Native Son by Richard Wright
Published in 1940 (as was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), Wright’s graphic, violent protest novel was an eye-opener about racial tensions and poverty in America. For hundreds of thousands of readers, the story was a conversation starter: Wright’s protagonist Bigger Thomas commits an accidental murder, and spirals downward into more violence and despair. Some schools have tried to ban Native Son, but the novel endures. Here’s why the TSA might start inspecting your books.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Pulitzer Prize-winning author McCarthy is one of our greatest living prose stylists. His post-apocalyptic novel, The Road, in which a father and young son struggle to survive, is made all the more profound by its brevity. It’s a good book to read that’s both quick and stays with you. Intrepid readers undaunted by a more ornate, challenging, Faulknerian style should also read McCarthy’s masterpiece Blood Meridian.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Shelley was still a teenager when she created the iconic mad scientist and monster. Frankenstein never loses its grip on our imaginations, because the questions it raises about science, ambition, and our humanity remain as urgent as ever. Here’s the science behind why you love the smell of old books.