Reading List For A-level Literature
|**Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi, Half of A Yellow Sun |
Set against the secession of Biafra (Nigeria); a horrifying picture of how ordinary people were swept up in the senseless violence of civil war. Compelling and disturbing.
|**Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi,Americanah |
A powerful story of love, race and identity. Fearless, gripping, spanning and numerous lives across Nigeria and America.
|**Adiga Aravind, The White Tiger |
An angry and subversive book about the new India - a funny, satirical and a blistering exposé of globalisation.
|**Ali Monica, Brick Lane |
Set in London’s East End, this contemporary novel explores the life of a young Bengali woman in an arranged marriage with a much older man.
|Amis Martin, London Fields |
Captures perfectly the bizarre juxtaposition of sleaze against wealth. The shifting narrative voice generates questions as to who is controlling the actions and the reporting of them.
|Atkinson Kate, A God in Ruins |
Gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations.
|**Atwood Margaret, Oryx and Crake |
A companion to The Handmaid’s Tale, - offers a take on the environment – in a future world.
|Atwood Margaret, The Heart Goes Last |
Sinister, wickedly funny - about a near-future in which the lawful are locked up and the lawless roam free.
|**Austen Jane, Mansfield Park |
Adultery is not a typical Austen theme, but when it disturbs the relatively peaceful household at Mansfield Park, it has quite unexpected results.
|**Austen Jane, Persuasion |
Austen's quietest heroine, but also one of the strongest. Even though she is nearly thirty, past the bloom of youth, she wins out for herself and for others like herself.
|**Baldwin James, Go Tell It on the Mountain |
A short but intense, semi-autobiographical novel exploring the troubled life of the Grimes family in Harlem during the Depression.
|Baldwin James, Giovanni’s Room |
A young American expatriate finds himself caught between his repressed desires and conventional morality; delves into the mystery of love and tells an impassioned, deeply moving story that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.
|**Banks Ian, The Wasp Factory |
Enter the extraordinary private world of Frank, sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.
|**Barnes Julian, A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters |
Can this novel really live up to its title’s claim? A series of separate but interlinking narratives by one of the most influential English novelists of the 1980s allows you to find out.
|Barrett Colin, Young Skins |
A magnificent collection of set in Glanbeigh, a small town in rural Ireland – in which the youth have the run of the place. Here the young live hard and wear the scars. Each story is defined by a youth lived in a crucible of menace and desire.
|**Barry Sebastian, The Secret Scripture |
The story of and of a life blighted by terrible mistreatment and ignorance, and yet marked still by love and passion and hope.
|Boyle T.C., Tortilla Curtain |
A wonderful read. Rich, insular American Dream coexists with desperate Mexican poverty.
|**Bronte Anne, Tennant of Wildfell Hall |
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerful and sometimes violent novel of expectation, love, oppression, sin, religion and betrayal. It portrays the disintegration of the marriage of Helen Huntingdon and her dissolute, alcoholic husband.
|**Bronte Charlotte, Jane Eyre |
Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.
|** Bronte Emily, Wuthering Heights |
The story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine and Heathcliff; the action is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the poetic grandeur makes this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.
|Burn Gordon, Alma Cogan |
How does it feel to be never allowed to die? Burn’s debut novel takes Britain's biggest selling vocalist of the 50s and turns her story into an equation of celebrity and murder. A stingingly relevant exploration of the sad, dark underside of fame.
|**Camus Albert, The Outsider |
Explores the alienation of an individual who refuses to conform - when his mother dies, he refuses to show his emotions to satisfy others; his lack of remorse compounds his guilt in the eyes of society. Yet he is as much a victim as a criminal.
|.**Carr JL, A Month in the Country |
A damaged survivor of the First World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the quiet village church of Oxgodby; traces the slow revival of the primeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War.
|Carter Angela, Burning your Boats |
Quirky, off the wall, beautifully descriptive and wonderfully imaginative short stories.
