Banned Books Week

Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week seeks to celebrate freedom of expression even when it results in provocative or challenging conversations. Many of the books in this collection—including Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Beloved by Toni Morrison—are considered modern classics, but none have been without controversy.

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Publication year 1949Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: SiblingsTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, British Literature

1984 (also published as Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel) was originally published in 1949. It was written by Indian-born English novelist and critic Eric Arthur Blair under the pen name George Orwell. Writing as Orwell, the author was known for social and political criticism in his work. He supported democratic socialism and opposed totalitarianism—political stances that come through in the themes of his most well-known works.Edition note: This novel is available in the public domain in... Read 1984 Summary

Publication year 1929Genre Novel, FictionTags The Lost Generation, Modernism, American Literature

A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1929, is the story of Frederic Henry, an officer with the Italian army in World War I, and his relationship with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. Some have noted the similarities between the main character and Hemingway, who also served in the Italian army as an ambulance driver in 1918, and his nurse, Agnes Von Kurowsky, who cared for Hemingway after he was wounded.The... Read A Farewell to Arms Summary

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Realistic Fiction

All American Boys is a young-adult novel published in 2015. This modern-day narrative tells the story of an incident of police brutality through the alternating voices of two high school students: Rashad, whose chapters are written by author Jason Reynolds, and Quinn, whose chapters are written by author Brendan Kiely. While Rashad and Quinn never actually meet in the novel, their lives intersect in a powerful way after a violent act of racism rocks their... Read All American Boys Summary

Publication year 1925Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Relationships: MarriageTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, American Literature

Published in 1925, Theodore Dreiser’s realist novel An American Tragedy is one of the author’s most critically acclaimed works. Set in the 1920s in Kansas City, Chicago, and small-town New York state, the novel is the story of how Clyde Griffiths, the son of poor, itinerant preachers, kills Roberta Alden during a boat trip in the Adirondack Mountains.This guide is based on the Kindle edition published by Rosetta Books.Content Warning: This novel contains racist slurs... Read An American Tragedy Summary

Publication year 1945Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: CommunityTags Satire, History: European, Politics / Government, Philosophy, Animals, Post-War Era, Allegory / Fable / Parable, British Literature

Published in 1945, Animal Farm by George Orwell (1903-1950) achieved immediate success and remains one of Orwell’s most popular works. A political satire in the guise of a moving and whimsical animal fable, the novella is about a group of farm animals who overthrow their owner, Mr. Jones, and establish animal rule. Although the animals start out with high hopes for Animal Farm as a harmonious and just utopia where “all animals are equal” (19)... Read Animal Farm Summary

Publication year 1959Genre Novel, FictionTags American Literature

Published in 1959, A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, depicts a teenager’s coming-of-age at a New England boy’s boarding school during the final years of World War II. The novel explores peace and conflict in a space that is both isolated from the war and beginning to feel the compromise as the war encroaches on the campus in both literal and figurative ways. A semi-autobiographical book based on Knowles’s boyhood tenure at Exeter in New... Read A Separate Peace Summary

Publication year 2022Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Fathers, Relationships: Grandparents, Relationships: Friendship, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Relationships: Mothers, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Society: Community, Society: Education, Values/Ideas: Trust & DoubtTags Realistic Fiction, Children's Literature, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Education

Publication year 2017Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Relationships: Friendship, Society: Community, Relationships: Siblings, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: Family, Society: Education, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Realistic Fiction, Children's Literature

Publication year 1987Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: Daughters & SonsTags Magical Realism, Race / Racism, American Literature, Existentialism, African American Literature

Toni Morrison’s Beloved was published in 1987. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Inspired by the real-life story of a runaway African American enslaved woman named Margaret Garner, who killed her own daughter to prevent her capture and enslavement, Beloved tells the story of Sethe, a runaway enslaved woman who takes her daughter’s life in the same manner. This study guide, which addresses physical... Read Beloved Summary

Publication year 1932Genre Novel, FictionTags Classic Fiction, British Literature, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

Brave New World, a dystopian novel published in 1932, is perhaps Aldous Huxley’s most famous and enduring work, consistently ranked among the top-100 English-language novels by entities such as the Modern Library, BBC, and The Observer. The novel opens with a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, in which the Director explains the foundational ideas of society’s “stability,” which stems from the production-line uniformity of its citizens. People in the World State... Read Brave New World Summary

