Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ten Great Works of Literature Being Sold on Amazon for a Penny

Reading great literature doesn’t mean you have to cough up a huge chunk of change. While pursuing through the Amazon lists I came across these classic pieces of literature begin sold for a mere penny. These books are constantly on the top 100 books of all time, so if you come across one that you haven’t read you might want to consider grabbing it. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A novel of the Jazz age when Prohibition was nigh, yet everyone still drank. Gatsby is the new rich off of the bootleg business and tries to parlay his new wealth to fit into WASP society and the love of his life Daisy Buchannan. Much of this is eloquently articulated by Nick Carraway, Gatsby's modest Long Island neighbor who becomes his most trusted confidante. Nick is responsible for reuniting the lovers who both have come to different points in their lives five years after their
 aborted romance. Amazon Listing 
2. The Scarlett Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne. An excellent look at the hypocrisy of the religious rule of Puritan society.  Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, Massachusetts, during the years 1642 to 1649. Beginning with the foundation of the town, this “place of Godliness”, yet the first thing they build as a community is a gallows and a graveyard. It tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and is forced to wear a red A on her clothes, to mark her as an adulteress- despite the fact that her husband was presumed lost at sea some ten years prior. She struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity and it all comes to a horrible end.  Amazon Listing 
3. 1984
by George Orwell. The dystopian novel set in an alternate reality where the socialist political structure has taken over the entire world. This tyranny is epitomized by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality but who may not even exist. The Party "seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power." Set in London, England (renamed Air Strip One by the party), the protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party, who works for the Ministry of Truth which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, so that the historical record always supports the party line. At the very least this book is responsible for bringing several new words into the English lexicon. This is a must read for everyone in Western society. Amazon Listing
4. Darkness at Noon
by Arthur Koestler. Another warning to the West. It is the story of an old Communist who is arrested, imprisoned, and tried on trumped up treason charges against the government that he had helped to create. In truth he is swept up in the periodic purges ordered by the leader Number One (an obvious analogue to Joseph Stalin). Semi-autobiographical this story sets in personal detail the monstrousness of the socialist/communist structure, which required widespread destruction of its citizens and constant fear in order to function. As the pressure to confess preposterous crimes increases, he re-lives a career that embodies the terrible ironies and human betrayals of a totalitarian movement masking itself as an instrument of deliverance. Amazon Listing
5. The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger. Nothing in this novel made me want to shoot a celebrity. Taking on the themes of alienation in a young man struggling against the reality that he now has to grow up and fully take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Holden Caulfield, 17, has just flunked out of an elite boarding school. Holden tells the story from a tuberculosis rest home, 1 year after the events take place. A young man who cannot stand anyone, yet cannot be alone, the protagonist is a mass of contradictions. In his struggles against maturity he runs afoul of a number of people who show him both ends of the spectrum. One a stable life of banality, the other a flophouse degenerate existence. Neither appeals to him and he sees that he must make a change in himself in order to exist in modern America. Amazon Listing
6. Lord of the Flies
by William Golding. Set during an evacuation of an unspecified nuclear war (or a war, it might be WWII), a plane load of preadolescent boys crash lands on a tropical island. After recovering and grouping themselves, the boys begin unknowingly begin creating the rudiments of a culture- with rules, roles, and even a mythology (ie. A monster in the woods). At first it seems as though it is all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses and the savage beast in them comes out. Amazon Listing
7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The novel tell of the journey of the narrator, Marlow, up the Congo River on behalf of an ivory trading company. Marlow tells his story to friends aboard a boat anchored on the River Thames, enabling the author to create a parallel between London and Africa as places of darkness.
He encounters the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who exercises an almost godlike power over the natives of the region. The book demonstrates that there is little difference between so-called civilized people and those described as savages and explores the themes about imperialism and racism.
8. A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess. Another dystopian novel (why are they so great?), where the protagonist is a gang leader who enjoys cruising around with his buddies robbing and raping until his heart’s content. That is until one night where he accidently kills a woman, is beaten up by his friends, and left for the police. Inside he volunteers for a new experiment and is then conditioned to become unable to commit acts of violence and sex- leading him to become a victim of society. The book, narrated by the main character, contains many words in a slang argot which Burgess invented for the book, called Nadsat, and it really makes this work stand apart. By the end it feels as if you have learned a new language. The novel takes on the idea that if morality is imposed, is it truly moral. Though the author himself has dismissed the book as "too didactic to be artistic", he is wrong in this case. Amazon Listing
9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
by Ken Kesey. For those who have only seen the film, the novel is significantly different. Primarily the novel is told from the perspective of The Chief and it demonstrates that he is indeed mentally ill. He narrates the story of McMurphy, a rowdy, brawling, fun-loving rebel who tricks his way into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. In this he struggles against Nurse Ratched (known as the Big Nurse for her large breasts) who rules the ward with an iron fist and is more interested in control than therapy. This strife, which started out as sport by the bored McMurphy, end in disaster and destruction. Amazon Listing
10. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The seminal semiautobiographical novel of the author, and THE book to read of any on this list. Taking place in a small town in Alabama during the Great Depression, the center point of the novel is of the trial of a young black man who is accused of rape by a white trash girl. The book deals with racism and bigotry of the times with sympathetic verve through the eyes of the protagonist Scout, an eight year old tomboy.  Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, you cannot help but be touched by this novel. Amazon Listing 
  Hope you've found something to read on this list. For more suggestions check out the What I've Been Reading Page and Readings from 2015. Enjoy.