Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
Classics Login/Join
 
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted
What would you consider to be the most important books a person should read before they're 20? What would you consider to be the most important things a person should have read by the time they're 30? What do you consider to be a "classic"?


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Let's start with Shakespeare. I can't even decide which of those to consider "classics". Obviously almost all of them fall into the broad category, but we can't expect people to read every one of his plays.

I would start with "Hamlet", since that is one of the more oft quoted works. I would probably say "MacBeth" as well, but that could be personal opinion. I would definitely add "Julius Caesar", since this is also quite quotable. Obviously you could add "King Lear" and "Othello". I don't put Romeo and Juliet on this list, because I've never read it, but from various snippets of the numerous movies, have gotten most of the gist of it, and it certainly isn't his best play.

Histories pose problems as well, as many of them are in multiple parts, but from my understanding, The "Henry IV"'s are probably the ones to read, although this too probably varies widely with taste.

The comedies are a little easier, since quite a few of these clearly aren't classics. With many to choose from I'd start with "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "Much Ado About Nothing", and "The Merchant of Venice", although "The Tempest" should probably also be up their, although I've managed to somehow avoid it so far.
 
Posts: 886 | Location: IllinoisReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
A question that springs to mind (to me at least) from

A - books to have read by 20, and
B - books to have read by 30

is does there need to be an order to them? Barring books that deal specifically with issues relating to a particular time of life (and which therefore may be more relevant to those of that age), once one has reached adult reading age, are there certain books that should be read before others, or is it just enough to have read them all during one's lifetime?

As for what constitutes a classic, I have no idea - much of it is probably personal taste. Something that has stood the test of time tends to become a classic, but a number of the traditional classics weren't that popular in the author's lifetime - and some of the 'classics' I've read aren't actually as well-written as others that aren't included in the genre. Dickens, for example, much as he has some fantastic stories to tell, uses coincidence a little too often for my liking - a bit of a lazy plot device at the best of times. It could be forgiven if they only happened amongst people in a small village or amongst the upper classes (ie small populations where everyone knew each other), but amongst the working classes of London, for example?

Perhaps a classic has to deal with universal themes that most people can relate to, regardless of the time or place in which it's written/set. My two favourite books ever - Watership Down and Dracula - are both actually very similar, in that they both follow a group of friends whose love for each other strengthens each individual and the group, such that they overcome apparently insurmountable odds.

And they both made me cry at the end Smile.
 
Posts: 669 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
I had read many books which were adult reading level by the time I was 15, and had little trouble with any of them. It is quite possible students are less phased by big words than adults are, since a teenager will just go look up the word and think that is normal, and the adult may well frustrated and think they shouldn't have to look it up.

Anyway, there a couple of classics I've read which I would not suggest to teenagers, or at least, only particularly mature teenagers.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Garcia-Marquez is a poetic, moving, deeply romantic and deeply saddening book, with a happy ending. I read this when I was 21, and it was a struggle. It was about love, and how love triumphs over time, and as such, is told over many years. This book was somewhat difficult for me to grasp, reading it when I was 21.

The Plague by Albert Camus is possibly the most depressing book I have ever read. I read this when I was 18 and it depressed me for a month. I'm not the type to get so worked up over the book, but the themes of this book are "life sucks and you die" and "as long as you are going to die, you might as well enjoy what little time you have left". The former is much easier to grasp than the latter.

Both of these books are stunning literary accompliments by Nobel Prize Laureates. Both offer life lessons on how to act and feel about the things you come across, and neither are for the faint of heart. I would not suggest these to a high schooler, for sheer fact that I don't think they would get very much out of them.
 
Posts: 886 | Location: IllinoisReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
I feel that the separation of books into "classics" and "others" (to give as broad and charitable view as possible) is completely artificial. To answer the question about which books you should have read by the age of 20, 30 etc I'd give the same answer to every age... as many and as varied as possible.

A classic is, as far as I can tell, a book that is still available and read many years (lets say 100 to be completely arbitrary) after its publication. This precludes the possibility that any modern book can be considered "a classic" as by definition we need to wait around for a good while yet to find out. The phrase "modern classic" is an oxymoron.

