125th Anniversary - 1876-2001
In honor of Grove City's College's 125th anniversary the English department put together a list of
125 Authors to Renew the Mind as a sequel to the college's
125 Books to Renew the Mind. Take a look at some of the literary greats that have inspired writers and readers throughout history.
Classical (list) /
Medieval (list) /
Renaissance (list) /
Enlightenment & 18th Cent.
& 18th Cent. (summaries)
19th Century Prose Fiction
(list) / 19th Century
Prose Fiction (summaries)
20th Century Prose Fiction
(list) / 20th Century
Prose Fiction (summaries)
19th Cent. Prose
Non-Fiction (list) /
19th Cent. Prose Non-Fiction (summaries)
20th Cent. Prose
Non-fiction (list) /
20th Cent. Prose Non-fiction (summaries)
Drama (since 1800) (list) /
Drama (since 1800) (summaries)
19th Century Poetry (list)
/ 19th Century Poetry
20th Century Poetry (list)
/ 20th Century Poetry
Addendum (list) /
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Miguel de Cervantes
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Enlightenment & 18th Century
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19th Century Prose Fiction
Harriet Beecher Stowe
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20th Century Prose Fiction
Jorge Luis Borges
F. Scott Fitzgerald
E. M. Forster
Zora Neale Hurston
D. H. Lawrence
C. S. Lewis
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Dorothy L. Sayers
J. R. R. Tolkien
Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa
Miguel de Unamuno
Robert Penn Warren
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19th Century Prose
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry David Thoreau
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20th Century Prose
G. K. Chesteron
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Drama (since 1800)
T. S. Eliot
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
George Bernard Shaw
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19th Century Poetry
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
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20th Century Poetry
W. H. Auden
Federico Garcia Lorca
Rainer Maria Rilke
William Carlos Williams
William Butler Yeats
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Bobbie Ann Mason
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If we knew .
. . that all students wished to be corporate executives,
would we train them to be good readers of memos,
quarterly reports, and stock quotations, and not bother
their heads with poetry, science, history? I think not.
Everyone who thinks, thinks not. Specialized competence
can come only through generalized competence, which is
to say that economic utility is a by-product of a good
education. Any education that is mainly about economic
utility is far too limited to be useful, and, in any
case, so diminishes the world that it mocks one's
humanity. At the very least, it diminishes the idea of
what a good learner is.
- Neil Postman -
On the map of American higher
education, the mission of Grove City College stands out
in bold relief. Enjoying a solid niche in the market
place, Grove City ranks as the only evangelical
Christian college among the 50 most competitive colleges
and universities in America. As American higher
education moves in a direction contrary to the Grove
City mission, increasing numbers of outstanding
prospective students and their parents look for what
Grove City offers. By filling a major void in the market
place of American higher education, Grove City has
expanded its market share, especially among the most
academically gifted students.
What accounts for this success?
What explains this difference? As much as anything else
. . . the study of literature. More than any other
discipline, English has succumbed to the subversion of
historically accepted canons of content and standards of
instruction. Professor of English James G. Dixon III
observes that Grove City English faculty swim upstream
against the relativism of various postmodern currents in
the study of literature:
We affirm the classical
tradition in literary studies, especially as challenged
and shaped by Christian thought from the medieval period
to the present. True to that tradition, we believe that
literature provides general revelation of universal
truths of the human condition and engages us in what the
Greeks called psychagogia, the leading of the soul to
virtue. We believe that all truth is God's truth,
wherever it is found, and that our study of literature
should be a quest for the ongoing revelation of that
truth in our reading and in our lives.
To honor the 125th anniversary
of Grove City College, the English faculty prepared an
annotated bibliography of 125 great authors of
literature. Of their task, Professor Dixon states:
We despaired of limiting the
rich treasure of world literature to only 125 titles. So
we developed an annotated list of 125 Great Authors,
which allowed us to discuss more than one title for each
author (For example, how could we list just one of
Shakespeare's 37 plays?). With each annotation our goal
was to suggest two things: (1) What has this author
contributed to the world? and (2) Why should anyone
bother to read this author's work? As with any such
list, many notable writers had to be excluded. But we
are convinced that the writers and works noted here will
provide thoughtful readers a lifetime of rewards-both in
their first-time encounters with a given work as well as
in a succession of rereadings over the years.
Under Professor Dixon's
leadership, all faculty in English actively participated
in this project:
· Janice B. Brown (Ph.D.,
Memorial University of Newfoundland)
· Diane M. Dixon (Ph.D., Indiana University of
· James G. Dixon III (Ph.D., Northwestern University)
· William F. Donnelly (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin)
· Eric A. Potter (Ph.D., University of Virginia)
· Michael W. Price (Ph.D., Purdue University)
· Gloria Stansberry (Ph.D., Kent State University)
Their annotations encompass 125
authors in twelve categories plus an addendum of 16
Literature To Renew The Mind, a
sequel to Books To Renew The Mind, evolved from the
Grove City Humanities Program. Under the leadership of
Professor Gary S. Smith, Program Coordinator, the
humanities faculty annotated 125 important classical and
contemporary books in Books To Renew The Mind. While
participating with the humanities faculty in writing
Books To Renew The Mind, the English faculty decided to
prepare annotations of 125 important authors solely
within their own discipline. Thus, Literature To Renew
The Mind complements and supplements Books To Renew The
Mind, which focuses on culture, economics, education,
history, politics, science, and theology. The two share
the same goals, namely to:
students and their parents with a catalogue of
authors, books, and poetry considered significant by
the Grove City faculty;
- Encourage greater breadth
and depth of reading among Grove City students;
- Help Grove City students
prepare for Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright
Scholarship competitions, and other post-graduate
- Assist alumni and other
interested persons in quickly identifying important
books on subjects of critical concern; and
- Invite interaction with
readers by allowing them to suggest additions and
deletions of books and to recommend books in other
significant areas of interest.
Literature To Renew The Mind
and Books To Renew The Mind acknowledge the truth spoken
by Jacques Barzun:
is not for either vocational or social ends. It is for
education, which is bigger than social or vocational
goals. Specifically, it is for injecting the necessary
dose of the liberal arts into the undergraduate before
he enters economic and social life.
As Harvey Mansfield said,
education should introduce students "to things worth
learning for their own sake."
Charles W. Dunn
Dean of International Studies, Graduate Advancement and
Grove City College
Grove City, Pennsylvania
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1. Homer (8th century BC). The
Iliad. With the Odyssey, the Iliad became the Bible of
Greek civilization. This epic of the Trojan War raises
issues that shaped the classical humanism that has
remained formative in the West: the arete (excellence)
that makes an individual heroic; the hubris (pride) that
tarnishes that arete; the gusto for every human
activity; the duty owed to one's friends and
compatriots; and ultimately the compassion even for
one's enemies that makes one more fully human. These
themes find their focus in the god-like warrior
Achilles, who grows from a selfish but unstoppable
warrior to one who can weep with the grief of his enemy,
Priam, King of Troy. The Homeric Question leaves open
the possibility that two (or more) authors composed
these two foundational works of Western literature.
2. Homer (8th century BC). The
Odyssey. This epic poem recounts Odysseus' ten-year
struggle to reach his home, Ithaca, after the Trojan
War. The story is replete with exotic, spine-tingling
adventures that rival any in literature or film. The
poem climaxes when Odysseus rids his palace of the men
attempting to steal his wife, Penelope, then reunites
with her and their son Telemachus after a twenty-year
absence. Penelope is portrayed as the picture of
patience and faithfulness, and Odysseus as the epitome
of the courageous warrior who, through his cunning and
strength, is able to overcome every obstacle in his
quest to return home. The definitive statement of Greek
humanism, this poem celebrates the family as the
foundation of civilization.
3. Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.).
Aeschylus was the first of the three great tragic
playwrights of 5th century B.C. Athens. His most
significant work, a trilogy of plays entitled the
Oresteia, demonstrates how the sins of the fathers are
visited on the children to the third and fourth
generation, until Athena, goddess of wisdom, ends the
cycle of blood revenge by establishing a trial by law.
The trilogy thus celebrates civilization's emergence
from barbarism in an appeal to a natural law that rises
above the chaos of personal revenge.
4. Sophocles (496-406 B.C.).
The second of the three great tragic playwrights of 5th
century B.C. Athens, Sophocles is most famous for the
three plays of his Theban Cycle. Oedipus the King
explores how hubris (pride) taints even the noblest of
humans and explores the mysterious balance of fate and
free will. Antigone presents one woman's defiance of
tyrannical authority for the sake of a higher law.
Oedipus at Colonus is a profound study of purgation and
5. Euripides (480-406 B. C.).
The third of the Athenian tragic writers is the most
cynical and troubling of the three. His plays challenged
the confidence of Greek humanism. Medea, for instance,
is a pagan sorceress who rages against the "rational"
political utilitarianism of her Greek husband Jason. The
Bacchae shows how the rationalism of the Greek ruler
Pentheus is incapable of managing the complex range of
passions that lurk beneath the surface of the human
6. Ovid (43 BC-17 AD). The
Metamorphoses. This anthology of approximately 250
Greco-Roman myths, all united by the theme of
transformation, begins with a creation account and
proceeds chronologically up to Ovid's present, the
glorious reign of Caesar Augustus. The first 6 ½ books
deal with the gods, the rest with humans. The work
became a treasure trove from which many later writers
(including Dante and Shakespeare) adapted characters,
stories, and themes. Some myths either parallel Bible
stories or reinforce biblical themes (e.g., the great
flood; the dangers of hubris).
