A Pulitzer Prize Novel

So Big by Edna Ferber

Here is the epub format:


Here is the mobi format for Amazon devices:
Winner of the 1924 Pulitzer Prize, So Big is widely regarded as Edna Ferber’s crowning achievement. A rollicking panorama of Chicago’s high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler’s daughter Selina Peake DeJong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges. This is the stunning and unforgettable “novel to read and to remember” by an author who “critics of the 1920s and 1930s did not hesitate to call the greatest American woman novelist of her day” (New York Times).

So Big is a brilliant literary masterwork from one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished and admired writers, and still resonates today with its unflinching views of poverty, sexism, and the drive for success.

Winner of Pulitzer Prize

Winner of 1923 Pulitzer Prize: One of Ours by Willa Cather

Reading level from a sample of Chapters 16, 17 and 18 from the Flesch-Kincaid index in Microsoft Word is 6.0.

Download an epub version, or a mobi version for Amazon devices from Project Gutenberg.

“It’s December 7, and that means we’re celebrating Willa Cather’s birthday here at NYPL (New York Public Library)! Willa Cather was a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet known for her descriptions of life on the American frontier and the immigrant experience. One of the foremost American female writers of the 20th century, Cather penned several novels from the 1910s through the 1930s that were highly popular in their time and are widely read today. They include O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and Death Comes for the Archbishop. She died in New York City in 1947, and today is her 143rd birthday.

“If you’ve never been introduced to Cather’s work, or you somehow managed to skip reading her in high school English, then you’re missing out on some truly gorgeous prose, vivid imagery, and moving, mature stories about plains living.

One of Ours
“This book, which is about the journey of Nebraskan Claude Wheeler from unhappy farmer to proud soldier in World War I, won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1923. One of Ours was criticized by many prominent authors, including Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis, for its heroic and rosy depiction of war, but the American public disagreed, and it became one of the bestselling books of that year.”

Source: Where to Start with Willa Cather by Nicholas Parker at https://www.nypl.org/blog/2016/11/30/willa-cather

Reviews on Amazon:

1. “Oh, so poignant! Willa Cather’s genius for capturing the American ethos of a century past shines radiantly in this unusual look at the son of a farm family coming of age as the nation hesitantly inches toward the Great War. Achingly sensitive to relationships of all kinds, Cather’s novel ponders delicate aspects of friendship, marriage, love, family, son-ship, and community. Never pedantic, never unoriginal, and full of subtle insight, this engaging but lesser known novel may particularly interest young people.”

2. “This is a beautifully written book with a strong sense of place and time – prairie life prior to WWI, and then the main character’s participation in the war. In that sense, it is almost two books, with the earlier part being the stronger. The main character is a depressed kind of young man, who questions the meanings of things, and this may not appeal to everyone, although it is vividly portrayed by the author. Her lyrical and often poetic language give the book and the character’s experiences a universality.”

3. “This woman could put into words not only glorious descriptions, relating to the minutiae of life and loves in the Midwestern farming community, but also every individual’s feelings. We are there, we are at the kitchen table, we are immersed in the horrors of Flanders and its vermin infested trenches. We live the life and emotions of Claude Wheeler, and at last, in the final moments, we know that he truly chose his destiny.”

Men with a white horse

The Underdogs, a Story of the Mexican Revolution by Mariano Azuela

Download in epub format for your Android or Apple devices:

Download a mobi file for your Amazon devices:

“The Underdogs: A Novel of the Mexican Revolution” is Mariano Azuela’s fictional account of the Mexican Revolution. Originally published as a newspaper serial in 1915, then as a complete novel in 1920, it was first translated into English in 1929 and was a critical and financial success. Based closely on Azuela’s own experiences, it is the story of Demetrio Macias, a peasant who is mistreated by government soldiers and must flee his home. He runs to the mountains and forms a group of revolutionaries to help overthrow the corrupt dictator, Porfirio Diaz. Macias and his comrades are a motley group of outcasts who are often unsure of what precisely they are fighting for and are sometimes no better than the cruel government they are rebelling against. Rather than a simple struggle of honorable peasants against an unjust government, Azuela’s tale is sophisticated and nuanced and captures in stunning detail the lives of the poor, the passion of the revolutionaries, and the heartbreaking disillusionment they must often face. In Azuela’s depiction of Demetrio Macias, he captures the complicated spirit of the Mexican people and his masterful telling of this conflict between the rebels and the federales helped to establish him as one of Mexico’s preeminent novelists.

The novel seems to offer a number of opportunities for writing responses. Compare the Mexico of Demetrio Macias with the Mexico or the United States of today. How is power or wealth allocated in societies? etc.

Book Cover with Text the Fire in the Flint

The Fire in the Flint by Walter F. White

Download an epub file for your Android, or Apple tablet, or Chromebook.

