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Rupert Holmes is a novelist, playwright, and songwriter whose hits include 1979's "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." His new novel, Murder Your Employer, is a comic thriller set at a college that teaches students how to get away with justified homicide.
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)
Reading this masterpiece in my teens, it felt like the tale of a nightmarish but thankfully distant future. Rereading it in the 2020s, it feels as if Nineteen Eighty-Four has been waiting patiently for us just around the next corner — or haven't you noticed the word "Orwellian" popping up a lot lately? It's also as searing a love story as Wuthering Heights. Buy it here.
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The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker (1944)
People will enthuse, "I just loved all that witty Dorothy Parker-type dialogue!" But how many of us have actually sampled her stories of romantic civil wars in which no prisoners are taken? Or her bruised and chagrined poems, as in: "O, life is a glorious cycle of song, / A medley of extemporanea; / And love is a thing that can never go wrong: / And I am Marie of Romania." Buy it here.
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
The original hero-chased-by-police-and-villains yarn. It's the archetype for such Hitchcock films as Saboteur, North by Northwest, and, oh yes, The Thirty-Nine Steps ... and even Ian Fleming's 007 classic, From Russia With Love. Buy it here.
The Troll Garden by Willa Cather (1905)
Renowned for her prairie stories, Cather was luminescent when writing of the big city's opulence. This collection features "Paul's Case," a Catcher in the Rye circa 1905, with a flawless, disturbing, yet palliative last paragraph. Buy it here.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (1902)
In the best of Doyle's four Sherlock Holmes novels, Holmes and Watson face the Hound from Hell on the fog-drenched moorland of Devon. We feel safe enough when Holmes is around, but at one point Doyle brilliantly leaves us alone in Dartmoor with only Watson for protection! Buy it here.
The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne (1928)
I get it: As an adult, you'd be embarrassed to be caught reading these wry, captivating stories. So ... read them aloud to a child. Voice the unforgettable characters well enough, and the kid may not even realize you're doing it. Buy it here.
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