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CLASSICS: Classics for Teens

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The great Gatsby

Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940.


In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

The scarlet letter

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864.


A stark and allegorical tale of adultery, guilt, and social repression in Puritan New England, "The Scarlet Letter" is a foundational work of American literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne's exploration of the dichotomy between the public and private self, internal passion and external convention, gives us the unforgettable Hester Prynne, who discovers strength in the face of ostracism and emerges as a heroine ahead of her time. As Kathryn Harrison points out in her Introduction, Hester is "the herald of the modern American heroine, a mother of such strength and stature that she towers over her progeny much as she does the citizens of Salem."

The old man and the sea

Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961.


In language of great simplicity and power, Hemingway tells the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck--he hasn't caught a fish in 84 days--who goes out in his small skiff one more time. This time he hooks a huge marlin. During his relentless ordeal, a long and agonizing battle with the marlin far out in the Gulf Stream, the old man faces long days of hunger and exhaustion, his courage and his respect for his adversary never flagging. The man is old and tired and at the end of his life, but he remains the archetypical Hemingway hero who refuses to accept defeat.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Hilton, James, 1900-1954.


Sentimental novel by James Hilton, published serially and in book form in 1934. The work depicts the career of a gentle schoolteacher at an English public school. Arthur Chipping ("Mr. Chips") is a middle-aged bachelor who falls in love with and marries a young woman whom he has met on a mountaineering vacation. They live happily at Brookfield School until her death, only a few years later. Mr. Chips devotes the rest of his life to educating many generations of boys.

Lost horizon

Hilton, James, 1900-1954.


In the last year and a half, James Hilton has been recognized by a few score of critics, by a few thousand discriminating American readers as one of the really important younger novelists. We believe that this new novel, Lost Horizon, is the finest thing Hilton has written. It has all the emotional, dramatic appeal of And Now Good-Bye, the rich imaginative vision of Ill Wind, and the fulfullment of brilliant intellectual maturity promised in both these earlier books. Lost Horizon is being published simultaneously in England and America. The story is of such a character that it should not only definitely establish the author's reputation as a novelist, but add considerably to his already substantial group of followers.

The Iliad


883.01 HOMER

One of the foremost achievements in Western literature, Homer's Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode of the Trojan War. At its center is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his conflict with his leader Agamemnon. Interwoven in the tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, the besieged city of Ilium, the feud between the gods, and the fate of mortals.

The Odyssey


883.01 HOMER

Robert Fagles's translation is a jaw-droppingly beautiful rendering of Homer's Odyssey, the most accessible and enthralling epic of classical Greece. Fagles captures the rapid and direct language of the original Greek, while telling the story of Odysseus in lyrics that ring with a clear, energetic voice. The story itself has never seemed more dynamic, the action more compelling, nor the descriptions so brilliant in detail. It is often said that every age demands its own translation of the classics. Fagles's work is a triumph because he has not merely provided a contemporary version of Homer's classic poem, but has located the right language for the timeless character of this great tale. Fagles brings the Odyssey so near, one wonders if the Hollywood adaption can be far behind. This is a terrific book.

The legend of Sleepy Hollow

Irving, Washington, 1783-1859.


Illustrations by Arthur Rackham accompany this retelling of Irving's classic tale of a headless horseman.

Rip Van Winkle

Irving, Washington, 1783-1859.


A man who sleeps for twenty years in the Catskill Mountains wakes to a much-changed world.

To kill a mockingbird

Lee, Harper.


Lawyer Atticus Finch defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic, Puliter Prize-winning novel--a black man charged with the rape of a white woman. Through the eyes of Atticus's children, Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unanswering honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930's.

The call of the wild

London, Jack, 1876-1916.


The adventures of an unusual dog, part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, that is forcibly taken to the Klondike gold fields where he eventually becomes the leader of a wolf pack.


Melville, Herman, 1819-1891.


