Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain (Echo, $10). Twain’s last published novel and, by his account, his best work. He was fascinated by his subject and investigated St. Joan’s life for more than a decade before writing her story.
Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15). One of my favorite lines about Southern writers comes from this collection of essays: “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” Here we are more than 40 years later, and I wonder sometimes how much has changed.
Lucky by Alice Sebold (Back Bay, $13). The most shocking part of this memoir is not only what happened to the author—it’s that, through the course of this nonfiction work, we learn that it has happened to so many other women in the author’s life. Why have we stopped talking about rape?
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (Scribner, $17). People tend to forget that Mitchell won the Pulitzer for a reason. The Scarlett O’Hara who exists on the page is far more powerful and engaging than the one on screen.
The Dead Letter by Metta Victor (Duke, $24). Victor wrote this, the first novel-length American detective story, in 1866—and published more than 80 books in almost every genre before she died at the age of 54.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Penguin, $7). Brontë’s use of nonlinear storytelling and flashback was a technical triumph compared with other novels of the day. When you think about the changes editor Maxwell Perkins made to the first draft of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, you wonder if he had Brontë in mind.