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Short Classic Books

(A) American    (B) British


Fahrenheit 451  by Ray Bradbury (A), 1953,  192 pages.  – Set in a grim alternate-future setting ruled by a tyrannical government in which firemen as we understand them no longer exist: Here, firemen don’t douse fires, they ignite them. And they do this specifically in homes that house the most evil of evils: books.


Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (B), 1847, 290 pages. – The turbulent and tempestuous love story of Cathy and Heathcliff spans two generations.  A somber tale of consuming passions and vengeance played out against the lonely moors of northern England


My Antonia
by Willa Catcher (A) 1954, 244 pages – Against Nebraska’s panoramic landscape, Catcher recreates the life on an immigrant girl who becomes, in the memories of narrator, Jim Burden, the epitome of strong and dignified womanhood.


The Ox-Bow Incident by  Walter Clark (A) 1940, 224 pages – Set in 1885, The Ox-Bow Incident is a searing and realistic portrait of frontier life and mob violence in the American West. First published in 1940, it focuses on the lynching of three innocent men and the tragedy that ensues when law and order are abandoned. The result is an emotionally powerful, vivid, and unforgettable re-creation of the Western novel, which Clark transmuted into a universal story about good and evil, individual and community, justice and human nature.”–BOOK JACKET.


The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (B) 1902, 173 pages – When a second member of the Baskerville family dies, Sherlock Holmes investigates and finds murderous greed behind the supposed curse.


Silas Marner by George Eliot (B) 1861, 241 pages – Silas Marner, a weaver who has no friends and cares only for the gold he has saved, is robbed. But shortly thereafter, he finds an abandoned baby girl, whom he raises as his own child. His love for her redeems his character.


April Morning by  Howard Fast (A) 1961, 184 pages – Coming of age during the American Revolution.


Lord of The Flies by William Golding (B) 1962, 256 pages – A group of English school boys who are left stranded on an unpopulated island, and who must confront not only the defects of their society but the defects of their own natures.


The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (A) 1850, 201 pages – Hester Prynne, hapless victim of sin, guilt and hypocrisy in Puritan New England.


The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (A) 1952, 127 pages – The story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal — a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the classic theme of courage in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss.


Lost Horizon by James Hilton (B) 1933, 191 pages – Foreigners lost in Tibetan mountains find their dreams and then lose them in the harsh glare of reality. It takes place before World War II and is a metaphor for our lost innocence and the end of paradise.


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (B) 1946, 270 pages – The most famous dystopia of them all satirizes a rationalist paradise where genetic and social control breeds out creativity and passion, and breeds in hygienic promiscuity.


One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (A) 1962, 277 pages – The moving story of a sane but rebellious man who is placed in an insane asylum where he turns the very notion of insanity upside down. An eloquent statement of human individuality.


Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling (B) 1896, 194 pages – Harvey Cheyne is the over-indulged son of a millionaire. When he falls overboard from an ocean liner he is rescued by a Portuguese fisherman and, initially against his will, joins the crew of the We’re Here for a summer.


A Separate Peace by John Knowles (A) 1960, 196 pages – Gene was a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas was a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happened between them at school one summer during the early years of World War II.


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (A) 1960, 281 pages – Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.


The Call Of the Wild by Jack London (A) 1960, 281 pages – The story of a courageous dog, Buck, taken from pampered surroundings and shipped to the wilds of Alaska to be a sled dog. As Buck fights for survival, his primitive nature begins to emerge and he becomes more like the wolf from whom his breed is descended.


Billy Budd by Herman Melville (A) 1941, 191 pages – It is a time of war between nations, but on one ship, a smaller battle is being fought between two men. Jealous of Billy Budd, the “Handsome Sailor, ” the envious Master-At-Arms Claggart torments the young man until his false accusations lead to a charge of treason against Billy.


1984 by George Orwell (A) 1949, 299 pages – Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother.


The Pit and the Pendulum and Five Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe (A) 1843,  87 pages – Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of terror, murder, and mystery are among the most celebrated in American literature. This carefully-chosen collection includes “The Gold Bug,” “The Oval Portrait,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “Some Words With a Mummy,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”


The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (A) 1951, 277 pages – Salinger’s classic coming-of-age story portrays one young man’s funny and poignant experiences with life, love, and sex.


Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley (B) 1818, 222 pages – Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature from old bones and gives it life. Endowed with supernatural strength and size, the revolting-looking Creature commits murder, and the doctor resolves to destroy his creation.


The Red Pony by John Steinbeck (A) 1946, 100 pages – Raised on a ranch in northern California, Jody is well-schooled in the hard work and demands of a rancher’s life. He is used to the way of horses, too; but nothing has prepared him for the special connection he will forge with Gabilan, a hot-tempered pony his father gives him. With Billy Buck, the hired hand, Jody tends and trains his horse, restlessly anticipating the moment he will sit high upon Gabilan’s saddle. But when Gabilan falls ill, Jody discovers there are still lessons he must learn about the ways of nature and, particularly, the ways of man.


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Stevenson (B) 1886, 157 pages – A kind and well-respected doctor can turn himself into a murderous madman by taking a secret drug he’s created.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (A) 1885, 292 pages – Floating down the Mississippi on their raft, Huckleberry Finn and Jim, a runaway slave, find life filled with excitement and the spirit of adventure. Join Huck and Jim and their old friend Tom Sawyer as they come up against low-down thieves and murderers, whilst being chased by Huck’s evil, drunken father who is after Huck’s treasure.


The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (B) 1897, 193 pages – An obscure scientist invents a way to render skin, bones, and blood invisible, and tries the formula on himself. Now he can go anywhere, menace anyone–sight unseen. He has only two problems: he cannot become visible again–and he has gone quite murderously insane.


Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (A) 136 pages – Set in the harsh New England farmlands and told in flashback by a narrator, here is the story of the inexorable fall of a decent, rough-hewn man, ironically drawn by his most pure and beautiful feelings–his love for his wife’s cousin, the gentle and sweet young Mattie.


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (B) 1891, 253 pages – An incredibly handsome young man in Victorian England retains his youthful appearance over the years while his portrait reflects both his age and evil soul as he pursues a life of decadence and corruption.