7. Virgil (70-19 BC). The
Aeneid. Considered the greatest literary work of Roman
civilization, this epic poem recounts the mythic
founding of Rome. It focuses upon the Trojan hero
Aeneas, who leads a band of refugees from burning Troy
through many adventures throughout the Mediterranean
world, before settling in Latium, where they must win an
epic war to found their civilization. Aeneas' devotion
to public duty over private happiness became an ideal
character trait in Roman civilization. Virgil
deliberately models his epic after Homer's epics: Books
I-VI parallel The Odyssey; Books VII-XII, The Iliad. C.
S. Lewis ranked this work among the most important he
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8. Anonymous. Sir Gawain and
The Green Knight (c. 1375-1400). This 14th century tale
of knightly adventure is told in a unique poetic form.
The pride of King Arthur's court is cunningly
challenged, and the virtue of the chivalrous hero is
severely tested. The reader is left wondering who has
won. This perfectly crafted work is the finest Arthurian
romance in English because it avoids pat idealism, and
instead realistically explores the issues of temptation
and moral integrity.
9. Geoffrey Chaucer (c.
1343-1400). The Canterbury Tales. On a pilgrimage to
Canterbury to visit the shrine of St. Thomas Becket,
thirty pilgrims agree to tell two tales each, one on the
way there, and one on the return trip. Although Chaucer
finished only twenty-four tales, the collection is
brilliant for its encyclopedic cross-section of so many
kinds of characters and stories, each fascinating in
itself, but even more so when combined with the others.
Some of the tales are bawdy (e.g., the Miller's Tale);
some are highly moral (e.g., the Nun's Priest's Tale);
some reveal remarkable character portraits (e.g., the
Wife of Bath).
10. Dante (1265-1321). The
Divine Comedy. The greatest poem of the Middle Ages,
this epic depicts Dante's journey through the three
regions of the afterlife: Inferno (Part I), Purgatory
(Part II), and Paradise (Part III). Dante's work is the
supreme synthesis of the Classical and Christian
traditions. In many ways Dante patterns his epic after
the Aeneid, so it is no surprise that Virgil serves as
Dante's mentor and guide through most of the journey. At
the top of Mt. Purgatory, Dante is reunited with his
lifelong love, Beatrice, who brings him to heaven and
the climax of his journey: his vision of the Trinity.
This experience completes the progress of his soul's
salvation and thus renders the poem a glorious
celebration of the love of God.
11. Sir Thomas Malory (d.
1471). A large number of Arthurian tales were brought
together and edited by Malory in the 1460s. They were
published in 1485 by William Caxton, the first English
printer, under the title Le Morte d'Arthur (The Death of
Arthur). Malory's sources include Celtic folklore and
the work of French writer, Chretien de Troyes. Malory
created a magical world that continues to inspire
artists and writers. Appearing at the end of the Middle
Ages, and encompassing many of the struggles and ideals
of that turbulent millennium, the Morte d'Arthur still
stands as the most comprehensive and influential version
of the Arthurian legend.
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12. William Shakespeare
(1564-1616). Shakespeare's 37 plays and 154 sonnets are
considered the greatest contribution to literature by a
single author in history. He is unsurpassed both in his
mastery of the poetic possibilities of the English
language and in his profound insights into human nature.
Many have made his collected works a life-long odyssey:
encountering new works on the page and stage, and
revisiting familiar works that grow richer with age.
Among his many "must-reads" are the tragedies: Romeo and
Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear; the
comedies: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, As
You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of
Venice; the histories: Julius Caesar, Richard II, 1
Henry IV, Henry V, Richard III; and the romances: The
Winter's Tale, and The Tempest. Among his most famous
sonnets are Sonnets 2, 18, 29, 30, 55, 60, 73, 116, 129,
130, and 147.
13. Christopher Marlowe
(1564-1593). Marlowe was a poet and dramatist and, until
his untimely death, a contemporary of William
Shakespeare (he appears, for example, as a character in
the 1998 film, Shakespeare in Love). His most famous
play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, depicts an
arrogant genius who, disdaining earthly knowledge (e.g.,
philosophy, theology), sells his soul to the devil for
twenty-four years of power and pleasure. The play
ultimately, perhaps inadvertently, affirms Christianity
because it illustrates the punishment of a person who
14. Miguel de Cervantes
(1547-1616). Don Quixote. Cervantes started out to write
a satire on Chivalric romances, but his characters Don
Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza have achieved
archetypal status, representing both our love and our
suspicion of the heroic, our passion for creating worlds
of the imagination and our practical compromise with the
status quo. This poignant mix of the ideal and the real,
satire and celebration continues to inspire us to value
15. John Donne (1572-1631).
Collected Poetry and Prose. Donne is most famous for
introducing a new and unusual type of poetry known as
The Metaphysical Manner. This style compares images
that, at first, seem dissimilar, but upon
reconsideration, actually correlate. Discovering this
similarity yields both delight and surprising insights.
His poetry ranges from erotic love poems to deeply pious
religious poems. In his religious poems, he usually
presents himself as a penitent who converses with God
intimately yet quivers with self-doubt ("batter my
heart, three-personed God"). His religious works repay
the effort invested in deciphering them.
16. George Herbert (1593-1633).
In his collection of spiritual poems, The Temple,
written in the metaphysical manner, Herbert does not
sugarcoat the Christian experience; rather, his poetry
depicts both the author's despair and joy, his
fluctuations between faith and doubt. Like Donne, he
interacts with God on a very intimate level.
Masterpieces in their own right, his poems influenced
later religious poets such as Thomas Traherne. Herbert
is of the most popular poets among Christians today, and
C. S. Lewis ranked The Temple as one the most important
books he ever read.
17. John Bunyan (1628-88). The
Pilgrim's Progress. Written by a lay preacher who spent
twelve years in jail rather than compromise his beliefs,
this religious allegory depicts the journey of the
character Christian from his original home (The City of
Destruction) to his new home (The Celestial City).
During his journey, Christian undergoes many trials
(e.g., The Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, Doubting
Castle), encounters many characters (e.g., Faithful,
Hopeful, Apollyon, Giant Despair), and engages in many
dialogues-all depicting via allegory the Protestant view
of sanctification during this life. A work of
incalculable influence, it has been translated into 100
18. John Milton (1608-74).
Paradise Lost. Written by the most erudite author in the
English language, this epic poem is deliberately
patterned after the epics of Homer, Virgil, and others.
A magnificent synthesis of Classical form and Christian
content, this poem "pursues/ Things unattempted yet in
prose or rhyme:" the fall of Satan and his angels, the
fall of man, and the redemptive love of God. Milton's
majestic style made him "the organ voice of English
poetry," and his detailed knowledge of theology,
philosophy, history, and the recesses of the human heart
make his work second in erudition only to the works of
Shakespeare in the English language.
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Enlightenment & 18th Century Literature
19. Moliere (1622-73). This
17th century French playwright is one of the greatest
masters of comedy and satire in all literature. His most
famous play, Tartuffe, ridicules both the use of
religion to mask greed and the gullibility of those who
fall for such deceptions. His play The Misanthrope
(considered by some to be Moliere's Hamlet) follows the
comic travails of one caught in the snares of a mind
made overly pessimistic by the follies of mankind.
20. Voltaire (1694-1778).
Candide. Satiric spokesman for the age of enlightenment,
Voltaire wrote this philosophical tale to make fun of
smug optimism, caricatured in Pangloss. This biting,
witty narrative indicts the many follies and cruelties
of mankind as Candide is taken advantage of on his
travels. More than a genius for mockery, Voltaire is a
courageous, humane fighter for the liberation of the
21. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731).
Robinson Crusoe is the story of a man who, shipwrecked
on an island off South America, survives 23 years on his
own. It uniquely combines at least three major genres of
literature: the spiritual biography, the exotic
adventure story, and the account of worldwide
exploration known as travel literature. Upon its
release, it became an immediate sensation and remains so
even today. It is an early form of the novel.
22. Thomas Gray (1716-71).
Gray's most famous poem, "Elegy in a Country
Churchyard," provides a beautiful portrait of the sights
and sounds found at dusk in a rural setting. As the poet
surveys the graves in the churchyard, he meditates upon
life's transcendent questions: human mortality; the
dilemma between choosing a peaceful but obscure life or
opting for an ambitious career in the spotlight; and the
way that death renders all ranks of people equal. The
poem celebrates and attempts to preserve the peaceful
way of life found in the pastoral countryside.
23. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).
Collected Poetry and Prose. A writer of exceptional
breadth, piety, and common sense, he wrote poetry (e.g.,
"The Vanity of Human Wishes"); a dictionary of the
English language (considered his greatest triumph);
travel literature; periodic essays; literary criticism
(e.g., The Lives of the Poets); a biography; and a novel
(Rasselas). He is often compared to C.S. Lewis because
he championed Christian morality with clear common
sense, in delightfully lucid prose.
24. Alexander Pope (1688-1744).
This 18th century poet was the epitome of neoclassical
refinement in his sparkling wit and polished heroic
couplets. His works include The Rape of the Lock, a mock
heroic epic that satirizes 18th century aristocratic
society, and the two philosophical treatises, An Essay
on Criticism, and Essay on Man, both of which
brilliantly articulate the tenets of the English
Enlightenment. A prime example of his mastery of the
heroic couplet is his famous definition of wit: "True
wit is nature to advantage dressed: / What oft was
thought, but ne'er so well expressed."
25. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).
Collected Poetry and Prose. Irish-born Dean of St.
