1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark TwainBuy It From Amazon
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is an 1876 novel about a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River. The story is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain lived. Tom Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly and his half-brother Sid. Tom dirties his clothes in a fight and is made to whitewash the fence the next day as punishment.
He cleverly persuades his friends to trade him small treasures for the privilege of doing his work. He then trades the treasures for Sunday School tickets which one normally receives for memorizing verses, redeeming them for a Bible, much to the surprise and bewilderment of the superintendent who thought “it was simply preposterous that this boy had warehoused two thousand sheaves of Scriptural wisdom on his premises—a dozen would strain his capacity, without a doubt.”
Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher, a new girl in town, and persuades her to get “engaged” by kissing him. But their romance collapses when she learns Tom has been “engaged” previously to Amy Lawrence. Shortly after Becky shuns him, he accompanies Huckleberry Finn to the graveyard at night, where they witness the murder of Dr. Robinson.
2. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsBuy It From Amazon
It is a very short list of 20th century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared―57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays.
The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski.
Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the ’40s and ’50s.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeBuy It From Amazon
One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country.
A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonBuy It From Amazon
One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston.
Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.
5. The Color Purple by Alice WalkerBuy It From Amazon
Published to unprecedented acclaim, The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. This is the story of two sisters—one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South—who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence.
Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.