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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

stargirl1701 Mon 21-Jan-13 13:52:59

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme.

highlandcoo Mon 21-Jan-13 18:54:43

Rose Tremain is excellent. She has written several great novels set in the past - particularly Restoration and Music and Silence - but perhaps start with The Road Home, set in the London of today and telling the story of Lev, an economic migrant from Eastern Europe trying to make a new life in a strange place.

I also love Sue Gee, particularly Earth and Heaven and The Mysteries of Glass. Both are excellent.

You could also look at Secret River by Kate Grenville, telling the story of a convict sent to Australia with his family, and Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a fascinating fictional account of the villagers of Eyam during the plague.

The majority of the novels above are set in the past, but because they've been written recently, the language and the style of writing generally is more immediately accessible than that of 19th century writers ... and I say that as a fan of Victorian literature, but I do agree that you should maybe break yourself in gently smile

Beamur Mon 21-Jan-13 19:02:20

I'd recommend as classics that are still quite an easy enjoyable read
David Copperfield - Dickens
Yes to all the Jane Austen recommendations, maybe start with Sense and Sensibility
I'd avoid Thomas Hardy for now - very well written but all quite depressing reading
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons is very funny (once you realise it's a spoof)
My DP loves the 'Dance to the Music of Time' series by Antony Powell but I've not got to grips with it
I also love all the books by Nancy Mitford - very posh and funny
EM Forster also lovely
Lots of great modern books about too - I've just read Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies and loved them both, long but absorbing reads.

Thewhingingdefective Mon 21-Jan-13 20:04:57

Join a book group. I have been in a group for seven years and read plenty of things I otherwise wouldn't have.

I would suggest giving the following books a whirl:

Life of Pi -Yann Martell
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon

God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
Something by Dickens
Something by Steinbeck
A genre you have never tried eg Sci Fi.
Any poetry.

Thewhingingdefective Mon 21-Jan-13 20:21:34

The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Life of Pi - Yann Martell
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
Like Water For Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
Brokeback Mountain - Annie Proulx
Something by Dickens
Something by Steinbeck
Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
Any poetry
A short story collection
Black Swan Green or Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
Blindness - Jose Saramago
The Collector - John Fowles
If This Is A Man - Primo Levi

Young Adult literature
How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff
Holes - Louis Sachar
Skellig - David Almond
The Snow Goose - Paul Gallico
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Join a reading group!

funchum8am Mon 21-Jan-13 20:25:39

Thank you for starting this thread op. I am going to get a load of this stuff onto my Kindle to read!

I agree with lots of the modern suggestions on here especially Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - best books I have read in years. Also the Poisonwood Bible.

Thewhingingdefective Mon 21-Jan-13 20:26:54

Sorry, I accidentally posted without realising!

ThePathanKhansWitch Mon 21-Jan-13 20:42:35

Yy to anything by Margaret Atwood for a modern classic.

Anything by Toni Morrison, reading her prose is like being wrapped in warm silk!

I love Hardy, but please not Jude, bit of a downer.

Edith Wharton is great.
I,ve not read Nancy Mittford, one for me.

PetiteRaleuse Mon 21-Jan-13 20:50:17

- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
- The Woman in White and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
- Jamaica Inn and Rbecca by Du Maurier
- Five Quarters of an Orange by Joanne Harris (much better than Chocolat IMO)
- The Historian by Ana Kostova (intelligent vampire thriller)
- Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Most of those already mentioned but all wonderful books dealing with issues that I think most people can relate to

thehairybabysmum Mon 21-Jan-13 20:53:27

Are you me?? Following with interest!

exexpat Mon 21-Jan-13 20:58:11

The BBC has a list of the UK's hundred favourite books from the Big Read a few years ago. It's a mixture of classics and more recent things, so might be a good place to start.

exexpat Mon 21-Jan-13 20:59:36

Sorry, link fail:

Trazzletoes Mon 21-Jan-13 21:00:33

Yy to Margaret Atwood: the Handmaid's Tale.

If you read EM Forster, please steer clear of A Passage to India. It is dire and mind-numbingly boring.

Trazzletoes Mon 21-Jan-13 21:03:20

Thomas Hardy is just brilliant: Tess, The Mayor of Casterbridge... Anything really!

thehairybabysmum Mon 21-Jan-13 21:05:36

The Road Home was really good though I was less keen on Restoratin.

