1.17.2012

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't Read Classics


I'm pretty sure most of you who read this blog have read a wide variety of classics, in which case, you don't really need this list. However, if there are some of you out there who typically shy away from classics, this is a list of them that I have read, which I believe to be quite accessible and fun to read. I am loosely using the term "classics" here to signify works that are widely considered worth studying.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: Widely considered the Great American Novel, this is the story of a boy's adventures in the Mississippi Valley.
sample: "But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before."

2. Animal Farm by George Orwell: A political allegory that depicts barnyard animals to highlight powerful social commentary. This book, in my opinion, has one of the best closing sentences in the history of closing sentences.
sample: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. (From Goodreads.)
sample: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

4. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot: In my opinion, this is the most accessible Eliot novel. A buldungsroman that follows the rebellious Maggie Tulliover from youth to maturity.
sample: "Her future, she thought, was likely to be worse than her past, for after her years of contented renunciation, she had slipped back into desire and longing; she found joyless days of distasteful occupation harder and harder; she found the image of the intense and varied life she yearned for, and despaired of, becoming more and more importunate."

5. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: This story examines the consequences of when white Europeans try to colonize an African villiage.
sample: "We have heard stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slave away across the seas, but no one thought the stories were true."

6. Native Son by Richard Wright: I finished this over a week ago and I'm still mulling it over. The novel explores what it means to be black in America.
sample: "Violence is a personal necessity for the oppressed...It is not a strategy consciously devised. It is the deep, instinctive expression of a human being denied individuality."

7. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: A valuable stone goes missing and a slew of narrators theorize as to who may have done it. Truly a page turner.
sample: "Here follows the substance of what I said, written out entirely for your benefit. Pay attention to it, or you will be all abroad, when we get deeper into the story. Clear your mind of the children, or the dinner, or the new bonnet, or what not. Try if you can't forget politics, horses, prices in the city and grievances at the club. I hope you won't take this freedom on my part amiss; it's only a way I have of appealing to a gentle reader.

8.The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Another American classic, examines the possibilities of the American dream, as well as its pitfalls.
sample: "He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself."

9. A Doll's House - Henrik Ibsen: A moving play that looks at the convention of marriage in the late 1800's.
sample: "I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are--or, at all events, that I must try and become one."

10. White Noise by Don DeLillo: My favorite DeLillo to date, White Noise examines family life in the age of extreme consumerism.
sample: "When I read obituaries I always note the age of the deceased. Automatically I relate this figure to my own age. Four years to go, I think. Nine more years. Two years and I'm dead. The power of numbers is never more evident than when we use them to speculate on the time of our dying."

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

37 comments:

  1. I read some of those, but only during school.

    http://kristina-worldofbooks.blogspot.com/2012/01/top-10-tuesdays-7.html

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    1. I read a handful in school as well.

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  2. Great list. I must read the first one.

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  3. Seriously awesome list! It's been a while since I've read any classics - but other than Austen and Bronte books - I love Animal Farm.

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  4. Great list. The ones that I've read from this list are accessible. Good recommendations.

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  5. Good list! I'm reading the Scarlet Pimpernel right now, and it is such a wonderful surprise. I'm totally engrossed. It would be a perfect recommendation for this list.

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    1. I haven't heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Off to find out what it's all about...

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  6. Some I've read, others I want to read, but I think you did a great job with this list, Brenna!

    I chose short stories for this week's TTT.

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    1. Thanks Andi! I'm interested to see what short stories made your list.

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  7. What a great way to do a list, with explanations and examples. I'm a reader of classics but you've listed a bunch that I haven't gotten to yet. Now I know which ones to focus on!

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    1. I'm glad you found it helpful, Trish!

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  8. I've read the first three. For me I end up really liking the classics its just that it takes me a while to get into them. They are slower reads for me.

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    1. I'd agree that some are like that, but definitely not many on this list.

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  9. Good choices! I haven't read Mill on the Floss Yet, but after Silas Marner and Middlemarch, I'm really looking forward to it. I've read all the rest except Native Son and that one is high on my list as well.

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    1. I can't wait until you read Mill on the Floss! It's so good. And you've got to read Native Son. Read that one first.

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  10. And Pride and Prejudice!!! :) Great list!

    My Tuesday Posts

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    1. I have to admit, I'm not a huge Jane Austen girl. Also, I prefer Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility to P&P. I know I'm in the minority.

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  11. Great list, Brenna. It's weird, kind of, that so many readers are afraid of so-called classic literature, thinking it won't have anything to offer them. But many of them are classics for a reason. They're beautifully written, or speak to universal truths. The first three you listed are some of my personal favorites as well... I'd also add Complete Short Stories, by Hemingway, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and maybe Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

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    1. Oh Lord of the Flies I forgot about that one.

      I still haven't read As I Lay Dying, or any Faulkner for that matter. *shame on me*

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  12. I love that you included White Noise - such a great book that many people don't get exposed to. I have Things Fall Apart coming up soon and can't wait to read it. Fantastic list!

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    1. Cheers to White Noise! And I look forward to your thoughts on Things Fall Apart.

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  13. Of the ones of these I've read, I fully agree- they somehow manage to be really accessible as well as expressing complex things that you then feel cleverer for understanding and having an opinion on! Also, I'm glad you've put Things Fall Apart on this list, because I'm reading it for the Back to the Classics Challenge this year and I'm a little nervous...

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    1. Laura, Glad you agree! Also, don't be nervous for Things Fall Apart. For real, it's not a difficult book.

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  14. Great recommendations, Brenna. I've read quite a few of these and the ones that I have read were definitely accessible.

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  15. Great list. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby are phenomenal books. I have The Moonstone on my list to read this year but I haven't had luck with Wilkie Collins yet so we'll see.

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    1. No luck with Wilkie? What did you start with?

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  16. I agree especially with Twain and Collins! The best way to bridge the gap from popular fiction into classics is to find books that mimic the genre that just happen to BE classics.

    Great list! A Doll's House is underrated!

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  17. White Noise and Gatsby are on my list this week too, but I chose Pudd'nhead Wilson for my Twain. Have you read it? It is a little shorter than Huck Finn -- I think -- and a lot weirder. Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is a good one too.

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  18. I hope to read some Gerge Eliot this year. She's been on my TBR pile for years! Thanks for this thoughtful list.

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  19. This is the year I finally read Huckleberry Finn, no excuses. I'll probably go for audiobook. I usually also recommend 1984 and Brave New World. Non-classic readers always seem to get really enthusiastic about the topics.

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  20. Ooh - interesting list! I do read classics, but I haven't even heard of some of thing - !! Thanks for pointing some out!

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  21. I have yet to read Animal Farm.. I love that last line! I really need to read it, and it's so short. Maybe this year!

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