It’s that day again!
This week’s Top Ten list by the lovely people at The Broke and the Bookish is a topic that took me some time to think about. It was Top Ten Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read X. Over at their blog, they picked historical fiction. In a similar fashion, I’m going to pick the Classics. Top Ten Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read the Classics.
1. Shakespeare. Shakespeare, Shakespeare, ANYTHING Shakespeare! I know this isn’t a book per se, but he is my top pick for anything classical. I especially love his sonnets, but I know poetry isn’t for everyone. My favorite play is Macbeth, which is much darker and brooding than my normal taste allows for. I’ve never read anything by Shakespeare I didn’t like. I understand the classics aren’t for everyone, but I think we all enjoy a good spooky story. Macbeth is a great place to start.
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Many modern authors have criticizes Jane’s writing, but she was a female author in the early 1800s… of course she’d write about love and gossip and scandal and family. Although Pride and Prejudice isn’t my favorite Austen book, it is the favorite of the general population. What I think appeals more to people who may not like the classics is the stupidity of the Bennet women and their antics. I’m excluding Jane and Lizzie, of course. It’s hilarious to watch these women make fools of themselves. The humor in that book, alone, makes it worth the read.
3. The Divine Comedy/Dante’s Inferno by Dante Alighieri. Instead of reading the actual work, which is quite difficult, I’d go ahead and pick up a modernized version of it so that it makes sense. When I first read it, I had to write down everything that didn’t make sense to me and look it up. Let’s just say it was a long read. But if you get, say, this version, it’ll be easier to read. Many current literary experts agree that the two most prominent writers of classical literature are Dante and Shakespeare. Dante’s work is dark and imaginative, and I always learn some tidbit about creativity and writing from it.
4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I’m not really sure if he’s considered a classical author, but I consider him to be one. These books/stories are a lot easier for people who don’t like classical literature to swallow. They’re generally pretty short, and have a certain storytelling rhythm that’s repeated in each tale (the adventure/mystery happens, then the backstory is explained for the reason behind it). It’s fairly straightforward stuff, but fun to read and extraordinary in detail. If you know anything about Sherlock, it’s how smart he is and how much he notices every little detail. That comes through in the books in a subtle way, and it’s brilliant.
5. 1984 by George Orwell. I read this book in high school and was completely weirded out by it. I’m even more so now because of how much written in that book is now coming to fruition. Big Brother, indeed. He was spot on. It’s not a difficult read, nor is it overly long. One of my faves, for sure.
6. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. This was my favorite book in high school. I couldn’t even pinpoint why. It was depressing most of the time, but such an easy and interesting read. It was originally a short story, but then later turned into a novel. For those who haven’t heard of it, the story centers around Algernon, a laboratory mouse who has experimental surgery to make him more intelligent. His changes are recorded and observed by Charlie Gordon, who is mentally disabled, and the first human subject in the experiment. What happens to Algernon eventually happens to Charlie, and it’s a testimony to the human condition and the morality/ethics of human and animal experimentation. I consider it a bit satiric, which I like in the classics.
7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is a must read for everyone, whether they like the classics or not. Atticus Finch imparts some crazy good philosophy and is a moral hero for many people. It’s a quote-worthy book unlike many others.
8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. For those of you who’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that he is one of my favorite authors and has influenced my writing the most (along with L.M. Montgomery). I wouldn’t recommend LOTR to people who haven’t read the classics because it’s much meatier and harder to get into. But The Hobbit is a fast read full of adventure, and it opens up the world of Middle Earth and all the wonder of Tolkien’s genius.
9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. She, along with Tolkien, are the writers I admire the most. However, the story of a young orphan girl who has a tendency to rant on and on in long soliloquies is not for the faint of heart. It’s set in Canada in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and follows the hilarious antics of an orphan who gets herself into a lot of trouble because she’s so curious and full of life. She’s my favorite literary heroine, and always will be.
10. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Another gritty, morally enlightening book that puts things into perspective on how we treat people who are different than us. It’s set in Puritanical Massachusetts in the mid 1600s, so you can imagine how people acted and how they talked. But it’s not a long book, and there are a lot of good lessons to be learned.
Wow. That was hard. There are so many other classic books I would love to recommend: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Secret Garden, Moby Dick, The Phantom of the Opera, Little Women, The Count of Monte Cristo… the list could go on for pages.
What do you think of my choices? Do you like the classics or would you ever consider reading them? Why or why not? I used to hate them, myself, but now I can’t get enough of them!