Author Topic: "Classics"  (Read 626 times)

Pixie

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"Classics"
« on: July 28, 2017, 11:38:11 PM »
There are a huge number of "classic" books that I have managed to never read in my life, having early on been steered deep--oh so deep--into fantasy and the like. At this point in my life, I would like to correct this oversight. But even googling up "classics you must read"-type lists is a bit overwhelming and lacking in consensus or even direction.

So what would you say? What are the classics you most think a person should read at least once in their life? (and any "why" you want to add would be super helpful :P )

Thanks :)

Pixie

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2017, 06:17:17 PM »
Well, after pillaging a bazillion "must read" lists, I put together this list, which is probably still missing some really important items. But it's a start:

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Don Quixote – Cervantes
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe
Emma – Jane Austen
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy – John Le Carre
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Also, I should mention that these are ones I've read, so they don't need to be included:

The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
1984 – George Orwell
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank


I picked up Crime and Punishment, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre at the book store a bit ago. Off and running! ;)

narsica

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2017, 01:19:02 AM »
Twain seems appropriate:

Quote
A classic is something everybody wants to have read, but no one wants to read.

On your list I'd apply that definition to Tolstoy, Dickens and Joyce. Read the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, and think about whether you really want to subject yourself to that shit. Ulysses doesn't have a plot. Tolstoy is the Russian version of Dickens (read Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, and Turgenev instead if you want Russians).

In terms of changes/additions (from a quick scan through my shelves - note that I'm assuming you mean fiction, given that you've solely listed fiction titles. I'm also assuming you've put 'Science Fiction' in with 'Fantasy' as your previous reading


I'd swap out The Brothers Karamazov for Crime and Punishment (but it is a more difficult read), or The Idiot if you want something not quite as dark. Nobody gets the human condition like Dostoevsky, and the Brothers K is his definitive masterpiece.

Moby Dick changed my life. I still vividly remember reading it for the first time. It was one of the first 'classic' stories I'd read where I couldn't put it down - although I raced through the chapters on biology to get to the story.

Short stories of Edgar Allen Poe should be on the list. Not sure this needs an explanation.

'Everything that Rises Must Converge' and 'Wise Blood' by Flannery O'Connor (anything by Flannery O'Connor really) must be on it. A darkly funny writer, who has a habit of turning the very things she mocks back on the characters and readers of her stories. She wrote as an outsider (an unmarried Catholic women in the deep south in the 50s), and her writing is like nothing else.

Also Evelyn Waugh for American authors. A lovely writer, with impeccable prose.

Absolutely something by Kafka.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, which is perhaps one of the funniest books ever written.

Night by Elie Wiesel, which everyone should read - a first hand accounting of surviving a concentration camp. Haunting.

The Plague by Albert Camus.

I might add some more later.

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Pixie

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2017, 07:48:47 AM »
Oh yeah, I've read almost everything of Poe.

Will note the others.

I kind of had that thought about Dickens, having tried in the past to read some of his stuff. >.>  I was put off by Tolstoy when I picked up War and Peace in the book store and it was like 1600 pages. Who's got time for that??

I'm open to good non-fiction, too. I wasn't specifically aiming for fiction - this is just how the list developed.

mn4nu

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2017, 09:16:00 AM »
I thought David Copperfield was a good story, but it took forever for me to finish.  There is just so much fluff in it.  Dickens takes a hundred words to say what most could say in 10.

I never finished A Tale of Two Cities.  It was boring as hell and I just gave up.

My favorite Dickens novel was Great Expectations, and I would recommend it.  It was much easier to read, and stay involved in, than the other two.

SideSBob

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2017, 11:17:50 AM »
I thought David Copperfield was a good story, but it took forever for me to finish.  There is just so much fluff in it.  Dickens takes a hundred words to say what most could say in 10.

I never finished A Tale of Two Cities.  It was boring as hell and I just gave up.

My favorite Dickens novel was Great Expectations, and I would recommend it.  It was much easier to read, and stay involved in, than the other two.

I liked A Christmas Carol myself.

Godji

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2017, 11:35:22 AM »
It's probably missing some Shakespeare somewhere. Hamlet seems like an almost too obvious choice, but I haven't actually read enough Shakespeare to choose a better candidate.

If you want to add what are considered "classic" authors in France, it usually comes down to Victor Hugo (les Misérables ), Camus indeed (La Peste, l'Etranger), Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Balzac (hard to pick just one really since "La Comédie Humaine" is about 90 novels,maybe Eugénie Grandet or Le Père Goriot), Molière's plays (quite a few too, maybe Le Malade Imaginaire), Alexandre Dumas (Les Trois Mousquetaires), Zola (Germinal). More of a personnal choice, I'd add some Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)

Godji

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2017, 11:38:47 AM »
Oh, and Voltaire. Candide is probably one of the most iconic.

Racine is also a classic play author, but it's getting a bit hard to enjoy it translated.