Patrick's Cathedral, he is best known for his biting
satire, such as "A Modest Proposal" and, more
importantly, Gulliver's Travels. Gulliver's Travels is a
four-part account of the sea voyages of Lemuel Gulliver,
each part recounting his adventures in an exotic,
undiscovered land. At each place he must adapt and learn
the folkways and mores of the host country. At times
humorous, at times, bawdy, at times bitter, but always
wildly inventive, these episodes offer thinly veiled
critiques of English society-and of human nature in
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19th Century Prose Fiction
26. Jane Austen (1775-1817).
One of the greatest English novelists, Austen
consciously confined herself to depicting the limited
world of rural upper class families. The tensions
associated with courtship and marriage are the central
focus of her works, which include Pride and Prejudice,
Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Emma. These
novels are remarkable for their brilliantly drawn
characters, their detailed and frequently comic
observation of 19th century English manners, and their
witty insight into human nature.
27. Charlotte Bronte (1816-55).
Other literary families may have produced more than the
Brontes, but none have done so within such a narrow
range of life experience. Nurtured by the majestic
solitude of the Yorkshire moors, Charlotte and Emily
wrote novels that were daringly individualistic.
Although Charlotte was the most prolific of the three
sisters she, like her sister Emily, owes her reputation
to a single novel. Jane Eyre follows the emotionally
resilient heroine through deprivation, humiliation, and
rejection, to the haven of a loving marriage-a
relationship based on integrity rather than compromise.
28. Emily Bronte (1818-48).
Emily's unique gift is evident from a small body of
poems and the novel Wuthering Heights, a towering
monument of English fiction. Inexperienced in the ways
of the world, Emily soars beyond the boundaries of
conventional expectations with searing energy. Her
literary greatness is a function of her instinctive
empathy with the spiritual forces that empower physical
realities. Wuthering Heights is the passionate story of
several generations of two Yorkshire families. The
unusual layering of narrative voices lends compelling
credibility to the violent liaisons that become almost
surreal in their emotional intensity.
29. Lewis Carroll (1832-98).
Lewis Carroll is the pen name of Charles Dodgson, an
Oxford mathematician who produced the most famous
children's books of all time. Alice in Wonderland and
Through the Looking-Glass are, however, much more than
children's books; they are witty commentaries on
Victorian education, child psychology, social
conventions, and moralistic literature. The humor ranges
from punning, to farce, to satire. Characters like the
Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and Humpty Dumpty achieve
archetypal stature. Central to it all is the resilient
Alice, intelligent, happy, and confident-a joyous
contrast to the repressed, morose child produced by
rigid Victorian families.
30. Stephen Crane (1871-1900).
Journalist and fiction writer, Crane lived hard and died
young, though he left behind a great deal of writing.
His fiction is impressionistic in style, astute in its
psychological insight, and naturalist in philosophical
outlook. In shipwreck and war, he found fit metaphors
for the struggle for life in an indifferent world. In
his best novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which tells
the story of a Union soldier as he wrestles with his
fear, Crane ironically exposes how society's conventions
and ideals fail to match experience.
31. Charles Dickens (1812-70).
Dickens was the novelist who most fully reflected the
gaiety, hopes and fears of the Victorian era. From the
merriment of Pickwick Papers, the pathos of Oliver
Twist, the nostalgia of A Christmas Carol, and the
personal introspection of David Copperfield, Dickens
moved on to works of greater thematic and moral
complexity. Bleak House, Hard Times, and A Tale of Two
Cities probe central social issues and events. The
pinnacle of his work, Great Expectations, traces a
misguided hero through a maze of wrong values, to a
redeemed understanding of what it is to be a "gentleman"
-a person of genuine quality.
32. George Eliot (1819-80).
Marian Evans took this pen name in an attempt to
circumvent the lingering prejudice against women
writers, but the strengths that made her the best
novelist of the late 19th century are the strengths of a
woman. Her greatest works are The Mill on the Floss and
Middlemarch. Both show an intelligent heroine struggling
in a society incapable of recognizing the intellectual
and moral capacity of a "mere" woman. Maggie, of the
first novel, loves nobly and loses; Dorothea, of the
second, loves nobly and wins. Evans' major contribution
to novel development is her intensely realistic
development of character.
33. Gustave Flaubert
(1821-1880). Madame Bovary. This story of the adultery
and suicide of a doctor's wife in provincial Normandy is
notable for psychological development and impersonal
narrative that does not judge, but rather records events
without moral sentiment. Madame Bovary's disease is her
passion for believing herself better than she is.
Flaubert has influenced the novel to focus on the
discrepancy between our ideal lives and the actual gray
ones we live.
34. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928).
Tess of the D'Urbervilles. In defying many sexual,
religious, and philosophical taboos of his time, Hardy's
novels are a bridge between Victorian and modern
fiction. His view is bleak, his temperament brooding,
but his humor and sensitivity to the magic of his
beloved countryside of Wessex prevent his work from
being depressing. Hardy's novels include complex plots,
sympathetic portrayals of rustic characters, elaboration
of tragic struggles against the indifferent force that
rules the world, and an atmosphere of thoughtful
35. Nathaniel Hawthorne
(1804-64). Hawthorne found the past both an obsession
and a burden, and he set many of his works during
Puritan times. While criticizing these forebears, he
shared with them a sense of human evil and guilt. As
such his work counters optimistic views of America as a
new Eden in which the past has no hold. Besides many
superb stories and good novels, like The House of the
Seven Gables, he is best known for The Scarlet Letter,
which explores the results of sin, showing the
destructive nature of unconfessed guilt, impenitence,
desire for revenge, and an unforgiving community.
36. Victor Hugo (1802-85).
Poet, novelist, and dramatist, Hugo was the central
figure of French romanticism. His play Hernani caused
riots in Paris when it was first performed because of
its departure from the strict neoclassical rules that
reigned in French drama up to that point. He is more
widely known today for his sprawling epic novels, The
Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables, which most
people today have experienced in the hit musical
version. Hugo merges Christian themes with his romantic
sensibility, as seen in the themes of redemption and
grace in the character of Jean Valjean in Les
37. Herman Melville
(1819-1891). In Moby Dick, a whaling ship becomes the
stage for a grand drama as Captain Ahab commands the
hearts and minds of his crew in pursuit of the thing
which to Ahab is the embodiment of all evil, the great
white whale. In the manner of classic tragic heroes,
Ahab's hubris dooms his mission. Echoes of Shakespeare
and the Bible, pulpit rhetoric, voices of primitive
seamen, and journalistic accounts of whaling suggest
Melville's complex view of reality. In the posthumously
published Billy Budd, a popular and virtuous young
sailor accidentally kills an officer. The story
questions the value of legal justice when it conflicts
with principles of "natural" right and wrong.
38. Harriet Beecher Stowe
(1811-96). Uncle Tom's Cabin. Born into a family of
clerics, Stowe wrote her influential, melodramatic tale
"to show how Jesus Christ who liveth and was dead, and
is alive forevermore, has still a mother's love for the
poor and lowly." Uncle Tom's Cabin stirred great public
feeling from its description of the sufferings caused by
slavery-particularly the anguish of parted families.
Uncle Tom, a pious, suffering slave, has ironically
become a pejorative symbol of passively collaborating
with the oppressor. In the novel, however, he is
depicted with great compassion as a figure of Christ's
39. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910).
War and Peace; Anna Karenina. Tolstoy's works are among
the greatest novels ever written, but they are also
accessible chronicles of characters who become our
lifelong companions. Sprawlingly long with complex
casts, yet natural and timeless, these books are well
worth the investment of time. War and Peace portrays the
impact of Napoleon's invasion on Russia; Anna Karenina
presents the story of two marriages: Anna's is ruined by
adultery, Levin's is nurtured by a relationship of
growing respect. Tolstoy once said, "The one thing
necessary, in life as in art, is to tell the truth,"
which he does in his deep love for his characters and
for the spectacle of life itself.
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40. Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883).
Fathers and Sons. By living as an expatriate, Turgenev
widened Russia's perspective on the larger European
culture, although he drew his central inspiration from
his native land. Fathers and Sons is a study of the
conflict between generations. In the character of
Bazarov it also is the classic presentation of a Russian
character type: the nihilist, a figure assuming several
forms-terrorist, anarchist, atheist-materialist,
science-worshiper, and dedicated Communist.
41. Mark Twain (1835-1910).
"Mark Twain" is the pen name of Samuel Clemens, one of
the best-loved American writers, most famous for The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn. The latter, one of the great American novels,
follows the adventures of Huck, a 14-year old white boy,
and Jim, an escaping slave, as they travel on a raft
down the Mississippi seeking freedom. On this journey,
Huck gradually recognizes Jim's humanity and learns of
the corruption and potential for evil in his society.
The continuing controversy surrounding this book
testifies to its powerful treatment of race relations.
42. Henry James (1843-1916).
Portrait of a Lady. When an idealistic young American,
Isabel Archer, comes into an inheritance in Europe, she
sets high goals for her life. Shunning the attentions of
both an American entrepreneur and a British lord, she
declares her independence from materialistic values.
Unfortunately, her idealism blinds her to evil in its
more subtle manifestations. She fails to recognize that
people who love art are not necessarily morally
superior. James is famous for his "international themes"
contrasting American and Old World values. A Realist, he
helped to establish fiction as a major art form.
43. Fyodor Dostoevsky
(1821-1881). Collected Prose. The works of this towering
Russian novelist of the late 19th century are
exceptionally deep, resonating with profound insight
into human nature and philosophical and theological
issues. Dostoevsky is best known for Crime and
Punishment, and his masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov.
A committed Christian and sophisticated thinker, he
defended Christianity against the onslaught of socialism
and nihilism then sweeping his country. A major
Christian thinker/writer in the Western tradition, he
was as important in his time as C.S. Lewis was in his.
44. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).
The Picture of Dorian Gray. A wish preserves a young
man's youthful good looks while his portrait ages,
corrupted by his sinful life. Enthralled by the process,
the young man becomes fascinated by the effects of evil.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a short novel, or perhaps
a long fairy tale, or a grab bag of attitudes about art,
paradox, and morality. The most frequently quoted
Victorian writer in our times, Wilde in his only novel
sparkles with the wit for which he is best remembered
(see his play, The Importance of Being Earnest), dabbles
in melodrama, and reflects on his age's attitudes toward
truth and beauty.
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20th Century Prose Fiction
45. Chinua Achebe (1930- ).
Things Fall Apart. One of the most highly regarded
African writers, Achebe's work has entered the worldwide
canon. He was raised in a Nigerian village during the
difficult transition from traditional customs to life
under British missionary and colonial influence. Things
Fall Apart tells the story of a tribal "big man" whose
life is destroyed by changes he can neither understand
46. Sherwood Anderson
(1876-1941). An early 20th century American writer of
novels and short stories, he is best known for
Winesburg, Ohio. This novel was pathbreaking for two
reasons: first, it consists of interrelated short
stories which, collectively, comprise a new sort of
whole; second, its prose style was admired (and
emulated) by major American writers such as Hemingway
and Faulkner. Brutally unsentimental, the novel depicts
the often bleak, disappointing lives of lonely
characters in a small town. Although depressing, the
novel features character sketches so intriguing that
they make the book worth reading.
47. Margaret Atwood (1939- ).
The Handmaid's Tale. Canada's foremost writer, this
articulate, persuasive feminist is a prolific and
versatile author of poetry, stories, essays, and novels.
Her best known novel, The Handmaid's Tale portrays a
dystopian future in which the protagonist's survival is
threatened by a patriarchal right-wing religious
autocracy. In Surfacing, the narrator goes to the
Canadian wilderness to find renewal through
48. Jorge Luis Borges
(1899-1986). Labyrinths; Dreamtigers. Widely traveled
Argentinian writer, Borges composed stories that range
in style from expressionism to magic realism. His
stories are labyrinthine in form, metaphysical in
speculation, and dreamlike in their reflected aspects of
reality. For Borges "ambiguity is richness," hence his
continually shifting positions, his logical nightmares,
his recurring metaphors of the maze, the mirror, and the
double, as seen in "The Garden of Forking Paths."
49. Albert Camus (1913-60).
Existentialist thinker, dramatist, and novelist, this
French writer dramatized the "absurd" nature of human
experience in such novels as The Fall, The Plague, and,
most famously, The Stranger. In that novel, he renders
the world through the bewildered perspective of his
protagonist, Merseult, a man who drifts from experience
to experience. After being accused of a crime, he
realizes he is a stranger to his society's views of
meaning and value. Camus's vivid writing allows the
reader to experience the world from within the
perspective of existentialism.
50. Willa Cather (1873-1947).
My Antonia. A first person narrator, Jim Burden,
expresses Cather's own love of the prairie and her
appreciation of the Bohemian immigrants who built
thriving farms in the West. Her pictures of the prairie
are poetically drawn, but Cather's vision is not
simplistic. Violence interrupts her characters' lives,
and the harsh, daily grind of rural life can brutalize
or break the sensitive. Finally, however, she makes us
aware of the human potential for community and growth.
My Antonia is considered Cather's best work.
51. Joseph Conrad (1857-1924).
Heart of Darkness. Conrad explores man's vulnerability
and corruptibility, particularly in the enigmatic Kurtz.
Marlow, the narrator, provides a commentary on human
nature under moral stress as he journeys down the river
into the heart of the Congo. Conrad takes the reader on
a psychological journey into the heart of man. At the
same time, he explores the very meaning of
civilization-and the barbarism that always lurks beneath
the surface, waiting for every opportunity to manifest
52. Robertson Davies (1913-95).
Davies is a late 20th century Canadian writer whose
witty novels track matters of spiritual significance in
the lives of his characters-with a unique mixture of
comedy, magic, and mystery. His most famous work is the
Deptford Trilogy, a series of novels including Fifth
Business, Manticore, and World of Wonders. In these
works he explores with dramatic flair the relationship
between religion, psychology, and magic in the worlds of
53. Ralph Ellison (1914- ).
Invisible Man. One of the most significant works of
literature produced by African-Americans, this novel
charts the life experiences of an unnamed black male,
detailing major events along the way (college,
employment, etc.). It explores what it meant to be black
in America in the 1940s and early '50s; it is also a
profound search to find one's identity in a hostile
culture. This challenging but deeply rewarding work
provides a deeper understanding of African-American
54. William Faulkner
(1897-1962). Regarded by most as the greatest American
novelist of the 20th century, Faulkner combined formal
experimentation, a storyteller's gift, and a sense of
Southern society to create his mythical Yoknapatawpha
County. In such novels as The Sound and the Fury, As I
Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom!, he
explores the power of the past over the present, the
human struggle to find meaning in experience, and the
tortured history of race relations in America. In all of
his work he attends closely to what he once called the
"human heart in conflict with itself."
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55. F. Scott Fitzgerald
(1896-1940). Fitzgerald's life and writing served as a
mirror of his times, reflecting the Jazz Age glitter and
the morning-after gloom of the 1929 stock market crash.
Author of numerous stories and several novels, he is
best known for The Great Gatsby. In this book
Fitzgerald's beautiful prose style matches the dreams of
his protagonist, Jay Gatsby, who becomes a millionaire
to win the woman of his youthful dreams. Instead, he
discovers that his dreams are illusions and that he
cannot defeat time by recovering the past. In Gatsby's
story, Fitzgerald explores the relationship of dream and
reality in American experience.
56. E. M. Forster (1879-1970).
Passage to India. The blazing sun, the echoing caverns
of the dull Marabar hills, the dense population of India
take their toll on the emotional stability of a naïve
British woman visiting her fiancé, a British colonial
administrator. Her search for "authentic" experience
with "the natives" provokes an intercultural collision.
David Lean's award-winning film treatment of the novel
is visually rich, but Forster's rounded
characterizations and his portrayal of the conflicting
perspectives of Hindu, Moslem, and British are even more
satisfying. Passage to India is considered Forster's
57. Graham Greene (1904-1991).
The Power and the Glory. An alcoholic priest trying to
stay alive at a time when Mexico was killing or
expelling clergy, becomes an improbable source of
inspiration to a cynical youth. The reader comes away
from this novel aware that God works in mysterious ways,
sometimes using the lowliest of beings for His purposes.
One of the best novels by this highly acclaimed British
58. Ernest Hemingway
(1899-1962). This American writer won the Nobel Prize in
1954 for his short stories and novels, most notable of
which are The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and
For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Sun Also Rises is set in
Paris and Spain and portrays the lives of the Lost
Generation, disillusioned by WWI. Hemingway's terse
style effectively renders the emotional detachment of
his focal character, Jake Barnes, an American journalist
injured in the war. Jake's friendships and his passion
for the artistry of bull-fighting prove sometimes
inadequate substitutes for the love and meaning lost to
him in the degeneracy of his time. Hemingway's mastery
of the short story genre is apparent in The Nick Adams
Stories. These semi-autobiographical stories portray in
a novel-like sequence Nick's coming of age in northern
Michigan, going to war, and later marrying and becoming
59. Zora Neale Hurston
(1901-60). Their Eyes Were Watching God. An account of
the lives of blacks in the rural American south, mainly
in the 1930s, this novel focuses upon Janie, a woman who
searches to find her identity and the nature of love.
Often humorous, often touching, the narrative evokes
sympathy for Janie as she matures into womanhood,
overcomes patriarchal barriers, grapples with the
unsentimental parts of living, and, most importantly,
strives to find both herself and the meaning of love.
60. Aldous Huxley (1894-1963).
Brave New World is the quintessential dystopian novel of
the 20th century. Though it was written in 1932, some of
its issues are remarkably relevant today, particularly
the questions regarding genetic and social engineering.
It is to literature what the 1997 film Gattaca is to
cinema: a cautionary tale about the potentially
dehumanizing effects of scientific "progress."
61. James Joyce (1882-1941).
The Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist; Ulysses. This
major writer presents a variety of Irish vignettes in
the stories of The Dubliners and a largely
autobiographical account of his Irish childhood and
education in Portrait. These works are helpful in
approaching Ulysses, a work many consider the magnum
opus of 20th century literature. This highly organized,
original work built on Homer's Odyssey produced an angry
outcry at its vision of life as reflected in the
thoughts and actions of Stephen Dedalus, the modern
intellectual, and his spiritual father, the ordinary
man, Leopold Bloom. Experimental techniques including
stream of consciousness, parody, puns, dream sequences,
word coinages imaginatively reflect the thoughts and
mental processes of Joyce's characters.
62. Franz Kafka (1883-1924).
The Trial; Metamorphosis. 'Kafkaesque' sums up this
German writer's portrayal of enigmatic reality in which
the individual is lonely, perplexed, threatened, and
guilt-ridden. The Trial tells the story of a man who
feels guilty but is never able to discover what he is
accused of. Metamorphosis foresees the dehumanization,
terror and bureaucratic tyranny of our time. These
parables of guilt and punishment reflect the heart of
the age of anxiety.
63. D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930).
Sons and Lovers. In this novel, Lawrence portrays his
early life, which was dominated by his mother's
excessive love. More importantly, Lawrence's passionate
gusto for life-always vibrant but often morally
transgressive-surfaces in this work. Lawrence saw
himself as a prophet standing against the industrial
culture of his time, which he believed had dried up the
springs of emotion, alienating humans from natural life.
