10th Grade Book List with Summaries 2019-2020

All reviews and synopses are from Amazon.com
 
 
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the brilliant, sonorous story of poet Maya Angelou's early life in Arkansas and California. After a traumatic event, Maya stops speaking for five years but becomes a keen observer of everything around her, including the racial politics and divisions of her town. One character tells the silent child: "Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning." So begins the reawakening of Maya's voice and her own music. 

Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons 
Sir Robert Bolt's play, A Man For All Seasons, is set against King Henry VIII's break with Rome, made necessary by his desire to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. When Sir Thomas More refused to sign the Act of Supremacy, he was brought to trial on trumped-up charges and ultimately beheaded. More had sought refuge in the letter of the law, but he was required to state his approval of the Act in an oath - an oath which would have required him to state something that he did not believe. For More, an oath was an invitation to God to act as witness and judge. In existentialist terms, the oath would have shattered his integrity, his humanity, that "...something within himself without which life is meaningless." 

Pearl Buck, The Good Earth 
The Good Earth presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century. Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel - beloved by millions of readers - is a universal tale of the destiny of man.

Willa Cather, My Antonia 
My Antonia is set in Nebraska at a time when "there was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made." The people who live here are immigrants - the blue-eyed Burdens, the tragic Russian brothers, Norwegian Lena Lingard with her violet eyes and determination never to marry, and most importantly, Bohemian Antonia Shimerda. Their stories stand out like framed portraits against the backdrop of the prairie and remind us how many different countries make up the United States. In Antonia, Willa Cather portrays one of the great women of literature - strong, capable, and honest. 

Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, Robinson Crusoe 
Abandoned at birth and threatened with a life in service, Defoe's young heroine sets her heart on independence. One fatal seduction and five husbands later, she resorts to a life of self-supporting crime. Moll Flanders follows this indestructible heroine to the depths of eighteenth century England's corruption. 
In Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe relates the tale of an English sailor marooned on a desert island for nearly three decades. An ordinary man struggling to survive in extraordinary circumstances, Robinson Crusoe wrestles with fate and the nature of God. 
 
Alexander Dumas, The Three Musketeers 
Novel by Alexandre Dumas pere, a historical romance, The Three Musketeers relates the adventures of four fictional swashbuckling heroes who lived during the reigns of the French kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV. At the beginning of the story D'Artagnan arrives in Paris from Gascony and becomes embroiled in three duels with the three musketeers Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. The four become such close friends that when D'Artagnan serves an apprenticeship as a cadet, which he must do before he can become a musketeer, each of his friends takes turns sharing guard duty with him. The daring escapades of the four comrades are played out against a background of court intrigue involving the powerful Cardinal Richelieu. 

Louise Erdrich, Plague of Doves 
Five decades after he and his friends were wrongly lynched for the murder of a North Dakota family, Mooshum tells tribal stories to his mixed-race granddaughter, Evelina, who is reconciling with her white and Ojibwe heritages. But that murder mystery remains unsolved, and its aftershocks continue to rock the tiny town of Pluto, ND, even half a century later. 

Henry Fielding, Tom Jones 
Tom Jones is constructed around a romance plot. Squire Allworthy suspects that the infant whom he adopts and names Tom Jones is the illegitimate child of his servant Jenny Jones. When Tom is a young man, he falls in love with Sophia Western, his beautiful and virtuous neighbor. In the end his true identity is revealed and he wins Sophia's hand, but numerous obstacles have to be overcome, and in the course of the action the various sets of characters pursue each other from one part of the country to another, giving Fielding an opportunity to paint an incomparably vivid picture of England in the mid-18th century. 

Robert Graves, I, Claudius 
Historical novel set in 1st-century-AD, the book is written as an autobiographical memoir by Roman emperor Claudius. Physically weak, afflicted with stammering, and inclined to drool, Claudius is an embarrassment to his family and is shunted to the background of imperial affairs. The benefits of his seeming ineffectuality are twofold: he becomes a scholar and historian, and he is spared the worst cruelties inflicted on the imperial family by its own members during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula. Palace intrigues and murders surround him. Claudius' informal narration serves to emphasize the banality of the imperial family's endless greed and lust. The story concludes with Claudius ascending to the imperial throne. 

Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage 
Told by a master storyteller who, according to critic Russell Nye, “combined adventure, action, violence, crisis, conflict, sentimentalism, and sex in an extremely shrewd mixture,” Riders of the Purple Sage is a classic of the Western genre. It is the story of Lassiter, a gunslinging avenger in black, who shows up in a remote Utah town just in time to save the young and beautiful rancher Jane Withersteen from having to marry a Mormon elder against her will. Lassiter is on his own quest, one that ends when he discovers a secret grave on Jane’s grounds. 

Jaa Gyasi, Homegoing 
Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery. Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation. 

