My father is on this reading kick right now. He’s trying to read literature that’s considered “classic.” He called me yesterday after finishing Catcher in the Rye and asked, “Sara, why is this book considered a classic?” I was embarrassed to admit I didn’t remember why. I remember the book, of course. I remember Holden Caulfield (who my father found to be quite amusing). I remember the f-word. Other than that, I have forgotten why Catcher in the Rye is considered a “classic.”
Jake looked up the definition of “classic literature” yesterday after my conversation with good old Dad. According to About.com:
- A classic usually expresses some artistic quality—an expression of life, truth, and beauty.
- A classic stands the test of time.
- A classic has universal appeal.
Sure, okay, makes sense, right? I looked up a list of “Classic Novels,” and BLECH! I read a bunch of them in college, and I hated them. For example, The Great Gatsby is the most overrated book on the planet, and To the Lighthouse … well, let’s be honest, I never finished it, I was so bored. I wrote an entire college paper based on Spark Notes.
There are others, like Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm that were great, but they weren’t my favorites. I guess this study of “classics” made me want to make my own list. So. I did …
Sara Dobie’s List of Books You Must Read Before You Are Dead
1. Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Zafon is the best writer on Earth right now. His books are set in Spain. They’re considered “gothic fiction,” which means they’re beautiful, creepy, and filled with ghostly happenings. Angel’s Game is my ultimate favorite book … and that’s saying something.
2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The book is mysterious, creepy, and highly entertaining. Plus it’ll scare you if you read it at night; I love when books do that.
3. Map of Time by Felix Palma
This is Palma’s first book translated into English, and I can’t wait for more. HG Wells is the lead character. Lots of time travel (but not too much as to be confusing). Extremely intelligent plot line and a quirky narrative voice.
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Written for children (but not really). It’s a very adult book, in my opinion, about a boy named “Nobody” who’s raised in a cemetery by ghosts. I believe Gaiman is my generation’s version of Lewis Carroll.
5. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
One of the only “classics” that I believe is “classic.”
6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Everyone on the face of the planet should read Fahrenheit 451, several times. It’ll make you realize how close our culture really is to becoming a sci-fi book.
7. The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
It’s not supernatural. It’s psychological. People in southern Ohio who are bad, bad people doing bad things. Beautiful in its brutality.
8. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
I don’t usually like Palahniuk. I think he’s a pompous writer who overuses sentence fragments. That said Fight Club is his masterpiece. Chuck is a perfect example of modern American writing, and it’s not always a good thing … but Fight Club is spectacular.
9. “The Yellow Wallpaper” (short story) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
A woman slowly loses her mind while on bed rest. If you’re having an “off” day, don’t read this one. Wait until you feel stable, happy, and brave, and then, strap yourself in for an uncomfortable ride.
10. Everything’s Eventual (short story collection) by Stephen King
The best short story collection in the history of the world. At least, I think it is.
This list is not exhaustive. I could go on forever about good books. This list is a pretty good collection of my personal favorites, though. So now, it’s your turn. Tell me what else I need to be reading. What else should be considered “classic literature?” And not in the academic sense. What is classic—to you?