Reading novels is an enjoyable pastime that improves vocabulary over time. If it is your goal to build vocabulary while you read, you must be an active reader. Keep a dictionary handy and use it. Dedicate a notebook to keeping a list of the vocabulary words harvested from every novel you read, along with definitions, synonyms and sample sentences. Review your list periodically to keep your new vocabulary fluent.

"A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving

Owen Meany is a strange boy who believes he will be redeemed by martyrdom for killing the mother of his best friend with a baseball. It's a wide-ranging book with many subplots that all point to a condemnation of American foreign policy.

"Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift

Published in 1726, this novel describes the four voyages of Gulliver to the strange lands of the Lilliputians, Brobdingnags, Bainibarbis, Houyhnhnms and Yahoos. The book is known for its many scatological references, as well as its biting commentary on cultural elitism and moral superiority.

"Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson

This 1886 novel explores the angel and fiend that lurks in human nature. Dr. Jekyll discovers a potion that can separate his dark side into the amoral and vengeful personality of Mr. Hyde who commits a series of gruesome murders in London.

"Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster" by Jon Krakauer

Though not a book of fiction, Jon Krakauer's book is crafted like a novel. It is a suspenseful account of a disastrous attempt to climb Everest, illustrating the stark, impersonal challenge of the mountain that overwhelms experienced climbers.

"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

Published as a serial beginning in 1860, this book tells about the adventures of Pip, a young orphan boy during the Industrial Revolution in and around London. It addresses many important concerns of the time, including child labor, the drive for self-improvement and issues of moral and social superiority.

"Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley

This book, classified as Gothic science fiction, was published in 1818. It follows the downward spiral of a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, after he creates an 8-foot tall monster out of body parts to discover the secret of life. The monster is a sympathetic creature, even though he commits two murders.

"The House of the Spirits" by Isabel Allende

This adventurous and expansive novel is about three women and three families in opposing classes in Latin America. It explores the themes of class struggle and exploitation, magic, witchcraft and the power of women and family ties.

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

This haunting, Gothic romance novel was first published in 1847 under the male pseudonym of Currer Bell. It is about a woman's struggle against forces that threaten her happiness and freedom -- rigid class distinctions, patriarchy, and gender relations in 19th Century England -- as she pursues the man she loves.

"Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut

This classic American novel is a tragic-comic look at a hapless young man, Billy Pilgrim, who is thrown into World War II. He survives a prisoner of war (POW) camp in Germany, and the carpet-bombing of Dresden, in which 130,000 people were incinerated.

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