Friday, November 6, 2015

My Favorite Classic Novels

I have read and adored and read and abhorred some of the classic novels. I don't think liking classics makes you better or smarter, and I don't think disliking them makes you cool or real. Some powers that be lumped them together and called them the classics, and we've been judging them as a group ever since. Like any book in any genre, I think they demand to be judged individually on their own merit. Here are my favorite classics:

1. My Antonia by Willa Cather - Cather makes the American West come alive via a bold young Antonia. Her spirit is captivating. The way it's written (episodically) allows the reader to feel more comfortable in the background of the winding story.

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - Jane is my favorite heroine. I like her fire and her spunk. She is independent and strong, a true feminist - very rare for the Victorian period. I also like her vulnerability and complexity. And I might have purchased a copy of this novel for my niece for Christmas...she'll be just under three months old. LOLOL

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I love the glitz, the glam, the melancholy, the secrecy, the longing. I love the opening line and the ending line and both are timeless. I hate Daisy with a fiery passion, and that's good for me too - I like having someone to love, someone to hate, and someone in between in my books.

4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - This was my first introduction to a character that should be hated turned into someone who can somehow be liked regardless. I was truly perplexed. It takes skill as an author to do that to an audience. It also starts with a bang: Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. 

5. On the Road by Jack Kerouac - There are so many quotable quotes in here. I first read this at a time when I felt reckless and thirsty for adventure and the ability to shuck responsibility and ramble on down the road. I still enjoy it today because it reminds me of a self that was a little more free.

6. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - A major study of mine in college, I came to admire Hester for her strength under duress. She would not bend or be shamed. There is value in knowing how to live inside of yourself when exterior forces are making your life hellish. This book made me think hard on that.

7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - I was shocked at how good this was when I finally read it in college. Familiar with the Frankenstein story, I was unprepared for the nuanced writing of Shelley.

8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - One of the first books I read that made me feel like I was an adult, instead of a girl of 11 (when I first read it). Jo March, woman warrior. Writer. Daring girl. Feminist...before I knew what feminist really meant in a larger context and what it really meant to me as a female. I like that Alcott explored a character who conceded to marriage on her terms with a man she views as her equal.

9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, 1984 by George Orwell - Yes, I know, this is more than one. These three showed me how books can almost seem to foreshadow a future that doesn't exist yet. They were dystopian before Hunger Games and that ilk were mere farts in the wind.

10. A Separate Peace by John Knowles - Phineas remains larger than life in my mind and in literary history.

Classics I found to be tedious:
Any and all Henry James, Moby Dick, all Dickens aside from Great Expectations, all Jane Austen, William Faulkner novels

Hope to see you link up on Tuesday, November 10, for Show Us Your Books with me and Jana of Jana Says.
What's your favorite/least favorite classic?

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37 comments:

  1. Is this where I admit that I've never been able to get into Pride & Prejudice? I liked Emma, but that one just seems to not be my jam!

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  2. Yes to the great gatsby - it's one of those books I read in high school that stuck with me through college and up to now ...I'll admit I reread it when the movie came out! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  3. http://www.amazon.com/Jane-Eyre-BabyLit-Counting-Primer/dp/1423624742/ref=tmm_other_meta_binding_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

    you can start Lola out with one of these! since ya know, counting may come before reading a novel..
    there are a bunch of 'babylit' board books, i think they're super cute!

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  4. I absolutely LOVED Little Women when I was growing up! My mom and I would read them together, too, so it has a special place in my heart. I should go back and re-read them now that I'm older.
    Love this list :)

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  5. Love that you are giving Lola Jane Eyre! She will learn much from her Aunt Steph.
    I loved Rebecca by Daphne Du maurier . I don't know if that is considered a classic, but I loved it. The Great Gatsby and oh, The Scarlet Letter. I may borrow Lola's copy of Jane Eyre. I have never read it!! Gamma loves Jane Eyre, too. May your Friday day go quickly, and tonight and the weekend crawl by!
    Love, Your MOMMA.

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  6. I haven't read any of these BUT The Scarlett Letter is definitely one that I've been meaning to read for a while now.
    Totally agree with you that "classic" is basically just a matter of opinion.

