The Literature Book

Book description

"Books, let's face it, are better than anything else." Nick Hornby

Turn the pages of The Literature Book to discover over 100 of the world's most enthralling reads and the literary geniuses behind them.

Storytelling is as old as humanity itself. Part of the Big Ideas Simply Explained series, The Literature Book introduces you to ancient classics from the Epic of Gilgamesh written 4,000 years ago, as well as the works of Shakespeare, Voltaire, Tolstoy, and more, and 20th-century masterpieces, including Catch-22, Beloved, and On the Road. The perfect reference for your bookshelf, it answers myriad questions such as what is stream of consciousness, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, and what links the poetry of Wordsworth with that of TS Eliot.

Losing yourself in a great book transports you to another time and place, and The Literature Book sets each title in its social and political context. It helps you appreciate, for example, how Dickens' Bleak House paints a picture of deprivation in 19th-century England, or how Stalin's climb to power was the backdrop for George Orwell's 1984.

With succinct plot summaries, graphics, and inspiring quotations, this is a must-have reference for literature students and the perfect gift for book-lovers everywhere.

Series Overview: Big Ideas Simply Explained series uses creative design and innovative graphics along with straightforward and engaging writing to make complex subjects easier to understand. With over 7 million copies worldwide sold to date, these award-winning books provide just the information needed for students, families, or anyone interested in concise, thought-provoking refreshers on a single subject.