Moby-Dick is generally regarded as its author's masterpiece and one of the greatest American novels. The basic plot of Moby-Dick is simple. The narrator (who asks to be called "Ishmael") tells of the last voyage of the ship Pequod out of New Bedford, Mass. Captain Ahab is obsessed with the pursuit of the white whale Moby-Dick, which finally kills him. On that level, the work is an intense, superbly authentic narrative. Its theme and central figure, however, are reminiscent of Job in his search for justice and of Oedipus in his search for truth. The novel's richly symbolic language and tragic hero are indicative of Melville's deeper concerns: the equivocal defeats and triumphs of the human spirit and its fusion of creative and murderous urges. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature.

Gone with the wind.

Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949.


A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.

Nineteen eighty-four

Orwell, George, 1903-1950.


While the totalitarianism that provoked George Orwell into writing 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' seems to be passing into oblivion, his harrowing, cautionary tale of a man trapped in a political nightmare has had the opposite fate, and its relevance and power to disturb our complacency seem to grow decade by decade.

Animal farm ; 1984

Orwell, George, 1903-1950.


Animal farm: A fairy tale about farmer Jones's domesticated animals, who, when they revolt against their cruel master are then taken over by the pigs, and soon find they have succeeded in exchanging one form of tyranny for another, and once again are forced to unite in a common cause.

The yearling

Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, 1896-1953.


A young boy living in the Florida backwoods is forced to decide the fate of a fawn he has lovingly raisesd as a pet.

All quiet on the western front

Remarque, Erich Maria, 1898-1970.


The timeless classic of World War I Germany that speaks to generation after generation

The light in the forest

Richter, Conrad, 1890-1968.


When John Cameron Butler was a child, he was captured in a raid on the Pennsylvania frontier and adopted by the great warrrior Cuyloga. Renamed True Son, he came to think of himself as fully Indian. But eleven years later his tribe, the Lenni Lenape, has signed a treaty with the white men and agreed to return their captives, including fifteen-year-old True Son. Now he must go back to the family he has forgotten, whose language is no longer his, and whose ways of dress and behavior are as strange to him as the ways of the forest are to them. A beautifully written, sensitively told story of a white boy brought up by Indians, The Light in the Forest is a beloved American classic.


Schaefer, Jack, 1907-1991.


In the summer of 1889, a mysterious and charismatic man rides into a small Wyoming valley, where he joins homesteaders who take a stand against a bullying cattle rancher, and where he changes the lives of a young boy and his parents.

Frankenstein, or, The modern prometheus

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851.


At this challenge, Mary Shelley began work on the 'ghost story' that was to evolve into the most celebrated horror novel in literary history. Frankenstein was published the next year and become the rage of London. In the generations since, the story of Victor Frankenstein and the monster he created has been read by millions all over the world. It has inspired hundreds of imitations, but it has never been equaled for its masterful manipulation of the elements of horror and suspense.

The Grapes of wrath

Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.


Novel about the plight of American farmers who were forced off their farms by drought and foreclosure during the 1930's.

Of mice and men

Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.


Novel-Ties study guides contain reproducible pages in a chapter by chapter format to accompany a work of literature of the same title.

The red pony

Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.


This is the story of conflict between a nine year old boy, his father and the family's hired man. The son works his way from despair to contentment with the aid of a small red pony.


Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912.


Of the many admiring reviews Bram Stoker's Dracula received when it first appeared in 1897, the most astute praise came from the author's mother, who wrote her son: 'It is splendid. No book since Mrs. Shelley's "Frankenstein" or indeed any other at all has come near yours in originality, or terror.' A popular bestseller in Victorian England, Stoker's hypnotic tale of the bloodthirsty Count Dracula, whose nocturnal atrocities are symbolic of an evil ages old yet forever new, endures as the quintessential story of suspense and horror. The unbridled lusts and desires, the diabolical cravings that Stoker dramatized with such mythical force, render Dracula resonant and unsettling a century later.

The hobbit, or, There and back again

Tolkien, J. R. R. (John Ronald Reuel), 1892-1973.


Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit-hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to share in an adventure from which he may never return.

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