Study guides: popular books

1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell isn’t an easy author to read. His style is heavy, concepts are multidimensional and characters are oftentimes disgusting. You’d never have though that the boy attended the most prestigious schools in the UK – his writing screams anarchy and oppression. Having lived among the most poor of London and served as a policeman in Burma, all of Orwell’s works are...

The Contender by Robert Lipsyte

The Contender is a debut novel by Robert Lipsyte that tells us the story of a black young man who lives in Harlem with his aunt and cousins. His harsh life is urging him to take the easiest way of criminal life and becoming a thug, but the main character named Alfred Brooks struggles and tries to use his destructive impulses for good. The story of Alfred Brooks is the story of silent rebellion...

Richard II by William Shakespeare

Richard II by William Shakespeare is a historical drama, the first one in the epic tetralogy that is called Henriade by some researches. It tells us the tragic story of the aforementioned King Richard II, from the pinnacle of his power to the downfall, imprisonment and, finally, murder. The author deliberately shows us Richard as the magnificent King on his throne at the very beginning of his...

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

The Day of the Locust is an interesting example of portraying the realistic events through the eyes of the main character - an artist, who sees them as an inspiration for his painting. The novel plays with Hollywood stereotypes, showing the full range of them: from young starlets who appear to be gold-diggers and to greedy and lusty producers. The painting that the protagonist - a young graduate...

Animal Farm by George Orwell

George Orwell has always been a loud critic of the social wrongdoings and worrying tendencies around the globe. No wonder he took a strong position about the Soviet Union regime and openly criticized Stalin. In 1945 George wrote a dystopian novella about evolution of animals that expel their human master, Manor Farm owner Mister Jones. The fight for independence from cruel farmer ends up with...

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Despite the intriguing name, the Grim Reaper himself doesn’t feature in the book. It is the story based on the real biography of the Archbishop John-Baptiste Lamy and sheds light at his mid-to-later age and his legacy. The protagonist of the story, John Latour repeats the steps of his real-life counterpart, though maybe in a little bit more heroic way. John Latour leaves France to travel...

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

As other famous works of Erik Larson, “The Devil in the White City” is based on the real historical events that the author studied carefully. He filled them with a new sense and perspective and turned the dry historical facts and personalities into living, breathing characters. Two plotlines - one of the Devil and the other of the main architect of the White City are tightly...

Don Juan by George Gordon Byron

“Don Juan” is traditionally portrayed as a satirical poem, but it also can be seen as a tragedy. The author presents the story of a legendary lover from the unusual angle, showing him not as a selfish seducer who breaks the hearts of the countless women and then forgets their names, but as a victim of his own love, passion and stunning appearance. We see Don Juan as a person capable...

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

This non-fiction novel is the memories of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston about her family, imprisoned and sent to the concentration camp of Manzanar. The story starts from her parents, who had their own issues even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor that caused the repressions against American Japanese people. The family of Jeanne are the immigrants of first generation, who fled from war. They are...

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare is considered one of the best comedies of the Bard, but from the modern point of view this comedy has rather dark undertones. Despite some classical plot turns used in it like cross-dressing and double wedding in the end, Two Gentlemen of Verona takes the theme of love, friendship and betrayal much more serious than most of the comedies by...

Oedipus the King by Sophocles

The story of Oedipus is one of the most famous in the European literature. There are few people who haven’t heard of it or of a well-known Oedipus complex. Sometimes it seems that the plot of the story is so preeminent that it’s not worth spending the time to read it. But a very familiar story opens up with fascinating details, additional plot lines, rich characters and many more...

Beloved by Toni Morrison

American literary history wouldn’t be the same if Toni Morrison didn’t write this legendary “Beloved” novel. It is partially based on a real story of an enslaved woman who fled Kentucky to escape to freedom, not without terrible sacrifices and consequences.  It’s a fascinating plot that will keep you reading for hours. The setting of the book is symbolic: right...

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles is a postmodern historical fiction that tells us the story of the aforementioned woman, abandoned by the French lieutenant who returned to France and married there. The woman named Sarah was left disgraced and shun from the society, spending most of her time on the beach and looking at the sea, grieving about her loss and shame. The story starts...

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Since his childhood years, Aldous Huxley was surrounded by good examples of scientists, teachers and writers. This kind of exposure put him in a perfect position to integrate scientific findings into literature and deliver the story the way a teacher would lead his students through a complicated material. He started with satire, making English privileged society a target for his works. Then was...

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Most of people tend to believe they have never experienced the contemporary literature of Nordic countries until they realize that Stieg Larsson, who wrote the legendary “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, was Swedish.  It is believed that the author wrote the book and especially its main character based on real life events. While we may question whether he really witnessed a...

Candide by Voltaire

Despite the fact that “Candide” title has many translation variations, it is still a one of the most famous and studied works of French Literature. Be it “All For The Best” or “The Optimist” – this satirical text was originally banned due to harsh criticism towards religion, politics, and morals of the time. Voltaire wrote a parody that is also based on...

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck was a bestseller of its time and played a prominent part in getting its author the Nobel Prize for literature. A family drama set in China before the World War I, this book showed the readers the Chinese culture, struggles and hopes, their ideas and worldview. The popularity of the novel also helped Americans during the World War II see the Chinese people as allies...

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

In 1729 Jonathan Swift published his work that carried an immensely long title but has become known under “A Modest Proposal” name. The book is a major social text exploring the living conditions in Ireland and the attitude towards the Irish from other nationalities. Today it’s hard to imagine a situation in which a parent would sell his kid, but this concept is exactly what...

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

For an offspring of a wealthy Family, Jerome David Salinger didn’t go through a very typical career path. He went to many colleges, but didn’t finish any of them. After that he chose for a military career and combined it with his writing talent. He managed to stir the trouble with his works that are still being mentioned in the context of literature censorship and ethics. “The...

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Crime and Punishment” is one of the most difficult literary works not only in the Fyodor Dostoyevsky portfolio but of the whole world literary heritage. In our times, when the majority of population learn about the books by the movies, quick read anything that is longer than ten pages and get an idea about the plot from the reviews, it’s not easy to take up a challenge of a...

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