Tell me what great works of literature to read, and help expand my tiny brain

  • Sparkycat

    Posts: 1064

    May 15, 2009 4:15 PM GMT
    I am woefully poorly read. Alot of you guys seem to be really smart, literary types. So, please help me put together a library of great works of literature, old and new, fiction and non-fiction, that I should read. I'm trying to pump up my bod, and I need to pump up my mind as well.
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    May 15, 2009 4:21 PM GMT


    Sparkycat, you delightfully impress us both! icon_wink.gif

    http://www.amazon.com/Anyway-Paradoxical-Commandments-Finding-Personal/dp/0399149457#reader

    Once you're there at the link - it should auto-load after a few seconds to show you some inside pages...
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    May 15, 2009 4:27 PM GMT
    Thats a pretty tall order
    It all depends on what you like to read
    You can read all the literature in the world
    starting with Chaucers Canterbury Tales
    and go onto Miltons Paradise Lost and Dantes Inferno

    but I think you can narrow it down a bit

    Pick up some Dickens ..... David Copperfield
    Bleak House

    Jane Austens Emma is good

    Moby Dick

    Frankenstein

    Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby

    Plays of Bernard Shaw

    But see what you like and go on from there icon_cool.gif

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    May 15, 2009 4:48 PM GMT
    I looked at some of those "10 books you must read" lists and they were dross

    Here are five books that were written in the Latin World that are enjoyable

    Love in the Time of Cholera - Garcia Márquez (Colombia)
    Appointment at the Azul Profundo - Roberto Ampuero (Chile) or his Greek Passions.
    The Alchemist – Paul Coelho (Brazil)
    The Tunnel –Ernesto Sabado (Argentina) trans Margaret Sayers Peden in 1988.
    The Queen of the South – Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Spain).

    If you feel the need to read Isabel Allende her best are
    Of Love and Shadows - her best serious book
    Zorro (one of my favorites, but it´s swashbuckle rather than anything more serious)

    I dislike The House of the Spirits (first and most famous novel).

    I´ve not included a lot of the big names (Vargas Llosa, Paz, Fuentes, Donoso etc) as you probably want to get the "bug" before you move on to them.
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    May 15, 2009 4:55 PM GMT
    try the works of jose saramago, gabriel garcia marquez
    you'll find their works very different and equally interesting, something very new.
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    May 15, 2009 5:31 PM GMT
    Here are 5 pre modern books you should read

    The Odyssey – Homer (Greek C8 or 9 BCE)
    Aesop´s Fables – Aesopos (Greek C6 BCE)
    Metamorphosis - Ovid (Roman, C1/2 BCE), you could read “Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes”.
    One Thousand and One Nights –Anonymous (Arab C9 CE)
    Beowulf – Anonymous (Old English, C8-11 CE –unknown) Seamus Heaney´s translation is amazing.

    And if you haven´t, you should read the Bible OT and NT (Jewish, between well who knows… 1000BCE and about 100CE)
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    May 15, 2009 6:48 PM GMT
    The Epic of Gilgamesh (Anonymous) - This is my favorite book; it also happens to be the world's oldest know work of literature, so I figure it's a great place to start. It's the archetypal buddy story, with adventure, tragedy, homoerotic overtones, and in the end, a knock-your-socks-off philosophical enlightenment. Best of all, it's only about 100 pages long. Try to find the Penguin Classics edition - or some other prose translation; they're much more readable than the verse translations.

    Some other ancient literature:

    The Odyssey (Homer) - I agree wholeheartedly with this choice. Action packed, and the basis for many, many cultural references and later works of literature (you'll finally understand the movie O Brother Where Art Thou!)

    The Histories (Herodotus) - It's long and sometimes tedious, but this history of the rise of the Persian empire and the eventual war with the Greeks contains some great stories, including the basis for the movie 300.

    Now, let's jump ahead to the 20th century.

    Ask the Dust (John Fante) - This is a very honestly written book about a young guy (20 in the book, he was 25 when he wrote it) struggling to find himself and achieve artistic success, mostly doing a crappy job of it, in Los Angeles during the Great Depression. The language is plain and straightforward, making it a much more modern read than most literature of the era.