64. Harper Lee (1926- ). Lee's
novel To Kill a Mockingbird earned her the Pulitzer
Prize in 1961, and quickly became a masterpiece of
American literature. The story is told by the young
daughter of a southern lawyer who unsuccessfully defends
a Negro falsely accused of rape. The plot focuses on the
lawyer's family, using the events surrounding the trial
as a crucible in which to test their love and faith. In
spite of the humor and winsomeness of the child's point
of view, the novel frankly probes the issues of
innocence and experience, cruelty and compassion,
prejudice and brotherly love.
65. C. S. Lewis (1898-1963).
Dubbed the 20th century "apostle to the skeptics," Lewis
made significant contributions to theology, literary
criticism, and fiction. His literary masterpiece is his
7-volume Chronicles of Narnia. The enduring brilliance
of these works of fantasy is evident both in their
ongoing appeal to children and in their ongoing
revelation of theological and philosophical delights for
older readers. Lewis's space trilogy (also known as the
Ransom trilogy) also involves very imaginative
explorations of theology in literary form. Perelandra,
the most famous of the three, reenacts Genesis 2-3 on
another world. Lewis's own favorite novel-and also
perhaps his most difficult and profound-is Till We Have
Faces, based on the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche and
centered on the theme of the mysteries of faith and
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66. Jack London (1876-1916). In
Call of the Wild, Buck, a California dog kidnapped from
the lap of luxury, gains strength and courage as he is
forced to adapt to the harsh life of an Alaskan sled
dog. Naturalist London celebrates Buck's recovery of
primal strength as he finally runs free at the head of a
wolf pack. A self-educated man raised in harsh poverty,
London throughout his career dramatized the struggle for
survival. His work became highly popular.
67. Thomas Mann (1875-1955).
The Magic Mountain; Death in Venice. This German
novelist and essayist attempts to sum up the mental life
of the West. In Magic Mountain, a young German visits a
friend in a Swiss tuberculosis sanitarium where he is
infected and stays for seven years before being swept
into the holocaust of the Great War. Mann's themes
include psychoanalysis and spiritualism, links between
art, disease, and death, and the relation between the
artist and society; these are further explored in the
novella, Death in Venice. His gift is his ability to
combine reflection with character and atmosphere; ideas
are part of subtle human relationships.
68. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(1928- ). One Hundred Years of Solitude. This Columbian
writer's world of 'magic realism' moves beyond what he
claims is "the mistaken and absurd world of rational
creatures." One Hundred Years of Solitude is the story
of a remote village seen through the eyes of multiple
generations of the Buendia family, a story mingling the
ordinary and the miraculous. This great Latin American
novel is a kind of allegory of South American history as
well as a remarkably imaginative-and frequently
comic-exploration of the meaning of time.
69. Toni Morrison (1931- ).
Beloved; Song of Solomon. Morrison, the 1993 winner of
the Nobel Prize for Literature, is the best known Black
woman writer in contemporary literature. Her novels are
notable for the poetic lyricism of their language, their
sensitive analysis of the dynamics of Black culture, and
her ability to draw on the rich wellsprings of Black
folklore and oral stories to illuminate contemporary
themes. Beloved is the story of an escaped slave mother
Sethe who kills her daughter to save her from a fate
worse than death. Haunted by the ghost and then physical
presence of Beloved, Sethe must work through the legacy
of slavery to exorcise it.
70. Flannery O'Connor
(1925-64). A Georgia-born writer renowned for startling
readers, O'Connor wanted her fiction to touch on the
realms of mystery and manners. With a sharp eye, she
presents the Southern society she knew so well,
including its class pride and racism. As for mystery,
her Christian understanding helped her see the reality
of grace and trace the shocking ways it breaks into the
everyday. Best known for her stories, available in The
Complete Stories, she ranks not only as a leading
Southern writer but also as one of the best Christian
writers of the century.
71. George Orwell (1903-50). A
masterful prose stylist in both his essays and fiction,
Orwell is known chiefly for two political satires,
Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four. Both illustrate
his lifelong opposition to totalitarianism. In the
latter, he portrays a dystopian future where the world
is divided among totalitarian regimes perpetually at war
and where individual human liberty is impossible. That
book, especially, has shaped the culture with such terms
as "double think," "double speak," and "Big Brother."
72. Alan Paton (1903- ). Cry,
the Beloved Country. Written before institutional
apartheid, South African Paton's lyrical novel tells the
story of a black priest, Kumalo who leaves his
impoverished Natal to find his son Absalom in
Johannesburg. He discovers that Absalom has murdered the
white son of his neighbor, Jarvis. Through this event,
Jarvis and Kumalo rise above their tragedy to help this
poor black community. Paton offers a moving plea for
racial understanding and cooperation.
73. Walker Percy (1916-90).
Trained in medicine, Percy converted to Christianity and
joined the Roman Catholic Church. He began writing
articles on linguistics and philosophy but turned to the
novel to reach a wider audience. In novels such as The
Moviegoer (National Book Award), The Second Coming, and
The Thanatos Syndrome, Percy employs humorous satire and
penetrating insight as he diagnoses the sickness of
contemporary American culture and hints toward a
possible cure. Aware that religious words have lost
their value for most readers, he searches for a new
language to express the truths of God and redemption.
74. Marcel Proust (1871-1922).
This French writer is best known for his seven-volume
set of novels grouped collectively as Remembrance of
Things Past. Proust is credited, along with James Joyce
and others, with making successful experiments in the
ways time and reality are portrayed in the novel. The
narrator, a disillusioned middle-aged man, reflects upon
the events of his life, but those reflections do not
unfold in chronological, linear order. Instead, the
novels depict the erratic, surreal activity of memory
and subjective perception.
75. Dorothy L. Sayers
(1893-1957). Sayers became famous in the 1920s and 30s
as a detective writer who raised the whodunit to new
literary heights. Her twelve novels include Murder Must
Advertise, The Nine Tailors, Gaudy Night, and Busman's
Honeymoon. In the 40s she produced outstanding Christian
drama, writing plays for cathedral festivals (including
that of Canterbury), and a series of radio plays on the
life of Christ (The Man Born to Be King) for the BBC. In
the last years before her death she produced much
scholarly work on Dante's Divine Comedy.
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76. Alexander Solzhenitsyn
(1918- ). This 20th century Russian novelist was
imprisoned and eventually deported for criticizing the
communist regime in the U.S.S.R. He wrote One Day in the
Life of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, The First Circle,
and the massive Gulag Archipelago, in which he revealed
the horrors of Stalinist labor camps. His August 1914
begins a series of novels designed to provide an
alternative to "official" Soviet history. His deep
Christian convictions made him the conscience of Russia,
for which he was deported in 1971.
77. Wallace Stegner
(1909-1993). Crossing to Safety. This Pulitzer Prize
winning novel is a story of enduring friendships and
marriages. Two couples meet at the University of
Wisconsin, where the husbands are professors of English.
Their friendship survives the challenges of career
reversals, illness, children, changes of address, and
encroaching age. With numerous allusions to Greek
culture, the work celebrates the classical values of
stoicism and rational thought. It is a refreshing read
in an era of infidelity. His earlier novel, Angle of
Repose, also won the Pulitzer Prize, and The Spectator
Bird won the National Book Award.
78. John Steinbeck (1902-68).
Among the leading American fiction writers of the early
20th century, Steinbeck often wrote of the poor,
especially during the Great Depression. He is most
famous for Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. The
latter traces the misfortunes of the Joad family as they
escape drought-ravaged Oklahoma and travel to California
hoping to find a better life, though they fail. As in
most of his fiction, the novel's portrayal of the poor
is both sympathetic and admiring of their perseverance
as they struggle against forces beyond their control.
79. J. R. R. Tolkien
(1892-1973). Close friend of C. S. Lewis and member of
the Inklings, Tolkien is the undisputed master of
fantasy literature. The Hobbit begins seemingly as a
children's story but starts to take on epic significance
when Bilbo Baggins discovers the mysterious ring of
power. The 3-volume Lord of the Rings takes Bilbo's
nephew Frodo and other characters on a quest of profound
significance in a remarkable exploration of cosmic evil
and heroic good in opposing it. Tolkien's work is
stunning in the rich texture of its detail in creating
another world, his ability to build a scene, his
memorable characters, and his haunting portraits of high
elvish beauty fading from the world of Middle Earth.
80. Giuseppe Tomasi Di
Lampedusa (1896-1957). The Leopard. Recognized as one of
the most striking characters in Italian literature, the
Prince Don Fabrizio, known as The Leopard, wrestles with
finding his identity in changing times. Uncouth
bourgeoisie are replacing the landed aristocracy in the
social order of the 1860s. The Leopard manages a wry
self-humor as he strives to maintain his dignity and
ward off a sense of mortality. He loves his dog who digs
up the gardens and his telescope which takes his mind to
distant stars. The baroque rooms of his palace and the
antics of his family are delightfully sketched.
81. Miguel de Unamuno
(1964-1936). This Spanish writer and early
existentialist sought to understand the reasons for
Spain's decline. In The Tragic Sense of Life, Unamuno
wrote about the struggle in a world where our longing
for meaning and faith clashes with rationality and
science. This conflict is illustrated in his novella,
Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr, where the hero-priest,
though unable to believe, strives to preserve the faith
of his people.
