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Can you help me become more well read?

(54 Posts)
Battlefront Sun 20-Jan-13 19:52:10

I love being lost in a book, but I admit most of what I read probably comes within the category trashy novels.

I consider myself to be reasonably bright but my formal education was all around science and maths, I seem to have missed the bit that should have taught me to enjoy quality literature. Whenever I try a "classic" I really struggle and TBH rarely get to the end.

Can you recommend a handful of entry level classics?

I'd also love a readable history book or series of books if anyone has a recommendation.

Thank you

bigbadbarry Sun 20-Jan-13 19:54:15

Jane Austen is lovely and readable. Like you I was Mathsy and sciencey but I love Trollope, they are all gossipy so if you like chick lit they might suit!

Battlefront Sun 20-Jan-13 20:02:28

Thank you, I have read and enjoyed some Austen, but I always understood they were trashy novels written in the 19th century grin I will try Trollope though, thank you.

bigbadbarry Sun 20-Jan-13 20:07:14

They are, but they are classic trashy novels smile
Anthony Trollope wrote victorian trashy novels.

BillyBollyDandy Sun 20-Jan-13 20:09:35

I prefer Antonia Fraser to David Starkey for history.

For historical novels I like Philippa Gregory, but they are trashy middle ages novels really smile

funchum8am Sun 20-Jan-13 20:11:26

I only discovered Anthony Trollope recently on maternity leave, I bloody LOVE him! I would start with Barchester Towers (it comes after The Warden but that is not quite as good and you don't have to have read it to understand BT.)

YY to Jane Austen too, also Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and maybe some Thomas Hardy eg The Mayor of Casterbridge? And Moll Flanders (think it is by Daniel Defoe but not sure.)

The Sherlock Holmes books are brilliant too.

funchum8am Sun 20-Jan-13 20:12:49

For history the series of Roman history based novels by Colleen McCullough, eg Fortune's Favourites, are amazing page-turners. They are based on true events but jazzed up with sex and gossip grin

bigbadbarry Sun 20-Jan-13 20:15:30

Ah, I thought you meant non-fiction history, not historical novels. For the latter I propose the CJ Sansom Shardlake series

BobbiFleckmann Sun 20-Jan-13 20:18:54

how about modern classics, so you aren't put off by the language? George ORwell's novels are superb - Burmese Days/ Coming Up for Air / 1984 / Keep the Aspidistra Flying and teh non fiction Down & Out in Paris & London. Evelyn Waugh - Vile Bodies / all the Nancy Mitford novels. American writers? how about Edith Wharton - The House of Mirth. Or F Scott - Great Gatsby / Beautiful & The Damned / Tender is teh Night.
If you want to delve further back, Vanity Fair is utterly, utterly brilliant - and you can't beat some comedy Dickins - Pickwick Papers perhaps

bigbadbarry Sun 20-Jan-13 20:20:19

Ooh and EM Forster smile

ThinkAboutItOnBoxingDay Sun 20-Jan-13 20:21:17

What kind of stuff have you not enjoyed and stopped reading? Might help us think of the alternatives if you see what i mean?

History books, try antonia fraser. Her eleanor of aquitaine biography is very readable. Found her wars of the roses bit tougher going, there were quite complicated.

Have you thought of trying modern classics at all? Or do you really fancy some Victorian tome?

Numberlock Sun 20-Jan-13 20:22:33

A Clockwork Orange
Something by Hardy - Jude the Obscure, I suggest
Something by Dickens - Tale of two Cities?
Keep the aspidistra flying
Midnight's Children
Brideshead Revisited
My Cousin Rachel
Wuthering Heights
Lord of the flies
Brave new world
Fahrenheit 451

stargirl1701 Sun 20-Jan-13 20:22:49

Dickens? Oliver, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield.

Steinbeck? Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden.

BobbiFleckmann Sun 20-Jan-13 20:23:57

Somerset Maugham! Razor's Edge / of Human Bondage

BobbiFleckmann Sun 20-Jan-13 20:24:01

Somerset Maugham! Razor's Edge / of Human Bondage

Numberlock Sun 20-Jan-13 20:27:34

Oh good call bobbi.

Phineyj Sun 20-Jan-13 20:29:50

For enjoyable, irreverent and fairly accurate history, try the Flashman series.

CoteDAzur Sun 20-Jan-13 20:41:31

Imho you need to first get into the habit of reading something other than trashy novels. Classics can wait.

What do you enjoy? Would you be interested in reading novels with a bit of math and science in them? I'm thinking of a novel in part about Alan Turing & cracking of the Enigma code during WWII.

KatyTheCleaningLady Sun 20-Jan-13 20:53:56

I see that Anthony Trollope was one of the first recommendations... and that's what I was going to recommend!

I like The Eustace Diamonds as a starting point for his books. Or Barchester Towers. Barchester Towers had me laughing out loud. Every time I read a book by Anthony Trollope I thank him for having been so incredibly prolific. I still haven't read them all. Hooray!

Although the Russian names can be a bit confusing, I would recommend Anna Karenina. Best book I've ever read. It was so good that the next couple of things I read (Anne Bronte and Mark Twain) seemed weak and blah after it. Tolstoy writes like God. I mean he literally writes like God. Amazing.

Lolita by Nabokov is the second-best book I've ever read. It will mess you up and make you ache and make you feel things that you're not sure how to handle. And it's beautifully written and hilarious.

Like most kids growing up in America, I had to read The Great Gatsby in High School. Re-read it again last year and it blew me away. A fantastic book. I also enjoyed Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises but I think the collection of short stories including Snows of Kilimanjaro is even better.

If you like short stories, check out Flannery O'Connor. She wrote hilarious and absurd stories set in the American South. They're full of rather grotesque and awful people encountering grace in a very humorous way.

Ariel21 Sun 20-Jan-13 21:45:25

The Catcher in the Rye
The 39 Steps
Of Mice and Men
Catch 22 (hard at first but please persevere!)
Brave New World

More recent:
Captain Corelli's Manderin
Time Travellers Wife
and anything by Margaret Atwood

Willdoitinaminute Sun 20-Jan-13 22:13:59

Wilke Collin' s 'The Woman in White' or 'The Moonstone'
I'm just starting 'Testament of Youth' by Vera Brittain it's a bit hard going but I'm only on the prologue. Excellent for dropping off to sleep.
My favourite book is 'Pride and Prejudice'. I was trying to explain to one of the girls at work, who reads very little and thinks Fifty shades is the ultimate love story, how incredible passionate Jane Austins books are without the use of erotisism or porn.

Battlefront Mon 21-Jan-13 09:45:25

Thank you all

I wasn't necessarily old classics I was after, modern one great too, thank you. I need advice on some that might be slightly "lighter" if that makes sense.

I have never managed to finish anything by Dickens, not even A Christmas Carol blush I did finish 1984, Of Mice and Men and Middlemarch (but by god, it took a long time) I've also read Chocolat!

ninjanurse Mon 21-Jan-13 09:58:01

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a 'modern classic', but really gripping and easy to read.

HelpOneAnother Mon 21-Jan-13 10:16:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Mon 21-Jan-13 13:46:09

An easyish classic is Silas Marner by George Eliot. It's not very long, compared to some of her other novels, eg Middlemarch.

Margaret Forster is extremely readable, modern but not at all trashy. My favourite is Keeping the World Away. Anyone read that? Also her Shadow Baby. And almost anything by Penelope Lively.

Totally agree with whoever said it wasn't necessary to start with the classics, there's plenty of good recent stuff, too.

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