Publication year 2004Genre Novel/Book in Verse, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Identity: Masculinity, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Realistic Fiction, Romance, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Mental Illness

Publication year 2012Genre Graphic Novel/Book, FictionTags Humor

Drama is a Young Adult graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier published in 2012. It is Telgemeier’s third book and her first fiction graphic novel—her first two were autobiographical. Drama is critically acclaimed and spent 240 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. This guide refers to the 2012 edition by Scholastic/Graphix.Plot SummaryCallie Marin is a seventh-grader at Eucalyptus Middle School. She has long, purple-dyed hair and likes to wear the color green. She also... Read Drama Summary

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Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & PrideTags Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ, Children's Literature

Genderqueer writer Alex Gino wrote George in response to an unfulfilled, youthful wish for a positive representation of a transgender person. The novel tells the story of ten-year-old George, who is anatomically a boy, but knows she is a girl. George has won the Stonewall Book Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the E.B. White Honor.The novel opens with George sneaking into the bathroom to look at her secret stash of girls’ magazines, concealing them... Read George Summary

Publication year 1965Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & EvilTags American Literature

In Cold Blood is a nonfiction true crime novel published in 1966 by the American author Truman Capote. First published a year earlier as a serial in The New Yorker, In Cold Blood tells a broadly true account of the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Scholars consider the book one of the earliest and most successful examples of the nonfiction novel, a genre that combines journalistic reportage with techniques typically associated... Read In Cold Blood Summary

Publication year 1952Genre Novel, FictionTags Music, Modern Classic Fiction, Existentialism, American Literature, African American Literature

Invisible Man was published in 1952 and written by African American author Ralph Ellison. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1953, and Ellison was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1985 for his contributions to American literature. In addition to his fiction, he wrote essays and was a professor, teaching at several prestigious American universities including Yale University, Bard College, New York University, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University. He... Read Invisible Man Summary

Publication year 1935Genre Novel, FictionTags Satire, Politics / Government, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

It Can’t Happen Here, a political novel by Sinclair Lewis first published in 1935, details the rise, consolidation, and partial collapse of an American fascist dictatorship. The book is told primarily from the perspective of Doremus Jessup, an owner-editor of a small-town Vermont newspaper and self-described middle-class liberal intellectual. Jessup is 60 years old at the start of the novel. Jessup begins as a cynical but detached observer of politics but over the course of... Read It Can't Happen Here Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Identity: GenderTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Fantasy, LGBTQ

Publication year 1955Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Modern Classic Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, Satire, Realism

Lolita, a novel by Russian-American author Vladimir Nabokov, was published in 1955 in Paris. American publishing companies refused to publish the novel due to its scandalous plot, but the book was considered a classic almost instantly. In 1967, the novel was finally published in America and, since then, Lolita has appeared on several lists of the greatest English-language and American novels of all time. The novel blends genres, offering readers elements of romance, erotica, and... Read Lolita Summary

Publication year 2005Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags Realistic Fiction, Depression / Suicide

Looking for Alaska is narrated by a sixteen-year-old boy, Miles Halter, who leaves behind his mundane life in Florida to attend a boarding school called Culver Creek. He is inspired by biographies detailing the adventures of notable figures during their days at boarding school. Most of all, he is motivated by the notion of a “Great Perhaps”. Miles has a fascination with famous last words, and particularly with the last words of the poet Francois... Read Looking for Alaska Summary

Publication year 1954Genre Novel, FictionTags British Literature, Allegory / Fable / Parable

Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by Nobel-prize winning British author William Golding. Golding was knighted in 1988 and was a fellow in the Royal Society of Literature. In 2008, The Times named him third on their list “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.”The title of Golding’s young-adult fiction novel is a reference to Beelzebub, a prince of hell.During a wartime evacuation, an airplane crashes on a remote island. The only survivors... Read Lord of the Flies Summary

Publication year 1959Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Identity: Mental Health, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: Community, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags The Beat Generation, Classic Fiction, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Addiction / Substance Abuse, American Literature, Satire, Politics / Government

Naked Lunch is a 1959 novel by American author William. S. Burroughs. In it, Lee, a heroin user, looks to escape New York to avoid arrest by the police. He thus embarks on a journey through Philadelphia and Mexico before arriving in the fictional state of Freeland, where all life is well-ordered and hygienic. Following a riot in a Freeland psychological reconditioning center, however, Lee flees to the strange and fantastical city of Interzone. There... Read Naked Lunch Summary