82. John Updike (1932- ).
Considered by some to be the current dean of American
letters, Updike has written numerous novels and stories
in addition to poetry, memoir, and criticism. Besides
the virtuosities of its style, his fiction chronicles
middle-class America over the last half century,
especially in his Rabbit series, which follows his
protagonist Harry ("Rabbit") Angstrom through the 60s,
70s, and 80s. While a professing Christian and one who
sometimes traces the slight motions of grace working in
his characters' lives, Updike's frank treatment of
sexual material makes his work not for the
83. Robert Penn Warren (1905-
). Kentucky-born novelist, poet, literary theorist and
critic, Warren was a leading man of letters in the
mid-20th century. As a theorist he was instrumental in
developing the New Criticism. As a poet, he was early
associated with the southern Fugitive movement and
continued to write poetry that, while concerned with the
burdens of history and aware of the darkness in human
nature, affirms nature and human life. He is best known
for his novel, All the King's Men, whose protagonist, a
Louisiana politician reminiscent of Huey Long, combines
innocence and guilt, ideals and corruption.
84. Edith Wharton (1862-1937).
House of Mirth; Age of Innocence. An observer of high
society, Wharton's witty, satiric portrayal of social
nuance has introduced many readers to the Gilded Age.
Lily Bart is a social climber, doomed by a rigid,
censorious society in House of Mirth. In Age of
Innocence, Newland Archer is torn between his love for
the unconventional Countess Olenska and his timid but
determined wife, May, who with the authority of society
keeps Newland within the finely calibrated lines of
85. Charles Williams
(1886-1945). This member of the Oxford "Inklings" was a
close friend of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. He
wrote a series of seven strange novels, sometimes
referred to as "theological thrillers." The most
remarkable of these is Descent Into Hell, which charts
the opposing paths of damnation and redemption for two
central characters. In exploring the process of
redemption, Williams develops his notion of
"coinherence," or the doctrine of substitutionary love.
86. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941).
To the Lighthouse. This work is one of Woolf's most
successful modernist experiments in
stream-of-consciousness. Male and female become
complementary principles in her portrayals of an
intuitive, nurturing woman, Mrs. Ramsey, and her
husband, an academic philosopher. Their summer home in
the Hebrides brings together their large family of
children and numerous colleagues. One guest, Lily
Briscoe, is a painter troubled by a sense of inadequacy
as artist and as woman. By the conclusion, however, she
provides a synthesis of male and female qualities. "I
have had my vision," she declares, as with a stroke she
completes the design of a painting.
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19th Century Prose Non-Fiction
87. Frederick Douglass
(1818?-95). Born into slavery, Douglass became the major
voice of African-American experience in the 19th
century. His major work, Narrative of the Life of
Frederick Douglass, recounts his childhood in slavery
and his growing hunger for freedom as a young man. His
path to freedom and self-respect parallels his teaching
himself how to read and learning how to make a living
wage. Douglass rails against the so-called
"Christianity" that could condone slavery, but he does
come to discover a true Christianity that values every
human being as made in the image of God.
88. Ralph Waldo Emerson
(1803-1882). Emerson became the center of a New England
group known as the Transcendentalists and helped to
inspire a generation of writers whose brilliant work
transformed American literature. He inspired confidence
in human nature by declaring that all people possess a
divine soul that links them with ultimate Truth or "the
Oversoul." In "Self Reliance," he challenged individuals
to avoid conformity and to pursue the Truth knowable
intuitively through their own souls. His "American
Scholar Address" called upon American writers to express
what is uniquely American rather than imitating British
89. Henry David Thoreau
(1817-1862). Walden. Building a house is analogous to
building a life, proclaimed Thoreau, as he picked up an
ax in 1845 and began an experiment in living at Walden
Pond. Challenging the American success ethic, he
simplified his life, eliminating all material goods
beyond those required to meet basic needs. Walden is
both an investigation of values and an enjoyable account
of living a contemplative life in the woods. In "Civil
Disobedience," Thoreau challenges readers to passively
resist the machinery of government when it acts in
violation of universal truth.
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20th Century Non-Fiction
90. G. K. Chesterton
(1874-1936). In his wit, erudition, and brilliant prose
style, Chesterton is a major Christian apologist. No one
can compete with him in the blending of hilarious
exuberance with theological argument. Orthodoxy is his
early statement of faith. The Everlasting Man is a later
defense of orthodox Christianity, less lively, but more
systematic than Orthodoxy. A prolific journalist and
essayist, he waged a tireless battle in the public press
against the increasing secularism of his age. His
fictional works blend a rollicking plot with spiritual
symbolism; the best of these is the double-agent spoof
called The Man Who Was Thursday. His delightful short
mysteries known as the Father Brown stories feature an
unprepossessing Catholic priest as a very different kind
of Sherlock Holmes.
91. Annie Dillard (1945- ). In
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Dillard makes the leap of faith
to acknowledge the existence of God as author of an
extraordinary creation that both astonishes and repulses
us. In sometimes breathless prose, her essays challenge
us to open our eyes even though what we see may shock
us. A giant water-bug sucking the life out of a frog,
parasitic worms emerging from amazing life cycles, the
bloody paw prints of a fighting tom cat, the "fecundity"
of barnacles all become sources of fascination and
92. Thomas Merton (1915-1968).
Originally a poet, Merton established his international
reputation with the publication of his spiritual
autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain. In it he tells of
his spiritual awakening while participating in a retreat
at a Cistercian Abbey near Louisville, Kentucky.
Converting to Catholicism, he became a monk in the
silent Trappist order. His work conveys the beauties and
challenges of the silent, contemplative life. In later
years he became interested in correspondences between
Eastern and Western religious traditions, as revealed in
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton.
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Drama (since 1800)
93. Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).
This Irish novelist-turned-playwright is the most famous
writer in the genre known as Theatre of the Absurd.
Waiting for Godot depicts two tramps on a country road
in the middle of nowhere waiting for a man named Godot
who will surely give them instructions. He never comes,
but they continue to wait, filling their time with
conversational banter-sometimes comic, sometimes
religious, always poetic in a spare, absurdist style.
Endgame is an even bleaker play about four characters
slowly dying in a shelter long after some catastrophe
has destroyed the outside world.
94. Anton Chekhov (1860-1904).
Russian playwright and short story writer of the late
19th /early 20th century, Chekhov is the epitome of
psychological realism in drama. His four full-length
plays: The Seagull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, and The
Cherry Orchard, all depict multi-dimensioned characters
caught in a time of difficult social and political
transitions in pre-revolutionary Russia. Because of the
exquisitely detailed layering effects of his
characterizations, actors consider Chekhov's plays the
highest challenge to their art. Constantin Stanislavski
created a new acting "method" to perform Chekhov's work.
95. T. S. Eliot (1888-1964).
Eliot, of course, was the foremost poet of the 1st half
of the 20th century. He also wrote five plays, including
The Cocktail Party and Murder in the Cathedral. The
latter, about the assassination of Archbishop Thomas
Becket in 1170, is considered the greatest verse drama
of the 20th century. In dazzling choral and dramatic
poetry, it explores the meaning of faith and martyrdom
as Thomas struggles to resist the Four Tempters,
especially the last, who tempts him to commit "the
greatest treason:/ To do the right deed for the wrong
reason": to pursue martyrdom for his own glory.
96. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(1749-1832). Faust. In Goethe's lifelong emphasis on
growth, change, and striving to understand the world, he
is himself a Faustian man, exemplifying the modern
Western Weltanschauung (world-view). In retelling the
legend of a man who sells his soul to the devil for
power, Goethe sets his Faust on a cosmic stage. The two
parts of this epic play portray changing visions of
life: first, the individual's ambition and
disillusionment with the promise of redemption through
love; second, the great Western post-Renaissance world
in a kind of historical, challenging phantasmagoria.
97. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906).
This Norwegian playwright of the late 19th century is
considered the father of realism in modern drama. He
daringly peeled back the layers of Victorian
respectability to explore onstage the social problems of
his day, including venereal disease in Ghosts, and the
repression of women in A Doll's House. His play An Enemy
of the People features a doctor who defies the vested
interests of local businessmen to publish information
about the infected hot springs of their resort town (the
role Ibsen saw himself playing in his society). Hedda
Gabler provides one of the most intriguing female
characters in modern literature. All his characters find
themselves trapped in a society that would shape them in
98. Arthur Miller (1915- ).
Considered the dean of living American playwrights,
Miller wrote powerful realistic plays that address
social issues, much in the style of Ibsen. His most
significant works include All My Sons (about a
manufacturer of defective airplane parts), Death of a
Salesman (about a traveling salesman who is crushed by
his inability to keep up with the modern world), and The
Crucible (about the Salem witch trials of 1692). In
these last two plays, his characters Willy Loman and
John Proctor have achieved archetypal status in American
99. Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953).
American playwright O'Neill experimented with a wide
range of dramatic forms, but the style for which he is
best known is his tragic realism. Among his most
significant works in this genre are Desire Under the
Elms, The Iceman Cometh, Mourning Becomes Electra (a
trilogy of plays set after the American Civil War and
based on Aeschylus' Oresteia), and his masterpiece, A
Long Day's Journey Into Night (a largely
autobiographical play). In most of these works, O'Neill
raises serious theological questions concerning the
nature of good and evil, God, and man.
100. Luigi Pirandello
(1867-1936). In challenging the conventions of
theatrical realism, this Italian playwright became the
precursor of theatre of the absurd. His most famous play
is Six Characters in Search of an Author, in which he
explores and calls into question the nature both of the
theatre itself and of the "reality" it purports to
101. George Bernard Shaw
(1856-1950). Shaw lived 94 years and wrote over 50
full-length plays. His comic realism, biting wit, and
radical social and political views earned him a place as
the pesky gadfly of British society throughout his life.
