The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (Back Bay, $16). Only a few great books came out of World War II, but this Pulitzer Prize winner is definitely among them. Captain Queeg is one of fiction's most intriguing characters. Is he a monster or the hero of the novel? This is a book you have to read twice.
Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser (Plume, $15). This is such a brilliant idea: taking the villain from another novel — Thomas Hughes's 19th-century classic Tom Brown's School Days — and launching him on an absurdly heroic career as a soldier in the British Empire. Flashman combines great yarns and a superb account of British imperial history. At the age of 16, my son lapped up the entire series.
I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier (Laurel Leaf, $7). The awkward title disguises a superb political novel with a gut-wrenching twist at the end. When young-adult authors die they're forgotten all too quickly, but Cormier's 1977 work is still relevant and will still certainly strike a chord with intelligent teen readers.
The Dead Zone by Stephen King (Signet, $8). I often think King is underrated because he's done so much work in the horror genre. But some of his earlier books — including this 1979 novel about a schoolteacher with a large gap in his memory — have a depth of characterization and even a poignancy that elevate them. This is a tense political thriller, with the supernatural elements kept perfectly under control.
Goldfinger by Ian Fleming (Penguin, $14). I'm sure there's a generation out there that hasn't discovered how well written and enjoyable Ian Fleming's James Bond books are. Fleming really did it for me in my teens. Nobody else has captured his terse, authoritative style, and his set pieces (the circular saw, Fort Knox) still manage to thrill.
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley (NYRB Classics, $16). I read this when I was 16, and it was my first step toward great literature. It is the story of a ruined life, the hopelessly sad story of young Leo, caught up in adult affairs he can't understand.
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