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25. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
Just about everything that Dickens did best, he did best here — the rich, expansive cast of characters, the glorious descriptions, the wry but urgent social commentary — but he also managed to fit it all into a complex structure that toys with narration and tense. Bleak House is both ahead of its time and timeless.
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24. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
Still cited today for its rarefied prose, Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel traces the rebellion of an Irish-Catholic artist named Stephen Dedalus. It shows early stirrings of the modernist style that the author would more fully explore in Ulysses.
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16. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
A heart-thumping romance that should be given to girls before their 13th birthday, with the knowledge that they will reduce it to tatters over countless rereadings. Our dear Jane struggles for self-possession in 19th-century England while fighting off the magnetism of grouchy Rochester. Love wins.
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13. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
Set in the 1930s, Lee's story of racial injustice in Alabama, turning on the arrest of an innocent black man for rape, was a stirring document in the emerging civil rights movement.
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12. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)
Faulkner not only captures one Southern family's decline and fall, he dives deep into each character's thoughts and — as virtually no one else has — lights them up for all the world to see. This was a game-changing novel.
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