The Albion Beatnik Bookstore website (or how a bookshop can change a light bulb)

The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: is randomly decrepid and is neo-bankrupt: is so analogue it's anal.

Lists Galore: 1/ Favourite American Novels of the Early Twentieth Century

To make the autodidact completely at home in the Albion Beatnik, here’s a pointless list of twentieth century American novels we think you should have read. Sometimes they are even on our shelves. We list until 1960; then the jury is still out on who is in…

the 19OOs and the dawn of a new century

call.wildThe Call Of The Wild   [1903]
Jack London   (1876-1916)
Buck, a dog born to luxury, was kidnapped, beaten and sold before escaping captivity. Set in the Alaska Gold Rush, this is his fight for survival. Buck is based on a dog London once befriended, was first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in 1900.

The Circular Staircase   [1908]
Mary Roberts Rinehart   (1876-1958)
A rented summerhouse, mysterious rooms and staircases, things bumping in the night, general creepiness and a formidable woman who refuses to leave. When a murder occurs she turns detective to protect her niece and nephew. Rinehart was sometimes favourably compared to Agatha Christie and was as prolific.

NH-Jungle-SinclairThe Jungle   [1906]
Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)
Sinclair was an advocate of political reform. This novel – at times written in journalistic style – portrays poverty stricken and cheated Lithuanian refugees trying to survive in the Chicago jungle, and reveals the economic, social and political life of the city.

The Virginian   [1902]
Owen Wister   (1860-1938)
Regarded by many as the finest of the Western genre, this novel depicts a Wyoming ranching world seen from the outside. Its strong characters have since become stereotyped, but the originals are here to be exploited.

A Girl Of The Limberlost   [1909]
Gene Stratton Porter (1863-1924)
A charming period piece that sets on a pedestal its too-good-to-be-true youthful heroine. It contains a wealth of natural history – the plants and moths grown in the Indiana swamps.

the 191Os, full of hope and progressive ideals

Winesburg, Ohio   [1919]
Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941)
Powerful short tales about people with simple and unfulfilled dreams in a small Midwestern town, told through the eyes of a reporter.

ridersRiders Of The Purple Sage   [1912]
Zane Grey   (1872-1939)
This was the first western to hit the best-seller lists, a classic tale of good and evil: wealthy rancher Jane Withersteen versus the might of the elders of the Mormon Church. This is a book full of action and excitement, with majestic landscape to the fore.

You Know Me Al   [1916]
Ring Lardner   (1885-1933)
A talented baseball pitcher, boastful and stupid, Jack Keefe moves into the major baseball league, but is unwittingly naïve. Chicago sportswriter Lardner wrote skilfully, with wit and colloquialism.

The Magnificent Ambersons   [1916]
Booth Tarkington   (1869-1946)
Relatively unknown today, Tarkington was twice awarded the Pulitzer prize. Set in the late nineteenth-century and a Midwestern pastoral town which, with the development of industry, evolves into a decayed and dirty place, and is forced to adapt in order to survive: wait for the happy ending.

the 192Os, speakeasies and jazz

Early Autumn: A Story Of A Lady   [1926]
Louis Bromfield   (1896-1956)
A well-plotted story of a lady trapped in a loveless marriage. Bring in two distant relatives, add a scandal from the past, and stir.

Death Comes For The Archbishop   [1927]
Willa Cather   (1873-1947)
The first Bishop of New Mexico, Father Latour, and his cleric toured on donkeys as missionaries to the Mexicans and the goldfields of Colorado under conditions of great hardship.

dreiserAn American Tragedy   [1925]
Theodore Dreiser   (1871-1945)
The son of Kansas City street evangelists goes off the rails and muddles through his young life, on the way killing a girl in a stolen car crash. After fleeing to New York and working for his uncle, he plans his pregnant girl friend’s death. In the end she is accidentally drowned, but his past catches up with him and he is condemned to death.