|Carver Raymond, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love |
A powerful collection of stories, set in the mid-West among the lonely men and women who drink, fish and play cards to ease the passing of time.
|**Coe Jonathan, What a Carve up! |
A brilliant noir farce, a dystopian vision and the story of an obsession.
|**Coetzee J. M., Disgrace |
Set in South Africa, an intense and gripping story that addresses a number of important issues - not just political but also social and psychological.
|Collins Wilkie, No Name |
Deals with the true meaning of social stigma in Victorian England after two sisters’ traumatic discovery that their dearly loved parents, whose sudden deaths have left them orphans, were not married at the time of their birth.
|Conrad Joseph, The Secret Agent |
Espionage and counter-espionage, anarchists and embassies; a detective story that becomes the story of Winnie’s tenacity in maintaining devotion to her simple-minded brother. Provides one of the most disturbing visions of aspiration and futility.
|Conrad Joseph, The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' and Other Stories |
A collection that presents a range of settings - we move from the sea to the colonial world, the Far East and Africa to England and then the Continent.
|**Dickens Charles, A Tale of Two Cities |
Dickens’ greatest historical novel, traces the private lives of a group of people caught up in the cataclysm of the French Revolution and the Terror.
|**Dickens Charles, David Copperfield |
Following the life of David through many sufferings and great adversity, the reader will also find many light-hearted moments in the company of a host of English fiction's greatest stars including Traddles, Uriah Heep and Creakle.
|Doyle Roddy, The Snapper |
An early offering from the Dublin writer whose work – often comic – portrays Irish working class life.
|Fitzgerald Penelope, Offshore |
Set among the houseboat community of the Thames, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames.
|Flanagan Richard, The Narrow Road to the Deep North |
This is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost. Deeply moving and educational.
|**Forster E.M, A Room with a View |
Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance. Will make you want to go to Florence and fall in love!
|**Forster E.M, A Passage to India |
Exploring issues of colonialism, faith and the limits of comprehension. Compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.
|Frantzen Jonathan, The Corrections |
Frantzen’s more comic response to Delillo’s Underworld – family sage re-establishing (correcting) where connections lie.
|Gaskell Elizabeth, Cranford |
Stories that move from the gentle comedy of life in a small English town, to atmospheric horror in far north-west Wales, on to whimsically modified fairy tales set in a French chateau, as well as an engaging love story poetically evoking peasant life in wine-growing Germany.
|**Ghosh Amitav, The Glass Palace |
Rajkumar on a stall in the dusty square outside the royal palace, when the British force the Burmese royal family into exile. Rescued by a far-seeing Chinese merchant but haunted by his vision of the royal family, he journeys to the town in India where they’ve been exiled.
|Grass Gunter, The Tin Drum |
On his third birthday Oskar decides to stop growing. Haunted by the deaths of his parents and wielding his tin drum Oskar recounts the events of his extraordinary life; from the long nightmare of the Nazi era to his anarchic adventures.
|**Greene Graham, Our Man in Havana |
Set in Cuba, a vacuum cleaner salesman is offered extra income by a mysterious Englishman to do is carry out a little espionage and file a few reports. But when his fake reports start coming true, things suddenly get more complicated.
|**Greene Graham, The Power and the Glory |
During a vicious persecution of the clergy in Mexico, a worldly 'whisky priest', is on the run. With the police closing in, his routes of escape are shut off.. But compassion and humanity force him to his destiny, reluctant to abandon those who need him, and those he cares for.
|Hall Radclyffe, The Well of Loneliness |
Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents – a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. He grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. Banned for obscenity when published in 1928!
|Hamilton Patrick, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky |
A world where people emerge from cheap lodgings in Pimlico to pour out their passions, hopes and despair in pubs and bars - a world of twenty thousand streets full of cruelty and kindness, comedy and pathos, wasted dreams and desires.
