To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

Candide

by Voltaire

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Candide is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: or, Optimism (1947). It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply "optimism") by his mentor, Professor Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating a deeply practical 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 characterised by its sarcastic tone as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot.

 

The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho

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Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an Alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a meditation on the treasures found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is art eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson

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Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

Siddhartha

by Hermann Hesse

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Though set in a place and time far removed from the Germany of 1922, the year of the book’s debut, the novel is infused with the sensibilities of Hermann Hesse’s time, synthesizing disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for meaning.

 

The Count of Monte Cristo

by Alexandre Dumas

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This beloved novel tells the story of Edmond Dantès, wrongfully imprisoned for life in the supposedly impregnable sea fortress, the Château d’If. After a daring escape, and after unearthing a hidden treasure revealed to him by a fellow prisoner, he devotes the rest of his life to tracking down and punishing the enemies who wronged him. Though a brilliant storyteller, Dumas was given to repetitions and redundancies; this slightly streamlined version of the original 1846 English translation speeds the narrative flow while retaining most of the rich pictorial descriptions and all the essential details of Dumas’s intricately plotted and thrilling masterpiece.

 

The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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"The Little Prince" was published in 1943 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is a poetic tale in which a pilot strands in the desert and meets a young prince fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. The story is philosophical and includes social criticism, remarking on the strangeness of the adult world. While it looks like a children's book, it targets adult relationships with deep thoughts on how adults perceive life and each other. "Children should show great understanding towards grown-ups."