The roaring release of this month’s The Great Gatsby calls to mind some of our favorite summer pastimes: poolside parties, jazzy tunes, and the chance to stretch out in the sand with that dog-eared copy of your college lit class favorite. Tales of Jay and Daisy put you in the mood for 20th century classics? We’ve found five you may have missed, all set to be your new top beach read.
The Beautiful and The Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald Many speculate that this novel, published three years before The Great Gatsby, is based largely on Fitzgerald’s tumultuous marriage to Zelda Sayre. With characteristically haunting lyricism, Fitzgerald traces the story of Anthony Patch, a gentrified hedonist who flits about New York City, waiting for his grandfather to die and leave him his fortune. The novel depicts the dissolution of Anthony’s relationship with the shallow Gloria Gilbert, their struggle to attain the former’s inheritance, and—in the classic Fitzgerald way—the disastrous effects of greed, alcohol, and empty pleasure. East of Eden by John Steinbeck The size of this novel may be intimidating, but its direct prose and irresistible characters make it a page-turner. With an tone vaulting it to the heights of the epic, Steinbeck mythologizes his own family history through the intertwining of two California clans. Spanning three generations and reinterpreting the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, this one brims with romance, betrayal, brotherhood, and redemption. Steinbeck himself once said: “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey Kesey’s writing is as carefully oiled as the psychiatric hospital it’s set in, as spirited as its high-rolling protagonist, and as formidable as Nurse Ratched, the conniving villainess who runs the ward. When womanizing hothead Randle Patrick McMurphy arrives at Oregon mental hospital, he bucks against Nurse Ratched, shaking up the ward with a powerful reminder of the depths of the human spirit. In this classic David versus Goliath plight, prepare to be riveted on the sidelines cheering for this irresistible lineup of underdogs.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway Get inside the head of one of literature’s greatest with this classic memoir covering Hemingway’s five years in Paris in the early 1920s. Though young and poor, Ernest and his first wife Hadley (the star of 2011’s The Paris Wife) live, dine, and love with abandon. Travel through the streets of Paris with Hemingway as an uncertain young artist, and catch cameos of such famous personalities as Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and John Dos Passos.
The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor If you liked 2009’s The Help, you’ll love these stories by the belle of Southern literature. At once funny, dark and profound, O’Connor’s stories examine the violent underbelly of human nature. But don’t worry – O’Connor employs her craft with wit, love, and irony. Dive in and meet a cast of characters you won’t soon forget: Joy Hopewell, who changes her name to Hulga because it is the ugliest she can think of, Mrs. Turpin, who gets a book thrown at her head in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, and Old Gabriel, who is mocked for smelling an oncoming wildcat.