Babbitt   [1922]
Sinclair Lewis   (1885-1951)
The dictionary definition of babbitt is a business person who conforms unthinkingly and complacently to prevailing middle-class standards of respectability, who makes a cult of material success, and is contemptuous of or incapable of appreciating artistic or intellectual values. This is a satirical portrayal of a man – and indeed a town – obsessed by capitalism and the ‘values’ of the market place.

So Big   [1924]
Edna Ferber   (1887-1968)
A rags-to-riches story of a son born to a poor widow, Selina, who works a worthless Illinois farm in order to give her son a chance in life. A trained architect, he goes for money and switches to banking. Ferber believed the honest man tills the soil, and that urban surroundings corrupt the soul.

Gatsby_1925_jacketThe Great Gatsby   [1925]
F. Scott Fitzgerald   (1896-1940)
Some say the finest American novel of the twentieth-century. It reflects the Jazz Age with all the froth and candyfloss of the rich with vivid prose.

Smoky, The Cowhorse   [1926]
Will James   (1892-1942)
Suitable for adults or children, an animal story told through the mouth of the main character himself, a pony called Smoky, who, before returning to the only master he loved and acknowledged, went through many adventures with (and ill treatment from) Clint the Cowboy, who tagged him and used him as a cow pony.

marquisArchy and Mehitabel   [1927]
Don Marquis   (1878-1937)
Archy, a cockroach, is the narrator who becomes philosophical and pessimistic about modern civilisation, and disapproves of Mehitabel the alley cat, whose downfall is precipitated by her attraction to disreputable tomcats. The novel uses humourous verse.

The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre     [1927]
B. Traven   (1890-1969)
A great adventure story, incorporating gold and greed; good is rewarded and evil punished. Dialogue and characters do not always fit, but “what happens next?” prevails.

The Age Of Innocence   [1920]
Edith Wharton   (1862-1937)
In an age of innocence Newland Archer has to choose between his ‘acceptable’ fiancée and the sudden return of the Countess Ellen Olenska, mysterious and non-conformist. It is set in upper class New York and the characters are very real.

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey   [1927]
Thornton Wilder   (1897-1975)
The journeys of five disparate people end at the Bridge of San Luis Rey in Peru, where the footbridge collapses and kills all. Accident or predestermined? The question is answered for witness Brother Juniper by the end of the book.

TheSoundAndTheFuryCoverThe Sound And The Fury   [1929]
William Faulkner   (1897-1962)
A blackly humorous book, and Faulkner’s own favourite. It chronicles the decline of the Compson family, told by three brothers and their black servant.

Look Homeward, Angel   [1929]
Thomas Wolfe   (1900-1938)
Eugene Gant, youngest of nine children and born in 1900: this is the story of a bickering and stressful family, and the successful attempts of Eugene to escape, attend school and, eventually, Harvard. The book mirrors Wolfe’s own experience.

the 193Os and the Great Depression 

Anthony Adverse   [1933]
Hervey Allen   (1889-1949)
A baby is abandoned, to be raised by nuns and the parish priest. After being banished from the convent for unintentionally seeing a nun without her headband, he travels widely, is captured in Texas by Mexican soldiers, but rescued by a prison visitor, whom he marries, and lives happily ever after.

buckThe Good Earth     [1931]
Pearl S. Buck   (1892-1973)
Wang Lung and his remarkable, resourceful wife O-lan struggle against grinding poverty, famine and floods in order to survive. Set against sweeping revolutionary change in early twentieth-century China, it hardly intrudes into their lives. The characters are drawn with sensitivity and reality.

The Postman Always Rings Twice     [1934]
James M. Cain   (1892-1977)
Although the twists and turns are known through the film, it is well written and suspenseful. It is the story of two amoral and unsavoury characters who get their just desserts in the end. The book was banned in Boston, due to the eroticism and violence, but it will not now shock to the same extent.