His major works include Major Barbara (which pits the
Salvation Army against the modern military/industrial
complex), Pygmalion (the basis for the musical My Fair
Lady), Arms and the Man (a comic anti-war play), The
Devil's Disciple (about the American Revolution), Man
and Superman (exploring his notion of the Life Force),
and what some consider his masterpiece, Saint Joan, for
which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1925.
102. Tom Stoppard (1937- ).
Stoppard is the most prolific and influential of
contemporary British playwrights. From Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern Are Dead (his absurdist take on Hamlet) in
1966 to The Real Thing in 1982 to Arcadia in 1992 to his
screenplay for Shakespeare in Love in 1997, Stoppard has
combined a considerable intellect with a virtuosic wit
and an experimentation with theatrical form that make
his work challenging, entertaining, and deeply
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19th Century Poetry
103. Charles Baudelaire
(1821-67). One of the greatest French poets of the 19th
century, Baudelaire was also an important critic, a
translator of Edgar Allan Poe's tales, and an influence
on the later Symbolist movement. He is best known for
his collection, The Flowers of Evil, in which he tries
to produce beauty and harmony by discovering hidden
"correspondences" in a world that otherwise appears
ugly. His emphasis on loneliness, isolation, evil, and
boredom anticipates much of 20th century poetry.
104. Robert Browning (1812-89).
Browning, the sanest of poets, characteristically
depicts states of mind that are unhealthy and often
insane. His specialty is the dramatic monologue, a form
that was not particularly popular with his Victorian
contemporaries, but which earned him immense respect in
later decades. Like the 20th century poets that he
anticipated, Browning typically exposes the devious
workings and complex motives of the human mind.
Nonetheless, the energy and vitality of his poems
reflect his essential Victorianism.
105. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
(1772-1834). Close friend of Wordsworth and co-founder
with him of the romantic movement in English poetry,
Coleridge also made significant contributions to
literary criticism and theory. His most famous
poetry-including "Kubla Khan," "Christabel," and "Rime
of the Ancient Mariner"-evidences a fascination with the
exotic and the supernatural as well as a profound
Christian mystical sensibility. His work also
demonstrates an almost magical use of words to evoke
106. Emily Dickinson (1830-86).
Although she only published a few poems in her lifetime,
Dickinson is recognized as one of the greatest American
poets. Freely varying the hymn stanza common in her
time, Dickinson wrote condensed poems that open out on
huge subjects such as God, death, immortality, love,
loss, grief, and depression. A nonconformist, Dickinson
questioned her society's conventions regarding art,
women, marriage, and religion. As for the latter, her
work often explores the possibilities and
impossibilities of belief. Her work is best approached
in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, which
preserves her capitalization and punctuation.
107. Gerard Manley Hopkins
(1844-89). At the time of his death the poetry of this
Jesuit priest was essentially unknown, but in 1918
Hopkins' friend Poet Laureate Robert Bridges introduced
it to the world and it became a major influence on 20th
century poetry. Hopkins was a true original in style.
His godly discipline and holy acuteness produced poetry
that is among the most challenging and spiritually
rewarding ever written.
108. John Keats (1795-1821).
Though he died at the young age of 25, Keats made some
of the most remarkable contributions to English romantic
poetry. His most significant poems include his series of
odes, especially "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a
Grecian Urn," both of which evidence his recurring theme
that "a thing of beauty is a joy forever." Other
significant works include The Eve of St. Agnes, an
exquisitely crafted neo-gothic poem, and his collected
letters, in which he explicates some of his literary
109. Christina Rossetti
(1830-94). Christina Rossetti, now regarded as the
greatest female poet of the 19th century, displays a
sensitivity to physical beauty that is informed by a
profoundly Christian spirituality. Some critics have
seen the strong religious commitment that characterized
her life and art as curtailment of her creativity. No
such curtailment is apparent, however, in her more than
900 poems that include merry lyrics, narrative fables,
ballads, introspective studies, and devotional verse.
She has become increasingly admired for her subtle and
eloquent portrayal of the dilemmas with which women
110. Alfred, Lord Tennyson
(1809-92). Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson was
unquestionably the poetic spokesperson of the Victorian
age. Remarkable for the melodious quality of his verse
and for a strong identification with the emotional
issues of his day, Tennyson was more greatly loved in
his own lifetime than any other English poet. His
masterpieces include Idylls of the King, a twelve-poem
sequence on the Arthurian legend, and In Memoriam, a
long poem sequence that explores the pain of bereavement
and the impact of Darwinian determinism on Christian
faith and the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.
Paradoxically, Tennyson's depiction of religious doubt
is ultimately an adventure in faith.
111. Walt Whitman (1819-1892).
His anthology of poems, Leaves of Grass, written in
sweeping lines of free verse, revolutionized the
practice of poetry. Believing that the user of words
uses things, this American Romantic created huge
"catalogues" of concrete imagery in "Song of Myself" to
celebrate the diversity of life in all of its beauty and
crudeness. Convinced that our senses serve as pathways
to the soul, he challenged Victorian prudery. "When
Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," written in
commemoration of Lincoln's assassination, portrays the
process of mourning, and suggests that Death is but one
phase of Life.
112. William Wordsworth
(1770-1850). The father of English romanticism,
Wordsworth is revered both for the conversational
intimacy of his poetic style and for his spiritual
experience of the transcendent in his personal
encounters with nature. "Lines Written Above Tintern
Abbey" expresses most memorably his romantic
spirituality. The Prelude is his lengthy
autobiographical poem, in which he recounts the various
"spots of time"-primarily experiences in nature-that
shaped his soul. His publication of the Lyrical Ballads
with Coleridge in 1798 revolutionized English poetry.
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20th Century Poetry
113. W. H. Auden (1907-73).
When he first began publishing in England in the 1920s,
Auden's poetry reflected his sympathy with left-wing
politics, especially in its concern for preserving
"private spheres" in the midst of "public chaos" and its
resistance to totalitarianism. In the 1940s Auden
converted to Christianity (and also became a U.S.
citizen) and his work from that time on is increasingly
Christian in tone. In addition to poetry, he wrote a
number of plays and librettos. His writing strongly
influenced succeeding generations of poets.
114. Elizabeth Bishop
(1911-79). Although American born, Bishop lived her
earliest years in Nova Scotia and a large portion of her
adult life in Brazil. She consistently employed images
of geography and travel, beginning with her first book,
North & South and continuing through her last, Geography
III. Renowned for the clarity of her descriptions,
Bishop writes poems that are clear as a still pool and
as deep and refreshing. Her poems enact her repeated
efforts to come to know a world of things and people
that both invites and resists the self.
115. T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). A
leading 20th century poet, Eliot was by turns a leader
of literary modernism and one of the great Christian
poets. In its apparent formlessness, along with its
themes of deadness, decline, and brokenness, Eliot's The
Waste Land expressed the fragmentation and alienation
felt by a whole generation. In such a world, it was the
burden of the individual consciousness, especially the
poet's, to create order. Following his conversion to
Christianity, Eliot wrote his second great long poem,
Four Quartets, in which he explores a source of order
outside the self: the Logos, Christ.
116. Robert Frost (1874-1963).
Frost is one of the best-loved American poets. His main
technical achievement was capturing the words and
rhythms of spoken language, especially that of rural New
England, while writing in traditional verse forms. His
poems delight with their accessible subjects: walks in
the woods, physical labor, trees and flowers, young
love, love gone awry, and married life. At the same
time, these poems, though leavened with humor, offer a
tough-minded exploration of the struggle for existence
in a world that Frost often finds hostile and chaotic.
117. Seamus Heaney (1939- ).
Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, Heaney may be the best
poet writing in English today. He writes primarily in
traditional forms and with a lyrical grace reminiscent
of Yeats and Frost. Although not obsessed with the
politics of Northern Ireland, he does not avoid them;
rather they enter his poetry as part of the fabric of
daily life. This focus on human experience, love and
loss and work and memory, as well as the Irish
countryside makes his poetry profound. His collection,
Seeing Things, could stand for his whole work, which
records his ability to see the extraordinary in the
ordinary. Heaney recently published a highly acclaimed
translation of Beowulf.
118. Langston Hughes (1902-67).
The leading African-American poet of the 20th century,
Hughes rose to prominence during the 1920s Harlem
Renaissance. He draws on spirituals, blues, and jazz in
shaping the content and form of his work. His poetry
provides a realistic expression of African-American
experience: sorrow and joy, suffering and celebration,
fatigue and fortitude, bitter anger and, in varying
degrees, hope for the future. In addition to poetry,
Hughes wrote essays and fiction and was an important
119. Federico Garcia Lorca
(1898-1936). This Spanish poet and playwright's
folkloric themes and rich imagery, inspired by
Andalusian gypsy music, earned him the admiration of
many American poets. Even without recognizing the
cultural meanings of his symbols, Americans can enjoy
the texture and lyricism of his work. Images of death
prevail. In "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias" he
portrays the death of the bullfighter, a personal
friend. Blood Wedding (Bodas de sangre), part of a
folkdrama trilogy, is a powerful poetic tragedy. Lorca's
own life ended violently. He was shot without trial by
Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.
120. Robert Lowell (1917-77).
Descendant of prominent Bostonians on both sides of his
family, Lowell became one of the leading American poets
after World War II. Thematically his work concerns
itself with history, private and public; stylistically
it reflects many of the shifting concerns of postwar
verse. In his early work, Lowell criticizes society for
its militarism and materialism. With Life Studies,
Lowell helped inaugurate the confessional movement. In
his later sonnet sequences, he attempts to arrest
moments in the flux of temporal experience. Throughout
his work, he recognizes the potential for violence and
evil in society and the individual.
