Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Classic" advice from my readers, please...

I've been thinking about books for next year. Sort of my own advanced planning. I just finished reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and I really enjoyed it so it propelled my brain into thinking and planning.

I used to always read the exact same genre of books. I was a fan of female contemporary sleuths and usually they were part of a series. For example:
  • Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich
  • Sharon McCone by Marcia Muller
  • Kinsey Millhone by Sue Grafton
  • Goldie Bear by Diane Mott Davidson
  • China Bayles by Susan Wittig Albert
  • Cat Marsala by Barbara D'Amato
  • Carlotta Carlyle by Linda Barnes
  • VI Warshawski by Sara Paretsky
And the list could go on and on and on. Then I would read just mysteries or hunt for more women detectives by women authors.

Over the last 10 years I've started expanding my reading and I still read a few of those authors, a very few, but I have certainly diversified my reading materials. I love books with a comedic twist and dark humor (Chris Moore or Jonathan Tropper come to mind). I also like something with a bit more intellectual challenge. Daddy-O says I like smart books, or something like that. I want my brain to be stimulated. I find that fun. I read plenty of crap (like James Patterson) because too many 'meat and potato' books needs a balance with 'cotton candy' for the brain.

I am NOT a fan of chick lit, though I do find myself reading one on a very, very, rare occasion- usually I get suckered in and I find out about half way through it's chick lit. I don't usually ready anything that's going to terrify me, like Stephen King, though I completely respect the man as a writer and his talent. (On Writing is one of the best books I've ever read.) I used to avoid Oprah recommendations like the plague because they were usually so tragic with no redemption. I don't mind something heavy and serious but I need to have something redeeming happen to characters at the end. And redemption doesn't always mean a happy ending, either. I also hate romance novels and historical romance.

Last year I decided I wanted to read more non- fiction. Fiction as always been my "thing." I read some memoirs last year and decided I wanted to bring more non-fiction into my reading life. I decided in 2010 I would read a minimum of 12 non-fiction books. So far, I've read 11 and 1/2. The half comes from the book War. (It was so emotionally hard for me to read, I just couldn't get all the way through it, though Lord knows I did really try.) I have to read one more to make the goal and I have several that I'm looking at (a few memoirs and Me, Katherine Hepburn's autobiography that I'm chipping away at.) I'm going to try and surpass that goal and read at least 15 non fiction books in 2011.

Now, here's the other thing. You would think as an English teacher I would've read more classics over the years but I really haven't. I've read my fair share, of course, but there always seems to be something that is missing from my "literature" education. SO!!! In addition to my non-fiction goal, I decided I wanted to read 10 classics. But I have no idea where to start. I was hoping that you, my wonderfully well read readers, would be willing to give me lists and lists or suggestions of what you think are "classics" that I should read because ... well, you decide the because. Please, either in my comments or shoot me an email, what do you think I should read next year? titles please (authors would be good, too) and if you want to give a brief "why I should read these (this) book(s)" I would really appreciate it. I'm trying to get a good list, so your suggestions are necessary!

I appreciate your help in expanding my literary horizons!


(By the way: I have book reviews with a virtual book club here at Read Any Good Books Lately?, and the same reviews appear on my personal book blog Turning Pages. These are all the reviews of all the books I've read this year! But on Turning Pages I also write stuff about books... like this post... and my bibliophile lifestyle; hence the need for 2 blogs about books.)


Evil Pixie said...

"The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. Seriously, it changed my life.

"Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen because it is full of quiet strength.

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen because I'm a bit like Lizzie.

Any poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Burns, and W.B. Yeats.

"A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" by Mary Wollstonecraft. She's the mother of Mary Shelley and this little ditty is pure brilliance.

Any plays by Oscar Wilde (though my favorites are "Importance of Being Earnest" and "An Ideal Husband").

"The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A childhood favorite.

"Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Another childhood favorite.

"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas because it is fun.
Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe)

"Paradise Lost" by John Milton

"The Once and Future King" by T.H. White

Maggie said...