Tobacco Road   [1932]
Erskine Caldwell   (1903-1987)
These are the adventures of a shiftless family, who starve, fight and copulate in poverty on the Tobacco Road in Georgia. Caldwell gives the impression of absolute reality in a powerful novel of people caught up in a civilisation that ignores them.

The Big Sleep   [1939]
Raymond Chandler   (1888-1959) 
Introducing the street-wise detective with a penchant for one-liners (and a strong ethical streak), the hard-drinking and cigarette smoking Philip Marlowe. No bad guys with black hats, bent police, corrupt oficials, drifters, grafters, or pimps and peepers are tolerated by him. 1930s’ Los Angeles, with its smog, melodrama, hoodlum violence and blond bimbos, comes alive.

U.S.A. Trilogy   [1930-36]
John Don Passos  (1896-1970)
This is a trilogy containing The 42nd Parallel, 1919 and The Big Money, but each can be read alone. They are stories of a cross-section of a dozen characters, and chronicle the first thirty years of the American twentieth-century experience; a great piece of fiction, but at its heart it is reportage.

drumsThe Drums Along The Mohawk     [1936]
Walter Dumaux Edmonds   (1903-1998)
Fictional Gil Martin brings his young bride Lana to isolated Deerfield, and their story is told against the factual events of the American War of Independence. Edmonds depicts life as it was, even to the weather, and uses original letters and documents to report even-handedly the atrocities and destruction.

Studs Lonigan: A Trilogy   [1935]
James T. Farrell   (1904-1979)
A trilogy comprising Young Lonigan (1932), The Manhood of Studs Lonigan, (1934) and Judgment Day (1935). Studs is growing up in a low-income urban environment, and just can’t get to grips with his life. This is a sociological study of Chicago in the 1920s and 30s.

Vein Of Iron   [1935]
Ellen Glasgow   (1874-1945)
This book follows the life and marriage of Ralph and Ada, and their extended family, their early deprivation in the city, and final return to their land and house. The book contains many strong characters and fine descriptions of Virginia.

The Maltese Falcon [1930]
Dashiell Hammett   (1894-1961)
Voted by the Mystery Writers of America as the best hard-boiled novel of the twentieth-century. Sam Spade, grubby private investigator in a male, chauvinist world, solves problems by violence or threats of violence, using words just as effectively.

Lost Horizon     [1933]
James Hilton   (1900-1954)
From Webster’s Dictionary: Shangri-La ia an “imaginary mountain land depicted as a utopia … a remote beautiful imaginary place where life approaches perfection”. Four people are kidnapped in India and taken to bolster the gene pool of people at Shangri-La. This is the story of how they accept and conform, or rebel.

Gone_with_the_Wind_coverGone With The Wind   [1936]
Margaret Mitchell   (1900-1949)
With the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, this epic is a tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and a people forever changed. It is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett O’Hara and dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler. Margaret Mitchell’s only novel brought her fame, the Pulitzer Prize and Hollywood’s blessing. 

The Late George Apley   [1937]
John P. Marquand   (1893-1960)
Place: Boston. Period: 1866-1933. George Apley was a man of privilege and wealth, and his son John, is writing memoirs from family papers. The brash take-over Irish politicos at first become his enemies, but with decency and generosity he wins their sympathy.

Kitty Foyle   [1939]
Christopher Morley   (1890-1957)
This is life in the 1920s and 1930s from a husbandless working woman’s point of view. Kitty Foyle grew up in Philadelphia and Illinois, dropping out of college to nurse her widowed father. She eventually secures a job in a New York office during the depression, and her progress is charted here.