|**Hardy Thomas, Jude the Obscure |
Hardy’s portrait of Jude, the idealist and dreamer who is a prisoner of his own physical nature, is one of the most haunting and desperate of his creations.
|**Hardy Thomas, Far From the Madding Crowd |
The story of the young farmer Gabriel Oak and his love for and pursuit of the elusive Bathsheba Everdene, whose wayward nature leads her to both tragedy and true love.
|**Hardy Thomas, Under the Greenwood Tree |
A delightful portrayal of a picturesque rural society, tinged with gentle humour and quiet irony. Not merely a charming rural idyll, hints at the poignant disappearance of a long-lived and highly-valued traditional way of life.
|**Hornby Nick, Fever Pitch |
The book that launched the lad-lit genre single handedly. Constantly imitated but never matched, you don’t need to be a Gunner to enjoy this autobiography told through the medium of supporting a football team.
|Irving John, A Prayer For Owen Meany |
Meany will become your best friend, not just for the duration of the book but for a long time after. A compelling read.
|James Henry, The Europeans |
Concerned with the differences between the customs and manners of Europe and those of America. The book is essentially a comedy of love and marriage.
|James Henry, Washington Square |
James's masterly novel deftly interweaves the public and private faces of nineteenth-century New York society; it is also a deeply moving study of innocence destroyed.
|Jones Lloyd, Mister Pip |
A coming of age story set in a New Guinea island which is caught up in conflict – read it to find out how Dickens’ Great Expectations takes a central role for the local youngsters.
|**Kafka Franz, Metamorphosis |
Has been cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century; the story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed (metamorphosed) into a large, monstrous insect-like creature.
|King Han, The Vegetarian |
Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.
|Kingsolver Barbara, The Poisonwood Bible |
Epic account of one family set against the backdrop of the struggle for independence in 1959 Congo.
|Leonard Elmore, Rum Punch |
Sharp, no-nonsense dialogue coupled with a tight story line and great characterisation produces a ripping yarn true to a crime thriller.
|**Levy Andrea, Small Island |
Prize winning novel linking together four London lives, based around a boarding house prepared to take on immigrants from the Caribbean in the racially charged early post-World War II years. Great love story too.
|Mantel Hilary, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher stories |
Ten bracingly subversive tales, beautiful characterisation and observation, summoning forth the horrors so often concealed behind everyday façades.
|**Mantell Yann, Life of Pi |
A fantastic yarn about a boy ship-wrecked with only a tiger and a zebra for company. A book that leaves you asking as many questions as it answers.
|**McCarthy Cormac, The Road |
A post apocalyptic planet Earth in perpetual nuclear winter where the landscape is dead and covered in a ubiquitous black ash that is choking and silencing every living thing. Bleak but un-put-downable!
|**McEwan Ian, The Cement |
Garden A must in the coming-of-age genre. Weird, moving and twisted! A young woman rebels against her repressive religious upbringing in exploration of youth and her sexuality.
|Mistry Rohinton, A Fine Balance |
A truly great book - overwhelmingly sad and also shocking depiction of desperate lives in India. Remains with you long after the last page is read.
|**Morrison Toni, Beloved |
Dissects the issue of slavery in the 'deep South' and battles with the massive themes of time and identity. A beautifully poetic narrative style paradoxically describes the horrors of slavery.
|**Morrison Toni, The Bluest Eye |
Unlovely and unloved, Pecola prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. Intimate and expansive, unsparing in its truth-telling, The Bluest Eye shows how the past savagely defines the present.
|**Orwell George, 1984 |
Winston Smith skilfully rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother. A dystopian masterpiece.
|**Orwell George, Down and out in Paris and London |
A vivid memoir of his time living among the desperately poor and destitute. Exposing a shocking, previously-hidden , the statistics of poverty are given a human face.
|Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake |
Post-apocalyptic novel set a thousand years ago, tells the story of Buccmaster of Holland, a free farmer of Lincolnshire, owner of three oxgangs, a man clinging to the Old Gods as the world changes drastically around him.
|**Plath Sylvia, The Bell Jar |
Penetrating insight into the psyche of a talented young woman undergoing a breakdown.
|Pratchett Ann, Bel Canto |
Unexpected bonds forged between hostages and terrorists at a party held the vice President of a South American country.
|**Rhys Jean, Wide Sargasso Sea |
The story of Jane Eyre's 'madwoman in the attic', Bertha, a Jamaican, white Creole heiress Antoinette meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. A study of betrayal, this seminal work of postcolonial literature, is a beautiful masterpiece.
|**Roy Arundhati, The God of Small Things |
Beautiful and evocative story bring to life Kerala in Southern India.
|**Shriver Lionel, We Need to Talk About Kevin |
A mother writes letters to her estranged husband examining feelings for her son who is responsible for a school massacre. Prize winning portrayal of a last taboo: a mother who doesn’t love her son.
|Shriver Lionel, Big Brother |
A ferocious energy ,Big Brother not only examines why we overeat, but asks more pressingly still: just how much should you sacrifice for someone who refuses to be saved?
|Sittenfeld Curtis, American Wife |
Gorgeously written, weaves race, class, fate and wealth into a brilliant tapestry. A novel in which the unexpected is inevitable, and pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.
|**Smith Zadie, White Teeth |
Comic novel about the mixing of racial, social and religious identities in the North London.
|Swift Graham, Waterland |
A cracking yarn of murder and sexual discovery against a Fenland backdrop. But what's special about this macabre literary thriller is the way the story is told – an interesting narrative style!
|**Tartt Donna, A Secret History |
Literary and classy crime thriller set around a US university campus.
|**Tolbin Colm, Brooklyn |
Ireland in the early 50s, Eilis, goes to New York in search for opportunities. There she is confronted by a terrible dilemma - a devastating choice between love and duty.
|Tremain Rose, Music and Silence |
Lyrically reproduces the rich fabric of 17th Century Denmark. Narrated by four different narrators, all of whom are inextricably linked together.
|Trollope Anthony, Can you Forgive Her? |
Traces the fortunes of three very different women, exploring if social obligations and personal happiness can coincide. A telling account of the social world of Victorian moral codes.
|**Trumbo Dalton, Johnny Get his Gun |
The story of a WWI soldier, horrifically wounded in battle to the point where he is totally cut off from the outside world. With only his memories for company, he attempts to make sense of his situation, and make the most of his world, as it is. Profound and political.
|**Walker Alice, The Color Purple |
Classic feminist study of racial and sexual identity in the American South.
|**Waters Sarah, Fingersmith |
Melodramatic lesbian Victoriana and gripping suspense in this critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy.
|Wharton Edith, Ethan Frome |
Draws life as it really was in the lonely villages and desolate farms of the harsh New England mountains. Wharton explores psychological dead-lock:frustration, longing, resentment, passion.
|**Wharton Edith, Age of Innocence |
Subtly satirical, but also a sometimes dark and disturbing comedy of manners in its exploration of the 'eternal triangle' of love. Set against the backdrop of upper-class 1870s New York.
|**Wilde Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray |
A brilliantly designed puzzle, intended to tease conventional minds with its exploration of the myriad interrelationships between art, life, and consequence. The story self-consciously experiments with the notion of sin as an element of design.
|Winterson Jeanette, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit |
A young woman rebels against her repressive religious upbringing in exploration of youth and her sexuality.
|**Wright Richard, Native Son |
Powerful meditation of poverty and hopelessness, following the life of Bigger Thomas, a young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a white woman.
|Yates Richard, Revolutionary Road |
A bright young couple, who are bored by the banalities of suburban life, long to be extraordinary. With heart-breaking compassion and clarity, Yates shows how the characters’ decision to change their leads to betrayal and tragedy.