Evil P- thank you so much for the list! I see some goodies on there! This is awesome!

I can't believe I've never read "The secret garden", "the count of Monte Cristo" (Mac has!). or "Paradise Lost."

Now I have an Austen thing and I have a post about it but have been afraid to have it go up. Maybe I should tomorrow... anyway, I've never read either of those Austen books.

And you've made me feel a little better about myself. I have read "The Awakening, Anne of Green Gables" (though I was in my late 20s when I finally did!), and Our Town by Wilde. I'm not totally lacking... haha!

(I WAS going to teach "The Importance of being Earnest" before I moved away from the Wild West but never got to it!)

Thank you thank you thank you!

Amy said...

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) I think it's a must read. My favorite book. Its about overcoming circumstances basically.

Tale of two cities.(Dickens) Set in the French Revolution, exiting, intrigue, suspense but in the end a story about love and sacrifice.

Emma (Austin) Entertaining though a challenge to get through the language the first time (like all Austin) but once you get the feel of it its a light and fun story.

Maggie said...

Amy- see, how could I have gotten this far in life and never read a Bronte sister work?

And I say "whew" on the Dickens choice, because I have read that. When I started working on my Masters I took a course that studied nothing but Dickens. The Prof didn't have this on the reading list because she said "it's one everyone has read" and she expected us to have knowledge of it. I hadn't read it so I ran out and read it along with the other Dickens books that WERE required!

And I told Evil P have an "Austen" issue so I haven't read any-- but it sounds like I might have to read at least one!

Thank you so much for the suggestions!!!!! You rock!

Bragger said...

I'm just going to steal your list, because I have many, many classics I haven't read. I asked my mother for her set of a bunch of classics (can't remember what they're called right now, because I'm SUPPOSED to be attending an online meeting), but she gave them to my sister instead.

Mary said...

I have to confess I'm not a classics reader :( I TOTALLY agree with avoiding the Oprah books~ I've always thought her recommendations should come with a razor blade, they are sooooo depressing! The last one of hers I got stung by was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and I vowed it was the LAST time...

Thanks for your comments! Hope you enjoy Simply from Scratch :-)

Jimmie Earl said...

The Pearl by Steinbeck is a good one. Short but good. I don't know why I liked it. It was fitting for any time period. Sad but true.

I recommend The Good Guy and The Husband by Dean Koontz. v These are both thrillers and really are thrilling and good reads.

Happy Reading,


Maggie said...

Bragger- your mother is a real.... piece of work. Gawd!

And I'll have my list together by the end of the year so feel free to steal away!

Mary- LMAO, a razor blade!!!! OMG, too funny, but yet so true! I just finished "Little Bee" (see either of my book blogs for my scathing review)and quoted you; I totally wanted a razor blade for that one!

And as for "Edgar Sawtelle"-- well my Photographer friend just gave that to me and raved about how wonderful it was! Crap! I think I might pass on it, if it's a "depression-a-thon"! Thanks for the warning!

Jimmie E- it's short?!? Okay, "The Pearl" moves to the top of the list then! Okay, I know I sound like a HS student with comments like that. But I think my 10th grade teacher killed my love of classics- remember Corkie, that witch? Pair her with the dreaded book report I did on "Silas Marner" the worst book of all times... well, feh!

And dad, Koontz doesn't write "classics!" LOL, okay so you know that- heehee... but I'll read those just for fun anyway!

Wiley said...

1984 and A Brave New World - you have to read these together, I think. They are both so brilliant and chilling. Throw in Animal farm, Lord of the Flies, All Quiet on the Western Front to round out a classic take on the follies of our world. And I know I have already suggested Naguib Mahfouz's awesome Cairo Trilogy.

Oh, and I hope you revisit War one day, as I think it's the best book I have ever read.

Maggie said...

Wiley I can put check marks next to 1984, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies. I've never read Brave New World, or All's Quiet on the Western Front.

I hope to get back to War one day. I just struggled and usually if I make it half way through I can finish it, but this one I just couldn't But it's on the list to finish. Hopefully before the end of the year.