Reigns

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2017, 12:23:10 PM »
The Three Musketeers.  Needs to be included because it's the best classic out there.  The end. 
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TheMikrobe

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2017, 12:25:57 PM »
"Classics" is usually taken to mean novels from the 18th, 19th, early 20th centuries, which is what you usually find in lists and what you've posted. I can't really recommend anything in that line as I haven't read all that many and don't have much desire too.

It's probably missing some Shakespeare somewhere. Hamlet seems like an almost too obvious choice, but I haven't actually read enough Shakespeare to choose a better candidate.

Reading most plays is hard since, with the exception of "closet dramas", they are designed to be performed not read. Without actors and a director, the limited stage directions of most scripts don't do enough to guide you through the scene or who the different speakers are. The great Shakespeare speeches and scenes are worth reading though, but unfortunately you have to get through a lot of stuff that can be pretty turgid on the page (even comic scenes can be hard work). Macbeth is pretty short and has some good stuff, Hamlet, maybe Lear, I like Julius Caesar too. Probably not initially the comedies (need to be performed) or the history plays (complex politics). All the best Shakespeare moments are all in verse, and it takes practise to be able to read it well.

Speaking of verse, I am obsessed with Paradise Lost by John Milton, which would be my desert island book. It's hard and slow reading the first time through and you need a lot of footnotes, but it's worth it. Milton is justly ranked with Shakespeare as the greatest writers in English, and IMO Paradise Lost is the greatest single work in the language (Shakespeare beats him over his whole corpus). The first two books (of twelve) are the most famous and exciting, with Satan waking up in hell and raging and scheming against heaven.

Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur for one of the foundational texts of modern fantasy, and the first attempt to synthesise a coherent and consistent life story for Arthur (all Arthurian work since goes through Malory). Pretty easy reading, although stylistically very old fashioned.

Another important ancestor of fantasy is the Norse Sagas. All the sagas have some elements of magic or heightened reality, but many are actually fairly mundane. The family sagas (e.g. Njal's Saga, Laexdala Saga) are long multigenerational stories of revenge and politics, some good bits but not necessarily easy to get into unless you like your bloody vengeance interspersed with long courtroom sequences and details of early Icelandic law. Egil's Saga has exciting battles and heroic viking action, but is still basically realistic with complex international politics and personal relationships. Grettir's Saga and The Saga of Hrolf Kraki are shorter and simpler, they still take place a recognisably real setting but have a lot of magical elements (trolls, witches, draugr, werebears). The Volsunga Saga is like The Iliad - it has traces of some recognisable historical places, characters and events, but is basically purely legendary and centres around a magical horde of gold guarded by a dragon (also has werewolves).
« Last Edit: July 31, 2017, 12:47:18 PM by TheMikrobe »
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Pixie

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2017, 02:52:47 PM »
I've read a shitload of Shakespeare. Probably 3/4 of the plays. Mostly unwillingly. :D
I read various Norse sagas in my medieval literature class.
I didn't read Three Musketeers, but I've read Man in the Iron Mask. Close enough. :P
Have read Candide.
I did read 20,000 Leagues. Twice.

I'll add a few French authors. Not sure how they got overlooked. Probably because most of my list came from "top 100 English novels" type lists. Probably add Les Misérables, Madame Bovary, and one or another Camus.


narsica

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2017, 11:35:35 PM »
Godji has good taste!

Ditto to TM's suggestion of Paradise Lost, if you can suffer through it - the first time through is a brutal slog.

More suggestions:
Illiad and Odyssey if you haven't already read them.
Aeneid by Virgil.
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
The Divine Comedy by Dante
Faust by Goethe
Sappho's poetic fragments
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

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TheMikrobe

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2017, 03:31:50 AM »
Two more suggestions:

* Kim, by Rudyard Kipling - can't recommend it highly enough. A fun adventure story, but also a fairly comprehensive and sympathetic tour of colonial India.
* Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. It has a good reputation although I've never finished it, mainly because the times when I've tried to read it I've had other things going on as well so got distracted.
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TheMikrobe

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2017, 03:40:54 AM »
Also, have you read the Bible? Even if you aren't Christian it's pretty important, and helps to understand a lot of classic literature. You don't need to read it all, but Genesis, Exodus, Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, the Gospels and Revelation are some of the more important books.
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Pixie

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Re: "Classics"
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2017, 06:10:46 AM »
Illiad and Odyssey if you haven't already read them.
Aeneid by Virgil.
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
The Divine Comedy by Dante
Sappho's poetic fragments
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

^ Read. Also Steppenwolf, which I liked better than Siddhartha.

Quote
Faust by Goethe

Noted.

Two more suggestions:

* Kim, by Rudyard Kipling - can't recommend it highly enough. A fun adventure story, but also a fairly comprehensive and sympathetic tour of colonial India.
* Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. It has a good reputation although I've never finished it, mainly because the times when I've tried to read it I've had other things going on as well so got distracted.

Noted.

Also, have you read the Bible? Even if you aren't Christian it's pretty important, and helps to understand a lot of classic literature. You don't need to read it all, but Genesis, Exodus, Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, the Gospels and Revelation are some of the more important books.

Not in its entirety. Pretty large chunk of it though.