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20 Books To Read Before You Turn 20

A list of classics and almost-classics you shouldn't miss.

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Plath, Sylvia.
Esther Greenwood, a talented and successful young writer, succumbs to mental illness during her summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s.
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Toews, Miriam, 1964-
Sixteen-year-old Nomi is a Mennonite stuck in small town Manitoba and wishes she wasn't. Missing her mom and sister who have left town, she turns to the rebellion of sex and drugs.
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Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881.
Poverty-striken Raskolnikov decides to commit a murder. Dostoyevsky's novel offers suspense and profound psychological portraits of Raskolnikov and the detective who hunts him down.
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Burgess, Melvin.
This is a novel of three teen boys and their explicit, yet honest and often funny experiences with sex. Dino deals with the results of his own cheating. At first Ben enjoys his affair with a teacher, but is soon desperate to end it. Jonathon is unsure of his budding romance with Deborah, an overweight girl.
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Cohen, Leonard, 1934-2016.
Leonard Cohen's novel is a satirical, semi-autobiographical portrait of a young Montreal Jewish man in the 1960s who confronts his vocation as a poet.
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Pullman, Philip, 1946-
Accompanied by her shape-shifting demon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North. Book One of "His Dark Materials" Trilogy.
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Smith, Dodie, 1896-1990.
Cassandra's dad is a once-famous writer and her family is barely scraping by in a crumbling English castle they leased when times were good. The family's romantic isolation ends when the wealthy Cotton family takes over the nearby estate.
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Krakauer, Jon.
After graduating from university, Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions and hitchhiked to the Alaska wilderness. Four months later, he turned up dead. This account of this real life travels is based on his diary, letters and two notes found at the remote campsite where he died.
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Uhlig, Richard Allen, 1970-
Artie can't wait to graduate and leave his small Kansas town. His life is a black comedy of entanglements: his affair with the art teacher, the sheriff pressuring him to date his unattractive daughter and his own family's failing funeral home business.
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Sebold, Alice.
"I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." That's Susie Salmon speaking from heaven as she watches her family attempt to cope with her death at the hands of an unknown rapist. Susie watches her family face the worst -- then, in time, begin to mend.
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Spiegelman, Art.
This collects parts one and two of Speigelman's Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust. The Nazis, portrayed as cats, systematically hunt down the Jews, drawn as mice, and herd them toward the Final Solution.
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McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
Twelve-year-old Frankie Adams, longing to belong, believes her role as a "member of the wedding" means she'll join her brother and his bride in their new life. But long summer days of waiting for the wedding to change her life lead Frankie into trouble and heartbreak.
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Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969.
On the Road is a fictionalized autobiography filled with Kerouac's real-life friends who hit the road with restless energy and a desire to see America.
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Winterson, Jeanette, 1959-
Jeanette has some difficult issues to sort through: her mother thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to be attracted to girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche.
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Green, John, 1977- author.
Quentin "Q" Jacobsen is living his usual high school life until Margo Roth Spiegelman takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears. Q's search for Margo involves all his friends in an illicit -- but funny! -- road trip.
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Chbosky, Stephen.
Charlie is a 9th grade wallflower who faces the familiar struggles of high school--making friends, a first relationship, exploring sexuality--but he must also deal with his best friend's recent suicide.
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Townsend, Sue.
Adrian -- somewhat pretentious, occasionally insensitive and just a little dim -- has somehow managed to convince himself that he is an intellectual. His diary is -- inadvertently -- one of the funniest things you'll ever read.
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Vonnegut, Kurt.
Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim through all phases of his life, focusing on his time as a WWII prisoner of war.
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Cameron, Peter, 1959-
James dreams of bypassing college and living alone in a small town where he can avoid people. The prank he plays on a co-worker makes James face the reasons he feels so different from others.
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Coady, Lynn, 1970-
Bridget, almost eighteen, is in the psychiatric ward of a Halifax children's hospital after giving up her baby for adoption. When she returns to her chaotic home in Cape Breton for Christmas, she must face her family and friends again.
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Block, Francesca Lia.
Weetzie Bat isn't sure about happily ever after, but she knows about happily. She lives in a not quite real L.A. of glitter, glitz, and coolness, has a '55 Pontiac and a best friend named Dirk.