Zadie Smith's selection of books for a fiction seminar, 'Sense and Sensibility'

A local bookstore released the list of what Ms. Smith asked as a required reading out for the students of her fiction seminar at the Columbia University in 2009.
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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

by Muriel Spark

About the book:  'Muriel Spark's most celebrated novel . . . This ruthlessly and destructively romantic school ma'am is one of the giants of post-war fiction' Independent 'A brilliantly psychological fugue' Observer The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is Muriel Spark's most significant and celebrated novel, and remains as dazzling as when it was first published in 1961. Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher unlike any other, proud and cultured, enigmatic and freethinking; a romantic, with progressive, sometimes shocking ideas and aspirations for the girls in her charge. At the Marcia Blaine Academy she takes a select group of girls under her wing. Spellbound by Miss Brodie's unconventional teaching, these devoted pupils form the Brodie set. But as the girls enter their teenage years and they become increasingly drawn in by Miss Brodie's personal life, her ambitions for them take a startling and dark turn with devastating consequences.

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Pnin

by Vladimir Nabokov

About the book:  Professor Timofey Pnin, late of Tsarist Russia, is now precariously perched at the heart of an American campus. Battling with American life and language, Pnin must face great hazards in this new world: the ruination of his beautiful lumber-room-as-office; the removal of his teeth and the fitting of new ones; the search for a suitable boarding house; and the trials of taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has yet to master. Wry, intelligent and moving, Pnin reveals the absurd and affecting story of one man in exile.

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

by David Foster Wallace

About the book:  David Foster Wallace made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets near. The series of stories from which this exuberantly acclaimed book takes its title is a sequence of imagined interviews with men on the subject of their relations with women. These portraits of men at their most self-justifying, loquacious, and benighted explore poignantly and hilariously the agonies of sexual connections.

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The Complete Stories

by Franz Kafka

About the book:  The Complete Stories brings together all of Kafka’s stories, from the classic tales such as “The Metamorphosis,” “In the Penal Colony,” and “A Hunger Artist” to shorter pieces and fragments that Max Brod, Kafka’s literary executor, released after Kafka’s death. With the exception of his three novels, the whole of Kafka’s narrative work is included in this volume.

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Crash

by Jerry Spinelli

About the book:  The definitive cult, post-modern novel – a shocking blend of violence, transgression and eroticism.

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An Experiment in Love

by Hilary Mantel

About the book:  A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year It was the year after Chappaquiddick, and all spring Carmel McBain had watery dreams about the disaster. Now she, Karina, and Julianne were escaping the dreary English countryside for a London University hall of residence. Interspersing accounts of her current position as a university student with recollections of her childhood and an ever difficult relationship with her longtime schoolmate Karina, Carmel reflects on a generation of girls desiring the power of men, but fearful of abandoning what is expected and proper. When these bright but confused young women land in late 1960s London, they are confronted with a slew of new preoccupations--sex, politics, food, and fertility--and a pointless grotesque tragedy of their own. Hilary Mantel's magnificent novel examines the pressures on women during the early days of contemporary feminism to excel--but not be too successful--in England's complex hierarchy of class and status.

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Modern criticism and theory

by David Lodge

About the book:  'A Reader' aims to provide, within the covers of a single book, a selection of important and representative work from all the major theoretical schools or tendencies in contemporary criticism, and to place them before the reader in two alternative orders: one historical, the other thematic.

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The Screwtape Letters

by C. S. Lewis

About the book:  In this humorous and perceptive exchange between two devils, C. S. Lewis delves into moral questions about good vs. evil, temptation, repentance, and grace. Through this wonderful tale, the reader emerges with a better understanding of what it means to live a faithful life.

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My Loose Thread

by Dennis Cooper

About the book:  A teenager struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity and his physical feelings toward his younger brother, Larry is offered $500 to kill a fellow student and retrieve the boy's notebook, a personal volume that provides Larry with profound insights into his own life. Reprint.

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The Loser

by Thomas Bernhard

About the book:  Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) has been hailed by Gabriel Josipovici as 'Austria's finest postwar writer' and by George Steiner as 'one of the masters of contemporary European fiction.' Faber Finds is proud to reissue a selection of four of Bernhard's finest novels. The Loser centres on a fictional relationship between piano virtuoso Glenn Gould and two of his fellow students who feel compelled to renounce their musical ambitions in the face of Gould's incomparable genius. One commits suicide, while the other - the obsessive, witty, and self-mocking narrator - has retreated into obscurity. Written as a monologue in one remarkable unbroken paragraph, The Loser is a brilliant meditation on success, failure, genius, and fame.

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A Room with a View

by E M Forster

About the book:  Forster's brilliant social comedy is a witty observation of the English middle classes as they holiday abroad in Florence. One of these tourists is Lucy Honeychurch, a young girl whose 'undeveloped heart' is awakened by her experiences in Italy and by her encounter with the unconventional George Emerson. Lucy finds herself torn between un-English passion and stifling Victorian propriety, personified in her pretentious fiance Cecil Vyse and her dismal cousin Charlotte, until she learns to follow the power of her own heart. 'More than any books I know, I can come back to [Forster's]... and still find them fresh, and more than fresh - true.' The Times

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Reader's Block

by David Markson

About the book:  The narrator, Reader, reflects on a lifetime of reading

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The Quiet American

by Graham Greene

About the book:  WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ZADIE SMITH Into the intrigue and violence of Indo-China comes Pyle, a young idealistic American sent to promote democracy through a mysterious 'Third Force'. As his naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch. But even as he intervenes he wonders why: for the sake of politics, or for love?

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The Book of Daniel

by E.L. Doctorow

About the book:  FBI agents pay a surprise visit to a Communist man and his wife in their New York apartment, and after a trial that divides the country, the couple are sent to the electric chair for treason. Decades later, in 1967, their son Daniel struggles to understand the tragedy of their lives. But while he is tormented by his past and trying to appreciate his own wife and son, Daniel is also haunted, like millions of others, by the need to come to terms with a country destroying itself in the Vietnam War. A stunning fictionalization of a political drama that tore the United States apart, The Book of Daniel is an intensely moving tale of political martyrdom and the search for meaning.

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