A Journal of the Plague Year
by Daniel Defoe
Originally published by E. Nutt in 1722
Defoe’s account of the Great Plague in London in the year 1663 is a cross-genre work. Defoe himself was a young boy at the time this story is set; he based the tale on the experiences of his uncle, but it is also deeply researched, expressing Defoe’s talents as a journalist, and the book is considered an accurate account of London during the Plague.
Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Originally published by Macmillan in 1865
A fully illustrated edition of the beloved children’s classic, the story of a young girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a world of eccentric creatures, nonsense, and rhyme.
by Louisa May Alcott
Originally published by Roberts Brothers in 1868
The beloved story of the March sisters, based on the author’s family and friends and her journey as a writer, was one of the first novels to focus on the inner lives of women and issues women faced, including the domestic sphere, equality, love, and work.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
by Frederick Douglass
Originally published by Anti-Slavery Office in 1845
Frederick Douglass’ memoir of his early life in slavery and his journey out of bondage, published in 1845, was one of the most influential and defining pieces of the abolitionist movement, which resulted in the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The book was a bestseller—its sales helped the author to purchase his freedom—and established Douglass as a leader in the movement for abolition, racial justice, and equality.
Notes on Nursing
by Florence Nightingale
Originally published by Harrison of Pall Mall in 1859
A treatise on the best practices for the physical and psychological care of sick people, written by the iconic founder of modern nursing. It is a classic in formal nursing training, and was intended to be read and used by the general public as well. Joan Quixley praised this influential book as “the first of its kind ever to be written.”
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Originally published by T Egerton, Whitehall in 1813
Austen’s second novel follows heroine Elizabeth Bennet as she learns about love, money, duty, and goodness in Regency England. It is consistently ranked one of the most beloved books of all time, with over 20M copies sold.
by Hermann Hesse
Originally published by New Directions in 1951 (U.S.); German edition published 1922
Follow the journey of Siddhartha, a man born of privilege in the time of Guatama Buddha, who leaves his material comfort behind in search of spiritual truths. A beloved literary classic from a Nobel Prize winner.
The Story of My Life
by Helen Keller
Originally published by Doubleday, Page & Co. in 1903
A courageous and beautifully written memoir chronicling Helen Keller’s journey into language as a young blind and deaf girl, as she worked with her beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan.
The Wealth of Nations
by Adam Smith
Originally published by William Strahan in 1776
The foundational text in economics is a practical treatise against the mercantalist economic structure of monarchy and for free-market capitalism, and covers topics from the division of labor to agriculture, taxation, and war. The publication of this book marked a paradigm shift in economic and political theory, establishing classical economic theory as the dominant model of the 18th and early 19th centuries.
by John Muir
Originally published by The Century Co. in 1912
Conservationist John Muir lived six years in Yosemite Valley, California, documenting the region’s beauty and ecology for Century magazine. His efforts to bring Yosemite’s beauty and fragility to the public eye helped ensure Yosemite would be established as a National Park, in 1890.
by Henry David Thoreau
Originally published by Ticknor and Fields in 1854
Cited by figures from Martin Luther King to Tolstoy as a highly influential work, Thoreau's reflections on society, nature, and how life can be lived are as readable a philosophy as ever has been written. These essays from the author’s two years alone on Walden Pond make a good guide and companion through the changes of 2020.