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Is it sci-fi? Is it literary fiction? Who cares! It’s amazing. Butler’s legendary collection of stories about aliens, people with mysterious illnesses and gifts, and futuristic and parallel worlds has as much to say about human nature as 10 realist novels.
Cather’s classic masterpiece tells the story of two American children who are brought into the Wild West in the late 1800s. Nebraska changes them forever. The novel also changed literature’s vision of America’s pioneering past.
The White Album
In her seminal second collection, which profiles America in the ’60s and ’70s, Didion sweepingly redefines the capabilities of the contemporary essay, blurring the lines between journalism and memoir and shaking the earth with her incredible deadpan sentences.
Notes from the Underground
Philosophical ramblings? Wise madness? Often referred to as one of the first existentialist works, this innovative novella by Dostoevsky still crackles with wit and power.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tales of the Jazz Age
Fitzgerald’s classic collection of stories enshrined an opulent era in America’s past. It features some of the author’s best-loved tales—including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”—stories that have almost become parts of American mythology.
This classic 1857 novel about a woman bent on escaping the boredom of her small-town life caused an uproar. Flaubert was tried for obscenity, and the story is no less hair-raising today.
Get lost in James’s labyrinthine sentences in one of his most overtly political novels, the story of a trio of characters whose lives are upended by the feminist movement in late 19th-century Boston.
The Ice Storm
Moody’s legendary debut novel—which was adapted into an acclaimed 1997 film— follows two families trapped by an ice storm in the early ’70s. Unraveling family dynamics and the politics of the sexual revolution heat things up, no matter the weather.
An Unofficial Rose
A twisting tale of marriage, adultery, and thwarted longing, Murdock’s masterful sixth novel asks impossible questions about love and freedom.
Winner of the National Book Award, Percy’s first and best-known novel follows Binx Bolling, a lost soul living in postwar New Orleans. Fighting the demons of his past, he seeks solace in movies, which often feel more real to him than his life.
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Image credit: Unsplash/James Tarbotton.