Download a mobi file for your Amazon device.

In this novel Kenneth Harper a southern born but northern trained African American physician returns from World War I to start a medical clinic and practice in southern Georgia.  He is flush from his good treatment by whites in the north and in Europe so he expects such treatment in the south.  His brother warns him but he soon learns that southern white treatment for “negroes” will not allow him to set up the clinic for all that he wants to.  The novel is the story of his slow downfall as he finds out that even sympathetic whites will not challenge the racism of their colleagues, runs afoul of the Ku Klux Klan, has his brother lynched and his sister raped by white men.  He ends being lynched himself while killing some whites in the process. The novel was published in 1924 and met with success. He tried unsuccessfully to have the novel turned into a play or movie.

As a member of the NAACP, Walter White investigated lynchings and worked to end segregation. He was the organization’s executive secretary from 1931 to 1955. White was also a significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance. His books included A Man Called White, and Flight, Rope and Faggot: A Biography of Judge Lynch.

The Cossacks and The Raid by Leo Tolstoy with Maps

Download an epub file for your Android or Apple device:


Download a mobi file for your Amazon device:

A brilliant short novel inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s experience as a soldier in the Caucasus, “The Cossacks” has all the energy and poetry of youth while also foreshadowing the great themes of Tolstoy’s later years. His naïve hero, Olenin, is a young nobleman who is disenchanted with his privileged and superficial existence in Moscow and hopes to find a simpler life in a Cossack village. As Olenin foolishly involves himself in their violent clashes with neighboring Chechen tribesmen and falls in love with a local girl, Tolstoy gives us a wider view than Olenin himself ever possesses of the brutal realities of the Cossack way of life and the wild, untamed beauty of the rugged landscape.

This novel of love, adventure, and male rivalry on the Russian frontier—completed in 1862, when the author was in his early thirties—has always surprised readers who know Tolstoy best through the vast, panoramic fictions of his middle years. Unlike those works, The Cossacks is lean and supple, economical in design and execution. But Tolstoy could never touch a subject without imbuing it with his magnificent many-sidedness, and so this book bears witness to his brilliant historical imagination, his passionately alive spiritual awareness, and his instinctive feeling for every level of human and natural life.

Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

Hitler and other Leaders Marching

The Mad Dog of Europe by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Albert Nesor

Download an epub file for your Android or Apple device:

Download a mobi file for your Amazon device:

From a review of the print edition on Amazon:
While I have read other books about Hitler and WWII, I was drawn to read “The Mad Dog of Europe” by Albert Nesor because of its publication date – 1939. The story drew heavily on first hand accounts of immigrants who had recently left Germany. I was curious to know how prescient the Germans were about Hitler’s intentions. While Nesor gives a detailed account of how and when Hitler took over the country, the main narrative focuses on a circle of friends in the small Bavarian town of Gronau. They had lost sons in WW1 and the ones that did return were disillusioned and struggling to find work. The names of the people and the town were changed because in 1939 it was, of course, very dangerous to make negative remarks about the Reich. There actually is a town in Germany named Gronau but it is way to the north of Bavaria.

Among the book I have read about Hitler, Nestor’s account was the most graphically negative. Hitler is shown to work toward his goal of saving Germany from “Jewish Communism” with obsessive intensity. In his tirades against communism Hitler made me think of Senator Joseph McCarthy on steroids. Both also targeted and persecuted homosexuals. Fortunately McCarthy’s means were more limited. Hitler had a private army during the 30’s of well over a million ruthless men that he used frequently in the streets. The Nazi’s anti-communism was generally supported not only by many Germans, but also by people in other countries and many people in the United States. It was a major platform for his rise to power. When Hitler became Chancellor his political opponents were sent to concentration camps. When I lived in Bavaria (1979 ) my somewhat older neighbor said she would never have anything to do with politics because her father died in a concentration camp for being a communist. With my limited German vocabulary of two thousand words, all I could say was “Hitler war ein Teufel”.

Nestor’s characters were not prescient about Hitler until it was too late. Like us they went about their daily lives even though they did not approve of what they read in the papers. After the Nazis took over everyone in Gronau was terrified. Even high ranking Nazi party officials had saved foreign currency, exit visas and money in American banks in case of a Teutonic armageddon which they vaguely felt might come but did not perceive when or how. In the end the main character of the novel holds off the Nazi storm troopers with a pistol while his brother tries to escape across the border. He has the sentimental hope that Germans will regroup in America and then save his beloved country from Hitler. As we now know it was Hitler’s declaration of War on the USA that forced a response. Not Germans but German-Americans – Dwight Eisenhower, Chester Nimitz, Carl Spaatz – led the troops against Hitler. German immigrants did provide valuable service as translators and as spies.