Learn English with the classics
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (version 3)
"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do ..." .. and from that moment onward we drift with Alice into another world. When she sees a White Rabbit as it runs through the tall grass (looking worriedly at the watch it takes from its waist-coat pocket), she runs after it and drops into a strange dream. The world is full of chatty animals, from a rather stand-offish hookah-smoking caterpillar to the friendly Cheshire Cat which only sometimes goes to the bother of having a body. And everyone seems to be ordering her about ... or telling her to recite poetry! ... and all those verses that she once knew so well seem strangely distorted.In this book and in "Through the Looking Glass", Lewis Carroll affectionately brought together many of the wonderful stories he told to Alice and her sisters on long summer boating trips.
War and Peace, Book 17: Second Epilogue
War and Peace is an epic novel by Leo Tolstoy, first published from 1865 to 1869 in Russki Vestnik, which tells the story of Russian society during the Napoleonic Era. It is usually described as one of Tolstoy's two major masterpieces (the other being Anna Karenina) as well as one of the world's greatest novels.
War and Peace offered a new kind of fiction, with a great many characters caught up in a plot that covered nothing less than the grand subjects indicated by the title, combined with the equally large topics of youth, age and marriage. While today it is considered a novel, it broke so many novelistic conventions of its day that many critics of Tolstoy's time did not consider it as such. Tolstoy himself considered Anna Karenina (1878) to be his first attempt at a novel in the European sense.
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (published 1876) is a very well-known and popular story concerning American youth. Mark Twain's lively tale of the scrapes and adventures of boyhood is set in St. Petersburg, Missouri, where Tom Sawyer and his friend Huckleberry Finn have the kinds of adventures many boys can imagine: racing bugs during class, impressing girls, especially Becky Thatcher, with fights and stunts in the schoolyard, getting lost in a cave, and playing pirates on the Mississippi River.
One of the most famous incidents in the book describes how Tom persuades his friends to do a boring, hateful chore for him: whitewashing (i.e., painting) a fence.
This was the first novel to be written on a typewriter.
Grand Inquisitor, The (dramatic reading)
The Grand Inquisitor is a parable told by Ivan to Alyosha in Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov (1879–1880). Ivan and Alyosha are brothers; Ivan questions the possibility of a personal, benevolent God and Alyosha is a novice monk. The Grand Inquisitor is an important part of the novel and one of the best-known passages in modern literature because of its ideas about human nature and freedom, and because of its fundamental ambiguity. In the tale, Christ comes back to earth in Seville at the time of the Inquisition. He performs a number of miracles (echoing miracles from the Gospels). The people recognize him and adore him, but he is arrested by Inquisition leaders and sentenced to be burnt to death the next day. The Grand Inquisitor visits him in his cell to tell him that the Church no longer needs him. The main portion of the text is the Inquisitor explaining to Jesus why his return would interfere with the mission of the church.
Doll's House, A
A Doll's House, written two years after The Pillars of Society, was the first of Ibsen's plays to create a sensation and is now perhaps his most famous play, and required reading in many secondary schools and universities. The play was highly controversial when first published, as it is sharply critical of 19th Century marriage norms. It follows the formula of well-made play up until the final act, when it breaks convention by ending with a discussion, not an unravelling. It is often called the first true feminist play, although Ibsen denied this.
Emma (version 3)
Jane Austen famously described Emma Woodhouse, the title character of her 1815 novel, as "a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." Yet generations of readers have loved Emma, as much for her blunders as for her wit and vivacity. Emma, "handsome, clever, and rich," has nothing else to do but try to pair off her friends, and she consistently mis-reads the relationships and situations around her as much as she mis-reads her own heart. The novel features a wonderful cast of characters, including Emma's hypochondriac father, the odiously prideful Mrs. Elton, the mysterious and reserved Jane Fairfax, and Miss Bates, who never stops talking.
Emma (version 4)
Emma, by Jane Austen, is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. As in her other novels, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian-Regency England; she also creates a lively comedy of manners.Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." Emma, however, is also spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people's lives, and her imagination often leads her astray.
Sherry reads Jane Austen’s sparkling comedy of manners with wit and vivacity, and brings the characters to life. Mr. Woodhouse worries and frets, Miss Bates chatters on, and Emma blithely manipulates and misunderstands her friends and family until she finally learns her lesson!
Essays book 1
Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne is one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography—and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as "Attempts") contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written.
Notes from the Underground
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short masterpiece about a ranting, slightly mad civil servant. The stylistic inventiveness, and the insights into the absurdities and weakness of humans seem so fresh and incisive today that if published now (a century and a half later) Notes would be considered an avant-garde post-modernist triumph. In some ways this is a heavy text, laden with conversational philosophizing; but the vividness of the narrator make it a wonderful read, and funny.
Devil's Dictionary, The
Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914?), satirist, critic, poet, short story writer and journalist. His fiction showed a clean economical style often sprinkled with subtle cynical comments on human behaviour. In the Devil's Dictionary, he let his sense of humour and his cynical outlook on life colour a collection of dictionary-like definitions.
Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in 20 monthly parts between March 1852 and September 1853. It is widely held to be one of Dickens' finest and most complete novels, containing one of the most vast, complex and engaging arrays of minor characters and sub-plots in his entire canon. Dickens tells all of these both through the narrative of the novel's heroine, Esther Summerson, and as an omniscient narrator. Memorable characters include the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn, the friendly but depressive John Jarndyce and the childish Harold Skimpole. The plot concerns a long-running legal dispute (Jarndyce and Jarndyce) which has far-reaching consequences for all involved.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend; a highly successful scholar, but also dissatisfied with his life, and so makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust is a tragic play in two parts. It is Goethe's most famous work and considered by many to be one of the greatest works of German literature.
This first part of Faust is not divided into acts, but is structured as a sequence of scenes in a variety of settings. After a dedicatory poem and a prelude in the theatre, the actual plot begins with a prologue in Heaven and Scene 1 in Faust's study.
Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, the Preservation of...
Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (publ. 1859) is a pivotal work in scientific literature and arguably the pivotal work in evolutionary biology. The book’s full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It introduced the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It was controversial because it contradicted religious beliefs which underlay the then current theories of biology. Darwin’s book was the culmination of evidence he had accumulated on the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s and added to through continuing investigations and experiments since his return.
Secret Agent, The
The Secret Agent is Conrad's dark, and darkly comic story of a band of spies, anarchists, agents-provocateurs plotting and counter-plotting in the back streets of London in the early 20th Century. The novel centers on Verloc, a shop-owner, phony-anarchist and double-agent, who becomes embroiled in an ambitious terrorist plan to bomb the Greenwich Observatory.