BendyBusBuggy Mon 21-Jan-13 21:07:07

I have recently bought "the hidden classics collection", a set of ten books by oneworld classics from the bookpeople. I've so far read about half of them (starting with the thinner ones smile ) and found the ones I have read very easy to read and enjoyable. They currently have the set of ten books for £7.99, well worth the money imo.

BendyBusBuggy Mon 21-Jan-13 21:11:39

A couple of science fiction classics: "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes and "I am legend" by Patrick Rothfuss... And "the handmaid's tale" as mentioned a few times above

GrimmaTheNome Mon 21-Jan-13 21:11:51

My introduction to the 19th C classics (esp Dickens) was BBC serialisations. Made it easier to get into the books and get more out of them.

Has anyone mentioned Dorothy L Sayers yet? Well written and very readable.

Lexiesinclair Mon 21-Jan-13 21:14:07

Another one watching with interest - great thread!

BendyBusBuggy Mon 21-Jan-13 21:18:12

History book: I enjoyed Aristocrats by Stella Tillyard, which is a biography of four great-granddaughters of Chales II (Georgian period)

louisianablue2000 Mon 21-Jan-13 21:26:56

Another scientist here but one who has read 'classics' all her life. A PP said about reading some books with science in them, the trouble is finding something that is accurate. Having said that William Boyd's novel Brazzaville Beach used Jane Goodall's work on chimpanzees as the basis of one strand of the plotline. There have been a couple of his novels adapted for TV recently, Any Human Heart and Restless (which is probably still available on iplayer), if you like the adaptions you'll probably like his novels.

For proper 'classics' I think any of Wilkie Collin's novels are fantastic thrillers with fantastic strong female characters. For laughs Wodehouse or Nancy Mitford can't be beaten, although if you've read a lot of chick lit then Austen is accessible and better than any of her modern imitaters.

louisianablue2000 Mon 21-Jan-13 21:47:55

Shite, posted before finished. If you've read Middlemarch then you can read anything I'd say, that's about as heavy as it gets. Try lots of different authors but don't worry if you don't enjoy something.

Elizabeth Gaskell is interesting, with a political conscience but better than Dickens (I can't stand Dickens). Wives and Daughters is a good one to start with, less politics than e.g North and South and a happy romantic storyline.

For stuff about War then Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves is fantastic, it feels very modern. Pat Barker's regeneration Trilogy is fascinating as well, oh, and Atonement by Ian McEwan is good as well, the first section is (deliberately) weaker than the rest but the middle two sections are amazing.

I love Margaret Atwood's later novels, they have complex plots but the feminism is not as heavy handed as some of the earlier ones, I'd recommend Alias Grace or The Blind Assassin as good first reads by her.

Random more modern 'literary' novels that have a good page turning plot: Beryl Bainbridge's historical novels like Every Man for Himself (about the sinking of the Titanic), Arthur and George by Julian Barnes (based on a real life case), Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle is good, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee is one of my favourite novels ever, read it a billion times as a teenager, it's like P&P in that the plotting is just about perfect.

Thewhingingdefective Mon 21-Jan-13 22:36:52

A few more to add to your ever growing list:

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee - Dee Brown
Metamorphosis (or something else by) - Franz Kafka
Around The World In Eighty Days - Jules Verne
Travels of Marco Polo

think if you're scientifically minded, you just have to suspend disbelief a bit with some things you read (sci-fi wise). You could try:

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury
Middlesex - Jeffery Eugenides
Darwin's Radio - Greg Bear

Ariel21 Tue 22-Jan-13 08:01:22

Ooh YY to Birdsong! I loved this book. Have just started reading his latest (?) A Possible Life, have not read much yet but it's really absorbing so far.

ilovecolinfirth Tue 22-Jan-13 20:37:36

Definitely agree with those who've suggested Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Can remember reading it at uni and forgetting other people were in the house...vas virtually shouting at the book - so gripping!

Other suggestions - shadow of the wind, the book thief, to kill a mockingbird, kite runner.

Hope you find something that really grips you!

On another note tho...don't necessarily think there's anything wrong with trashy romance - it serves a purpose (with a 3 year old and 9 week old I personally don't fancy stretching my brain too much!)

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