The best novels for warnings against the allure of wealth, status, and illicit romance

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1942. My father was a druggist and my mother a housewife until his illness put her to work as a newspaper reporter and eventually as a school teacher. After spending four years in the U.S. Air Force I earned a B.A. and a M.A. in English. After teaching English for thirty-one years, I retired in 2006. My wife and I live in Savannah and have two daughters, five grandchildren, and a black Lab. Among the many novels that I taught during my years as an English professor, the five on my list were invariably the ones to which my students most actively responded.


I wrote...

Expense of Spirit

By William Breedlove Martin,

Book cover of Expense of Spirit

What is my book about?

Expense of Spirit can be read as a dramatization of Shakespeare’s famous sonnet about lust, #129, from which it takes its title and the designations of its three parts—Quest to Have, Full of Blame, and Murderous. Although not a roman a clef, the novel is replete with characters and situations drawn from my personal experience of factual counterparts, starting with the settings in Atlanta and Savannah. The narrator and protagonist, Tommy Devane, albeit in some ways a composite, is in other ways a thinly disguised portrait of a fast-lane sports agent who, unfortunately, was at one time a member of my family. For him lust, as in Shakespeare’s sonnet, begins as heaven and ends as hell.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sister Carrie

William Breedlove Martin Why did I love this book?

First published in 1900, Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie chronicles the rise of a poor girl, Carrie Meeber, and the contrasting, complementary decline and fall of the older, well-to-do man who is obsessed with her, George Hurstwood, whose steady, emasculating ruin is the most poignant narrative sequence, bar none, that I’ve ever read.

By Theodore Dreiser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sister Carrie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Sister Carrie" by Theodore Dreiser. Published by Good Press. Good Press publishes a wide range of titles that encompasses every genre. From well-known classics & literary fiction and non-fiction to forgotten−or yet undiscovered gems−of world literature, we issue the books that need to be read. Each Good Press edition has been meticulously edited and formatted to boost readability for all e-readers and devices. Our goal is to produce eBooks that are user-friendly and accessible to everyone in a high-quality digital format.


Book cover of An American Tragedy

William Breedlove Martin Why did I love this book?

Also by Dreiser, An American Tragedy, 1925, is the slow-moving and heavy-handed but steadily engrossing and ultimately overwhelming account of a poor boy so bewitched by a beautiful rich girl that he commits literal murder and loses his own life in his struggle to have her.

By Theodore Dreiser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An American Tragedy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This landmark 1925 novel about a social climber who murders his pregnant lover is both a riveting crime story and a devastating commentary on the American dream. A VINTAGE CLASSIC.

Theodore Dreiser was inspired by a true story to write this novel about an ambitious, socially insecure young man who finds himself caught between two very different women--and two very different visions of what his life could be. Clyde Griffiths was born poor and is poorly educated, but his prospects begin to improve when he is offered a job by a wealthy uncle who owns a shirt factory. Soon he…


Book cover of The Great Gatsby

William Breedlove Martin Why did I love this book?

F. Scott Fitzgerald, in The Great Gatsby, played his classic variation on the same theme of the American Dream gone sour for a poor boy fatally obsessed with a beautiful rich girl, but did so, unlike Dreiser, in some of the most gorgeous and quotable prose in all of American literature.

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Great Gatsby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the summer unfolds, Nick is drawn into Gatsby's world of luxury cars, speedboats and extravagant parties. But the more he hears about Gatsby - even from what Gatsby himself tells him - the less he seems to believe. Did he really go to Oxford University? Was Gatsby a hero in the war? Did he once kill a man? Nick recalls how he comes to know Gatsby and how he also enters the world of his cousin Daisy and her wealthy husband Tom. Does their money make them any happier? Do the stories all connect? Shall we come to know…


Book cover of Elmer Gantry

William Breedlove Martin Why did I love this book?

In 1927, Sinclair Lewis struck with Elmer Gantry, a richly researched and powerful satirical indictment of religious hypocrisy whose eponymous central character is an amoral preacher enthralled by his power in the pulpit and by the allure of a beautiful female evangelist, Sharon Falconer.

By Sinclair Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Elmer Gantry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Universally recognized as a landmark in American literature, Elmer Gantry scandalized the generation in which it was written, causing Sinclair Lewis to be "invited" to a jail cell in New Hampshire and to his own lynching in Virginia. His portrait of an evangelist who rises to power within his church - a saver of souls who lives a life of hypocrisy, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence - has been called the greatest, most vital, and most penetrating study of hypocrisy that has been written since Voltaire.


Book cover of The Bonfire of the Vanities

William Breedlove Martin Why did I love this book?

Also richly researched and based on factual equivalents is The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe’s 1987 satirical meditation on the seven deadly sins of greed, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth, lust, and pride as they inform the lives of a diverse assortment of contemporary New Yorkers, chiefly that of Sherman McCoy, a Big Time bond salesman on Wall Street and self-styled Master of the Universe who, in his extra-marital affair with a beautiful woman, takes a literal wrong turn in his Mercedes and, after being arrested, falls from his condo high on Park Avenue all the way down into the rat-and filth-infested holding pens beneath the Bronx courthouse.

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Bonfire of the Vanities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An exhilarating satire of Eighties excess that captures the effervescent spirit of New York, from one of the greatest writers of modern American prose

Sherman McCoy is a WASP, bond trader and self-appointed 'Master of the Universe'. He has a fashionable wife, a Park Avenue apartment and a Southern mistress. His spectacular fall begins the moment he is involved in a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx. Prosecutors, newspaper hacks, politicians and clergy close in on him, determined to bring him down.

Exuberant, scandalous and exceptionally discerning, The Bonfire of the Vanities was Tom Wolfe's first venture into fiction and cemented…


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American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

Book cover of American Flygirl

Susan Tate Ankeny Author Of The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Susan Tate Ankeny left a career in teaching to write the story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France. In 2011, after being led on his path through France by the same Resistance fighters who guided him in 1944, she felt inspired to tell the story of these brave French patriots, especially the 17-year-old- girl who risked her own life to save her father’s. Susan is a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés. 

Susan's book list on women during WW2

What is my book about?

The first and only full-length biography of Hazel Ying Lee, an unrecognized pioneer and unsung World War II hero who fought for a country that actively discriminated against her gender, race, and ambition.

This unique hidden figure defied countless stereotypes to become the first Asian American woman in United States history to earn a pilot's license, and the first female Asian American pilot to fly for the military.

Her achievements, passionate drive, and resistance in the face of oppression as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and a female aviator changed the course of history. Now the remarkable story of a fearless underdog finally surfaces to inspire anyone to reach toward the sky.

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

What is this book about?

One of WWII’s most uniquely hidden figures, Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, join the WASPs, and fly for the United States military amid widespread anti-Asian sentiment and policies.

Her singular story of patriotism, barrier breaking, and fearless sacrifice is told for the first time in full for readers of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown and all Asian American, women’s and WWII history books.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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