Featured favorites: Defining novels of the 90s

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Recommended by Edgartown Books

“Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt – The best-selling memoir of McCourt, about his “miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” Born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland, he tells a story of survival in poverty — with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter leads a miserable life with his horrible aunt and uncle, but everything changes when he learns that he is a wizard and will attend school at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At school Harry makes loyal friends, discovers his unique family history, and encounters an evil enemy whose existence is tied to his own.

“Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton – An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now, creatures extinct for eons and roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery. All the world can visit them — for a price.

“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer – In April 1992, a young man named Christopher McCandless hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is an unforgettable story.

“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver – A story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

Recommended by Bunch of Grapes

“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson – Returning to the United States after 20 years in England, Bryson decides to reconnect with his mother country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine with his buddy, Katz. Both are over 40, out of shape couch potatoes. Hiking through mud and bad weather, they encounter characters and calamities along the trail. This story of their misadventures is filled with both wonder and hilarity.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling – This is the first of Rowling’s continually popular “Harry Potter” series. Harry has been brought up by his miserable aunt and uncle, who are terrified that he will discover that he is really a wizard. Harry is summoned to the school for wizards, where he discovers some of the clues about his true birthright from the unique curriculum and colorful faculty. As he is drawn deeper into the mystical world, he comes closer to his own noble destiny.

“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver – Fiery preacher Nathan Price takes his wife and four daughters to the tumultuous Congo in 1959. A religious and sanctimonious fanatic, Price cannot comprehend the clashes that arise between his beliefs and the culture of the Congo natives. This story of misery, intolerance, and destruction is told through the eyes of his wife and children as they attempt to survive their tragic situation, dancing between human failings and hope, much like the country itself.

“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story” by John Berendt – This book is unique because it is both travelogue and true crime story. Savannah, a hauntingly beautiful city, is the most Southern of Southern places, filled with magnificent mansions, fabulous food, and a colorful array of characters. It is also the site of the shooting death of a 21-year-old house helper by wealthy, international antiques dealer, Jim Williams. Williams is acquitted after four trials only to die before his time of a heart attack– brought on, many claim, by the ghost of his victim.

“The Shipping News” by Annie Proulx – When Quoyle, a third-rate newspaperman, finds his life shattered by his two-timing wife, his aunt convinces him to bring his two daughters to start a new life in their ancestral home in Newfoundland. He finds a job reporting the shipping news for a weekly paper. In the desolate landscape, through the cruel storms and harsh winters, he must face his own private demons and learn to survive in the world that is now his own.

Recommended by Book Den East — works from the last decades of various centuries

“The Sagas of Icelanders” preface by Jane Smiley and an introduction by Robert Kellogg – (990s) The age of the pagan Vikings of Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and North America came to a close at the end of the first millennium. A body of literature known as the sagas of the Icelanders were stories initially meant to entertain the listener and reader with tales of human interaction and motives leading to often passionate and violent consequences – just as we read in the novels of the current age. ($12)

“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer – (1390s) The last decade of the 14th century gave Geoffrey Chaucer time to produce, if not finish, his masterwork. If not a novel in strictly modern view, this collection of tales told by pilgrims on their way to holy Canterbury certainly contains most of its requisites. So enjoy the rib-tickling garrulity of the Wife of Bath or the cynical observations of the Merchant’s Tale, among many others in this edition of 1934, illustrated famously by Rockwell Kent. ($30)

“A Little Geste of Robin Hode” by Wynkyn de Worde – (1490s) First reduced to writing and set in print circa 1495, this folk ballad thus became literary entertainment, after the fashion of a novel, and has been told and retold down through the ages. We offer a version, from about the turn of the last century, being The Gallant Achievements of Robin Hood, illustrated and ornamented by Harold Nelson (one of 3 famous English Romances). ($90)

“Dracula” by Bram Stoker – (1890s) Fast forward a few hundred years more to 1897, which saw the publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” This Gothic novel has given our culture a lasting taste for blood-sucking eroticism. Or define it as you will. We offer a very early 1901 edition. ($250)

“The Moor’s Last Sigh” by Salman Rushdie – (1990s) Finally, our selection for the last decade of the 20th century, from 1995, is a love story in a setting of modern India by an author of international prominence. Rushdie enjoys the play of words and invites the reader to join him in a world most unlike our own. This copy is a first American edition, autographed by the author. ($50)