Cassie Bosse is the Email Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House. In her free time she can usually be found reading a good book, binge-watching British TV shows, or whipping up a decadent feast for friends and family.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I fell in love with this book after reading it for the first time in high school, and have read it countless times since. And while I recognize that few of us revere the required reading we come across at that age, I urge you to take a second look. While at its heart Jane Eyre is a romance, there is so much more to it than that. There are elements of the supernatural, discussions of morality and religion, and of course, one of the earliest portrayals of feminist ideals in English literature. But what has surprised me the most on each re-reading is how relatable the characters remain. Jane’s agony over seemingly unrequited affection, her self-doubt, and awkward attempts at flirting are just a few examples. Brontë’s uncanny ability to capture the deepest thoughts and feelings of a young woman striving for independence in a time period when that was virtually unheard of is exactly what makes this book a classic. Read an Excerpt.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Forget everything Hollywood and popular culture has ever taught you about this book. There’s no giant green monster with bolts in his neck who only communicates via unintelligible grunts. The action doesn’t take place in some creepy castle on a hilltop. There isn’t even an Igor. Rather, it is the tale of young medical student Victor Frankenstein, whose fascination with the occult leads him to conduct a fateful experiment that results in the creation of a sentient, albeit grotesque, creature—who is also surprisingly articulate for being a reanimated corpse. The outcome of a friendly competition between Mary, her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron to see who could write the best ghost story, this book is so much more terrifying than any silver screen adaption because it depicts a man so blinded by his obsession that he loses all he holds dear. Read an Excerpt.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The first time I read this book I couldn’t help but think that it had all the makings for a great episode of the Twilight Zone. The story begins as a young Dorian is having his portrait painted. A vain and frivolous man, he makes a secret wish that he will stay as young and beautiful as he is in his portrait forever. And guess what. His wish is granted—with a slight twist, of course. Each cruel deed he commits during his lifetime—and boy, does he commit a lot of them—is reflected in his portrait until the figure in the painting is transformed into a hideous monster. Fortunately, this is one that Hollywood got right. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to check out the 1945 film adaptation, which is famous for it’s pioneering use of Technicolor to reveal Dorian’s macabre portrait. Read an Excerpt.
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
In 1960, John Steinbeck set out on a road trip across the U.S., accompanied by his French poodle Charley, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years. He stops at roadside diners and camps out on country roads, all the while capturing the stories of the people he meets along the way. I think what’s most interesting about this book is Steinbeck’s own reflections on the “new America” of 1960. As we now know, the 60s were a tumultuous decade full of social change, but Steinbeck’s portrait of America at this time is not what you’d expect. He sees the nation as complacent and fears that the American people are no longer interested in rebellion. Social commentary aside, if you’re going to pick this one up be forewarned: you just might be inspired to embark on a road trip of your own. I know I was.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
Think you don’t know anything about Taoism? Well if you’ve ever read Winnie the Pooh, think again because as it turns out the Bear of Very Little Brain and his Hundred Acre Wood cohorts are all perfect examples of the fundamental principles of this ancient Chinese belief system. This clever and quick read from Benjamin Hoff is a great introduction to the basic tenets of Taoist thought. Be sure to check out the companion book, The Te of Piglet, for even more philosophizing with Pooh and the gang.
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