Also I'd suggest that being "a classic" doesn't necessarily mean anything. I'm sure that there were many contemporaries of Shakespeare or Dickens or Defoe or any of the Brontes who wrote as well or better but who are now consigned to the vaults of history and forgotten by everyone. The survival of a book, then as now, has more to do with circumstances and a good publicity machine, than it does with any particular writing talent.

Personally I find that I have a dickens of a time finishing anything by Dickens. I find the style really heavy going, the moralising rather simple minded, the tone cloyingly sentimental and the plots deeply unlikely.
Simlarly I recently reread Gulliver's Travels and the style is damned near unreadable for a modern audience.

Now I will give some thought to my own favourite books and add that to the thread later but "classics"? I don't think there's any such thing really.
 
Posts: 7868 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
quote:
The comedies are a little easier, since quite a few of these clearly aren't classics.

Interesting that you should say that, Sean, since we have a thread about the comedies versus dramas, specifically wondering why, historically, comedies have been considered more "lightweight" than dramas. The question hasn't really been answered in that thread, but I wonder why Shakespeare's comedies often aren't considered classics, while his dramas are.

I would have to join Cat and Bob in saying that a "classic" is in the eyes of the beholder. I would also agree with you, Bob, that I too have a "dickens of a time with Dickens!" Wink

As for age, children, teenagers and young adults all develop so differently. My older daughter used to take Jane Austen with her to camp at age 10, while my other 2 just weren't at that point at age 10. I always like to push the envelope when suggesting books to kids or young adults, trying to encourage them to read good literature, rather than those popular series books that often are much like reading comic books or teen magazines. On the other hand, it is important to encourage love of reading, so sometimes there is a fine line.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
 
Posts: 23313 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
I recently reread Gulliver's Travels and the style is damned near unreadable for a modern audience.

*goes to check*

You're right, you know Bob; I thought I wrote long sentences! If I remember rightly, Voltaire's Candide is very similar - when reading it I had to keep an English translation handy, and even that could get a bit convoluted at times. I still love them both, but then, I've always been one for biting satire Big Grin.

Hmmm... *goes to add it to list of LJ interests*
 
Posts: 669 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of zmježd
posted Hide Post
quote:
Candide


One of the few books I read (in translation) in high school that has stuck with me. My creative writing teacher thought I'd like it. (Another was Chaucer's Caterbury Tales.)

Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes.

O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!

[Fixed typo.]

This message has been edited. Last edited by: zmježd,


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
Posts: 5085 | Location: R'lyehReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
The Great Gatsby, because money can't by happiness.

Catch-22, because war is a terrible and senseless thing.

The Grapes of Wrath, because it's easier to read than the New Testament, and covers all of the same points.

Frankenstein, if only so people stop referring to the Monster as a "Frankenstein".

"Stranger in a Strange Land", not for the novel ways the characters treat social norms, but because they do so at all.
 
Posts: 886 | Location: IllinoisReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
Do you really think a book has to be around 100 years to be considered a classic?

What about:

To Kill a Mockingbird

Grapes of Wrath

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The Hobbit

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


Of course, classics and "must read by 20" are 2 seperate categories, I would think, although many of the latter are in the former . . . and t'other way 'round.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
<Asa Lovejoy>
posted
quote:


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe




I'm quite surprised, given the success of "Hairy Potty" and "Lord of the Rings," that Hollywood hasn't discovered C.S. Lewis.
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
I think they have - I'm sure a film of LWW is coming out soon. Loving the book as much as I do (my all-time favourite when I was a kid), I await its release with some trepidation.

They'd better not foul it up like the dreadful BBC adaptations in the 90s did...Mad
 
Posts: 669 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Cat:
They'd better not foul it up like the dreadful BBC adaptations in the 90s did...Mad


There were pretty ropey weren't they. Pedestrian scripts, terrible child actors, rotten special effects. Not a DVD collection I've been rushing out to buy.

I'm certain there was an earlier LWW though but for the life of me I can't recall anything other than having seen it when I was a kid (which I wasn't by the time those other BBC ones were out).
 
