Best Authors and Books of the 20th Century

Adventure

The Call of the Wild (Scribner Classics) by Jack London - In this quintessential adventure story, Jack London takes readers on an arduous journey through the forbidding Alaskan landscape during the gold rush of the 1890s. Buck, a rangy mixed breed used to a comfortable, sun-filled life as a family dog, is stolen by a greedy opportunist and sold to dog traffickers. In no time, Buck finds himself on a team of sled dogs run ragged in the harsh winter of the Klondike. In a climate where every day is a savage struggle for survival, the last traces of Buck's soft, pampered existence are erased as his dormant primordial urges -- deeply embedded for generations -- are brutally awakened.

The superb detail, taken from London's firsthand knowledge of Alaskan frontier life, makes this classic tale as gripping today as it was almost a hundred years ago. No other novel has so clearly shown the fragile separation between tame and wild, between man and beast. Now, paired with master illustrator Wendell Minor's exquisite paintings, this timeless story is available in a handsome new addition to the Scribner Illustrated Classics collection.
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Mystery

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett - A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett's archetypally tough San Francisco detective, is more noir than L.A. Confidential and more vulnerable than Raymond Chandler's Marlowe. In The Maltese Falcon, the best known of Hammett's Sam Spade novels (including The Dain Curse and The Glass Key), Spade is tough enough to bluff the toughest thugs and hold off the police, risking his reputation when a beautiful woman begs for his help, while knowing that betrayal may deal him a new hand in the next moment.

Spade's partner is murdered on a stakeout; the cops blame him for the killing; a beautiful redhead with a heartbreaking story appears and disappears; grotesque villains demand a payoff he can't provide; and everyone wants a fabulously valuable gold statuette of a falcon, created as tribute for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Who has it? And what will it take to get it back? Spade's solution is as complicated as the motives of the seekers assembled in his hotel room, but the truth can be a cold comfort indeed.

Spade is bigger (and blonder) in the book than in the movie, and his Mephistophelean countenance is by turns seductive and volcanic. Sam knows how to fight, whom to call, how to rifle drawers and secrets without leaving a trace, and just the right way to call a woman "Angel" and convince her that she is. He is the quintessence of intelligent cool, with a wise guy's perfect pitch. If you only know the movie, read the book. If you're riveted by Chinatown or wonder where Robert B. Parker's Spenser gets his comebacks, read the master. --Barbara Schlieper
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Science Fiction

The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) A Novel by Hermann Hesse -
The final novel of Hermann Hesse, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, The Glass Bead Game is a fascinating tale of the complexity of modern life as well as a classic of modern literature

Set in the 23rd century, The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish. Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).

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Spy Novel

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy - Gripping military thriller about the chase after a top-secret Russian missile submarine.Somewhere under the Atlantic, a Soviet sub commander has just made a fateful decision: the Red October is heading west. The Americans want her. The Russians want her back. And the most incredible chase in history is on....

The Hunt for Red October is the runaway bestseller that launched Tom Clancy's phenomenal career. A military thriller so accurate and convincing that the author was rumored to have been debriefed by the White House. Its theme: the greatest espionage coup in history. Its story: the chase for a runaway top secret Russian missile sub.
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Philosophy

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann - A vast intellectual drama of the forces that play upon modern man, The Magic Mountain is set in a sanitorium in the Swiss Alps--a community organized with exclusive reference to ill health, and a symbol of the diseased society of Europe before 1914.
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Sports

Ball Four : The Final Pitch by Jim Bouton - Jim Bouton's Ball Four, recently selected by the New York Public Library as one of the "Books Of The Century," is being reissued in hardcover with a new, 50-page epilogue by the author.

In Ball Four: The Final Pitch, Bouton writes about the tragic death of his daughter, his reconciliation with Mickey Mantle, his son's Father's Day letter to the New York Times, his heartwarming return to Old Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium, his views on Major League Baseball, and his life today. In addition to the new epilogue, this beautiful collector's edition includes the original text, plus Bouton's 1980 and 1990 epilogues and a new Rogues’ Gallery of 124 player photos.

