Under-Appreciated Classics

Last Tuesday, I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday post that the Broke and the Bookish puts on. The theme was classics, and I spent a lot of time thinking about what classics I wanted to include. I ended up consulting several lists around the internet of classics and picking the ones I’d read more than once and really enjoyed.

As I was going through the lists, I kept coming across titles I had read and enjoyed that seem a bit more obscure. These are titles that I don’t think get talked about as much—on top 100 lists, or even top 250, they rarely make the cut—and I wanted to highlight a few:

  • Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I can’t quite describe why this one has stuck with me, but I read it years back for a course. It took a bit to get into, and there’s some controversial parts that Hardy wrote deliberately ambiguous, but once I was in it, I was hooked. I powered through this one (got ahead of the class and had to double back) and ended up really loving it.
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I’m a bit sad I hadn’t got to read this one before now—it’s so good, I feel like I’ve been missing out. It’s got great touches of humour, the characterisation is interesting and well thought out, and it’s an early entry in the detective lit genre that is not always mentioned as being the forerunner it was.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen. Yes, this was on my Top Ten list, but I think it bears mentioning again. This really is my favourite Austen book, and I think it mostly only gets read by Austen enthusiasts, folks who read Austen’s more obscure work. Everyone knows Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, and many know Emma—if only because of the Gwyneth Paltrow film—but Persuasion is definitely less widely known or considered. Yet, it’s my favourite.
  • The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. This is an apologetic, and is thus not for everyone. However, I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I feel that it asks some very interesting questions about humans and humanity.

If you’re looking for a readable, enjoyable classic, I highly recommend one of these. Give them a try; I don’t think you’ll regret it.



Top Ten Tuesday: Classics to Come Back to

My favourite edition of The Hobbit


This week, I’m joining in on the Broke and Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, a chance for people who like books and lists to share on a theme.

This week’s theme is classics—10 classics you love, or 10 you’ve meant to read, or whatever—and I’m sharing classics I’ve read more than once because they’re so good. Without further ado…

  1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I admit that this choice is at least partly due to loving the Muppet film adaptation so much, but the book is short, fun, funny, and heart-warming, and it’s a great one to come back to when I want to feel good about the world.
  2. Persuasion by Jane Austen  – I really think this is a terribly under-appreciated book. Ask the average non-Austenite to name 1 or 2 of her books, and you will invariably get back the ones that have made been made into successful adaptations: Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility—which are both lovely, but I think that Persuasion outshines them for sheer enjoyability. It’s a bit more staid than many modern books, but I really think it’s the best of Austen’s works.
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This one is a bit slow at the start, but it’s another book that I think really shines. Like Persuasion it’s a novel of its time, but it also tells a story that I think modern audiences can continue to appreciate today.
  4. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Most people consider the Lord of the Rings a classic—probably because it’s so darn hard to read—and discount The Hobbit, which is silly of them. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but it’s a classic nonetheless.
  5. Emma by Jane Austen. The most well known and widely read of Austen’s books are my least favourite (it’s terribly hipster of me, and I’m not even sorry). Emma Woodhouse is often considered, upon a first reading, to be an unpleasant sort, selfish and meddling and silly. But those are the reasons I like her. She’s more real to me for being just a bit unpleasant. Austen said in a letter “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like”, but it is, of course, not at all true.
  6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  There’s nothing that quite compares to reading the book. There are several very faithful adaptations, and some…less faithful ones (and then the Disney one, which…yeah). I prefer the book over them all. If you enjoy the adaptations, give it a read.
  7. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. The Scottish Play! This one is twisted and odd, and has some very under-appreciated side characters. It’s associated with a ton of tropes and inside theatre jokes., and it’s just really good.
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I dithered over whether this book or A Little Princess out to take this spot, but I ended up going with The Secret Garden because I’ve read it more often, the film adaptation was really good, and I just enjoy this one a fraction more. Not very scientific, but there you have it.
  9. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. This is a play, but it’s still a great read. It’s a bit like Romeo and Juliet, but better, less silly, and considerably more funny.
  10. Dracula by Bram Stoker. I have an illustrated edition that’s rather lovely. This one drags at some parts, and it’s a very odd book, but I very much enjoyed it, and it’s very much worth reading as one of the foundations of modern vampire myths.

This is the edition of Dracula I’ve got

Honourable Mentions:

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
  • Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

June Read-a-thon Update: Day 13

Classes are great so far, but there’s so much reading associated with them! I’m gonna start including that here.

What I’ve read:

  • 24 pages of Partial List of People to Bleach by Gary Lutz. Notes: I thought this was creative non-fiction, but it’s actually fiction. And the pieces after the first two don’t feel as pretentious to me, so I’ve been back to reading this one again. There have been a few chunks of what I think is excellent writing, or what my poetry teacher called “moments of pleasure”, and I’ve been quoting them on my tumblr, as well as on Twitter (length permitting, of course).
  • 90 pages of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke [trans. M.D. Herter Norton]. Notes: finished.
  • 108 pages of The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur. Notes: finished.
  • 173 pages of Faces at the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell. Notes: finished.
  • 8 pages of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Notes: no update.
  • 9 pages of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Notes: I have actually been reading this one for about 8 years. I’ll periodically pick it up, read a few chapters, and then put it back down for months. It’s definitely the book that’s been on my currently reading list the longest. While some of the language is lovely, the plot drags, and there are whole chapters that are asides: 3 pages on whale skeletons, followed by 4 on whale fossils, 13 pages about “cetology” (the study of whales and dolphins), 9 pages examining various cultures use of white to show sanctity, 10 pages—comprising 3 consecutive chapters—comparing the head shapes and sizes of two kinds of whales, and so on. It’s a bit tough to get through, honestly.
  • 44 pages of Requiem for a Paper Bag by Davy Rothbart [Ed.]. Notes: I had the same problem with this as with Lutz’s book—the first couple of pieces seemed too pretentious for me, and a whole bunch of GoodReads readers and the reviewers from my local public library all agree. This one gets a shockingly low overall rating from tons of folks. This one actually is creative non-fiction: a collection of short pieces, it includes writing by “celebrities and civilians” telling the story of various found objects, brought together by the editor of Found Magazine. It’s been pretty hit or miss so far, but I have to read it for school, so I am.
  • 43 pages of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe. Notes: this one is also for school, but I enjoyed it considerably more.
  • 19 pages of The Memoirs of Vidocq, Principal Agent of the French Police Until 1827 by Eugène François Vidocq [Trans. by H. T. Riley]. Notes: also for school. It seems rather more fanciful than an account of actual events, but is very entertaining, if meandering and long-winded.

Running page count: 518