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  7. I feel like I'm not a classics fan. There's probably exceptions that I can't think of right now but generally, they're just not my faves. I loathe Gatsby, but I do like Frankenstein. I think my fave author is Margaret Atwood, but she's not classic status (yet.)

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  8. I love love Jane Eyre and The Scarlett Letter, I have read both numerous times and still love them.

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  9. noooooooooooooooooooooooo Jane. I thought you liked Northanger?
    I have not read any of these. Jane Eyre and Little Women are on my list though :) I agree about lumping them all together and judging them, all of these authors (and the ones I like) are so different and we wouldn't judge them all in the same group if they came out today.

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  10. I really need to sit down and finally read The Great Gatsby, I've heard nothing but amazing things!

    Happy Friday <3

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  11. I just reread The Great Gatsby when the movie came out.. .loved it the 2nd time around.
    I want to pick up Frankenstein now

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  12. I'm a big fan of The Great Gatsby and Frankenstein...I loved Jane Eyre and I am currently listening to Little Women and LOVING IT so far. It'll be interesting to see which books are considered "classics" in 200 years. I can't seem to get through any Dickens besides Great Expectations which is one of my favourite books.

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  13. LOVE, LOVE A Separate Peace. Considering buying it for my bookshelf.

    I'm planning on reading some of the Willa Cather books this winter since they're available from Project Gutenberg and there's no time limit on the borrowing. I do need to read some others but I'm not a huge fan of classics so they're perpetually on my to-read list.

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  14. I mean i named my dog Gatsby, so clearly i'm a sucker for the book. In my opinion, The Great Gatsby is one of the best novels ever written. I agree completely with what you said. It's glamorous, and romantic, and tragic, and Daisy is a horrible person and I hate her with the fire of 1000 suns. My favorite thing about The Great Gatsby is that it's told from Nick Carraway's perspective. telling this story from the POV of Gatsby or Daisy would have been easy, but telling it from the perspective of a supporting character really adds tons of depth to this story....and now i want to read it again!! I just finished Fahrenheit 451 the other day and really enjoyed it. 1984 and Animal Farm are both at the top of my list of classics to read next.

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  15. Little Women! I always identified very strongly with Jo. And, actually, through some magic my sisters turned Jenn into "Jo" (Jennifer -> Jossifer -> Jo or some such) when we were kids and I still love that nickname. As I got older, the later books in the series were a little too preachy for my taste, but I still love the first one.

    The Great Gatsby is fantastic, but I'd be stumped if anyone ever asked me to explain why. Something about it feels so mystical and significant, even though most of the characters are terrible. Jane Eyre I liked less, but I think I'd like to reread it as an adult before passing judgement on it.

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  16. I LOVE Lolita, loved it. What a strange, perplexing fascinating story! It was actually written across the street from my husband's childhood home in Ashland, Oregon. Which is so random but we were walking by his old house for memories sake and I saw this huge placard stating that which was so random to me!

    I always wanted to like Gatsby but I just don't :(

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  17. I struggled with the Great Gatsby, and not a big Austen fan either. I liked The Scarlet Letter for the most part. On The Road is one of my absolute favorite. Love Jack. His drifter spirit and his thirst for just life is something I inspire to embrace. I am not much of a drifter though.

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  18. You're never too young to own your first classic novel!!! Numbers 2, 3, and 8 are all at the top of my list too!!

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  19. Definitely Little Women, The Great Gatsby, & The Secret Garden. Also love A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (is that a classic?), Heidi (I remember my mom reading this to me), Anna Karenina and A Christmas Carol. Out of all these The Secret Garden is my number one pick!

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  20. Little Woman reminds me of my grandma. She just loved it and was so excited when I was old enough to read it!!! I love A Separate Peace, Gatsby and Frankenstein too!

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  21. I haven't read Gatsby since high school, and looking at this list I have a lot of work to do. So many I haven't read! I guess I like the tedious ones though, since I'm a Jane Austen fan. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite - at least until I get to reading these greats!

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  22. Loved Gatsby. I loved A Tale of Two Cities...I think it's heartbreakingly romantic.