Ball Four was first published in 1970 amid a storm of controversy. Bouton was called a Judas and a Benedict Arnold for having violated the "sanctity of the clubhouse." Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn tried to force Bouton to sign a statement saying the book wasn't true. Almost everyone else, however, loved the book and serious critics called it an important document. Besides being hilariously funny, Ball Four changed the image of athletes and played a role in the economic revolution in sports. In 1975 for example, Ball Four was accepted as legal evidence against the owners at the arbitration hearing that led to free agency in baseball and, by extension, other sports.

Today Ball Four has taken on another role - as a time capsule of life in the sixties.As a player, former hurler Jim Bouton did nothing half-way; he threw so hard he'd lose his cap on almost every pitch. In the early '70s, he tossed off one of the funniest, most revealing, insider's takes on baseball life in Ball Four, his diary of the season he tried to pitch his way back from oblivion on the strength of a knuckler. The real curve, though, is Bouton's honesty. He carves humans out of heroes, and shines a light into the game's corners. A quarter century later, Bouton's unique baseball voice can still bring the heat.
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Literature

A Farewell to Arms (Scribner Classics) by Ernest Hemingway - The best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Hemingway's frank portrayal of the love between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley, caught in the inexorable sweep of war, glows with an intensity unrivaled in modern literature, while his description of the German attack on Caporetto -- of lines of fired men marching in the rain, hungry, weary, and demoralized -- is one of the greatest moments in literary history. A story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion, A Farewell to Arms, written when he was 30 years old, represents a new romanticism for Hemingway.As a youth of 18, Ernest Hemingway was eager to fight in the Great War. Poor vision kept him out of the army, so he joined the ambulance corps instead and was sent to France. Then he transferred to Italy where he became the first American wounded in that country during World War I. Hemingway came out of the European battlefields with a medal for valor and a wealth of experience that he would, 10 years later, spin into literary gold with A Farewell to Arms. This is the story of Lieutenant Henry, an American, and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. The two meet in Italy, and almost immediately Hemingway sets up the central tension of the novel: the tenuous nature of love in a time of war. During their first encounter, Catherine tells Henry about her fiancé of eight years who had been killed the year before in the Somme. Explaining why she hadn't married him, she says she was afraid marriage would be bad for him, then admits:
I wanted to do something for him. You see, I didn't care about the other thing and he could have had it all. He could have had anything he wanted if I would have known. I would have married him or anything. I know all about it now. But then he wanted to go to war and I didn't know.
The two begin an affair, with Henry quite convinced that he "did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards." Soon enough, however, the game turns serious for both of them and ultimately Henry ends up deserting to be with Catherine.

Hemingway was not known for either unbridled optimism or happy endings, and A Farewell to Arms, like his other novels (For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, and To Have and Have Not), offers neither. What it does provide is an unblinking portrayal of men and women behaving with grace under pressure, both physical and psychological, and somehow finding the courage to go on in the face of certain loss. --Alix Wilber
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Literature

Dubliners (Modern Library) by James Joyce - Dubliners was completed in 1905, but a series of British and Irish publishers and printers found it offensive and immoral, and it was suppressed.  The book finally came out in London in 1914, just as Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man began to appear in the journal Egoist under the auspices of Ezra Pound.  The first three stories in Dubliners might be incidents from a draft of Portrait of the Artist, and many of the characters who figure in Ulysses have their first appearance here, but this is not a book of interest only because of its relationship to Joyce's life and mature work.  It is one of the greatest story collections in the English language--an unflinching, brilliant, often tragic portrait of early twentieth-century Dublin.  The book, which begins and ends with a death, moves from "stories of my childhood" through tales of public life.  Its larger purpose, Joyce said, was as a moral history of Ireland.
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Literature

Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame -
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Literature

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston -

Their Eyes Were Watching God, an American classic, is a luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a Southern black woman in the 1930s whose journey from a free-spirited girl to a woman of independence and substance has inspired writers and readers for close to seventy years.

This poetic, graceful love story, rooted in black folk traditions and steeped in mythic realism, celebrates, boldly and brilliantly, African-American culture and heritage. And in a powerful, mesmerizing narrative, it pays quiet tribute to a black woman, who, though constricted by the times, still demanded to be heard.

Originally published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God met significant commercial but divided critical acclaim. Somewhat forgotten after her death, Zora Neale Hurston was rediscovered by a number of black authors in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and reintroduced to a greater readership by Alice Walker in her 1972 essay "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston," written for Ms. magazine. Long out of print, the book was reissued after a petition was circulated at the Modern Language Association Convention in 1975, and nearly three decades later Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered a seminal novel of American fiction.