Publication year 1940Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Existentialism, American Literature, African American Literature, Race / Racism

Richard’s Wright’s debut novel Native Son was an immediate success upon its publication in 1940, selling 250,000 copies in three weeks. Today, it is widely recognized as not only Wright’s greatest work, but as one of the most significant American novels of the twentieth century. In his essay “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born” (1940), Wright explains that he based the protagonist of the novel on five young Black men he had known as a child. These... Read Native Son Summary

Publication year 1937Genre Novella, FictionTags Classic Fiction, American Literature, Disability

American author John Steinbeck published his novella Of Mice and Men in 1937. Despite its place in the classical canon, the novella is one of the most challenged books of the 21st century due to its depiction of violence and use of profane, racist language. The novella’s title is an allusion to Scottish poet Robert Burns’s 1785 poem “To a Mouse,” in which a farmer unwittingly and regrettably kills a mouse while plowing. Of Mice... Read Of Mice and Men Summary

Publication year 1604Genre Play, FictionTags Classic Fiction, British Literature, Elizabethan Era

William Shakespeare’s Othello is a tragedy written in approximately 1603 and published in 1622. The play begins in Venice, where Iago, a subordinate of Othello’s and a captain in the Venetian defense forces, tells Roderigo that Othello has passed him over for promotion. Instead, Othello, a Moor, has chosen the noble and popular Michael Cassio to be his lieutenant. Iago tells Roderigo that he will have his revenge on Othello but behave as a loyal... Read Othello Summary

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Siblings, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Identity: Femininity, Identity: MasculinityTags Historical Fiction, Romance, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Realistic Fiction, Gender / Feminism, Grief / Death, History: U.S., Love / Sexuality, Race / Racism, Religion / Spirituality, American Literature, Class

Out of Darkness is a young adult historical novel written by Ashley Hope Pérez and published in 2015 by Holiday House of New York. Pérez holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Indiana University, where her research focused on Latin American literature. A professor of World Literatures at Ohio State University, she is also the author of What Can’t Wait (2011), The Knife and The Butterfly (2012), and Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions about... Read Out of Darkness Summary

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Friendship, Identity: Sexuality, Society: Community, Relationships: Siblings, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Identity: Gender, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags Romance, LGBTQ, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Music

Publication year 1969Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: FateTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Satire, Military / War, Surrealism, American Literature

Slaughterhouse-Five is a 1969 science fiction novel written by the American author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The novel deals with anti-war themes and time travel while centering its narrative around the bombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II. Slaughterhouse-Five is considered one of the most important anti-war and science fiction novels of the 20th century and has been adapted into films, theatre productions, and radio plays. Plot SummaryThe narrative of Slaughterhouse-Five is told in a... Read Slaughterhouse-Five Summary

Publication year 1965Genre Novella, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Emotions/Behavior: NostalgiaTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Russian Literature

Publication year 2020Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Black Lives Matter, Civil Rights / Jim Crow, Race / Racism

Jason Reynolds’s Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (2020) is a nonfiction book by the American authors Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. It is a self-described “remix” of Kendi’s 2016 National Book Award winner Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. An award-winning writer of young adult fiction and poetry, Reynolds frames America’s history of racist ideas for an audience of middle school and high school readers. Reynolds’s remix... Read Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Identity: Masculinity, Relationships: FriendshipTags Realistic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Race / Racism, Poverty, Addiction / Substance Abuse, Grief / Death

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a young adult novel by Sherman Alexie, published in 2007 with art by Ellen Forney. Alexie, a Spokane/Cour d’Alene Indian (a term he prefers to “Native American”), began the book as a memoir inspired by experiences he had growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington, and attending the predominantly white Reardan High School in Reardan, Washington. The book received much praise and many... Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Summary

Publication year 2Genre Novel/Book in Verse, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Life/Time: Midlife, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Identity: Femininity, Identity: MasculinityTags Lyric Poem, Romance, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Ancient Rome, Didacticism, Love / Sexuality, Philosophy, Arts / Culture, History: European, Gender / Feminism, Relationships