    The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) - An epic tale of Dust Bowl farmers pushed off their land by the thousands, moving to California in search of the American Dream and finding low wages, inhuman conditions, and starvation working as fruit pickers in the Central Valley. For great literature dealing with raw human emotions, this is about as good as it gets.

    The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler) - You can't live in the world of 20th centry literature without taking on the genre of the noir hard-boiled detective story. Chandler's writing crackles off the page, even though his plots are fairly corny by post-modern standards.

    On The Road (Jack Kerouac) - This novel spawned an entire subculture - the so-called "beatniks". It's the early 50s, and Kerouac and his friends bum around the country, smoke weed, hang out in dank jazz clubs listening to Negroes blowing saxophones. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style which can get tiresome and childish, but if you like this one, check out his later books The Subterraneans and Big Sur - they're much better written and have a bit more story going on.

    The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tome Wolfe) - A nonfiction work about the LSD subculture of the 60s. Ken Kesey (he wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and his band of "Merry Pranksters" travel around the country in a broken-down old bus, dropping acid, wearing outlandish clothes and generally shaking things up.
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    May 15, 2009 7:21 PM GMT
    Prose gets all the attention, but poetry is the foundation of LIterature (Homer, Ovid, and Beowulf are all poems but very often get prosefied for the novel-worn masses. Hence, Seamus Heanye being awesome). I have yet to see a single anthology explain the story of poetry in context in one volume.

    That said, I think 20th Century American Poetry and Anthology of 20th Cantury British and Irish Poetry is as close as we will get.

    That should have a sampling of everyone from John Ashbery to Louis Zukofski.
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    May 15, 2009 7:43 PM GMT
    This game is fun. Here are 5 Eastern European writers.

    Tolstoy – Anna Karenina. One of the most powerful studies of marital unfaithfulness. (Russian C19)
    Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment (Russian C19)
    Kafka – The Trial (Bohemian C19/20)
    Solzhenitsyn - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian C20)
    Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Czech-French C20)
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    May 15, 2009 8:05 PM GMT
    5 dramatists

    Euripides – Medea (Greek C5 BCE)
    Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet (English, C16/17)
    Calderón de la Barca - Life is a Dream (Spanish, C17)
    Brecht –Mother Courage (German, early C20)
    García Lorca – The House of Bernarda Alba (Spanish early C20)
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    May 15, 2009 10:12 PM GMT
    I am Charlotte Simmons

    1776

    The Devil in the White City
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    May 15, 2009 10:20 PM GMT
    by mary renault:
    the last of the wine
    the king must die
    the bull from the sea
    fire from heaven
    the persian boy
    the praise singer
    the charioteer

    by isabel vandervelde:
    abishag
    lace

    patricia nell warren:
    the front runner

    by ken follett:
    the pillars of the earth

    by j.r.r. tolkien:
    the silmarillion
    the children of hurin
    the hobbit
    the fellowship of the ring
    the two towers
    the return of the king

    poetry:
    baudelaire's "the flowers of evil"
    walt whitman's "leaves of grass"
    basho (find a collection of his haiku)

    oh, and my blog, definitely ;)
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    May 15, 2009 10:49 PM GMT
    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Naomi by Tanizaki Junichiro
    Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
    The GreatGatsby byF. Scott Fitzgerald
    Airport by Arthur Haley
    Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima


    And also check out:
    The Portable Dorothy Parker
    The Portable Henry Rollins
    Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe



  • nhnelson

    Posts: 113

    May 15, 2009 10:53 PM GMT
    You might be asking the wrong question. Sure, there are classic works of literature that "everyone should read," but there are so few that actually have. Being familiar with characters and themes from the book is all you need to hold your own in a conversation about a book. My recommendation: read something that you're going to like. What interests you? Do you want to read something contemporary? Foreign?
    Here are a couple of books that I happen to love that fall into the category of "classics." Google them. If it looks like something you'd like, give it a shot. If not, don't.