The Yearling   [1938]
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings   (1896-1953)
The Baxters are a self-sufficient family who has to learn to rub along and work with their hard-drinking neighbours, or go under with the hard life and surroundings. The son, Jody, has Flag, a fawn, to love and tend. This is a picture of a simple life lost long ago, and a novel for both adults and older children.

robertsNorthwest Passage   [1937]
Kenneth Roberts   (1885-1957)
A search for a route across the land to connect the Atlantic and Pacific, led by Robert Rogers and his Rangers. Rogers accomplishes the unbelievable, but we watch his ego destroy him. The book is in four parts: the 1759 expedition, an attempt in London to acquire backing to seek for the Northwest Passage, Rogers’ career as governor of Michillimackinac and his court marshal, and Towne’s success as a painter. 

The Grapes Of Wrath   [1939]
John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
When first published this book shocked; it remains the author’s true masterpiece. The Joad family is forced to travel west to survive, but their tale is one of false hopes and broken dreams.

The Day Of The Locust   [1939]
Nathaniel West (1903-1940)
A violent story, and in this case violence triumphs. Set in Hollywood, where reality and faced are often indistinguishable, West has a cast of surreal characters, seen through the eyes of a presumably normal bookkeeper from Iowa. Not for the timid.


the 194Os and the Second World War
 

For Whom The Bell Tolls     [1940]
Ernest Hemingway   (1900-1961)
In the pine forests of the Spanish Sierra, a guerrilla band prepares to blow up a vital bridge. Robert Jordan, a young American volunteer, is to handle the dynamiting. In the mountains he discovers the dangers and comradeship of war. He also discovers Maria, a young woman who has escaped from Franco’s rebels.

mccullersThe Heart Is A Lonely Hunter     [1940]
Carson McCullers   (1917-1967)
Deaf-mute John Singer lives in small town Georgia and is a man of mystical understanding and is sought after by neighbouring individuals, whose own problems are seemingly only quieted in the stillness and serenity of Singer’s boarding house room. This is a disturbing and perceptive study of loneliness.

Native Son     [1940]
Richard Wright (1908-1960)
Unemployed, ill-educated Bigger lives in Chicago. A wealthy white benefactor hires him as a handyman; he accidentally kills the man’s daughter, and then kills his sweetheart in one of their constant fights; he afterwards admits to himself that he is only fully alive when killing. He is tried, convicted and executed.

Kings Row     [1940]
Henry Bellamann   (1882-1945)
Kings Row is at first sight a pleasant town, but horror and tragedy lie under the surface for many pillars of society. Parris Mitchell returns to his roots as a psychiatrist, and reveals ever-increasing horrors within the community. This is the perfect potboiler of its era and forerunner of Me talious’ Peyton Place.

The Ox-Bow Incident     [1940]
Walter Van Tilburg Clark   (1909-1971)
Set in 1880s’ Nevada, emotions are high over rustlings and a perceived murder. The ‘round-up’ gang find three men sleeping in the Ox-Bow Valley and lynch them, before discovering they are not the culprits.

robeThe Robe   [1942]
Lloyd C. Douglas   (1877-1951)
Tribune Gallio is sent on his first assignment to Minoa, where he has to escort the crucifixion of three men. He wins Christ’s cloak, becomes ill and has to return home. He risks his life to find out more of this strange Galilean, set against the corruption of the Roman Empire. When first published in 1942 a paper shortage meant not enough copies where available to meet demand.

The Man Who Killed The Deer     [1942]
Frank Waters   (1902-1995)
Martiniano, who killed the deer, has been six years at the “away” school. He and his wife are outcasts who cannot accept the ways of the Indian or white man. The plot is secondary to the wonderful landscape descriptions and Pueblo Indian life and tradition.

the-fountainhead-bookThe Fountainhead   [1943]
Ayn Rand   (1905-1982)
The story of Howard Roark, a brilliant architect who dares to stand alone against the hostility of second-hand souls. This novel presents a view of man’s creative potential, and is about ambition, power, gold and love. The descriptive writing is exceptional.

