As always these are just suggestions! Please share in the comments what you're reading or planning to read, and any recs for the theme that you may have.
George Orwell - 1984
Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent - even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 .
Georgette Heyer - Bath Tangle
The Earl of Spenborough has always been noted for his eccentricity. Leaving Fanny, a widow younger than his own daughter Serena is one thing, but quite another is leaving his daugther's fortune to the trusteeship of Ivo Barrasford, marquis of Rotherham -- a man whom Serena once jilted and who now has the power to give or withhold his consent to any marriage she might contemplate. Lady Serena Carlow is an acknowledged beauty, many eager suitors have vied for her hand, but she's got a temper as fiery as her head of red hair. When her father dies unexpectedly, Serena discovers to her horror that she has been left a ward of the odious Lord Rotherham. Serena raged as she heard her father's last will and testament! How could he mortgage his only daughter to Lord Rotherham, making the very man she had recently jilted caretaker of her inheritance and her heart?
Her father's heir is eager to take over his inheritance--and her lifelong home-- but the the fiery-hearted Serena is not so easily controlled. She with her lovely young stepmother, Fanny as "chaperone", decide to move to Bath. There they'd turn the ton inside out! Volatile Serena and gentle Fanny could not be less alike but they are good friends. Serena makes an odd new friend and discovers a childhood sweetheart, Major Hector Kirkby. All too soon, the scandalous Serena had more beaux than she could dangle on a string, but none of them seemed to matter--now that her former suitor Rotherham pursued another beautiful belle! What she cannot know is that the astute Rotherham has a calculate scheme of his own for capturing her heart. Before long, Serena, Fanny, Kirkby, and Rotherham are entangled in a welter of misunderstood emotions, mistaken engagements, and misdirected love.
Yukio Mishima - The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
Mizoguchi, an ostracized stutterer, develops a childhood fascination with Kyoto’s famous Golden Temple. While an acolyte at the temple, he fixates on the structure’s aesthetic perfection and it becomes the one and only object of his desire. But as Mizoguchi begins to perceive flaws in the temple, he determines that the only true path to beauty lies in an act of horrendous violence. Based on a real incident that occurred in 1950, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion brilliantly portrays the passions and agonies of a young man in postwar Japan, bringing to the subject the erotic imagination and instinct for the dramatic moment that marked Mishima as one of the towering makers of modern fiction.
Stanislaw Lem - Solaris
When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the living physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others examining the planet, Kelvin learns, are plagued with their own repressed and newly corporeal memories. The Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates these incarnate memories, though its purpose in doing so is unknown, forcing the scientists to shift the focus of their quest and wonder if they can truly understand the universe without first understanding what lies within their hearts.
Julio Cortázar - Hopscotch
Horacio Oliveira is an Argentinian writer who lives in Paris with his mistress, La Maga, surrounded by a loose-knit circle of bohemian friends who call themselves "the Club." A child's death and La Maga's disappearance put an end to his life of empty pleasures and intellectual acrobatics, and prompt Oliveira to return to Buenos Aires, where he works by turns as a salesman, a keeper of a circus cat which can truly count, and an attendant in an insane asylum. Hopscotch is the dazzling, freewheeling account of Oliveira's astonishing adventures.
Octavia Butler, Kindred
The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland.
After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given...
Bandi, The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea
The Accusation is a deeply moving and eye-opening work of fiction that paints a powerful portrait of life under the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation give voice to people living under this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships. The characters of these compelling stories come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from a young mother living among the elite in Pyongyang whose son misbehaves during a political rally, to a former Communist war hero who is deeply disillusioned with the intrusion of the Party into everything he holds dear, to a husband and father who is denied a travel permit and sneaks onto a train in order to visit his critically ill mother. Written with deep emotion and writing talent, The Accusation is a vivid depiction of life in a closed-off one-party state, and also a hopeful testament to the humanity and rich internal life that persists even in such inhumane conditions.
Andrea Levy, Small Island
Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer's daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.
Told in these four voices, Small Island is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit, of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers---in short, an encapsulation of the immigrant's life.
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
The year is 1969. In the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India, a skyblue Plymouth with chrome tailfins is stranded on the highway amid a Marxist workers' demonstration. Inside the car sit two-egg twins Rahel and Esthappen, and so begins their tale. . . .
Armed only with the invincible innocence of children, they fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family--their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu (who loves by night the man her children love by day), their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt), and the ghost of an imperial entomologist's moth (with unusually dense dorsal tufts).
When their English cousin, Sophie Mol, and her mother, Margaret Kochamma, arrive on a Christmas visit, Esthappen and Rahel learn that Things Can Change in a Day. That lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever, beside their river "graygreen." With fish in it. With the sky and trees in it. And at night, the broken yellow moon in it.
The brilliantly plotted story uncoils with an agonizing sense of foreboding and inevitability. Yet nothing prepares you for what lies at the heart of it.
Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses
Olivia Laguni is half-Chinese, but typically American in her uneasiness with her patchwork family. And no one in Olivia's family is more embarrassing to her than her half-sister, Kwan Li. For Kwan speaks mangled English, is cheerfully deaf to Olivia's sarcasm, and sees the dead with her "yin eyes."
Even as Olivia details the particulars of her decades-long grudge against her sister (who, among other things, is a source of infuriatingly good advice), Kwan Li is telling her own story, one that sweeps us into the splendor, squalor, and violence of Manchu China.
Need more ideas for books? Wikipedia is a great resource for this challenge! If you go here, you can select any year.
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