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles 
Now considered Hardy's masterwork, Tess of the D'Urbervilles departed from conventional Victorian fiction in its focus on the rural lower class and in its open treatment of sexuality and religion. After her impoverished family learns of its noble lineage, naive Tess Durbeyfield is sent to make an appeal to a nearby wealthy family who bear the ancestral name d'Urberville. Tess is seduced by dissolute Alec d'Urberville and secretly bears a child, Sorrow, who dies in infancy. Later working as a dairymaid, she meets and marries Angel Clare, an idealistic gentleman who rejects Tess after learning of her past on their wedding night. Emotionally bereft and financially impoverished, Tess is trapped by necessity into giving in once again to d'Urberville, until Angel returns. 

Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls 
Set near Segovia, Spain, in 1937, the novel tells the story of American teacher Robert Jordan, who has joined the antifascist Loyalist army. Jordan has been sent to make contact with a guerrilla band and blow up a bridge to advance a Loyalist offensive. The action takes place during Jordan's 72 hours at the guerrilla camp. During this period he falls in love with Maria, and he befriends the shrewd but cowardly guerrilla leader Pablo and his courageous wife Pilar. Jordan manages to destroy the bridge; Pablo, Pilar, Maria, and two other guerrillas escape, but Jordan is injured. Proclaiming his love to Maria once more, he awaits the fascist troops and certain death. The title is from a sermon by John Donne containing the famous words "No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." 

John Hersey, Hiroshima 
When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, few could have anticipated its potential for devastation. Pulitzer prize-winning author John Hersey recorded the stories of Hiroshima residents shortly after the explosion and, in 1946, Hiroshima was published, giving the world first-hand accounts from people who had survived it. The words of Miss Sasaki, Dr. Fujii, Mrs. Nakamara, Father Kleinsorg, Dr. Sasaki, and the Reverend Tanimoto gave a face to the statistics that saturated the media and solicited an overwhelming public response. Whether you believe the bomb made the difference in the war or that it should never have been dropped, "Hiroshima" is a must read for all of us who live in the shadow of armed conflict.

James Hilton, Lost Horizon 
Lost Horizon is the tale of three men and a woman seeking escape from a political upheaval in the Orient. Their airplane crashes high on a Tibetan plateau. They are saved by a party of natives and taken to Shangri-La. Finding themselves prisoners at first, then visitors, they soon become willing captives until they discover the secret of that hidden paradise. 

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame 
Set in medieval Paris, Victor Hugo’s powerful historical romance The Hunchback of Notre-Dame has resonated with succeeding generations ever since its publication in 1837. It tells the story of the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, condemned as a witch by the tormented archdeacon Claude Frollo, who lusts after her. Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre-Dame Cathedral, having fallen in love with the kindhearted Esmeralda, tries to save her by hiding her in the cathedral’s tower. When a crowd of Parisian peasants, misunderstanding Quasimodo’s motives, attacks the church in an attempt to liberate her, the story ends in tragedy. 
 
Henry James, The Turn of the Screw 
A governess strives to protect her bewitching charges from the evil that menaces them, and which they seem strangely to desire, in this fireside tale narrated with stalwart morality and an almost deranged propriety. Terror makes this a ghost story, but uncertainty makes it horrifying: are the apparitions the governess's invention? If so, does the evil lie not in the children, but in the love-starved woman-and in adult society itself? 

Helen Keller, The Story of My Life 
Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1880, Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing as a toddler, and went uneducated for the first seven or eight years of her life, acquiring fingerspelling as a language system when Anne Sullivan, who was blind herself, came to Keller's home to teach her. Keller recalls the events of her early life in this 1903 memoir. 

Sungju Lee, Every Falling Star 
The son of a former North Korean official, Sungju Lee spent years living on the streets of one of his country's northern provinces, following his father's fall from grace within the ruling party. In Every Falling Star, Lee recounts the details of his life in the DPRK, the circumstances of his parents' abandonment, and his escape to the south, where he learned exactly what happened to his parents years before. 

Bernard Malamud, The Fixer 
Kiev, in the years before World War I, is a hotbed of anti-Semitism. When a 12-year-old Russian boy is found stabbed to death, his body drained of blood, the accusation of ritual murder is made against the Jews. Yokov Bok, a carpenter, is blamed, arrested and imprisoned without indictment. 
 
Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur
The legends of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table have inspired some of the greatest works of literature--from Cervantes's Don Quixote to Tennyson's Idylls of the King. Although many versions exist, Malory's stands as the classic rendition. Malory wrote the book while in Newgate Prison during the last three years of his life; it was published some fourteen years later, in 1485, by William Caxton. The tales, steeped in the magic of Merlin, the powerful cords of the chivalric code, and the age-old dramas of love and death, resound across the centuries. 

Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 
When she was only twenty-three, Carson McCullers's first novel created a literary sensation. She was very special, one of America's superlative writers who conjures up a vision of existence as terrible as it is real, who takes us on shattering voyages into the depths of the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition. This novel is the work of a supreme artist, Carson McCullers's enduring masterpiece. The heroine is the strange young girl, Mick Kelly. The setting is a small Southern town, the cosmos universal and eternal. The characters are the damned, the voiceless, the rejected. Some fight their loneliness with violence and depravity, Some with sex or drink, and some -- like Mick -- with a quiet, intensely personal search for beauty. 

Herman Melville, Moby Dick 
Moby-Dick is generally regarded as its author's masterpiece and one of the greatest American novels. The basic plot of Moby-Dick is simple. The narrator (who asks to be called "Ishmael") tells of the last voyage of the ship Pequod out of New Bedford, Mass. Captain Ahab is obsessed with the pursuit of the white whale Moby-Dick, which finally kills him. On that level, the work is an intense, superbly authentic narrative. Its theme and central figure, however, are reminiscent of Job in his search for justice and of Oedipus in his search for truth. The novel's richly symbolic language and tragic hero are indicative of Melville's deeper concerns: the equivocal defeats and triumphs of the human spirit and its fusion of creative and murderous urges.

Luis Rodriguez, Always Running 
By age twelve, Luis Rodriguez was a veteran of East Los Angeles gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests and then watched with increasing fear as gang life claimed friends and family members. Before long, Rodriguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words and successfully broke free from years of violence and desperation. Achieving success as an award-winning poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more—until his young son joined a gang. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in Always Running, a vivid memoir that explores the motivations of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants.

Walter Scott, Ivanhoe 
The epitome of the chivalric novel, Ivanhoe sweeps readers into Medieval England and the lives of a memorable cast of characters. Ivanhoe, a trusted ally of Richard-the-Lion-Hearted, returns from the Crusades to reclaim the inheritance his father denied him. Rebecca, a vibrant, beautiful Jewish woman is defended by Ivanhoe against a charge of witchcraft--but it is Lady Rowena who is Ivanhoe's true love. The wicked Prince John plots to usurp England's throne, but two of the most popular heroes in all of English literature, Richard-the-Lion-Hearted and the well-loved famous outlaw, Robin Hood, team up to defeat the Normans and reagain the castle. The success of this novel lies with Scott's skillful blend of historic reality, chivalric romance, and high adventure. 

John Steinbeck, East of Eden 
This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, follows the intertwined destinies of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. "A strange and original work of art."--New York Times Book Review. 

Bram Stoker, Dracula 
A popular bestseller in Victorian England, Stoker's hypnotic tale of the bloodthirsty Count Dracula, whose nocturnal atrocities are symbolic of an evil ages old yet forever new, endures as the quintessential story of suspense and horror. The unbridled lusts and desires, the diabolical cravings that Stoker dramatized with such mythical force, render Dracula resonant and unsettling a century later. 

William Thackeray, Vanity Fair 
This is Thackeray's rich and gloriously chaotic sketch of English society during the Napoleonic wars. At the centre of this picture is the scheming and disreputable Becky Sharp, one of Thackeray's greatest creations. The style here is fast-paced and comic, but the character of Dobbin and his unrequited love for Amelia bring depth and pathos to the novel. Dobbin, the unheroic hero, is Thackeray's realistic answer to the hero-worship of high romanticism. The novel stands as a landmark in the development of European Realism. 
 
J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings (one or all three) 
Trilogy of fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien comprising The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), The Two Towers (1955), and The Return of the King (1956). The trilogy is the saga of a group of sometimes reluctant heroes who set forth to save their world from consummate evil. Its many worlds and creatures draw their life from Tolkien's extensive knowledge of philology and folklore. At 33, the age of adulthood among hobbits, Frodo Baggins receives a magic Ring of Invisibility from his uncle Bilbo. A Christlike figure, Frodo learns that the ring has the power to control the entire world and, he discovers, to corrupt its owner. A fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarfs, and men is formed to destroy the Ring by casting it into the volcanic fires of the Crack of Doom where it was forged. They are opposed on their harrowing mission by the evil Sauron and his Black Riders. 

Thornton Wilder, The Bridge at San Luis Rey 
Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Thornton Wilder, published in 1927. Wilder's career was established with this book, in which he first made use of historical subject matter as a background for his interwoven themes of the search for justice, the possibility of altruism, and the role of Christianity in human relationships. The plot centers on five travelers in 18th-century Peru who are killed when a bridge across a canyon collapses; a priest interprets the story of each victim in an attempt to explain the workings of divine providence. 

Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle 
Cat's Cradle, one of Vonnegut's most entertaining novels, is filled with scientists and G-men and even ordinary folks caught up in the game. These assorted characters chase each other around in search of the world's most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature.

Malala Yousafza, I Am Malala 
Following orders from the Taliban, an assassin boarded Malala Yousafzai's school bus in 2012, and shot the young student in the head. Although she was critically wounded, Malala survived. In 2017, she began attending Oxford University, pursuing a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
 
All reviews and synopses are from Amazon.com