19th Century Novel Literature Circles
Choices, Choices, Choices
Dracula by Bram Stoker
“Count Dracula has inspired countless movies, books, and plays. But few, if any, have been fully faithful to Bram Stoker's original, best-selling novel of mystery and horror, love and death, sin and redemption. Dracula chronicles the vampire's journey from Transylvania to the nighttime streets of London. There, he searches for the blood of strong men and beautiful women while his enemies plot to rid the world of his frightful power.” (B&N) 371pp.
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
“As with So Yesterday, Westerfeld creates an engaging conspiracy set in New York City, filling his novel with provocative facts, this time about parasites. Right after Cal Thompson moves from Texas to New York for college, he loses his virginity and become infected with the parasite that causes vampirism. Fortunately, Cal is "partly immune," so while he is parasite-positive, or a peep, he only experiences some effects, such as night vision. The 19-year-old works for Night Watch, the city's ancient peep-hunting organization. As Cal begins to track Morgan, the woman who infected him after a drunken one-night stand, he stumbles upon a mystery that eventually makes him question the very organization for which he works. He also finds a love interest in the strong-willed journalism student now living in Morgan's old building, but because of the disease he cannot act on his feelings. While they may have trouble making sense of all the pieces, readers will enjoy the scientific reasoning behind vampirism, and will likely get sucked into the conspiracy with Cal. The book brims with great details (Cal can make himself fake I.D. cards and, like other government workers, spends a lot of his time filling in forms), and he faces off against other victims and encounters plenty of rats. Alternate chapters about parasites provide compelling (and appropriately disgusting) details about their small but powerful world. This is definitely a story to get the brain working.” (B&N) 288 pp.
Group 2—Gothic Romance
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
“Immediately recognized as a masterpiece when it was first published in 1847, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is an extraordinary coming-of-age story featuring one of the most independent and strong-willed female protagonists in all of literature. Poor and plain, Jane Eyre begins life as a lonely orphan in the household of her hateful aunt. Despite the oppression she endures at home, and the later torture of boarding school, Jane manages to emerge with her spirit and integrity unbroken. She becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she finds herself falling in love with her employer—the dark, impassioned Mr. Rochester. But an explosive secret tears apart their relationship, forcing Jane to face poverty and isolation once again. One of the world’s most beloved novels, Jane Eyre is a startlingly modern blend of passion, romance, mystery, and suspense.” (B&N) 484 pp.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
“Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife -- between desire and danger.
Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.” (B&N) 544 pp.
Group 3—Science Fiction
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
“Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering "the cause of generation and life" and "bestowing animation upon lifeless matter," Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein. Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.” (B&N) 197 pp.
The Strange Case ofDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Idealistic young scientist Henry Jekyll struggles to unlock the secrets of the soul. Testing chemicals in his lab, he drinks a mixture he hopes will isolate—and eliminate—human evil. Instead it unleashes the dark forces within him, transforming him into the hideous and murderous Mr. Hyde. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dramatically brings to life a science-fiction case study of the nature of good and evil and the duality that can exist within one person. Resonant with psychological perception and ethical insight, the book has literary roots in Dostoevsky’s ‘The Double’ and Crime and Punishment. Today Stevenson’s novella is recognized as an incisive study of Victorian morality and sexual repression, as well as a great thriller.” (B&N) 78 pp.
The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
“The Invisible Man mixes chilling terror, suspense, and acute psychological understanding into a tale of an equally adventurous scientist who discovers the formula for invisibility—a secret that drives him mad.” (B&N) 143 pp.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
“Massive sums spent on biotechnology, 24 Cray supercomputers sent to a fog-shrouded island off Costa Rica, and expert advice bought from paleontologists have combined to produce the most incredible amusement park of all time. Jurassic Park is inhabited by real dinosaurs, over 200 of them, all cloned from snippets of ancient DNA. Crichton is a master at blending technology with fiction, creating a tale all the more terrifying because it could happen. And the terror is heightened when dinosaurs escape from their barricaded area on the island, an event occasioned by the foolhardiness of relying on technology to control their range. Readers can just imagine being caught in the open with these dinosaurs after there's been a massive power outage on the island. Suspense, excitement, and good adventure pervade this book.” (SLJ) 416 pp.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' Thus memorably begins Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, one of the world's most popular novels. Pride and Prejudice—Austen's own 'darling child'—tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old. Humorous and profound, and filled with highly entertaining dialogue, this witty comedy of manners dips and turns through drawing-rooms and plots to reach an immensely satisfying finale. In the words of Eudora Welty, Pride and Prejudice is as 'irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.'” (B&N) 375 pp.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
