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7 Books Every English Literature Student Should Read

English literature students during their studies read a huge number of books to improve their critical thinking, research, and writing skills. Here are 7 books that every English literature student should read.

#1 Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

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Itโ€™s set in South Africa and follows the journey of a man who makes the journey from his village to Johannesburg to find his son, and the people and situations he encounters. While it looks specifically at one situation, itโ€™s a microcosm that also sheds light on the racial and economic conflicts South Africa experienced leading up to apartheid. The structure and allusions in the book are amazing, and I think it is one of those books that helps you understand the challenges faced by others, and helps you develop empathy for those who might be considered outsiders. 

Want to read more reviews of this book or buy it? Check out the links below:

Contributors: Molly Powers from Relode

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#2 The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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This book is set in Barcelona, and follows a young man who attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding a book and its mysterious author. Not only does it have an incredibly intriguing plot, memorable characters, and amazing twists and turns, the way the author writes about books and reading has resonated with me to this day. 

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Contributors: Molly Powers from Relode

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#3 Hard Times by Charles Dickens

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Though still not known to history as one of his most popular novels, Dickens' Hard Times possesses both a rewarding economy of language alongside a stunning depth of symbolic imagery that turns both plot and character into something equally real and fantastic. As an indictment of the newly-emerging Industrial Revolution across England in the mid-1800s, the book also continues to give cause for pause to even the most cynical of present-day readers. 

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Contributors: Anthony Pomes from Square One Publishers, Inc.

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#4 The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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Though technically a novella rather than a standard novel, the utterย craft, and beauty of the Jamesian line-i.e., an especially dense andย carefully constructed style of sentence structure associated with Henryย James' writing as presented in this disturbing late Victorian-era ghostย story still stands among some of the most sublimely written prose in theย English language. Equally satisfying is the book's highly ambiguous nature,ย maintained all the way throughout, and James' brilliant use of what has comeย to be called the unreliable narrator in our best-written fiction to date.

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Contributors: Anthony Pomes from Square One Publishers, Inc.

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#5 Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Though born of both Polish and British ancestry and not yet fluent in English until he was a young adult, Joseph Conrad is correctly considered one of history's best writers to have worked in the English language. A novella just like The Turn of the Screw, Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a veritable master class in some of the finest prose ever rendered in English. This book also does much to cast light upon the problematic stance taken by Great Britain in areas such as Imperialism at the turn of the century. 

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Contributors: Anthony Pomes from Square One Publishers, Inc.

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#6 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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This book is still just as relevant today, as it shows us what can happen if we try to genetically breed a perfect society where everyone has a place but those at the top rule - and what it looks like when you create a caste system try and try to control information and keep the lower castes happy with soma or other pleasures.

1984 and other recent movies/books, whether Gattaca, The Matrix, The Island, Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Fahrenheit 451, and others pick up on this same dystopian theme. It's something every generation has to grapple with as our technological and scientific prowess continues to advance. What makes us human? What does a perfect society really look like? Should a small group with wealth, power, and education control everyone else?

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Contributors: Amanda J. Ponzar from Community Health Charities

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#7 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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Published in 1937 and Set in the American West during the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men is controversial and modern for its era. It explores themes of oppression, friendship, justice, violence, loneliness, and the impossibility of the American dream. A beautifully written and telling novel that every English Literature student should read. 

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Contributors: Maddy Stumbles from EA School Tours

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