Greatest Hits of the Fifties

Andersonville

By MacKinlay Kantor

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"Before there were The Killer Angels and Gods and Generals there was Andersonville. MacKinlay Kantor won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1955 for this novel, an epic account of the notorious prison camp in Macon County, Georgia. Though many of his characters are fictional, many are based on historical figures. Even some of the minor characters who appear as suffering prisoners of war are historical. Writing in the early fifties it was perhaps inevitable that Kantor drew subtle echoes of the Nazi concentration camps as he told this grim story of the greatest of Confederate war crimes. Kantor spent most of his life studying and writing about the Civil War. His emphasis was always on the small-town, ordinary citizens confronted with the horrors of Civil War.'

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Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade in Biography

By Patrick Dennis

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Wildly successful when it was first published in 1955, Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame sold over two million copies and stayed put on the New York Times bestseller list for 112 weeks. It was made into a play, a Broadway as well as a Hollywood musical, and a fabulous movie starring Rosalind Russell. Since then, Mame has taken her rightful place in the pantheon of Great and Important People as the world’s most beloved, madcap, devastatingly sophisticated, and glamorous aunt. She is impossible to resist, and this hilarious story of an orphaned ten-year-old boy sent to live with his aunt is as delicious a read in the twenty-first century as it was in the 1950s.

 The sequel is Around the World with Auntie Mame.

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Below the Salt

By Thomas Bertram Costain

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A United States senator believes that he is the reincarnation of a Saxon freedman who saw King John sign the Magna Carta. (NoveList)
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Dear and Glorious Physician

By Taylor Caldwell

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Lucanus grew up in the household of his stepfather, the Roman govenor of Antioch. After studying medicine in Alexandria he became one of the greatest physicians of the ancient world and traveled far and wide through the Mediterranean region healing the sick.

As time went on he learned of the life and death of Christ and saw in Him the God he was seeking. To find out all he could about the life and teachings of Jesus, whom he never saw, Lucanus visited all the places where Jesus had been, questioning everyone--including His mother, Mary--who had known Him or heard Him preach. At last, when he had gathered all information possible, he wrote down what we now know as the Gospel according to St. Luke.

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Doctor Zhivago

By Boris Pasternak

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“The best way to understand Pasternak’s achievement in Doctor Zhivago is to see it in terms of this great Russian literary tradition, as a fairy tale, not so much of good and evil as of opposing forces and needs in human destiny and history that can never be reconciled . . . [Zhivago is] a figure who embodies the principle of life itself, the principle that contradicts every abstraction of revolutionary politics.”—from the Introduction by John Bayley

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From Here to Eternity

By James Jones

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First published in 1951, From Here to Eternity brought author James Jones immediate fame and won him a National Book Award. The novel tells the story of the life of American soldiers stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii in the months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Jones accurately captured the isolation and boredom of the military personnel in a close-knit Army barracks, combining social and military history with the drama of the personal lives of its main characters - an enlisted man and a neglected officer's wife, and a prostitute and a military outcast. The novel was translated into a powerful film in 1953. Although the film toned down the raw sexuality and violence of Jones' novel, it captured the essence of the book and featured outstanding performances by Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra.

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Giant

By Edna Ferber

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This 1952 best-seller is a sweeping tale that captures the essence of Texas on a staggering scale as it chronicles the life and times of cattleman Jordan "Bick" Benedict, his naive young society wife, Leslie, and three generations of land-rich sons. A sensational story of power, love, cattle barons, and oil tycoons, Giant was the basis of the classic film starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson.

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Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft

By Thor Heyerdahl

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Am going to cross Pacific on a wooden raft to support a theory that the South Sea islands were peopled from Peru. Will you come? Reply at once.

That is how six brave and inquisitive men came to seek a dangerous path to test a scientific theory. On a primitive raft made of forty-foot balsa logs and named Kon-Tiki in honor of a legendary sun king, Heyerdahl and five companions deliberately risked their lives to show that the ancient Peruvians could have made the 4,300-mile voyage to the Polynesian islands on a similar craft. On every page of this true chronicle from the actual building of the raft through all the dangerous and comic adventures on the sea, to the spectacular crash-landing and the native islanders hula dances each reader will find a wholesome and spellbinding escape from the twenty-first century. Actual film from the expedition is available on an Academy Award-winning documentary.

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Lady Chatterley's Lover

By D.H. Lawrence

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"Lady Chatterley's Lover is one of the most beautiful and tender love stories of modern fiction. It is perhaps Lawrence's greatest book. Inspired by the long-standing affair between Frieda, Lawrence’s German wife, and an Italian peasant who eventually became her third husband, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is the story of Constance Chatterley, who, while trapped in an unhappy marriage to an aristocratic mine owner whose war wounds have left him paralyzed and impotent, has an affair with Mellors, the gamekeeper. Although Lawrence wrote the book in 1928, it was banned in Britain, Australia and the United States. Penguin Books went to court in 1959 in order to publish this book. It became a best seller immediately."

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My Cousin Rachel

By Daphne du Maurier

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Philip Ashley's older cousin Ambrose, who raised the orphaned Philip as his own son, has died in Rome. Philip, the heir to Ambrose's beautiful English estate, is crushed that the man he loved died far from home. He is also suspicious. While in Italy, Ambrose fell in love with Rachel, a beautiful English and Italian woman. But the final, brief letters Ambrose wrote hint that his love had turned to paranoia and fear.

Now Rachel has arrived at Philip's newly inherited estate. Could this exquisite woman, who seems to genuinely share Philip's grief at Ambrose's death, really be as cruel as Philip imagined? Or is she the kind, passionate woman with whom Ambrose fell in love? Philip struggles to answer this question, knowing Ambrose's estate, and his own future, will be destroyed if his answer is wrong.

This 1952 best seller was made into a film starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton.

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