Publication year 1899Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Music, Relationships: Mothers, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Gender / Feminism, Classic Fiction, American Literature, Depression / Suicide, Naturalism

The Awakening is Kate Chopin’s second novel. It was first published in 1899 and is considered one of the first examples of feminist fiction.The novel opens in the 1890s Louisiana, at Grand Isle, a summer holiday resort popular among wealthy Creoles who live in nearby New Orleans. Edna Pontellier, her husband, Léonce, and their two children are vacationing at the cottages of Madame Lebrun. Léonce is a kind and devoted husband, but he is often... Read The Awakening Summary

Publication year 1970Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags American Literature, Existentialism

The Bluest Eye is the first novel of Nobel-Prize winning writer Toni Morrison. It was published in 1970. Set in Lorain, Ohio in 1941, the novel traces how Pecola Breedlove, the dark-skinned daughter of a poor African American family, came to be pregnant with her father's child and lost her sanity after the baby died.Morrison prefaces the novel with a Foreword in which she explains several of her choices in writing the novel. The novel... Read The Bluest Eye Summary

Publication year 1951Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Natural World: Nurture v. NatureTags Modern Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, American Literature, Depression / Suicide

J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951, is widely heralded as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. The coming-of-age novel captures the alienation that teenagers experienced in the years following World War II, and its popularity as an assigned text in American schools has led to its enduring relevance in American literature (and notoriety, as it frequently faced challenges or censorship from concerned parents). Plot SummaryThe novel is told in... Read The Catcher in the Rye Summary

Publication year 1982Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Society: ColonialismTags Gender / Feminism, American Literature, African American Literature, Modern Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Race / Racism

The Color Purple is an epistolary novel—a novel told in letter form—in which Alice Walker traces the gradual liberation of Celie, a poor, Black woman who must overcome abuse and separation from her beloved sister Nettie. Set in the South and an unnamed African country during the 1930 to 1940s, the novel is a study in the ways in which Black women use their faith, relationships, and creativity to survive racial and sexual oppression. The... Read The Color Purple Summary

Publication year 2003Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Disability, Values/Ideas: Safety & DangerTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Animals, Disability, British Literature

In the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Christopher Boone, a brilliant teenage boy with Autism, sets out to solve the murder of his neighbor’s dog. Written by Mark Haddon and published in 2003, the book has become a prize-winning bestseller translated into three-dozen languages. Already considered a classic, the work has been adapted as a stage play and is performed internationally. The e-book edition is the basis for this study... Read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Summary

Publication year 2005Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags American Literature

The Glass Castle is a nonfiction memoir published in 2005 by the American journalist Jeannette Walls. The book chronicles Walls and her three siblings’ nomadic and impoverished upbringing by their severely maladjusted parents. An enormous critical and popular success, The Glass Castle remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 260 weeks in hardcover and 440 weeks in paperback. In 2017, director Destin Daniel Cretton adapted the book into a film starring Brie... Read The Glass Castle Summary

Publication year 1931Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Natural World: Environment, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Natural World: Place, Society: CommunityTags Classic Fiction, Historical Fiction, History: Asian

A measure of the quality, prescience, and veracity of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth is that, nearly a century after its first publication, the book remains required reading in literature, world history, and social science courses. The novel is a simple, straightforward narrative about 50 years in the life of Wang Lung, an uneducated farmer in eastern China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While this era period was one of continual... Read The Good Earth Summary

Publication year 1925Genre Novel, FictionTags The Lost Generation, Music, Modern Classic Fiction, Drama / Tragedy, Modernism, American Literature

The Great Gatsby is a fiction novel published in 1925 by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Inspired on Fitzgerald’s own experiences during the Jazz Age of the 1920s, The Great Gatsby captures the prosperity and the hedonism of the era through a cast of characters who reside in the fictional Long Island towns of West Egg and East Egg. Despite a cold reaction from critics and audiences upon its release, many modern scholars include... Read The Great Gatsby Summary

Publication year 1985Genre Novel, FictionTags Gender / Feminism, Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

First published in 1985, Margaret Atwood’s sixth novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, has received numerous accolades and prizes and remains widely critically celebrated. Set in what used to be the United States but is now a repressive theocracy called the Republic of Gilead, it is narrated by the protagonist, Offred, who recounts her daily experiences intercut with memories of her life before the revolution and during her training to become a “Handmaid.”Handmaids are fertile women who... Read The Handmaid's Tale Summary

