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Must read classics

(18 Posts)
seaweedhead Sat 03-Sep-11 17:46:45

I'm feeling like I need to expand my knowledge of classic literature. What would everybody recommend? And which novels/authors should be avoided?

Please no Jane Austen- I tried to read one of hers (can't remember which one) years ago and just couldn't get into it. I'm not averse to a bit of romance but it struck me as being just ancient chick lit.

bibbitybobbityhat Sat 03-Sep-11 17:47:16

Crime and Punishment

ragged Sat 03-Sep-11 18:08:16

John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath specifically).
For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun also Rises
Catch 22
Beloved (Toni Morrison)
The Good Earth
Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)
Moby Dick
The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Tale of Two Cities
Anna Karenina
The Wasp Factory
The Illustrated Man
Short story collections, like the I Robot series, or Edgar Allen Poe stories.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Watership Down
Animal Farm
The Handmaid's Tale
Slaughterhouse Five
The Sound and the Fury
Gulliver's Travels (but you need crib notes to understand it properly)
Frankenstein
The Call of the Wild (Jack London)
As I Lay Dying (Faulkner)
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Almost anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Death of Artemio Cruz (Fuentes)

In no particular order. A lot of those are hard to get into, at least 40 pages before you might "get it", but worth the slog. I know he's considered American's greatest modern writer, but I really cannot get on with Dom Delilo (or John Updike, for that matter). Ulysseus (Joyce) is just dull....

seaweedhead Sat 03-Sep-11 19:01:38

Thanks folks. Have always been a bit daunted by the size of Crime and Punishment but might be brave and give it a go.

have read (and loved)

Grapes of Wrath
Catch 22
To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
the Handmaid's Tale (had to study it for A level English lit- prompted me to read a few other Margaret Atwood)
Nineteen Eighty-Four

Your list has given me a good starting point ragged.
I tried Gulliver's Travels but found it too much hard work. I think you have to have some knowledge of the historical context in which it was written to really get it.

boogiewoogie Sat 03-Sep-11 22:03:21

The woman in white - Wilkie Collins
The woman in black (not sur whether that counts as classic) - Susan Hill
Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
My cousin Rachel - Du Maurier again
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Hardy (You've probably read that at A level too)
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

2cats2many Sat 03-Sep-11 22:09:33

All of the above plus I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith

FleurTing Sun 04-Sep-11 12:22:41

Bleak House - Dickens
Lord of the Flies - Golding
Middlemarch - Eliot
The Pursuit of Love - Nancy Mitford
A Room with a View - Forster (one of my all-time favourites)

SandStorm Sun 04-Sep-11 12:29:30

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe (but don't read the end in public)
Lorna Doone - RD Blackmoore

ragged Sun 04-Sep-11 12:36:24

Crime and Punishment is brilliant. I have even read it in Spanish blush. I always need with Russian novels to keep a "cheat-sheet" list of characters & maybe relationships to each other, to follow the story properly.

War and Peace is the one I find daunting, haven't dared face.

The Red Badge of Courage is excellent, too. Other thoughts:
Midnight's Children (Rushdie)
The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)
Smiley's People (Lecarre, and the sequel books)

Pan Sun 04-Sep-11 12:37:33

Middlemarch - George Eliot. The finest novel in the English language. If anyone reads only one novel, this should be it. <gavel>.

tryingtoleave Sun 04-Sep-11 12:46:23

Washington square - if you don't like Austen, you will probably like it.

SecretSpi Mon 05-Sep-11 15:10:38

The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
Steppenwolf - Hermann Hesse
Le Grand Meaulnes - Alain Fournier

Kayano Mon 05-Sep-11 15:13:50

The great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The count of Monte Cristo - Alexander Dumas?
A room with a view - E. M Forster

Best 3 classics IMO

GooseyLoosey Mon 05-Sep-11 15:20:11

Candide - Voltaire. Fairly short too.

KurriKurri Mon 05-Sep-11 15:59:22

Yes to Middlemarch - totally agree with Pan's gavel.

Crime and Punishment - brilliant book, but find a time when you can have a good bash at it so you can get into the story, and don't lose track of all the Russian names in their different forms.

I love Thomas Hardy, (I know he's not to everyone's taste) and I would recommend Tess of the D'Urbervilles (featuring one of my most hated literary characters, - Angel Clare) and The Woodlanders. Under The Greenwood Tree is also a lovely little book.

Orwell - 1984, and On The Road To Wigan Pier

Kafka - The Trial, - wonderful book, The ending is one of the most moving pieces of writing I've read.

Alice in Wonderland, and Alice through the Looking Glass, - great books - just great.

alana39 Tue 06-Sep-11 22:26:23

I love Henry James and Thackeray, having asked pretty much the same question as you a couple of years ago. Can't get on with Dickens at all though, think it's the made up names.

seaweedhead Wed 07-Sep-11 12:06:29

Thank You all smile
Think I shall compile a list and take a trip to the library.

betterwhenthesunshines Fri 09-Sep-11 10:57:15

Vita Sackville West "Family History"

It's portrait of a love affair between a woman and a much younger man. The language is not too hard, and the period setting (1930s) is a fascinating insight into social expectations, relationships with 'staff' (also see Kathryn Stockett 'The Help'), the daily way of life. I really enjoyed it - much more than I expected to.

There are a lot of 'old' classics here, but maybe something more modern: Iris Murdoch, Richard Yates (1950s America), Aldous Huxley, George Orwell?

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