Great Books

Explore a wide variety of classic literature from ancient Greece to the mid-twentieth century. We rotate member moderators in this casual, conversational environment. Meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 PM in the Mezzanine Meeting Room.
Wednesday, April 1: The Ambassadors by Henry James

The second of James's three late masterpieces, was, in its author's opinion, "the best, all round, of my productions".

Lambert Strether, a mild middle-aged American of no particular achievements, is dispatched to Paris from the manufacturing empire of Woollett, Massachusetts. The mission conferred on him by his august patron, Mrs. Newsome, is to discover what, or who, is keeping her son Chad in the notorious city of pleasure, and to bring him home. But Strether finds Chad transformed by the influence of a remarkable woman; and as the Parisian spring advances, he himself succumbs to the allure of the 'vast bright Babylon' and to the mysterious charm of Madame de Vionnet.



Wednesday, May 6: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins's psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication.

June 3: Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser

Beautiful, vital, generous, but morally naïve and unconscious of social conventions, Jennie is a working-class woman who emerges superior to the succession of men who exploit her. There are no villains in this novel; in Dreiser's view, everyone is victimized by the desires that the world excites but can never satisfy.


July 1: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

A humorous novel by Laurence Sterne, it was published in nine volumes, the first two appearing in 1759, and seven others following over the next seven years. It is probably Sterne's most enduring work.

As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything simply, that he must make explanatory diversions to add context and colour to his tale.


August 5: Nostromo, A Tale of the Seaboard by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad's 1904 adventure novel, set amid the mist-covered mountains of a fictional South American republic, spins a colorful tale of capitalist exploitation and rebellion. The story begins halfway through the revolution, employing flashbacks and glimpses of the future to depict the lure of silver and its effects on men — corrupting and destroying some, revealing the strengths of others. Conrad's deep moral consciousness and masterful narrative technique are at their best in Nostromo, one of his greatest works.