Publication year 2017Genre Novel, FictionTags Realistic Fiction

The Hate U Give is a young adult novel published in 2017 by the American author Angie Thomas. The book’s protagonist is a 16-year-old Black girl who witnesses a White police officer kill her friend. A New York Times bestseller, The Hate U Give won several awards, including the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award for best debut and the Coretta Scott King Award for the best children’s novel by an African American author... Read The Hate U Give Summary

Publication year 2008Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction

The Hunger Games is a best-selling young adult novel, the first in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. It details the life of teenage heroine Katniss Everdeen as she fights to the death for the entertainment of her fascist government. Since its publication in 2008, the trilogy has sold more than 65 million copies in the United States alone and, in 2019, was listed as one of 100 most influential novels by BBC News. The Hunger... Read The Hunger Games Summary

Publication year 1937Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: RaceTags Gender / Feminism, Modern Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Historical Fiction, African American Literature, American Literature

Zora Neale Hurston, a writer and anthropologist associated with the Harlem Renaissance, published her second and most famous novel Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. Set in Central and South Florida, the novel follows protagonist Janie Crawford’s evolution from impressionable, idealistic girl to self-confident woman. Famed for her work as an ethnographer and an author, Hurston chronicled contemporary issues in the Black community with honesty. While somewhat unrecognized in her time, Hurston’s writing came... Read Their Eyes Were Watching God Summary

Publication year 1905Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: Immigration, Society: Economics, Society: ClassTags American Literature, Industrial Revolution, Naturalism

The Jungle, first published in serial form in 1905, is a realist novel by American writer Upton Sinclair. Although fictional, the work is often considered an example of “muckraking” journalism—turn-of-the-century investigative reporting that took aim at political corruption while advocating for progressive reform. As an exposé of this kind, The Jungle both exceeded and fell short of its author’s intentions. Sinclair’s graphic account of the unsanitary and corrupt practices of America’s big meatpacking companies horrified... Read The Jungle Summary

Publication year 2003Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & BetrayalTags Historical Fiction, September 11 Attacks, Middle Eastern Literature

Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, The Kite Runner, was published in 2003, two years after the events of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the US invasion of Afghanistan. Hosseini, the son of a diplomat for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and relocated to France as a child. When Afghanistan was thrown into turmoil by the Soviet occupation at the height of the Cold... Read The Kite Runner Summary

Publication year 1999Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Music, Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Depression / Suicide, Mental Illness, LGBTQ

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is Stephen Chbosky’s first novel and was published in 1999. It is young adult fiction and a coming-of-age tale told from the perspective of Charlie, a freshman in high school. The epistolary novel is comprised of a series of letters that Charlie writes to someone he calls “friend,” although he has never met this friend in person. He makes it immediately clear that he wants to remain anonymous with... Read The Perks of Being a Wallflower Summary

Publication year 1960Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Modern Classic Fiction, Classic Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, American Literature, Southern Gothic

To Kill a Mockingbird is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel written by Harper Lee and originally published in 1960. The book is widely regarded as an American classic and, until recently, was the only novel Lee had published. To Kill a Mockingbird was inspired by events and observations that took place in Lee’s hometown. Set in the Great Depression, from 1932 to 1935, the novel is narrated by a young girl named Scout, whose coming-of-age experiences closely mirror... Read To Kill a Mockingbird Summary

Publication year 2013Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Life/Time: The Past, Relationships: FamilyTags Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ, Depression / Suicide, Love / Sexuality, Parenting, American Literature

David Levithan’s 2013 young adult novel Two Boys Kissing is narrated from the perspective of the gay men who died during the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic. This chorus, resembling that of ancient Greek theater, observes the novel’s present-day characters—several gay teenage boys in neighboring American small towns—as they explore love, relationship, and identity. The central narrative follows two boys, Harry and Craig, who attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous kiss by kissing... Read Two Boys Kissing Summary

Publication year 1851Genre Novel, FictionTags Classic Fiction, American Civil War

American author Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly was published in 1852 after having originally appeared as forty weekly installments in the abolitionist periodical The National Era beginning in June of 1851. It was not intended to become a full-length novel, but its huge popularity led a publisher to contact Stowe and convince her to expand it. Though already an active abolitionist, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850... Read Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary