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Thread: Books are sexy

  1. #1
    Was E.laur Array Laurie's Avatar
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    Jan 2009

    Default Books are sexy

    I've been trying to read some things I associate with "classics" or "school reading." One of my tricks has just been picking up books that are stocked at the local used bookstore since I figure that means high school kids are reading them.

    I'm really into fiction books, it's a stretch to think I might read a non-fiction book unless it's amazingly engaging, and even then I'm not sure I would read it. You could also direct me toward some classics within genres, even if they aren't quite taught in schools yet. I particularly love sci-fi. I recently read all the asimov foundation/robot books which I consider basic sci-fi.

    A few questions:

    1. Suggestions for "classics." (Including stand out current books)

    2. I would also love info (if you have it) on why they are considered classics. I'm reading a Kafka right now and I really don't remember why Kafka is supposed to be important. I must have learned at some point in college. I know,

    I appreciate it!

  2. #2
    Earth Exalted Array Thursday's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    8w9 sp/sx


    The Elegance of the Hedgehog
    Why a classic?

    It shows how intelligence makes you a bit of an outkast, no matter what social standing you have/its expression of friendship for the right reason is superb.
    I N V I C T U S

  3. #3
    scourge Array miss fortune's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    827 sp/so
    SLE Ti


    I am, and forever will, be deeply in love with To Kill a Mockingbird

    I would also suggest The Corrections, The Decameron (the amount of passion and humanity in stories from the 1300s is astounding- and can still be connected to life today!), The Great Gatsby and A House on Mango Street... I love how you can recognize people, feelings and themes from all of the different settings in your own life in a way
    Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom? -Terry Pratchett

  4. #4
    Meat Tornado Array DiscoBiscuit's Avatar
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    Apr 2009


    The Republic - Plato

    Crime and Punishment - Dostoevsky

    A tale of two cities - Dickens
    Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
    - Edmund Burke

    8w9 sx/so

  5. #5
    Iron Maiden Array fidelia's Avatar
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    May 2009
    1w2 so/sx


    Jane Austen books - I think they're considered classics because they are a social commentary on the position of women during that time, as well as making sly jabs at human nature. She is very good at painting believable characters and conversation and in that sense seems timeless, despite having written in the late 1700s/early 1800s ish era.

    Victor Hugo - His stuff is set during the French Revolution. He is a master of description and can write a heart wrenching story like nobody else. Hunchback of Notre Dame is wonderful, as is Les Miserables. His books are long, although I don't find them ponderous.

    Dickens - I would recommend getting a Reader's Digest abridged version. He is very good at describing the plight of poor people of his day, creates interesting story lines and characters, but some of his writing reflects that in that day, people were paid by the inch.

    I loved Count of Monte Cristo and the Three Musketeers (both by the same French author, similar era to Victor Hugo). I mostly liked them for the story line twists, rather than the incredible dialogue and character development.

    The Little House on the Prairie Books - A peek into pioneering attitudes and life. Laura was an unusual woman for her time, very independent and with attitudes that would not have been commonly held. She also was a very excellent writer. Although they are regarded as children's books, adults actually will get quite a bit out of them that kids will miss. They are written simply, but profoundly.

    Geoffry Trease and Elizabeth Speare both have written excellent historical fiction for older children, set in various time periods (Jewish characters living under Roman Rule, Mennonites during the Revolution, slaves in the United States, Greek, and many more).

    O Henry - Known for short stories, usually with a surprise ending. Lots of unusual vocab, but still very easy to follow. Most famous for The Ransom of Red Chief and Gift of the Maji.

    Sherlock Holmes mysteries - try to get the complete book of them. Well written mysteries, plus you get to learn more about Victorian England.

    I had a go at Kafka and hated it. Maybe it grows on you?

    Steinback is a very talented writer - good at taking you back into the times of the characters and also very good with character development and dialogue. Didn't like all of the themes or always language in the books, especially for children. Best known for Of Mice and Men, as well as The Grapes of Wrath. Also wrote East of Eden.

    Oscar Wilde - Best known for Dorian Grey. Excellent at writing tear jerkers, but was also a very humorous person.

    The Chrysallids - I'd skip it.
    Hemingway - Old Man and the Sea - never read it
    Lord of the Flies - very depressing.
    Animal Farm - Was an interesting allegory about communism, using farm animals.
    Fahrenheit (was it 451?) - I dunno. I never ended up taking that book.

    To Kill A Mockingbird - Excellent book which explores the themes of doing the right thing even when no one supports you, making unfair assumptions about people, and also racism. Wonderful book.

    Don Quixote - First novel ever written. Quirky and funny, gets a little ponderous partway through. About a regular man who imagines himself to be a knight and forces his servant to come along on his crazy adventures. He sees very regular objects and events through the lens of his imagination and acts accordingly. Many little counterstories run through it, depending on whom he meets. Cervantes wrote it and it's Spanish. Picasso did a wonderful painting of Don Quixote on his horse. Considered a classic, although it wouldn't be studied in high school.

    I dunno, I could go on for quite awhile here. This is a start...

  6. #6
    On a mission Array Usehername's Avatar
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    May 2007


    First, check out for $1 books.

    Second, before you read more literature, read up on mythic structure. This diagram is extremely important in understanding a lot of literature theory. Many like Joseph Campbell posit that there is only one story, the monomyth, and all stories are this monomyth saying the same thing in another way. Hence, why fairy tales are beloved across generations--Twilight and Harry Potter are just the same song in a different tune. The concrete adventures that hero(ine)s go on are macguffins for human psychological development.
    It is a little more in-depth than one assumes, and brings in Jung and Freud. It's worth reading that link, which from skimming seems similar to what I learned in lecture.

    Postmodern books satirize these motifs and critique the notion of any meaningful story (i.e. are very nihilistic). Postmodern books will usually very intentionally avoid any sort of plot and get down to a micronarrative which has symbolic worth--the nihilistic belief that there is no meaningful quest or story.

    I'm no lit expert, but my recs:

    1. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. It's an excellent book that I loved at 13 and 23. Has time traveling, but is more about critiquing war and exploring nihilism, human value and meaning.

    2. Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince--its worth is obvious (for an Ne dom) when you read it. Bonus: it's a very short read, with philosophical stick drawings (no joke).

    Somerset Maugham & Russell Banks are beautiful writers, though I have never "studied" them and can't explain why very well.

    3. Hunter S. Thompson's Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, which is important b/c it's perhaps the ultimate postmodern novel. Must read up on Joseph Campbell's monomyth (Wikipedia would suffice, I'm sure) to understand HST's critique of it. Though Thompson was drugged up he was also carefully crafting a postmodern novel and like most literature it's best to assume that a concrete event stands in for larger meaning.

    e.g. something in the novel "burns down 3 years ago" which was when Nixon got elected and, in his view, put the last nail in the coffin of American civilization. Similarly because it is a postmodern book the closer the protagonist gets to "the story" he as a journalist is trying to get, the more literal and figurative dust is kicked up and the more he is confused and unable to "see". It's all about perception and truth and meaning, or more precisely, the lack thereof.
    "Uppers" in drug culture refer to '60s belief that drugs will open the doors and set you free (think Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception, which is where the Jim Morrison band got its name from). "Downers" are postmodern and recognize the "fact" that there is no ultimate truth so people drug themselves to deal with it. Ties a lot to American politics and if you're not read up in the monomyth you'll miss a lot of what Thompson is critiquing. Knowing the drug symbolism of uppers and downers will make you feel literary-style smart as you go through F&LinLV. They are failed questers, failing at each of the points in the cycle above (and instead of having a sacred marriage like, say, Odysseus, he fools around with a prostitute--but fails to even consummate that, which would start the individuals on the path to meaningful human psychological development).