“First-time novelist Brashares successfully creates four distinct characters, each with her own story line, and ties them together with a creative device: a pair of pants purchased in a thrift shop. As four lifelong friends prepare to split up for the summer, they discover that the second-hand jeans look good on all of them, despite their different physiques. They promise to rotate the jeans among them and, upon their reunion at summer's end, record their favorite adventures on the pant legs. These magical pants serve as a substitute friend for each girl as she is tested that summer, from Carmen, who goes to visit her father only to find out he's engaged to a woman with two teenage kids, to Tibby, who befriends a precocious 12-year-old cancer victim. Even though they are separated for most of the summer, the friends communicate their love and understanding for one another (Tibby writes to Lena, ‘Don't torture yourself, Len. We love you too much,’ to console her friend for mistakenly accusing a cute neighbor boy of spying on her while she skinny dips in Greece). Their bonds, combined with a realistic portrayal of teen emotions (Tibby is embarrassed by the smock she has to wear to work at Wallman's, while Carmen boils with rage when the seamstress fitting her bridesmaid dress disparages her curvy figure), make for an outstanding and vivid book that will stay with readers for a long time. Readers will hope that Brashares chronicles the sisterhood for volumes to come.” (PW) 352 pp.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
“The most popular pirate story ever written in English, featuring one of literature’s most beloved ‘bad guys,’ Treasure Island has been happily devoured by several generations of boys—and girls—and grownups. Its unforgettable characters include: young Jim Hawkins, who finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried; honest Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, who help Jim on his quest for the treasure; the frightening Blind Pew, double-dealing Israel Hands, and seemingly mad Ben Gunn, buccaneers of varying shades of menace; and, of course, garrulous, affable, ambiguous Long John Silver, who is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader! The unexpected and complex relationship that develops between Silver and Jim helps transform what seems at first to be a simple, rip-roaring adventure story into a deeply moving study of a boy’s growth into manhood, as he learns hard lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor—and the uncertain meaning of good and evil.” (B&N) 237 pp.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
“Perhaps the best-loved nineteenth-century American novel, Mark Twain’s tale of boyhood adventure overflows with comedy, warmth, and slapstick energy. It brings to life and array of irresistible characters—the awesomely self-confident Tom, his best buddy Huck Finn, indulgent Aunt Polly, and the lovely, beguiling Becky—as well as such unforgettable incidents as whitewashing a fence, swearing an oath in blood, and getting lost in a dark and labyrinthine cave. Below Tom Sawyer’s sunny surface lurk hints of a darker reality, of youthful innocence and naïveté confronting the cruelty, hypocrisy, and foolishness of the adult world—a theme that would become more pronounced in Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Despite such suggestions, Tom Sawyer remains Twain’s joyful ode to the endless possibilities of childhood.” (B&N) 210 pp.
Nick of Time by Ted Bell
“In the celebrated tradition of grand adventure tales going back to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, this is an epic adventure story about a boy who changes the course of history with his courageous feats of derring-do. People who devoured Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series can rejoice this summer at the possibility of sharing the passion for the British Royal Navy with their offspring... There is an undeniable attraction for boys to the figure of the heroic Englishman (though Nick's spunky younger sister will seem to girls the true hero of the novel), and Nick's mantra in times of stress – ‘Nelson the strong, Nelson the brave, Nelson, the lord of the sea’ -- gets him through the most grueling of moments, when a boy might otherwise give up. The descriptions of the sea battles here are definitely not for the faint of heart.” (B&N) 464 pp.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
First published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was an immediate success, as was its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. Carroll’s sense of the absurd and his amazing gift for games of logic and language have secured for the Alice books an enduring spot in the hearts of both adults and children. Alice begins her adventures when she follows the frantically delayed White Rabbit down a hole into the magical world of Wonderland, where she meets a variety of wonderful creatures, including Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Cheshire Cat, the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts—who, with the help of her enchanted deck of playing cards, tricks Alice into playing a bizarre game of croquet. Alice continues her adventures in Through the Looking-Glass, which is loosely based on a game of chess and includes Carroll’s famous poem “Jabberwocky.” Throughout her fantastic journeys, Alice retains her reason, humor, and sense of justice. She has become one of the great characters of imaginative literature, as immortal as Don Quixote, Huckleberry Finn, Captain Ahab, Sherlock Holmes, and Dorothy Gale of Kansas.
The Looking Glass-Warsby Frank Beddor
“Alyss Heart can't stand that "master of fantasy" bunk; she knows that Lewis Carroll was nothing more than an incompetent reporter. After she generously shared her Wonderland experiences with this fledgling author, he totally botched the retelling, even mangling her name. Alyss, however, refuses to merely grouse; she and royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan decide to make another emergency excursion down the rabbit hole, opening our eyes to parallel realms that prim Rev. Dodgson never imagined. A refreshing take on a Victorian classic.” (B&N) 384 pp.
19th Century Novel Literature Circles
Child’s name ______
I give my child permission to read all of the books listed in group ______