121. Pablo Neruda (1904-1973).
Known as the Picasso of poetry, this Chilean poet wrote
short, intense lyrics (Twenty Love Songs and a Song of
Despair) as well as political meditations and epics (The
Heights of Macchu Picchu). Traveling widely as a
diplomat and political activist, Neruda exemplifies the
committed poet; he also is a kind of surrealist of the
122. Rainer Maria Rilke
(1875-1926). Rilke is the most important lyric poet of
20th century Germany. His earliest work, marked by a
subjective emotionalism, gave way by 1907 to a more
objective work. His greatest achievements include The
Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus. In the former,
written during World War I, he searches for a
satisfactory spiritual position in a decaying reality.
In Sonnets he presents the jubilant outcome of that
123. Wallace Stevens
(1875-1955). Insurance executive by day and poet by
night, Stevens ranks as one of the great modernist
American poets. Combining lush language with philosophic
speculation, his work explores the relationships among
mind, nature, and imagination. More specifically he
contemplates what might take the place of religion in a
post-religious age, given the need to believe and the
conviction that there is nothing to believe. As such his
work is a record of his profound wrestling with a
central problem of our age.
124. William Carlos Williams
(1883-1963). A leading American modernist, Williams
experimented endlessly with free verse and sought to get
the "American idiom" into poetry. A physician, Williams
brought a tactile and visual sensibility to his poetry,
which celebrates the things of the world, focusing on
what is often overlooked. Best known for such short
lyrics as "The Red Wheel Barrow" and "Spring and All,"
he also wrote stories, novels, plays, and a long poem,
Paterson, which combines his interest in place,
language, and the imagination's revitalizing power.
Neglected early on, he received recognition late in his
career and influenced many of today's poets.
125. William Butler Yeats
(1865-1939). One of the greatest 20th century poets who
wrote in English, the Irish-born Yeats was a nationalist
who helped create an Irish national theater. A master of
traditional verse forms, he ranges over such subjects as
mythical Irish figures, the struggle for independence,
love, and aging. His poems reflect his vision of history
as a cycle of birth followed by hardening, then violent
destruction, presaging a rebirth (see especially "The
Second Coming"). As such it testifies to the modernist
feeling of an old order undone through violence and the
mixture of hope and fear as the world waits to see what
new order will be born.
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Addendum: In addition to the classic authors
noted above, members of the English faculty recommend
the following contemporary novelists and poets for their
literary treatment of ethical and spiritual issues:
1. Frederick Buechner (1926- ).
Ordained Presbyterian minister and writer, Buechner has
written novels, memoir and theology. Whether about the
evangelist, Leo Bebb, or medieval saints (such as the
Pulitzer-Prize winning Godric, and Brendan), or the
biblical Jacob (The Son of Laughter), his novels explore
two themes: the challenge of living by faith and the
power of God's grace to work in and through fallen
individuals. His memoirs trace these themes in his own
life, and his accessible theological works offer a
novelist's fresh language and perspective on old truths.
2. A.S. Byatt (1936- ).
Possession. In this Booker Prize-winning novel, a
frustrated graduate student gains possession of a letter
that blows apart established scholarly views of two
famous Victorian poets. This literary sleuth story
becomes an extraordinary exercise in postmodern writing.
It is a pastiche of voices drawn from folklore,
Victorian poetry, modern critical theory, and personal
letters. Two romances emerge-one from a collection of
Victorian letters and the other between the modern
students of the letters. In a parody of Victorian plots,
Byatt's conclusion playfully stitches together the
novel's many pieces.
3. Umberto Eco (1932- ).
Italian philosopher and semiotician, Eco has also
written challenging but fascinating novels that merge
profound philosophical themes with extremely complex
mystery plots. The Name of the Rose (made into a major
film starring Sean Connery) is a murder mystery in a
medieval monastery involving the quest for Aristotle's
lost treatise on Comedy. Foucault's Pendulum involves a
dizzying international quest in the postmodern world to
uncover the activities of the ancient Knights Templar.
4. Susan Howatch (1940- ).
Howatch is an English author with an international
following for her mastery of the genres of the
historical romance and the family saga. After her
conversion to Christianity, she began a series of six
novels on the Church of England, all set in the
fictional cathedral town of Starbridge. Beginning with
Glittering Images and concluding with Absolute Truths,
these novels reveal Howatch's deep interest in theology
as well as a remarkable ability to weave those interests
into intriguing plots and engaging characters. She is
unflinching in her realistic portraits of the spiritual
warfare of the soul.
5. John Irving (1942 - ). A
Prayer for Owen Meany. Rich in quirky, sometimes
irreverent humor yet serious in theme, this novel is a
favorite of college students. Owen, a diminutive boy
with a weird voice and a creative mind, grows up with a
strange sense of his destiny. A vision he had while
playing a role in Dickens' Christmas Carol convinces him
he will meet an early but meaningful death that somehow
involves his friend Johnny. Both boys must come of age
in the Vietnam era before Owen's destiny is disclosed.
The novel explores both the ironies and miracles of
6. Kazuo Ishiguro (1954- ). In
Remains of the Day, Ishiguro, a Japanese-born British
author, portrays an elderly British butler who is
convinced that his years of devoted service in a British
country house have given him the satisfaction of a life
well lived. Readers begin to see through the
first-person narrator's facade, as he struggles to
maintain his professionalism on the night of his
father's death, rebuffs the opportunity for a personal
relationship, and refuses to question his employer's
negotiations with Nazi Germans.
7. Bobbie Ann Mason (1940- ).
Shiloh and Other Stories. In a collection of
well-crafted stories, Mason portrays the hopes, dreams,
and personal relationships of working class Kentuckians
in an era of shopping malls and super-highways.
8. Farley Mowat (1921- ).
Canadian writer Farley Mowat is world-renowned for his
passionate tales of adventure and survival. Although
some of his books are loosely fictionalized, his work is
firmly grounded in the reality of his ardent love of
nature and his own exploration of realms that are
geographically or historically remote. His best known
works include Never Cry Wolf and A Whale for the Killing
(focusing on animal life), West Viking (dealing with
early Viking exploration), and And No Birds Sang
(recounting his own war experiences).
9. Kathleen Norris (1947- ).
Norris rose to fame in 1993 with the publication of
Dakota: a Spiritual Geography, which explores the
bittersweet relationship between people and land in the
region that contains Norris's family roots and that has
now become her home. Her next book The Cloister Walk, a
New York Times Best-Seller, reveals the common ground of
faith over a broad expanse from a Benedictine monastery
to a small town Presbyterian church. Amazing Grace, a
thoughtful and inspiring look at the language of faith,
was named Book of the Year by the Association of
10. Tim O'Brien (1946- ). Going
After Cacciato, winner of the 1978 National Book Award,
portrays the fears and dreams of the men in an American
detachment pursuing a young soldier who has gone AWOL.
O'Brien's remarkable interweaving of varied
points-of-view and time reveals his characters'
capacities for both heroism and cowardliness. Realistic
scenes of war's atrocities are alleviated by an extended
fantasy enjoyed by one soldier, Paul Berlin. He plays
through a narrative that they will walk right out of the
war zone after Cacciato, all the way to Paris.
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11. Michael Ondaatje (1943- ).
The English Patient. The language of this war novel is
rich in poetry. Point of view flows backwards and
forwards in time and among characters who are thrown
together in a ruined Italian villa, infested with
land-mines, in the final days of WWII. At the center of
their lives is the scorched, bandaged body of a dying
man with a remarkable story of his own. The work
reflects on love, history, war, nationalism, the
beauties of the desert, and the quest for meaning.
Ondaatje is an acclaimed poet as well as fiction writer.
12. Chaim Potok (1929- ). The
Chosen. Raised in a fundamentalist Hasidic community,
Potok's novels illustrate the conflict when a closed
culture (Hasidim) comes into contact with a culture
governed by a different set of values. In this coming of
age story, Danny and Rueven's unlikely friendship
enables them to find their own synthesis of the Jewish
13. Salman Rushdie (1947- ).
Midnight's Children. Rushdie is a major Indian writer
who humorously treats excesses of authoritarianism. His
mischievous improvisation leads readers through
complicated discursive mazes. This mockingly satiric
style has angered some audiences (Satanic Verses was
banned, and a fatwa sent Rushdie into hiding.) His blend
of history and fantasy is akin to magic realism.
14. Luci Shaw (1931- ). Shaw is
the most accomplished of contemporary Christian poets.
She graduated from Wheaton College in 1953, and since
1971 she has published eight volumes of verse; three are
anthologies including the work of a number of poets,
five are comprised solely of her own poems. Her mind is
sensitive to the Spirit of God and to the world around
her, but it is also tough and exact.
15. Amy Tan (1952- ).
Asian-American Tan in The Joy Luck Club presents the
stories of four mothers and daughters trying to
communicate across barriers of both generation and
culture. The mothers' tales take us into the world of
Chinese folklore, family pride, arranged marriages and
Japanese invasion. With good reason, the mothers fear
that their Coca-Cola-drinking American-born daughters
can never understand their heritage. Yet the daughters'
stories reveal their mothers' impact on their lives.
16. James Wright (1927-80).
After serving in the army, Wright attended college on
the GI bill and began publishing poetry in 1957. Born
and raised in the Ohio River valley, Wright's working
class roots shaped his concern with those whose lives do
not match the American dream and his sense of the
American landscape as a spoiled Eden. An alternate
concern is his celebration of nature's beauty and
self-rejuvenating power. His final work balances his
denunciation of the destructive tendencies in American
society with a hard-won affirmation of life.
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Last Updated: 11/01/2006