We asked for books by dead authors for our November 1book140 selection, and what's striking about the titles our readers nominated is how relevant they are today, decades after they were published. These books engage questions of race, class, social standing, religion, marriage—all the hot-button issues that consume 21st-century conversations. So take your pick of which classic you'd like to read next month, but be prepared for some very of-the-moment discussions about whichever one ends up winning.
Voting goes until noon Eastern on Saturday. We'll begin reading and discussing next Wednesday, November 2nd. Happy reading!
The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins
Set in Boston and its culture of underground organized crime, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is like a grittier version of The Godfather. Considered one of the greatest crime novels of all time, it was also made into a classic movie starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut's most influential work, Slaughterhouse-Five is a darkly comic satirical novel about World War II that opens with an unforgettable description of the firebombing of Dresden. It's included on several "Best Of" lists, including Modern Library's best novels of the 20th century, and Time magazine's best novels since 1923.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Another World War II-era novel, The End of the Affair follows a writer in London who pursues a romantic relationship with a woman married to a boring bureaucrat and who burns with jealousy when she breaks off their affair. It wrestles with a whole range of issues and questions, from the nature of morality to the process of writing a novel
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Baldwin is best remembered for his virtuosic non-fiction writing like "The Fire Next Time," which explores religion and race in American life. Go Tell It on the Mountain is a fictional treatment of these same themes: the plot revolves around a black family's journey from the South to Harlem and its struggles with the Christian church along the way.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Written when McCullers was only 23, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a Depression-era story set in a small Southern town, centering on a lonely, deaf, mute man and a few of his acquaintances: a young, tomboyish girl; a labor organizer; the owner of the local diner; and an idealistic doctor. Like Slaughterhouse-Five, it's on both the Modern Library and Time best-of lists.
Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
Wharton has developed an undeserved reputation as a joyless prude because she sets her novels in upper-crust, turn-of-the-20th-century Manhattan. But in reality her novels are anything but dry: The plot of Custom of the Country sounds like a season of The Real Housewives, complete with social climbing, blackmail, multiple divorces, and suicide.