The Human Comedy     [1943]
William Saroyan   (1908-1981)
The Macauleys is an immigrant second-generation Californian family of modest means. A widow is keeping her family together during the Second World War, and fourteen-year-old Homer, the tale’s narrator, is an after-school telegraph messenger who helps to support three other children. A graceful, easy read, the book is etched with emotion and hope for the future, fierce patriotism, and a love of simple things.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn     [1943]
Betty Smith   (1896-1972)
Told through the eyes of young Francie, this is the story of the struggles of a dysfunctional family. The sights and sounds of shops, street vendors and celebrations in a by-gone era are rich and vivid.

A Bell For Adano     [1944]
John Hersey   (1914-1993)
The Italian-American Major Joppolo becomes senior civil affairs officer at Adano after its occupation by the Allied Forces, and wants to rebuild, using his democratic background and own instincts. He aims to recast the ancient bell, which has been melted down by the Fascists, but meets difficulties. Hersey, journalist and war correspondent, expresses in this little tale a much larger problem to come.

strange fruitStrange Fruit     [1944]
Lillian Smith   (1897-1966)
In 1918, soldier Tracy Deen returns home to Georgia and resumes his love affair with Nonnie Anderson. Tracy is white, and Nonnie is a college educated black girl, now pregnant. Set in the era of lynch mob justice, where murderers must all be black and punished without delay, the too-late recognition by authorities of unrest results in a double tragedy. Attempts to suppress publication leant the book notoriety and popularity. 

All The King’s Men   [1946]
Robert Penn Warren   (1905-1989)
The lives of Jack Burden and “Cousin” Willie Stark are entwined. Loosely based on the political career of Governor Huey Long of Louisana, Jack tells the story of Stark’s rise and fall, whilst weaving his own life into the story. Stark is a hero of the common man, but gets his results by blackmail and pay-offs; Burden becomes disillusioned and is witness to his destruction.

This Side Of Innocence   [1946]
Taylor Caldwell   (1900-1985)
New York playboy Jerome Lindsey returns to Riversend to protect his and his sister’s inheritance from his stepbrother Alfred. In order to pass the time he falls for his Alfred’s future bride, who has a somewhat dubious past. The resulting feud engulfs the whole family, and when Alfred takes over the family bank it cascades to the whole community.

Delta Wedding     [1946]
Eudora Welty   (1909-2001)
Laura McRaven has just lost her mother, and is sent to the old Fairchild family plantation in Mississippi. The extended family arrives en masse to attend the wedding of her cousin Dabney (to someone beneath her station), and the strengths and weakness of family ties become obvious. Lyrical prose and evocative speech.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House     [1946]
Eric Hodgins   (1899-1971)
Don’t even think of building your own house without consulting the Blandings. Universal and timeless, this hilarious story of moving from a city to the peaceful countryside, with its escalating costs and frustrations, is at once enjoyable and horrifying.

ABGuthrie_TheBigSkyThe Big Sky   [1947]
A.B. Guthrie   (1901-1991)
This is one of the most authentic novels of the West ever written, with lasting descriptions of the wilderness and the Rockies. Teenager Boone Claudill runs away and becomes a mountain man, living in isolation, hoping for adventure, freedom and hunting, and displays how he develops into a sympathetic human being living in unspoiled and beautiful Montana.

Tales Of The South Pacific     [1947]
James Michener   (1907-1997)
Many scenes and characters from the South Pacific are used in this book. Based on Michener’s experiences whilst travelling with Admiral Kester, it is a dramatic telling of the greatest adventure of its generation.

The Naked And The Dead     [1948]
Norman Mailer (1923-2007)
Based on the author’s own experience of military service in the Philippines during the Second World War, this novel is a portrayal of ordinary men in battle. It is tough and gritty with language to match, and it spares no punches regarding the horrors of war and death. 

The Young Lions   [1948]
Irwin Shaw   (1913-1984)
A riveting story, beautifully told, centred on ordinary soldiers, two Americans and one German, during the Second World War, and who only meet in the last scene after a long and bloody war.

