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9 Literary Lives You’ll Be Glad Aren’t Yours

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It’s that time of year again when we all tend to reflect on the past twelve months…what worked; what didn’t; what we wish hadn’t happened; what we wish had; what we should have done differently; and what we hope will transpire over the next 365 days. But no matter how rough of a year it’s been, reading any one of these nine provocative novels might make you a bit more satisfied and grateful for your own wild ride. As you’ll see, life really could be worse!


Carrie
by Stephen King

Carrie White may have been unfashionable and unpopular, but in the face of unbearable humiliation, her gift of telepathy is turned into a weapon of horror and destruction that her classmates would never forget. The terror of Stephen King's legendary debut novel makes for a timeless thriller.

Carrie
Stephen King

Carrie White may have been unfashionable and unpopular, but in the face of unbearable humiliation, her gift of telepathy is turned into a weapon of horror and destruction that her classmates would never forget. The terror of Stephen King's legendary debut novel makes for a timeless thriller.

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House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III

In this masterpiece of American realism and Shakespearean consequence, Andre Dubus III's unforgettable characters—people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on—careen toward inevitable conflict, their tragedy painting a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.

House of Sand and Fog
Andre Dubus III

In this masterpiece of American realism and Shakespearean consequence, Andre Dubus III's unforgettable characters—people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on—careen toward inevitable conflict, their tragedy painting a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.

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Sophie's Choice
by William Styron

A complex, brilliant, passionate novel that opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. He becomes intellectually and emotionally tangled with his neighbors in the pink Brooklyn rooming house they share: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman who survived a concentration camp but can never overcome the cost of her survival.

Sophie's Choice
William Styron

A complex, brilliant, passionate novel that opens with Stingo, a young southerner, journeying north in 1947 to become a writer. He becomes intellectually and emotionally tangled with his neighbors in the pink Brooklyn rooming house they share: Nathan, a tortured, brilliant Jew, and his lover, Sophie, a beautiful Polish woman who survived a concentration camp but can never overcome the cost of her survival.

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The Metamorphosis
by Franz Kafka

When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequecy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the mosst widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."

The Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka

When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequecy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the mosst widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."

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Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
by Anna Whitelock

She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.

Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
Anna Whitelock

She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.

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Mystic River
by Dennis Lehane

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened—something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever. Now, years later, murder has tied their lives together again . . .

Mystic River
Dennis Lehane

When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened—something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever. Now, years later, murder has tied their lives together again . . .

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Lord of the Flies
by William Golding

William Golding's compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behaviour collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories—and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.

Lord of the Flies
William Golding

William Golding's compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behaviour collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories—and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.

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The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.... Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

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Kangaroo Notebook
by Kobo Abe

The narrator of Kangaroo Notebook wakes on morning to discover that his legs are growing radish sprouts, an ailment that repulses his doctor but provides the patient with the unusual ability to snack on himself. In short order, Kobo Abe's unraveling protagonist finds himself hurtling in a hospital bed to the very shores of hell. Abe has assembled a cast of oddities into a coherent novel, one imbued with unexpected meaning.

Kangaroo Notebook
Kobo Abe

The narrator of Kangaroo Notebook wakes on morning to discover that his legs are growing radish sprouts, an ailment that repulses his doctor but provides the patient with the unusual ability to snack on himself. In short order, Kobo Abe's unraveling protagonist finds himself hurtling in a hospital bed to the very shores of hell. Abe has assembled a cast of oddities into a coherent novel, one imbued with unexpected meaning.

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By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2014

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