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Kelly J. Cooper

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Recommendations: Classic Texts? [Feb. 17th, 2007|09:03 pm]
Kelly J. Cooper
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Which "classic" books would you recommend that everyone read?

Try to hit at least 5, but stop by 25.

The term "classic" is open to interpretation.


Books that affected me deeply and continue to haunt me, despite the fact that I was assigned to read them in school/college:
    1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    2. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
    3. The Trial by Franz Kafka
    4. 1984 by George Orwell
    5. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
    6. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Books that had a significant impact on me and my understanding of literature (especially the origins of western literature), but only when placed in context by a teacher or professor:
    7. The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
    8. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
    9. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
Classics I picked to read myself and was surprised by how much I enjoyed them and how much they stay with me:
    10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    11. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
    12. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Kids and Young Adult books that I loved and still love that go much deeper than your average story:
    13. Watership Down by Richard Adams
    14. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
    15. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume
    16. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    17. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
    18. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
    19. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
    20. Pardon Me, You're Stepping On My Eyeball by Paul Zindel


[User Picture]From: lillibet
2007-02-17 11:57 pm (UTC)
I'd be interested to know more about your thoughts on Farenheit 451. I only recently read it and it didn't really make that much of an impression, perhaps because it was an early attempt to deal with ideas that I've encountered in other works influenced by it.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2007-02-18 02:56 am (UTC)
It might be because I read it in my 20's that it made such a positive impression on me.

But there was something about the way he wrote it that made me imagine fire roaring and growling and consuming things in slow motion.

I felt like he hit the right note of alienation from his wife and peers, the longing for something more, the secret reading, and the transformation from one who destroys books to one who fights to preserve them.

It might be that I have lower standards than you (I do read a LOT of fluffy fiction). It might be because of when I read it (my age, the political times). It might be because I am an absolute sucker for personal transformation books (mental or emotional evolution, that is, rather than lycanthropy or the like). It might be that it touched in me that sense of being an outsider, ostracized and punished for liking things others do not like or even fear.

I can't really remember a lot of the details. I'd read it again but there are SO MANY books to read...

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[User Picture]From: lillibet
2007-02-18 10:39 am (UTC)
Thanks. Yeah, I think it probably comes down to timing. All of those things were there and are themes to which I usually resonate. I think part of why it left me cold was also that Bradbury's portrayal of the main character's alienation was so extreme that it left me feeling distanced from him, rather than drawing me in to identify with him.
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From: moria923
2007-02-18 02:14 pm (UTC)
thorbol and I read it just last summer. thorbol really liked the poetic prose style, and all the metaphors, etc. I found that this very stylized prose put me off> I think you also expressed something well, lillibet --the alienation of the main character alienated me as well. I hadn't thought of it that way, but it's usually in characters' relationships that they reveal the qualities that make us love them.

My own all-time favorite book is Dostoevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. In that book, we very much get to know the main character through his relationships, and it's got that transformation thing going as well. And I love the way Dostoevsky weaves the superficial plot elements and the philosophical stuff into a seamless cloth.

I was also struck by how much I liked George Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH. It was assigned in one of my college courses, but I didn't get around to it until I was in my thirties.
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[User Picture]From: roozle
2007-02-18 09:12 pm (UTC)
I also found that Fahrenheit 451 made a big impression on me.

The image of the people with their memorized books bonding together at the campfires outside the ring of acceptance of the rest of civilization is haunting to me.
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[User Picture]From: miss_chance
2007-02-18 04:58 am (UTC)
My *favorite* books are not necessarily the ones I would recommend to "anybody." I love The Silmarillion, for instance and I think it's a "classic," if ever there was one, but really you should only read it if you're VERY into Tolkien.

So, Classics that are Key Books in our culture that I can broadly recommend:

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. phenominally well written.
2. something by Italo Calvino. Any of a number of them will do, but you can't skip over him entirely.
3. likewise Ernest Hemmingway. Might as well be The Old Man and the Sea, but it doesn't have to be.
4. 1984 by George Orwell
5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. a MUST.
6. some Edgar Allen Poe short stories; again, it might not really matter specifically which ones, but one has to read some.
7. Infinite Jest is certainly a master-piece, but maybe it's not for everyone, and it's probably too soon to call it a "classic," though I think it will be someday...

and, I didn't want to see your list before making mine, but cuts play out when you go to comment, so now I feel I can't leave off
8. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
maybe, too,
9. Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Also, deep, powerful, haunting, but really not for everyone is
10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. knocked me on my ass when I was in high-school, though I wonder if it would still have that power now.
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[User Picture]From: roozle
2007-02-18 09:03 pm (UTC)
I'm not at all saying that this is a comprehensive or definitive list, but here's some thoughts:

1. The very first book that leapt to mind was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
2. Right behind it, The Little Prince by umm, someone I'm too lazy to look up how to spell right now.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

4. 1984, Orwell
5. Little Women, which is so much more than just a fluffy girls story.

On the kids book side:
Where the Wild Things Are, The Wind In the Willows, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, The Hobbit.

On the grownup books side:
I keep wanting to put The Chosen by Chaim Potok. While that's probably just my own reactions talking, it meant a lot (and different things at different times) to me.

I wonder if any SF really should make this list? I would agree with Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, I think, but I am wondering whether any of the things I think of as SF classics should make the list. Brunner is SO presciently brilliant in Shockwave Rider I wonder if that should be on the list.

There's a list of books that seem like everyone should read them because they make up a shared cultural heritage: some Shakespeare and enough of the Bible to be able to tell when it's being quoted are king and queen of the list, and Canterbury Tales, The Inferno, and a bunch more are also on the list.

Trying not to be too influenced by other people's lists....
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[User Picture]From: missionista
2007-02-19 01:30 am (UTC)
The books other people have mentioned are some really great ones. I loved The Chosen as well, not to mention The Phantom Tollbooth.

But what springs to mind when I think classics are:

Moby Dick
100 Years of Solitude
Huckleberry Finn
Pride and Prejudice
Oliver Twist
or Great Expectations (or something, as long as it's Dickens)
Jane Eyre

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[User Picture]From: erikred
2007-02-20 01:48 am (UTC)
Classics that inspired me and continue to inspire me:
1. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
2. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
3. The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
4. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
5. The Autobiography of Malcom X, with Alex Haley
6. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
7. Demian, by Herman Hesse
8. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe
9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Books that I enjoyed as a teen, and which I recommend to teens, but which I have not enjoyed as much on rereading as an adult:
10. Elric of Melnibone, by Michael Moorcock
11. Radix, by A.A. Antanasio
12. Swords And Deviltry, by Fritz Leiber
13. The White Mountains, by John Christopher
14. Conan the Barbarian, by Robert E. Howard

Other Classics often recommended by schools (and me):
15. The Iliad, by Homer
16. Dune, by Frank Herbert
17. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
18. The Lion, the Witch, And the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
19. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carrol
20. Beowulf
21. One Thousand And One Arabian Nights, translated by Richard Burton
22. Tales Collected by the Brothers Grimm
23. The Oresteia, by Aeschylus
24. Njal's Saga (or the Saga of Burnt Njal)
25. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, collected by Edith Hamilton

I really had to pull back on the reins on this one, or I could have easily carried this list into the triple digits.

I like your list; I've read all but five (no need to guess which ones).
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From: i_leonardo
2007-02-22 01:00 am (UTC)
the old testament (with exegesis, and the new testament if you're not bored or alienated by the end of the old). so much of western culture is biblical allegory that it's worth understanding, even if you think the book itself is a load of bullshit.
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