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  23. excellent choices! every single one I haven't read i added to my list!

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  24. I've read most of these (mostly because I was an English major in college), and some are going to be re-reads, and the rest are on my TBR. But I agree fully: reading the "greatest hits of lit" as I like to call them really doesn't say anything about who you are as a person. I read books that sound interesting, whether the author's birthplace is a historic landmark or not. I hate the idea of people slogging through The Sound and the Fury when they have no interest in it just because some lists said it was a big deal. That's how people end up hating to read, and is there anything worse in the world than that?

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  25. About to sound like a lame reader, but the classics and I are rarely friends. My favorite is The Secret Garden. When I try to revisit a few, thinking as an adult I'll appreciate them more, it hasn't worked. I'm considering putting a Read a Classic category on my next book challenge to force myself to tackle that personal obstacle.

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  26. I also abhor all Jane Austen but I wish I didn't.
    My favorite classic might be Catch in the Rye. Also, just glancing over at my bookshelf, I have Brave New World, 1984, and Inherit the Wind.

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  28. ^^^^ comment above. You have all the interesting comments.

    Favorite quote from Austen... "I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person." Every high school girl needs a friend to clear her choices of suitors with that comment.

    I love Catcher in the Rye. It's probably too angsty for me these days, but some of my favorite quotes are from that book.... but sadly, my ultimate favorite is The Little Prince.-sara

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  29. My favorite classic is Jane Eyre. I always liked their romance, because Jane was an independent lady, and there was something about Charlotte Bronte's writing that made that romance work for me. I also liked the version of the movie that came out in 2011 with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. I have a craving to rewatch it, lately.

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  30. Jane Eyre and Frankenstein are personal all time favorites! Little Women will always have a place in my heart.

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  31. I need to add in some classic novels to my reading lists. I read a few of them in school but never took the time to appreciate them! Thanks for the list!

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  32. Scarlett Letter and Little Woman- both of top favorites- all my favorite classic are about strong female characters. Great list!

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  33. I love The Great Gatsby. I could read it over and over. I really thought I would enjoy On The Road much more than I did. I didn't hate it but I didn't love it. And I've been trying to get through Emma since February. I'm not sure Jane and I are going to be friends.

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  34. A Separate Peace will stay with me forever. Jo was my favorite Little Woman too. Read both as a kid.
    Loved loved loved To Kill a Mockingbird and Atlas Shrugged.
    Tried Les Mis... didn't do well.
    Loved Crime and Punishment, Julius Caesar, The Tin Drum, The Aeneid, The Metamorphosis, The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Fixer, Ulysses...
    Wanted to like Anna Karenina, but didn't.
    Wuthering Heights, 1984, Lord of the Flies, and Great Expectations were required high school reading, hence with my authority-bucking personality, I didn't enjoy them. Same with Huckleberry Finn.
    On the list are The Count of Monte Cristo and The Grapes of Wrath.

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  35. I've never really given the classics much thought because when I have tried, they bore me so much. Going to finish this Net Galley book I'm reading and then start Wuthering Heights. I've been putting it off for years.

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  36. As you know, I loved Lolita and The Handmaid's Tale as well. I also liked 1984 and The Scarlet Letter when I read them years ago. I hated The Great Gatsby ... It just didn't work for me.

    I feel like I should eventually read Frankenstein, Brave New World, and Jane Eyre because I think I would enjoy all of them. Classics don't always make it to the top of my reading list, though.

    Also, Faulkner is a big no for me. He's one of those authors that I really thought I'd enjoy going in, but no. I remember reading As I Lay Dying in college and feeling like it was absolute torture.

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  37. As you know, I loved Lolita and The Handmaid's Tale as well. I also liked 1984 and The Scarlet Letter when I read them years ago. I hated The Great Gatsby ... It just didn't work for me.

    I feel like I should eventually read Frankenstein, Brave New World, and Jane Eyre because I think I would enjoy all of them. Classics don't always make it to the top of my reading list, though.

    Also, Faulkner is a big no for me. He's one of those authors that I really thought I'd enjoy going in, but no. I remember reading As I Lay Dying in college and feeling like it was absolute torture.

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