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Susan Wise Bauer

Susan Wise Bauer is the author of The Well-Educated Mind, The Well-Trained Mind, and The Story of the World series. She teaches at the College of William & Mary.

Babel Tower by A.S. Byatt (Vintage, $15). Byatt combines her story of post–World War II England with chunks of a fantasy novel; the narrative manages to reflect on language, motherhood, loneliness, God, and the universal impulse to build imaginary worlds that will protect us from the sharp agonies of real life.

A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt (Vintage, $10). The central problem in Bolt’s play is as immediate today as when it was first published: Sir Thomas More finds that he has to choose between the authenticity of his private self and success in the political arena. (“If you could just see facts flat on, without that horrible moral squint,” Cardinal Wolsey tells him, early on, “you could have been a statesman.”)

Passage by Connie Willis (Bantam, $8). I’ve been a fan of Willis’ since I first came across Doomsday Book, a deft combination of science fiction, history, epidemiology, and religion. In Passage, Willis tackles near-death experiences with the same deftness; you won’t realize what she’s up to until you reach the end.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (Harvest, $13). If I could write like Lewis, I’d die happy. He finds the perfect metaphors for the experiences we share but can’t always articulate—in this case, the “stab of Joy,” the piercing and transitory sense of sweet beauty that comes unexpectedly.

The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway (Vintage, $12). Australian-born Jill Ker Conway is a tough, resilient woman, raised by another tough, resilient woman who has nothing to do but manage her children’s lives. Conway’s search for a place where she can live “the life of the mind” is engrossing, but her relationship with her mother makes her autobiography hauntingly tragic.

Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age

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