Anna Baldasty works as a copywriter in academic and library marketing, where she writes and designs promotional materials that get Penguin titles in the hands of professional readers: students, professors, and librarians.
As horror fiction that works on multiple levels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is easily one of my favorite classics. Only Shelley could deftly explore the anxieties of her age, from the limits of science to the advancement of feminism, while spinning a gothic page-turner that takes us from Lake Geneva to the frozen waters of the Arctic. The best part? A monster so vividly and humanly rendered that we sometimes forget to root against him.
What I love most about The Age of Innocence is not its discussion of duty versus passion, but its evocation of memory—of the desire to preserve experience, protecting it from the passage of time and the weight of reality. If that seems vague, it’s because I cannot say more without ruining the book’s final scene, which I think is one of the most perfect endings ever written. Read it!
Told from two perspectives in alternating chapters, this story of love and betrayal set against a backdrop of political upheaval in early 19th-century India places national drama in domestic terms, literally moving revolution inside the home. The result is a beautifully written character study, wherein every act, every word, and every emotion carries dire consequences. Yet despite the high-stakes set-up and overarching political framework, Tagore manages to tell the story as a quiet, intimate tragedy—a stunning accomplishment.
If your summer reading list is missing the fin de siècle Norwegian soap opera you were longing for, look no further than Hedda Gabler. This play has it all: an unraveling marriage, an unwanted pregnancy, a dissolute ex-lover, blackmail, alcoholism, and lots of snarky comments. Ibsen’s sympathetic portrayal of a woman trapped to the point of desperation by traditional female roles is remarkable, especially considering the play debuted in 1891.
The Odyssey means more to me now, in my twenties, than it did when I first read it in English class as a high school freshman. Although I doubt The Odyssey has ever been marketed as coming-of-age fiction, in many ways Odysseus’s trials perfectly capture the highs and lows of growing older: he searches for adventure, tackles obstacles, and navigates an often disorienting environment. If a story written c. 700 BCE still feels relevant in 2014, it definitely earns a spot on this list.
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