    4. The Odyssey, by Homer. If you read it, get the one translated by Albert Cook, because it is the only literal translation showing oral culture's "memory chunking" into a metered rhythmic song. It's important because it shows a completely different reality from a literate culture! Homer was a bard from an illiterate society, so he and his people remembered by meter and repetition. The basic thing you learn here, after hearing phrases like the "rosy-fingered dawn" over and over and over and over and over again without the linguistic nuance one would expect from a literate culture (and the nuance that is injected into other nonliteral translations): oral memory is waayyy different and more fluid an interpretation than literate memory. It can't be any other way.

    This is important for interpreting historical "facts" that were passed down through oral culture for generations before they were written down. Read scholar & priest Walter J. Ong's Orality and Literacy. It blew my mind and convinced me that the Genesis story should only be interpreted in the context in which it is written--an oral culture's story should not be held to the same literal standard as a literate culture's story (which does not mean it doesn't have value and meaning, but that it is different than our understanding of pure truth). I especially liked this in light of neuroscience and language learning.

    PM if you're interested in having me type up class notes because I could go on for a while.
    *You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
    *Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.
    C.S. Lewis

  7. #7
    Paragon Gone Wrong Array OrangeAppled's Avatar
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    I like "boring" classics & that's mostly what I read, so here's a few suggestions:

    Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy) - has interesting themes criticizing various social institutions, plus it was a scandal when released (always sign of a good book)

    Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) - a good story with subtle themes on religion and women's roles in society at the time

    Wives & Daughters (Elizabeth Gaskell) - very "Jane Auste-ny", very good character development

    The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton) - man falls for his fiance's quirky cousin, begins to question & dislike the society he was born into

    Sons & Lovers (DH Lawrence) - a son torn between his mom & his romantic interests, seems to illustrate the "virgin-whore" complex well

    The Awakening (Kate Chopin) - woman seeks independence, self-expression, her own identity in a time when women were just supposed to be mothers & wives.

    Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) - Long, but worth it. The story is second to the themes, IMO, which include moral & spiritual truth, social classes, double standards for women, the place of women in society, etc.
    "Charlotte sometimes dreams a wall around herself. But it's always with love - So much love it looks like everything else. Charlotte Sometimes - So far away, glass sealed and pretty." - The Cure

    INFP | 4w5 sp/sx - 451| RLUEI - Primary Inquisitive

  8. #8
    Senior Member Array durentu's Avatar
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    Mar 2008


    I'm going through the list of banned books.

    I suppose in true INTP fashion, independent thinkers and going against the crowd. Banned books are where it's at.

    List of books banned by governments - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    List of most-commonly challenged books in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    "People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds; it is something one creates." - Thomas Szasz

  9. #9
    Strongly Ambivalent Array Ivy's Avatar
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    Apr 2007


    There's a handful of classics that having a working understanding of (not necessarily reading all of) will help you understand allusions made by later authors. Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, the Bible, the Oedipus trilogy, the Odyssey, Paradise Lost, the Divine Comedy, and everything Shakespeare wrote. Once again I'm not necessarily suggesting you read these books (I wouldn't wish Paradise Lost on my worst enemy) but having a working knowledge of them will make your future reading much richer.

    IMO SparkNotes are your friends, even for casual reading of the classics. I always used them to make sure I wasn't missing allusions and themes. They get a bad reputation because a lot of HS and college students use them instead of reading the books but they're great as supplemental material.

    If I could do it again, I would study Faulkner instead of the English Romantics. As I Lay Dying is a beautiful piece of work.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  10. #10
    full of love Array Kingfisher's Avatar
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    May 2009


    wow, i really like the suggestions you guys are giving!
    i also like these ones that seem pretty classic to me;

    For Whom The Bell Tolls
    by ernest Hemingway

    100 Years of Solitude
    by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Heart of Darkness
    by Joe Conrad

    by James Joyce

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