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A primer for the classics of English literature!

  • Dec 22, 2010
Notwithstanding the worst efforst of my high school English teachers to pound a lifelong fear and hatred of classic English literature into me, I determined this year to lift my reading tastes to somewhat higher more esoteric levels. In short, I determined to read one novel a month that was considered to be a "classic". I must say I enjoyed the effort and intend to repeat it for 2011. Not that I'm a guru by any means, but with the hindsight of enjoyment, I will say that you could do much worse than to follow this as a suggested classic reading list. Enjoy!
1
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Little wonder that Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, Aunt Polly and Injun Joe have been elevated to the status of icons of American literature and culture. If you only read it as a child, you owe it to yourself as an adult to re-read it and experience the joy again from an entirely different perspective.
See the full review, "A tribute to the charm and adventure of boyhood!".
2
Of Mice and Men cover
For all its simplicity and brevity, the power and pathos of the themes of helplessness and loneliness embodied in Steinbeck's story about George and Lennie, two itinerant field workers in 1930s depression era California, are not to be denied.
See the full review, "A powerful exploration of loneliness and helplessness!".
3
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)
If you can imagine a Bill Bryson comic travelogue written by someone with turn-of-the-20th-century Victorian sensibilities and a typical laid back yet biting, caustic British sense of humour ... then you have a pretty good handle on what to expect when you read Jerome K Jerome's classic "Three Men in a Boat"!
See the full review, "Maybe Jerome K Jerome was Bill Bryson's grandfather!".
4
The Outsider
Meursault is a clerk in Algiers, an intentionally non-descript young man with no particularly interesting traits, characteristics, skills or habits. Now considered to be mandatory reading for those interested in notions of existential or nihilist philosophy, Albert Camus' "The Outsider" or "L'√Čtranger" is the story of Meursault's life. Rather dark, bleak stuff but I think that's rather on purpose.
See the full review, "A primer on existential philosophy?".
5
The Quiet American
In this era of continuing difficulties in the Middle East, Americans would be well-advised to consider reading this slow moving yet oddly compelling tragedy that had so much to say about American politics.
See the full review, "A slow moving but compelling romantic tragedy".
6
No Name
Wilkie Collins' wonderful "sensation novel" that tells the story of Magdalen's attempts to recover the birthright stolen from her by the inequities of Victorian inheritance and marriage laws.
See the full review, ""Mr Vanstone's daughters are Nobody's Children ..."".
7
In Cold Blood
An extraordinary compelling work, seminal and pioneering in its nature, that plumbs the depths of a motiveless multiple murder in 1950s Kansas and brings the reaction of the community and a shocked nation to life. The first "novelized" true crime non-fiction.
See the full review, "The first "novelized" true crime non-fiction!".
8
A Town Like Alice
One of my Top 100 All-Time Best Novels! A superb tale of courage, romance and achievement built on the Japanese atrocities in World War II Malaya and climaxing with the development of a pioneering community in the northern cattle country of Australia.
See the full review, "Some bonzer story-telling!".
9
Turn of the Screw
Eerie and quite complex. This is the kind of psychologically ambiguous ghost story that will leave some readers thrilled, some angry and some perplexed. It's short enough to be well worth the time to judge for yourself.
See the full review, "I'm afraid I just don't understand this novel's reputation!".
10
King Solomon's Mines (Thrift Edition)
Like many of its contemporaries - Edgar Rice Burrough's Caspak, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World, Jules Verne's subterranean Lidenbrock Sea and even HG Well's Island of Dr Moreau - KING SOLOMON'S MINES is a story of adventure into an exotic locale and can be summarized with the broadest brush in the most general terms as Indiana Jones with Victorian sensibilities and motives.
See the full review, "Thriller escapism in the Victorian style!".

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December 22, 2010
Good for you, Paul! A very compelling list of interesting classics to read!
 
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About the list creator
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #16
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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