Table of contents

  2. HEROES AND LEGENDS • 3000 BCE–1300 CE
    1. Only the gods dwell forever in sunlight • The Epic of Gilgamesh
    2. To nourish oneself on ancient virtue induces perseverance • Book of Changes, attributed to King Wen of Zhou
    3. What is this crime I am planning, O Krishna? • Mahabharata, attributed to Vyasa
    4. Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles • Iliad, attributed to Homer
    5. How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be when there’s no help in truth! • Oedipus the King, Sophocles
    6. The gates of hell are open night and day; smooth the descent, and easy is the way • Aeneid, Virgil
    7. Fate will unwind as it must • Beowulf
    8. So Scheherazade began… • One Thousand and One Nights
    9. Since life is but a dream, why toil to no avail? • Quan Tangshi
    10. Real things in the darkness seem no realer than dreams • The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu
    11. A man should suffer greatly for his Lord • The Song of Roland
    12. Tandaradei, sweetly sang the nightingale • “Under the Linden Tree,” Walther von der Vogelweide
    13. He who dares not follow love’s command errs greatly • Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, Chrétien de Troyes
    14. Let another’s wound be my warning • Njal’s Saga
    15. Further reading
    1. I found myself within a shadowed forest • The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
    2. We three will swear brotherhood and unity of aims and sentiments • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guanzhong
    3. Turn over the leef and chese another tale • The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
    4. Laughter’s the property of man. Live joyfully • Gargantua and Pantagruel, François Rabelais
    5. As it did to this flower, the doom of age will blight your beauty • Les Amours de Cassandre, Pierre de Ronsard
    6. He that loves pleasure must for pleasure fall • Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
    7. Every man is the child of his own deeds • Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
    8. One man in his time plays many parts • First Folio, William Shakespeare
    9. To esteem everything is to esteem nothing • The Misanthrope, Molière
    10. But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near • Miscellaneous Poems, Andrew Marvell
    11. Sadly, I part from you; like a clam torn from its shell, I go, and autumn too • The Narrow Road to the Interior, Matsuo Bashō
    12. None will hinder and none be hindered on the journey to the mountain of death • The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, Chikamatsu Monzaemon
    13. I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good family • Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
    14. If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others? • Candide, Voltaire
    15. I have courage enough to walk through hell barefoot • The Robbers, Friedrich Schiller
    16. There is nothing more difficult in love than expressing in writing what one does not feel • Les Liaisons dangereuses, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
    17. Further reading
    1. Poetry is the breath and the finer spirit of all knowledge • Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    2. Nothing is more wonderful, nothing more fantastic than real life • Nachtstücke, E. T. A. Hoffmann
    3. Man errs, till he has ceased to strive • Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    4. Once upon a time… • Children’s and Household Tales, Brothers Grimm
    5. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn? • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
    6. Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
    7. All for one, one for all • The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
    8. But happiness I never aimed for, it is a stranger to my soul • Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin
    9. Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes • Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
    10. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
    11. I am no bird; and no net ensnares me • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
    12. I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul! • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
    13. There is no folly of the beast of the Earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men • Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
    14. All partings foreshadow the great final one • Bleak House, Charles Dickens
    15. Further reading
  5. DEPICTING REAL LIFE • 1855–1900
    1. Boredom, quiet as the spider, was spinning its web in the shadowy places of her heart • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
    2. I too am a child of this land; I too grew up amid this scenery • The Guarani, José de Alencar
    3. The poet is a kinsman in the clouds • Les Fleurs du mal, Charles Baudelaire
    4. Not being heard is no reason for silence • Les Misérables, Victor Hugo
    5. Curiouser and curiouser! • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
    6. Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    7. To describe directly the life of humanity or even of a single nation, appears impossible • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
    8. It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view • Middlemarch, George Eliot
    9. We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
    10. In Sweden all we do is to celebrate jubilees • The Red Room, August Strindberg
    11. She is written in a foreign tongue • The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
    12. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
    13. He simply wanted to go down the mine again, to suffer and to struggle • Germinal, Émile Zola
    14. The evening sun was now ugly to her, like a great inflamed wound in the sky • Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
    15. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
    16. There are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men’s eyes • Dracula, Bram Stoker
    17. One of the dark places of the earth • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
    18. Further reading
    1. The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes • The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
    2. I am a cat. As yet I have no name. I’ve no idea where I was born • I Am a Cat, Natsume Sōseki
    3. Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin • Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
    4. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori • Poems, Wilfred Owen
    5. Ragtime literature which flouts traditional rhythms • The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot
    6. The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit • Ulysses, James Joyce
    7. When I was young I, too, had many dreams • Call to Arms, Lu Xun
    8. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself • The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
    9. Criticism marks the origin of progress and enlightenment • The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann
    10. Like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
    11. The old world must crumble. Awake, wind of dawn! • Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin
    12. Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
    13. Dead men are heavier than broken hearts • The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
    14. It is such a secret place, the land of tears • The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    15. Further reading
  7. POSTWAR WRITING • 1945–1970
    1. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU • Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
    2. I’m seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen • The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
    3. Death is a gang-boss aus Deutschland • Poppy and Memory, Paul Celan
    4. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
    5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
    6. He leaves no stone unturned, and no maggot lonely • Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
    7. It is impossible to touch eternity with one hand and life with the other • The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Yukio Mishima
    8. He was beat—the root, the soul of beatific • On the Road, Jack Kerouac
    9. What is good among one people is an abomination with others • Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
    10. Even wallpaper has a better memory than human beings • The Tin Drum, Günter Grass
    11. I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
    12. Nothing is lost if one has the courage to proclaim that all is lost and we must begin anew • Hopscotch, Julio Cortázar
    13. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt • Catch-22, Joseph Heller
    14. Everyday miracles and the living past • Death of a Naturalist, Seamus Heaney
    15. There’s got to be something wrong with us. To do what we did • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
    16. Ending at every moment but never ending its ending • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
    17. Further reading
    1. Our history is an aggregate of last moments • Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
    2. You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino
    3. To understand just one life you have to swallow the world • Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
    4. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another • Beloved, Toni Morrison
    5. Heaven and Earth were in turmoil • Red Sorghum, Mo Yan
    6. You could not tell a story like this. A story like this you could only feel • Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey
    7. A historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment • Omeros, Derek Walcott
    8. I felt lethal, on the verge of frenzy • American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
    9. Quietly they moved down the calm and sacred river • A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
    10. It’s a very Greek idea, and a profound one. Beauty is terror • The Secret History, Donna Tartt
    11. What we see before us is just one tiny part of the world • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
    12. Perhaps only in a world of the blind will things be what they truly are • Blindness, José Saramago
    13. English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa • Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee
    14. Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories • White Teeth, Zadie Smith
    15. The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one • The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
    16. There was something his family wanted to forget • The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
    17. It all stems from the same nightmare, the one we created together • The Guest, Hwang Sok-yong
    18. I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
    19. Further reading

Product information

  • Title: The Literature Book
  • Author(s): DK
  • Release date: May 2016
  • Publisher(s): DK Publishing
  • ISBN: 9781465454553