Classics: The ones I love (and hate)
We all know about those books that make frequent appearances on lists such as “100 books to read before you die” or “Top 100 Literary Novels of All Time”. The books you are supposed to read if you want to be considered well-read. The ones your literature teachers in high school were constantly trying to get you to read. I never took literature as a high school subject, and I still feel like I missed out. Or did I? A part of me thinks that if I went through the whole critiquing process that is integral to the study of the great works, I would have probably stopped reading for pleasure. Another part of me however does still wonder what if…?
Nonetheless, in my literary meanderings through the years, I discovered quite a few of the great works in my own time and my favourites are listed below. For me these are the books with messages and lessons that are timeless, and all wrapped up in an amazing story. It’s a short list, so yes, I know I’ve left out many and some of you may be shouting out (in your heads I hope), “why is xxx..xxx not here”?! If that is the case, I’d love to hear what favourite classics you would include.
- Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
- Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen)
- War & Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
- Dr Zhivago (Boris Pasternak)
- The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux)
- The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
- East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
- Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) – the audiobook version read by Maggie Gyllenhaal also brought this book to life for me and made me appreciate it in a much deeper way.
- Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
- The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
- A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
- Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
- Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
- The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas)
- Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
- 1984 (George Orwell)
There are equally those books that have been branded classics and so you pick them up thinking “I’m sure it’s a classic for a reason”. You then proceed to struggle through a page, paragraph, sentence or word at a time and emerge from the whole experience slightly dazed, often confused, and thinking to yourself, why, why, for God’s sake, whyyyyyy??!!!! For the sake of balance in the Universe and grand scheme of things, this is my list of the classics that I really had to labour through.
- Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
- Ulysses (James Joyce)
- Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut Jr)
- Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen) – the only Austen book I did not like
- Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
- Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman (John Fowles)
- Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
- Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray)
- If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (Italo Calvino)
- On the Road (Jack Kerouac)
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce) – let’s just say I am not a fan of James Joyce
I love classics. I have loved Don Quixote, Les Misérables, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist of those classics from Dickens/Hugo to before.
In terms of classics I disliked, Shakespeare and his works-boring. Many books I don’t like belong to those required readings.
Ones still to make an opinion since I have not read them yet: Hunchback of Notre Dame, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield: own all those books and will read them eventually.
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I really enjoyed Don Quixote too but it wasn’t one that I felt like I could read again…Les Miserables is one I return to every couple of years but like you, I also struggle with Shakespeare!
I feel like I could read Les Misérables again. But if I will read its again, I don’t want to try to attempt to read it in one summer like I did last time. What helped me read it last time was my knowledge coming from the musical. Using that knowledge, it helped me better understand the book and the book helped make me a bigger fan of the musical
Admittedly not a great fan of Northanger Abbey either… I’d add Persuasion to the list of classics, as well as Anne of Green Gables and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Love your list! Love Little Women Part 1, but not Part 2 (Good Wives)…
I agree….did not like the follow up Little Women books at all!