters: the elderly doting Goriot; a mysterious criminal-in-hiding named Vautrin; and a naive law student named Eugène de Rastignac. The story takes place during the Bourbon Restoration, which brought about profound changes in French society; the struggle of individuals to secure upper-class status is ubiquitous in the book. The novel was released to mixed reviews. Some critics praised the author for his complex characters and attention to detail; others condemned him for his many depictions of corruption and greed. A favorite of Balzac's, the book quickly won widespread popularity and has often been adapted for film and the stage.
Raptor Red is a 1995 novel by paleontologist Robert T. Bakker (pictured). The book is a third-person account of dinosaurs during the Cretaceous Period, told from the point of view of Raptor Red, a female Utahraptor. Raptor Red features many of Bakker's theories regarding dinosaurs' social habits, intelligence, and the world in which they lived. The book follows a year in Raptor Red's life as she loses her mate, finds her family, and struggles to survive in a hostile environment. Bakker drew inspiration from Ernest Thompson Seton's works that look at life through the eyes of predators, and said that he found it "fun" to write from a top predator's perspective. Bakker based his portrayals of dinosaurs and other prehistoric wildlife on fossil evidence, as well as studies of modern animals. When released, Raptor Red was generally praised: Bakker's anthropomorphism was seen as a unique and positive aspect of the book, and his writing described as folksy and heartfelt. Criticisms of the novel included a perceived lack of characterization and average writing. Some scientists, such as paleontologist David B. Norman, took issue with the scientific theories portrayed in the novel, fearing that the public would accept them as fact, while Discovery Channel host Jay Ingram defended Bakker's creative decisions in an editorial.
Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman is the unfinished novelistic sequel by Mary Wollstonecraft (pictured) to her revolutionary political treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The Wrongs of Woman was published posthumously in 1798 by her husband, William Godwin, and is often considered her most radical feminist work. Wollstonecraft's philosophical and gothic novel revolves around the story of a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband. It focuses on the societal rather than the individual "wrongs of woman" and criticizes what Wollstonecraft viewed as the patriarchal institution of marriage in eighteenth-century Britain and the legal system that protected it. The novel pioneered the celebration of female sexuality and cross-class identification between women. Such themes, coupled with the publication of Godwin's scandalous Memoirs of Wollstonecraft's life, made the novel unpopular at the time it was published. Twentieth-century feminist critics embraced the work, integrating it into the history of the novel and feminist discourse.
The General in His Labyrinth is a novel by the Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. It is a fictionalized account of the last days of Simón Bolívar, liberator and leader of Gran Colombia. First published in 1989, the book traces Bolívar's final journey from Bogotá to the Caribbean coastline of Colombia in his attempt to leave South America for exile in Europe. In this dictator novel about a continental hero, "despair, sickness, and death inevitably win out over love, health, and life". Breaking with the traditional heroic portrayal of Bolívar El Libertador, García Márquez depicts a pathetic protagonist, a prematurely aged man who is physically ill and mentally exhausted. The story explores the labyrinth of Bolívar's life through the narrative of his memories. Its mixture of genres makes The General in His Labyrinth difficult to classify, and commentators disagree over where it lies on the scale between novel and historical account. García Márquez's insertion of interpretive and fictionalized elements--some dealing with Bolívar's most intimate moments--caused outrage in parts of Latin America when the book was released. Many prominent Latin American figures believed that the novel damaged the reputation of one of the region's most important historic figures and portrayed a negative image to the outside world.
The Penelopiad is a novella by Margaret Atwood. It was published in 2005 as part of the first set of books in the Canongate Myth Series where contemporary authors rewrite ancient myths. In The Penelopiad, Penelope reminisces on the events during the Odyssey, life in Hades, and her relationships with her parents, Odysseus, and Helen. A chorus of the twelve maids, who Odysseus believed were disloyal and whom Telemachus hanged, interrupt Penelope's narrative to express their view on events. The maids' interludes use a new genre each time, including a jump-rope rhyme, a lament, an idyll, a ballad, a lecture, a court trial and several types of songs. The novella's central themes include the effects of story-telling perspectives, double standards between the genders and the classes, and the fairness of justice. The book was translated into 28 languages and released simultaneously around the world by 33 publishers. In the Canadian market, it peaked on the best seller lists at number one in MacLean's and number two in The Globe and Mail, but did not place on the New York Times Best Seller list in the American market. Some critics found the writing to be typical of Atwood, even amongst her finest work, while others found some aspects, like the chorus of maids, disagreeable. A theatrical version was co-produced by the Canadian National Arts Centre and the British Royal Shakespeare Company.
Ace Books is the oldest active specialty publisher of science fiction and fantasy books (example pictured) and issued many of the best known science fiction writers of the 1950s and 1960s. The company was founded in New York City in 1952 by Aaron A. Wyn, and began as a genre publisher of mysteries and westerns. It soon branched out into other genres, publishing its first science fiction title in 1953; this was a successful innovation, and within a few years, such titles outnumbered both mysteries and westerns. Ace became known for the tête-bêche binding format used for many of its early books, although it did not originate the format. Most of the early titles were published in this "Ace Double" format, and Ace continued to issue books in varied genres, bound tête-bêche, until 1973. These have proved attractive to book collectors, and some rare titles in mint condition command prices up to $1,000. It was one of the leading science fiction publishers for its first ten years, but its fortunes began to decline after the death of owner A. A. Wyn in 1967. Two prominent editors, Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, left in 1971, and in 1972 Ace was sold to Grosset & Dunlap. It is now an imprint of Penguin Group (USA).