Posts: 7868 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of arnie
posted Hide Post
I can recall a BBC radio version of LWW that I enjoyed immensely at the time of my childhood (some 20 years before yours, Bob, I fear). They may have repeated it in your youth.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
Posts: 10930 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
I've checked. There was apparently a 1967 TV version (I'd've been 10) although I can't remember anything about it.
 
Posts: 7868 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
<Asa Lovejoy>
posted
Well, if there's a big, splashy new movie rendition of LWW, I do hope they do it justice! I thoroughly enjoyed my trips to Narnia!

Another "children's" book that I consider a classic is St-Exupery's "The Little Prince." Like most really good kiddie lit, it works as well at the adult level as at the child level.
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
The new Narnia movie will most certainly never live up to the images in my head, but it still might be fun.

I loved Le Petit Prince, too, but never read it as a young child. I didn't even know about it until I was in high school French class - year 4 I believe.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
Reviving a thread...

I was trying to find out whether the Bulls won or not because I had been out of town, and I turned on a sports radio station. I felt so bad about their conversation. They were saying that they hated all the classics. Well...somebody liked "Grapes of Wrath," but that was about it. They hated Dickens and Shakespeare and Faulkner, etc., etc. How disheartening!
 
Posts: 23313 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of shufitz
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by zmjezhd:
Candide
Il faut cultiver notre jardin.
Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes.
O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!
OK:
The first means "We must cultivate our own garden."
The second means, "All is for the best in the best of all worlds."
But the third?????
 
Posts: 2603 | Location: Chicago, IL USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of zmježd
posted Hide Post
O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!

Oh, what a disaster to be without testicles!

From the end of chapter 11 of Candide: "I disengaged myself with great difficulty from such a heap of corpses, and made a shift to crawl to a large orange tree that stood on the bank of a neighboring rivulet, where I fell down exhausted with fatigue, and overwhelmed with horror, despair, and hunger. My senses being overpowered, I fell asleep, or rather seemed to be in a trance. Thus I lay in a state of weakness and insensibility between life and death, when I felt myself pressed by something that moved up and down upon my body. This brought me to myself. I opened my eyes, and saw a pretty fair-faced man, who sighed and muttered these words between his teeth, 'O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!"'

It is a eunuch speaking, and a little later in chapter 12: "'I was born at Naples,' said he, 'where they make eunuchs of thousands of children every year; some die of the operation; some acquire voices far beyond the most tuneful of your ladies; and others are sent to govern states and empires. I underwent this operation very successfully, and was one of the singers in the Princess of Palestrina's chapel.'


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
Posts: 5085 | Location: R'lyehReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
quote:
O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!

Actually, that's not really a disaster for me at all! Wink
 
Posts: 23313 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
[QUOTE]Originally posted by BobHale:
Personally I find that I have a dickens of a time finishing anything by Dickens.

DITTO! thank you! thought it was just me...


Some great points here but....
I do think there are some books that it helps your understanding of literature (in the broadest sense) to have read- and if someone wanted to be an author themself, that they should acquaint themself with (hmm, grammar?!)

which would you choose then?
I'd say definitely Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet & as much other Shakspeare as they had a taste for...
at least one Austen (probably P&P),Catcher in the Rye, 'Mockingbird...

but the most important thing to me is that a young person like books! i loved them, it's always sad when kids don't I think... xx
 
Posts: 42 | Location: UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
There are adult classics and kid classics. For some reason I prefer the kid classics mostly. I find a number of adult books on the "must read" lists to be tiringly pretentious or in such an out-dated style as to render them unreadable.

Amidst the discussion of LWW, may I recommend Susan Cooper's lovely series: The Dark is Rising and subsequent novels.
 
Posts: 48 | Location: In the middle of the U.S.Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
Welcome, Quiltin' Fool! Smile Big Grin Wink Cool
 
Posts: 23313 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
I just discovered To Kill A Mockingbird online.
 
Posts: 2772 | Location: Shoreline, WA, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Caterwauller
posted Hide Post
Very cool - thanks for the link, Tin!


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
Posts: 5149 | Location: Columbus, OhioReply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  
 


Copyright © 2002-12