1. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe - An important novel in shaping the gothic novel and modern detective story, this ambitious book is part travelogue, romance, novel of manners, mystery and even incorporates poetry. Originally published in 1794, this novel follows Emily St. Aubert as she tries to escape the clutches of her evil step-uncle Montoni to reunite with her lover, Valacourt. She is held captive in the castle Udolpho where she tries to unravel the many mysteries that surround her, including eerie music, odd family resemblances and strange disappearances.
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin - One of the last Jane Austin novels I actually got around to reading, her most esteemed novel (from 1813) ended up being my all-time favorite in the end (although Sense and Sensibility and Emma certainly put up quite a fight). Following Elizabeth Bennet, from a family of five daughters, we watch as the siblings struggle to find suitors since (with no male heir in the family) the bennet estate will someday pass to their arrogant cousin. Jane Austin really affected me more than I ever dreamed she would. If you haven't read one of her books, do yourself a favor...
3. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - The author of The Handmaid's Tale brings her readers a tale of one of the most notorious women in history - Grace Marks, a woman convicted for viciously murdering her employer and his housekeeper/mistress in the nineteenth century. Through this novel, we are treated to a look into Grace's childhood, and into the life of Dr. Simon Jordan, an expert of mental illness, as he works with a group of spiritualists who seek a pardon for the murderess.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling - Rowling is a master of writing boys' adventure novels and this is the best of her bestselling Harry Potter series. In the fourth novel following Harry's progress through Hogwarts, a school of witchcraft and wizardry, we are treated to an event that the school is hosting, that of the Triwizard Tournament. When Harry is inadvertently thrust into the competition, he needs the aid of his friends more than ever to survive. This novel is a real turning point in the series, as the children of the previous three works grow into young men and women in the face of events that push the series into an overall darker tone.
5. The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst - The author who won the Man Booker Prize for his latest effort The Line of Beauty, brings us the story of a 33-year-old gay man, Edward Manners, who falls in love with one of his 17-year-old pupils as he moves to a Flemish city to teach English. Amid beautiful prose, we watch as Edward is drawn into the world of the reclusive painter Edgard Orst and are treated to the ghosts of his past.