"The Open Boat" is a short story by American author Stephen Crane. First published in 1897, it was based on Crane's experience of having survived a shipwreck off the coast of Florida earlier that year while traveling to Cuba to work as a newspaper correspondent. Crane was stranded at sea for thirty hours when his ship, the SS Commodore, sank after hitting a sandbar. He and three other men were forced to navigate their way to shore in a small boat; one of the men, an oiler named Billie Higgins, drowned. Crane subsequently adapted his report into narrative form, and the short story "The Open Boat" was published in Scribner's Magazine. The story is told from the point of view of an anonymous correspondent, Crane's fictional doppelgänger, and the action closely resembles the author's experiences after the shipwreck. A volume titled The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure was published in the United States in 1898. Praised for its innovation by contemporary critics, the story is considered an exemplary work of literary Naturalism. One of the most frequently discussed works in Crane's canon, it is notable for its use of imagery, irony, symbolism, and exploration of themes including survival, solidarity, and the conflict between man and nature. H. G. Wells considered "The Open Boat" to be "beyond all question, the crown of all [Crane's] work".
The Well of Loneliness is a 1928 lesbian novel by the British author Radclyffe Hall. It follows the life of Stephen Gordon, an Englishwoman from an upper-class family whose "sexual inversion" (homosexuality) is apparent from an early age. She finds love with Mary Llewellyn, whom she meets while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, but their happiness together is marred by social isolation and rejection, which Hall depicts as having a debilitating effect on inverts. The novel portrays inversion as a natural, God-given state and makes an explicit plea: "Give us also the right to our existence". The novel became the target of a campaign by James Douglas, editor of the Sunday Express newspaper, who wrote "I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel." Although its only sexual reference consists of the words "and that night, they were not divided", a British court judged it obscene because it defended "unnatural practices between women". In the United States the book survived legal challenges in New York state and in Customs Court.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is the first novel by British writer Susanna Clarke (pictured). An alternative history set in 19th-century England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, it is based on the premise that magic once existed in England and has returned with two men: Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Centering on the relationship between these two men, the novel investigates the nature of "Englishness" and the boundary between reason and madness. It has been described as a fantasy novel, an alternative history, and a historical novel. The narrative draws on various Romantic literary traditions, such as the comedy of manners, the Gothic tale, and the Byronic hero. The novel's language is a pastiche of 19th-century writing styles, such as those of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Clarke began writing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in 1993; ten years later she submitted the manuscript for publication. It was accepted by Bloomsbury and published in September 2004, with illustrations by Portia Rosenberg. The novel was well-received by critics and reached number three on the New York Times bestseller list. It was longlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
"Indian Camp" is a short story written by Ernest Hemingway (pictured). The story was first published in 1924 in Ford Madox Ford's literary magazine Transatlantic Review in Paris and republished by Boni & Liveright in 1925 in the American edition of Hemingway's first volume of short stories In Our Time. The first of Hemingway's stories to feature the semi-autobiographical character Nick Adams--a child in this story--"Indian Camp" is told from his point-of-view. In the story, Nick Adams' father, a country doctor, has been summoned to an Indian camp to deliver a baby. At the camp, the father is forced to perform an emergency caesarean section using a jack-knife, with Nick as his assistant. Afterward, the woman's husband is discovered dead, having fatally slit his throat during the operation. The story is important because it shows the emergence of Hemingway's understated style and use of counterpoint. An initiation story, "Indian Camp" includes themes such as childbirth and fear of death, which permeate much of Hemingway's subsequent work. When the story was published, the quality of writing was noted and praised; scholars consider "Indian Camp" an important story in the Hemingway canon.
The Historian is the 2005 debut novel of American author Elizabeth Kostova. The plot blends the history and folklore of Vlad III the Impaler (pictured) and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. Kostova's father told her stories about Dracula when she was a child, and later in life she was inspired to turn the experience into a novel. She worked on the book for ten years and then sold it within a few months to Little, Brown, and Company, which bought it for a remarkable US$2 million. The Historian has been described as a combination of genres, including Gothic novel, adventure novel, detective fiction, travelogue, postmodern historical novel, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. It is concerned with history's role in society and representation in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. The evils brought about by religious conflict are a particular theme, and the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East. Little, Brown, and Company heavily promoted the book and it became the first debut novel to become number one on The New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale. As of 2005, it was the fastest-selling hardback debut novel in US history. Kostova received the 2006 Book Sense award for Best Adult Fiction and the 2005 Quill Award for Debut Author of the Year. Sony has bought the film rights and, as of 2007, were planning an adaptation.
Irish Thoroughbred, the debut novel by American author Nora Roberts (pictured), was first published in January 1981 as a category romance. Like other category romances, it was less than 200 pages and was intended to be on sale for only one month. It proved so popular that it was repackaged as a stand-alone romance and reprinted multiple times. Roberts drew on her Irish heritage to create an Irish heroine, Adelia "Dee" Cunnane. In the novel, Dee moves to the United States, where her sick uncle arranges for her to marry his employer, wealthy American horsebreeder Travis Grant. Although the early part of their relationship is marked by frequent arguments, by the end of the story Travis and Dee reconcile. According to one critic, the couple's transformation from adversaries to a loving married couple is one of many formulaic elements in the book. Although the protagonists adhered to many stereotypes common to 1980s romance novels, Roberts's heroine is more independent and feisty than most others of the time. Roberts wrote two sequels, Irish Rebel and Irish Rose.