With a new foreword by the celebrated novelist Edwidge Danticat -- author of Eyes, Breath, Memory; The Farming of Bones; and Krik?Krak! -- this edition of Their Eyes Were Watching God commemorates the singular, inimitable voice in America's literary canon and highlights its unusual publication history.

At the height of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1930s, Zora Neale Hurston was the preeminent black woman writer in the United States. She was a sometime-collaborator with Langston Hughes and a fierce rival of Richard Wright. Her stories appeared in major magazines, she consulted on Hollywood screenplays, and she penned four novels, an autobiography, countless essays, and two books on black mythology. Yet by the late 1950s, Hurston was living in obscurity, working as a maid in a Florida hotel. She died in 1960 in a Welfare home, was buried in an unmarked grave, and quickly faded from literary consciousness until 1975 when Alice Walker almost single-handedly revived interest in her work.

Of Hurston's fiction, Their Eyes Were Watching God is arguably the best-known and perhaps the most controversial. The novel follows the fortunes of Janie Crawford, a woman living in the black town of Eaton, Florida. Hurston sets up her characters and her locale in the first chapter, which, along with the last, acts as a framing device for the story of Janie's life. Unlike Wright and Ralph Ellison, Hurston does not write explicitly about black people in the context of a white world--a fact that earned her scathing criticism from the social realists--but she doesn't ignore the impact of black-white relations either:

It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgment.
One person the citizens of Eaton are inclined to judge is Janie Crawford, who has married three men and been tried for the murder of one of them. Janie feels no compulsion to justify herself to the town, but she does explain herself to her friend, Phoeby, with the implicit understanding that Phoeby can "tell 'em what Ah say if you wants to. Dat's just de same as me 'cause mah tongue is in mah friend's mouf."

Hurston's use of dialect enraged other African American writers such as Wright, who accused her of pandering to white readers by giving them the black stereotypes they expected. Decades later, however, outrage has been replaced by admiration for her depictions of black life, and especially the lives of black women. In Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston breathes humanity into both her men and women, and allows them to speak in their own voices. --Alix Wilber
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Romance

Lady Chatterley's Lover (Modern Library) by D.H. Lawrence - Lyric and sensual, D.H. Lawrence's last novel is one of the major works of fiction of the twentieth century. Filled with scenes of intimate beauty, explores the emotions of a lonely woman trapped in a sterile marriage and her growing love for the robust gamekeeper of her husband's estate. The most controversial of Lawrence's books, Lady Chatterly's Lover joyously affirms the author's vision of individual regeneration through sexual love. The book's power, complexity, and psychological intricacy make this a completely original work—a triumph of passion, an erotic celebration of life.


From the Paperback edition.Perhaps the most famous of Lawrence's novels, the 1928 Lady Chatterley's Lover is no longer distinguished for the once-shockingly explicit treatment of its subject matter--the adulterous affair between a sexually unfulfilled upper-class married woman and the game keeper who works for the estate owned by her wheelchaired husband. Now that we're used to reading about sex, and seeing it in the movies, it's apparent that the novel is memorable for better reasons: namely, that Lawrence was a masterful and lyrical writer, whose story takes us bodily into the world of its characters.
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Historical Novel

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.Sometimes only remembered for the epic motion picture and "Frankly ... I don't give a damn," Gone with the Wind was initially a compelling and entertaining novel. It was the sweeping story of tangled passions and the rare courage of a group of people in Atlanta during the time of Civil War that brought those cinematic scenes to life. The reason the movie became so popular was the strength of its characters--Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler, and Ashley Wilkes--all created here by the deft hand of Margaret Mitchell, in this, her first novel.
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Horror/Suspense

The Shining by Stephen King - Terrible events occur at an isolated hotel in the off season, when a small boy with psychic powers struggles to hold his own against the forces of evil that are driving his father insane. Reissue.
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Western

Hondo by Louis L'Amour - He was etched by the desert’s howling winds, a big, broad-shouldered man who knew the ways of the Apache and the ways of staying alive. She was a woman alone raising a young son on a remote Arizona ranch. And between Hondo Lane and Angie Lowe was the warrior Vittoro, whose people were preparing to rise against the white men. Now the pioneer woman, the gunman, and the Apache warrior are caught in a drama of love, war, and honor.
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