“Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut – The Automated Future

“Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Kurt Vonnegut‘s extensive bibliography isn’t short on bestsellers, but I see many people overlooking his first novel, Player Piano, which seems a little strange considering how well it resonates with modern times. It tells the story of an engineer, Paul Prodeus, living in a totally automated American society in the future, increasingly desperate to find some true meaning to his life.

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“Steppenwolf” by Herman Hesse – The Inherent Beauty of Meaninglessness

“Steppenwolf” by Herman Hesse (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Short Summary

Herman Hesse is an author whose literature can be best-described, in my opinion, as profoundly introspective, affording each and every person it touches the tools to peer further within themselves. Steppenwolf is one of his most popular and influential novels, telling the story of Harry Haller, a profoundly sad and lonely individual struggling to reconcile the civil and primeval halves of his own identity.

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“Germinal” by Emile Zola – Seeding the Revolution

“Germinal” by Emile Zola (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Short Summary

Emile Zola is a name most people are familiar with, even those who haven’t read his works. Objectively one of the greatest authors in our short history, his novels always had the ability to move people, and have been consistently doing so for over a hundred and fifty years. In Germinal, one of his more famous works, he tells the story of Etienne Lantier, a clever and unemployed machinist who eventually stirs a mining community to a strike unlike any other, threatening to open the first cracks in a rotten and unjust world order.

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“Three Comrades” by Erich Maria Remarque – The Enduring Spirit of Friendship

“Three Comrades” by Erich Maria Remarque (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Erich Maria Remarque captured like none other the chaos of an uncertain daily life in Germany between the two World Wars, and Three Comrades is one of his more iconic works on the subject. The story follows three friends earning a meagre living through a garage they own, searching desperately for a meaning to their wasting lives amidst the upheavals which shook Germany in 1928… a meaning they might just find when a new comrade enters the fold.

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“The Black Obelisk” by Erich Maria Remarque – Economics Dictate Values

“The Black Obelisk” by Erich Maria Remarque (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Erich Maria Remarque has managed to capture like few others the atmosphere of his era, and in The Black Obelisk he takes us to the heart of Germany after the First World War. It introduces us to Ludwig, a young veteran from the war, now working for a monument company, mostly selling stone markers to the loved ones of the recently-departed. With the historical inflation in his country only worsening by the hour, Ludwig tries to find a meaning for his life amidst a turbulent and collapsing society.

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“Illusions” by Richard Bach – Become Your Own Messiah

“Illusions” by Richard Bach (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Richard Bach is without the shadow of a doubt one of the most original and inspiring authors of the twentieth century, somewhat ironic considering his self-professed disdain for writing. In Illusions and Illusions II he tells a tale starring himself, one where he meets Donald Shimoda, a self-professed messiah capable of elevating Richard’s world to new and unseen heights.

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“The Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut – The Inescapable Plan

“The Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Kurt Vonnegut has many novels through which he established his lifelong fame as an essential author of the 20th century, and the first of those was titled The Sirens of Titan. Published all the way back in 1959, it tells the story of Malachi Constant, Earth’s richest and most depraved man, as he embarks on a grand interplanetary voyage against his own will, learning much

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“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach – The Dormant Explorer Within

“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Short Summary

Richard Bach is one of the few authors whose works continue to stand the test of time, with his classic Jonathan Livingston Seagull still being as current as back when it was written. A tale of inspiration, it follows the titular seagull as he learns the art of flight and finds his own way through life, despite his peers’ lack of approval.

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“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller – Where Rational Thought goes to Die

“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Joseph Heller forever gifted humanity a slightly deeper understanding of human nature and the utter folly pervasive in war when he published the eternally-current Catch-22. The novel, drawing in part on Heller’s experiences as a bombardier, follows the story of Captain John Yossarian and his mates who experience the incongruous insanity of the Second World War as they fly their missions over Italy.

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“The Young Lions” by Irwin Shaw – Different Perspectives on Atrocity

“The Young Lions” by Irwin Shaw (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Irwin Shaw is one of the writers whose works have a defined place in history, chronicling a reality we can never afford to forget. The Young Lions is perhaps his best-known work, depicting the Second World War and its immense complexity through three different perspectives: an observant young Nazi, a weary American film producer, and a shy Jewish boy who just got married.

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“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Time is Indeed a Circle

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by G. G. Marquez (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, is a figure who needs little introduction among book lovers. His works have always been distinguished by their profound and meaningful nature, and One Hundred Years of Solitude represents those qualities like none other. Telling of the rise and fall of a mythical town called Macondo, the story follows the lives of multiple generations belonging to the Buendia family.

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“Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow – The Recurring Patterns in Life

“Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow (Header Image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

E.L. Doctorow is revered as one of the greatest and most influential authors of the 20th century, and I think anyone who picks up his works, whether they like them or not, can understand why. Ragtime was considered one of his best works and a true classic, presenting a relatively disjointed narrative following many characters, some real and others imagined, across their trials and tribulations in a snapshot of early 1900s New York City.

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“For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway – The Last Stand of Love

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Ernest Hemingway has always had a real talent for portraying complex characters in equally complicated situations, made even more impressive with his concise vocabulary. For Whom the Bell Tolls might be one of his more popular stories, following a young American, Robert Jordan, as he fights through the Spanish Civil War as a member of the International Brigades, attached to an antifascist guerrilla unit in the mountains.

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H. P. Lovecraft’s Short Stories – A Thirst for Retribution

The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (1916, 1920, 1921)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

As much as H. P. Lovecraft enjoyed writing about otherworldly horrors, he was also no stranger to the more grounded and dark compulsions laying dormant within us, seldom shying away from exploring them if his mind wandered this way. The Alchemist, The Cats of Ulthar and The Terrible Old Man are three of his lesser-known short stories, each one dealing in their own strange ways with the theme of retribution.

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