Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Classics

When I was in junior high, teachers started forcing me to read the classics, and I continued reading them through high school and college and I even read a few by choice.  And what I discovered was that I actually enjoyed most of the classics that I read.  Of course there were some that didn’t appeal to me on any level, but most of them were really good stories.  But then there were those that I loved, absolutely loved.  And whenever I think about my list of favorite books of all times, I always come back to those classics. 

I’m not trying to pretend that I’m some sort of intellectual.  Ninety nine percent of what I read is genre fiction, and I love that too, but the stories that really moved me, haunted me, changed me were all classics.

So here is my list of the top six (I was going to do five, but I couldn’t decide which one to take off) favorite books of all time.  I think these books are brilliant, nearly perfect, inspiring, beautiful and just plain amazing.

I listed them in alphabetical order because honestly they all tie for number one.

1.  Crime and Punishment  by Fyodor Dostoyevski 
 I loved this so much when I was in high school.  I found Raskolnikov fascinating with his warped philosophies.  But this story was more than just a moral internal struggle.  The plot was intricate and interesting with lots of great characters beside Raskolnikov. 

2.   Les Miserables  by Victor Hugo
This book could use a good edit, IMO.  But even so, it is pure brilliance.  The plotting is top notch the way all the threads come together at the end. But the themes of redemption and love and compassion really resonated with me.  This is one of those books that made me want to be a better person.

3.   Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I love the dark side of human nature, and nothing is more fascinating then putting preteens on an island and watch then turn into the monsters that they feared.   Just an intriguing concept executed brilliantly.

4.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I love a good romance, and this is certainly is one of the best.  But more than that, it is a witty and insightful social commentary much of which, if you think about it, can be applied to our society even today.  And of course, there is Mr. Darcy.  :)

5.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I loved the characters in this book, especially Scout and Atticus.  But I think exploring complex issues like racism through the eyes of a child gives new valuable insights into these problems.   Another story that made me think twice about myself, and how I perceive others.

6.  Wuthering Heights by  Emily Bronte
A lot of people don't like Wuthering Heights because they think of it as a romance.  I don't see it as a romance, but an exploration of the darker, obsessive, self-destructive side of love.  Even love has a dark side.

When I was in high school and first played around with writing, these classics that I loved so much made me feel that being a published writer was an unattainable dream.  I could never put words together so beautifully.  I could never say anything so profound, or weave a storylines together so seamlessly.   I could never be so witty or create such intriguing characters. 
I wrote a novel in high school for myself, but I never believed for a moment that I could ever write anything worthy of being published.

And while I still know that I will never write anything that compares to these classics, I now know that a novel doesn’t have to be at that level to be published or loved or meaningful.  There are genre authors who I think are amazing and brilliant and insanely creative, but their level feels more attainable.  While they are still towering above me, I feel if I try harder, think deeper, and keep writing, I just might get there.

But even if I spend my entire life dedicated to writing, I know I will always be standing at the feet of those giants:  Austen, Bronte, Dostoyevsky, Golding, Hugo, and Lee.    They are truly geniuses.

So who are your writing giants?



  1. I read all of those books as well. I agree that these are great books. I loved Crime and Punishment and Sonia, Dunia, and the guy that loved her. Pride and Prejudice is one of my ultimate favorites and I also love Emma. I reread those two occasionally. I liked Withering Height, but not sure that I loved the characters. I enjoyed Lord of the Flies and I think everyone should read To Kill a Mocking Bird. You missed a couple great books Return of the Native and a Christmas Carol.

    As always a great post.

  2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is, as always, my number one favorite book. For the rest, I'm going to be very liberal with what I consider classic. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions tie for second. Pride and Prejudice is third with Jane Eyre as my fourth. Fifth place is Orwell's 1984 tied with Huxley's Brave New World because I always read them back to back. I like to compare them against each other. It always sparks a debate between my dad and me as to whether the world is turning into Orwell's vision of the future, or Huxley's. Of course there are other classic I read at least once every few years, but those are my top 5. (Or 7, really.)

    Glad to find I'm not the only book nerd in love with the classics! Great post MaryAnn!

  3. I was one of the few in my English classes who never complained about the books we read. I loved All Quite on the Western Front, for example. And two of my top three favorite books of all time are ones I was forced to read in school: Heart of Darkness and Catch-22. The third book was To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read on my own.

    I also love Slaughterhouse Five (Trisha, what other Vonnegut books do you like? I loved Cat's Cradle too).

    I had a period where I went through the classics section of my local library reading everything I could find. I still read some of the shorter classics whenever I go on vacation - just recently read Cannery Row, which was good.

    Based on your recommendation, I'll give Crime and Punishment a try on one of my upcoming trips!

    1. I haven't read Cat's Cradle yet, but I need to! It's on my TBR list, though. Maybe that needs to be next week's book.

  4. Persuasion (actually, anything by Jane Austen would qualify)
    A Tale of Two Cities

    I can't believe I can't think of any more! I love many of the books that have already been mentioned as well. North and South is in my To Read pile. I loved the movie, which I watched because of Trisha.

    1. Yay! Always love it when I can get someone hooked on North and South!


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