Recommending a deeply beloved book can be something of a paradox. Of course we love to share the books that have moved us, but remembering the awe we felt the first time we read certain books gives us a touch of envy. After all, we can’t ever feel quite that same wonder again. Thankfully, you can. Although re-reading a book is one of life’s greatest pleasures, we think that your first reading of these 9 titles, all held dear by our staff, will be one you look back on with a special fondness forever.
I’ve read BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh multiple times and enjoyed it each time, but none has reached the joy of falling into the glittering, jaded world of Charles Ryder and Sebastian and Julia Flyte. I’m not particularly nostalgic about my teenaged years, but I would enjoy being a romantic teenager again if only to discover BRIDESHEAD REVISITED for the first time. It would rather be like going on a lovely, relaxing vacation for the very first time. —Kerry
Evelyn Waugh’s delicious coming-of-age tale of star-crossed lovers and sexually ambiguous pretty boys drinking their way through guilt trips over religion and lost love provided an admittedly romantic backdrop to my own rocky adolescent journey to adulthood.
Johannes Vermeer’s GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING has remained a beautiful enigma for centuries. In her atmospheric novel, Tracy Chevalier imagines the painting’s subject to be a young girl hired by the Vermeer household, whose rise from maid to assistant to model brings with it a world of jealousy, intimacy, and secrets.
Is time a parabola? If you asked the couple at the heart of this remarkable story, Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course, they'd probably both say yes. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.
ANGELA’S ASHES is credited with ushering in “the age of memoir.” Years ago, when I first read it, I was blown away. Frank McCourt was telling a story of such extreme poverty in his childhood that I wasn’t sure how he had lived to adulthood to write it. But I was overwhelmed by the magic of his voice. What shined through was the pleasure of language, the joy of storytelling, and the fierce love of his mother. Years later, I got to meet him and he lit up a room exactly as his writing did. —Wendy
"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy -- exasperating, irresponsible and beguiling-- does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father's tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies. Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors--yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness. Angela's Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.
The classic satire is the story of Captain John Yossarian who, hoping to escape deadly combat flights, must struggle with the equally deadly bureaucracy of the Army: a man is considered insane if he is willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
Chinua Achebe’s legendary novel encompasses the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. It is an illuminating monument to modern Africa as seen from within.
“It began as a mistake.”
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.