Shane   [1949]
Jack Schaefer   (1907-1991)
In 1889 Shane appears at the Starrett family farm at a time when farmers and ranchers were feuding. When good and bad guys are sorted, Shane rides into the sunset. The story is told by the child of the family, who dolizes Shane and will not fully understand what has happened until he is older.

The Man With The Golden Arm     [1949]
Nelson Algren (1909-1981)
Frankie Machine, thus named for his speed at dealing cards, is surrounded by a cast of characters renowned for their love of the bottle. Frankie crashes the car in Chicago and permanently paralyses his wife, then becomes the main suspect in a murder. As he goes into hiding with his friend Sparrow, his wife is taken into hospital. There is an unexpected ending.

the 1950s, stability, a Cold War yet peace

The Catcher In The Rye    [1951]
J.D. Salinger   (1919-2010)
The journey of a 1950s’ middle-class rebellious and troubled teenager from innocence to adulthood. It was a controversial book for many years, but still has iconic status.

The Caine Mutiny     [1951]
Herman Wouk   (1915-)
Captain Queeg, paranoid, neurotic, incompetent, and in charge of an out-of-date ship; Lt. Tom Keefer, an embittered intellectual who cranks up the tension; Lt. Officer Maryk, excellent young career man, but wet behind the ears and unable to cope with the mounting tension. Stir well and await results.

200px-JamesJones_FromHereToEternity1From Here To Eternity     [1951]
James Jones   (1921-1977)
Most men are enlisted for life, complain bitterly, but in fact love the life, which in some ways they shape to their own desires. The book accurately depicts the pre-Second World War American army, and its publication caused offence to many readers with its frank language and preoccupation with sex.

Invisible Man     [1952]
Ralph Ellison   (1914-1994)
The ‘hero’ is a Negro raised in poverty in the South but given the opportunity of education. A brilliant student, he is sold down the river by his own people, then co-opted and exploited by the Communist movement. 

Go Tell It On The Mountain     [1953]
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
It’s tough to be a Negro in Harlem in the 1930s. Father Gabriel is a preacher who believes everything is sinful, so his four children are strictly controlled. A story of how unbearable terrors in the parents’ Southern youth affected the whole of their life.

Farneheit_451Fahrenheit 451     [1953]
Ray Bradbury   (1920-2012)
Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns. This classic novel on censorship is a highlight of the science fiction genre. Books are banned, and Montag is amongst those firemen on emergency call to burn them, often along with the houses, sometimes even the residents. He is unhappy at home, and Clarisse, a young girl, disturbs him and makes him think. As technology becomes more central to our lives, it is more pertinent today than then. 

The Light In The Forest     [1953]
Conrad Richter   (1890-1968)
John Butler was captured and raised by Indians from babyhood, but as a result of a treaty he had to be returned to his birth parents at fifteen, to a life he neither understands nor likes.   Richter aimed to create an authentic atmosphere of life and the wilderness of the time, and can be read by both adults and children.

The Blackboard Jungle     [1954]
Evan Hunter   (1926-2005)
Hunter later wrote 87th precinct detective stories under the pseudonym Ed McBain. This, his first novel, deals with conditions in some New York public schools and has relevance even today. Rick Dadier wants to teach, knows the kids will be tough, but feels his navy service will help. After rescuing a fellow teacher from rape, he is pursued by a teenage gangster.

Exodus     [1954]
Leon Uris   (1928-2003)
Mark Parker and Kitty Fremont are Americans who meet in Cyrus after the Second World War, working with the refugees in squalid refugee camps as journalist and nurse. Ultimately the ship Exodus takes them to Palestine, carrying both legal and illegal immigrants, where they cared for the barren land and made it fertile. 

The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit     [1955]
Sloan Wilson   (1920-2003)
A post-Second World War family is struggling for upward mobility. Thomas Rath is striving for the ‘good life’, but it entails becoming a yes-man and working away from the family in New York. He also carries wartime baggage, having killed seventeen men and fathering a child by an Italian woman.

Andersonville     [1955]
MacKinlay Kantor   (1904-1997)
Documents to depict both prison life and his human portraits are used in this historical novel; fictional local residents round out the picture. Andersonville Prison, where 13,000 men died, is now designated a memorial to the nation’s prisoners of war. Vividly written, the degradation is tragic, yet the men’s dignity could not be destroyed.

Ten North Frederick     [1955]
John O’Hara   (1905-1970)
Joe Chapin was a wealthy, small-town attorney whose personal and professional life was outwardly successful; however, we learn of his deceit, secrecy and insensitivity, and of his death by alcohol. 

Peyton Place     [1956]
Grace Metalious   (1924-1964)
The social anatomy of a small community is disclosed, examining the lives of its people – their passions, vices, ambitions, defeats, secret hopes, kindnesses, struggles and often their courage. Contrary to criticism on publication, the book displays morality, with both good and bad getting their appropriate desserts.

Seize The Day     [1956]
Saul Bellow   (1915-2005)
Middle-aged Tommy Wilhelm in one day has to face the truth about himself: a sloven, squanderer and loser, his rent due with no job. He passes a funeral and weeps: perhaps his life is about to change.

The Wapshot Chronicle     [1957]
John Cheever   (1912-1982)
St. Botolphs, Massachsetts, is the home of the Wapshot family: an unsuccessful father and practical mother, a matriarchal aunt controlling the purse strings, and two growing sons.

A Death In The Family     [1957]
James Agee   (1909-1985)
A dramatic tale of how families bond together at times of crisis. Posthumously published, the book won a Pulitzer Prize.

ontheroadOn The Road     [1957]
Jack Kerouac   (1922-1969)
William Burroughs declared that “On The Road sold a trillion Levis and a million Espresso machines…” Sal Paradise, young and innocent, joints Dean Moriarty on an exuberant ride across the United States. He is the only one to stand by Dean, who is a loser and uses anyone who befriends him. This book which became the emblem of the Beat Generation, a portrait of alienation, drink and drug use.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s     [1958]
Truman Capote   (1924-1984)
The author’s most memorable character, Holly Golightly (aka Audrey Hepburn), sparkles and entertains. Holly is a teenage hillbilly who married an old veterinarian in Texas, and they now live in New York.

Lolita     [1958]
Vladimir Nabokov   (1899-1977)
Humbert Humbert, a pervert attracted to young girls, truly loves twelve-year old Lolita. Tame by today’s standards, sex scenes and gutter language are alluded to but not graphically described. It is a comedic parody on trash: Lolita and her language, American movies, cheap motels and junk food, and left its mark in the relaxing of American censorship.

Advise and Consent   [1959]
Allen Drury   (1918-1998)
Washington’s political games revealed, with the details of the minds and motives of its statesmen – their public and private faces, ambitions, vanities, hopes and fears. Politicians of the time were thinly disguised in this anti-Communist diatribe that spawned sequels.

TheSirensofTitan(1959)The Sirens Of Titan   [1959]
Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
The richest, most depraved man on Earth is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there is a catch… Vonnegut, declared Graham Greene, is “one of the best …American writers.”

A Separate Peace   [1959]
John Knowles (1926-2001)
America’s participation in World War Two overshadows the summer term at Devon School. A challenge between Gene, an introverted intellectual, and Phineas, a handsome daredevil, goes wrong and evokes horrifying evil. This text is often considered an extension to Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye.

To Kill A Mockingbird     [1960]
Harper Lee   (1926-)
Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of modern literature, Atticus Finch, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice and hypocrisy. Ccnsidered by many to be the perfect novel – a reading rite of passage – Harper Lee has published no other.

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