    The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    1984 by George Orwell
    Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
    Our Town by Thornton Wilder (a play)
    Night by Elie Wiesel
  • SFGeoNinja

    Posts: 510

    May 15, 2009 11:01 PM GMT
    Candide - Voltaire - one of the first truly 'modern' books, about travel and philosophy

    Great Gatsby - Fitzgerald - great American Dream story

    Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - this book will change forever how you think about politics

    Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe - my favorite book of his was actually the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test which was already mentioned, but this is the best book I've read about the 1980s.

    Silent Spring - Rachel Carson - book that started the environmental movement in the 60s and led to the banning of DDT

    The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie

    Going to Meet the Man - James Baldwin

    The Dead Emcee Scrolls - Saul Williams - I don't normally like poetry, but this is the best poetry I've ever read and epitomizes what hiphop could be if it lived up to its potential.


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    May 15, 2009 11:03 PM GMT
    Still think Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is one of the best books I've read and ever will read, and it's referenced a lot lately because of the economic crisis.
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    May 15, 2009 11:16 PM GMT
    For classic literature, I think Mark Twain (especially Huckleberry Finn) is pretty good, as well as any of his stories for The Territorial Enterprise.

    For modern literature, the Front Runner books by Patricia Nell Warren are wonderful.

    Also, if you're of a science fiction bent, there are many STAR TREK novels that are actually quite thoughtfully-written, especially Strangers From The Sky; Yesterday's Son; Time For Yesterday; Sarek; and Federation.
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    May 15, 2009 11:18 PM GMT
    1984 - George Orwell
    A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
    Empire Falls - Richard Russo
    All The Names - Jose Saramago
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner) - Phillip K. Dick
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    May 15, 2009 11:21 PM GMT
    nhnelson saidYou might be asking the wrong question. Sure, there are classic works of literature that "everyone should read," but there are so few that actually have. Being familiar with characters and themes from the book is all you need to hold your own in a conversation about a book.



    There is NO point in reading books because you think that you should. Everything I suggested is enjoyable (or at least I enjoyed them all). The point of reading is to expose yourself to different ways of thinking and different "worlds". The way that literature does this is through engaging the imagination, not though knowing the "bullet points".
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    May 15, 2009 11:40 PM GMT
    At Swim, Two Boys - Jamie O'Neil

    The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner

    The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

    Beloved - Toni Morrison

    77 Dream Songs - John Berryman

    Tess of the D'ubervilles - Thomas Hardy

    Brave New World - Alduous Huxley

    Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

    How Green Was My Valley - Richard Llweylln

    A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving

    The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon

    The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

    Jamesland - Michelle Hunevan

    The One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Off Keck Road - Mona Simpson

    The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevesky

    The Trial - Franz Kafka
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    May 15, 2009 11:48 PM GMT
    Dang, Sparky.
    I hope you have a lot of free time...or Evelyn Woods speed.

    I just go to the library and pull 4-5 books on tape.
    Two of 'em will be worth listening to all the way thru.

    Best so far: The Shipping News.
    It was by Annie P. who wrote Brokeback Mountain.
    They made 'News into a movie first and it was such a disappointing crapfest that Annie almost didn't grant permission to do Brokeback.

    I know that isn't a 'classic', but I'd rather be shot than read Moby Dick.
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    May 16, 2009 12:35 AM GMT
    Five books written in the last decade.

    David Liss – The Coffee Trader (USA, 2003)
    Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (UK 2003)
    Jonathan Safar Foer – Extremely Loud and Unbearably Close (USA, 2005)
    Arturo Pérez-Reverte - The Painter of Battles (Spain, 2006)
    Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns (Afganistan, 2007)
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    May 16, 2009 12:52 AM GMT
    Coming late to a thread like this I expected I'd simply be agreeing with a lot of what's already been posted and I'm right.

    Both Homer classics, The Illiad and The Odyssey.

    Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. You may not agree with the politics or philosophy, but it is one of the most influential books of the last century.

    In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

    Animal Farm, George Orwell

    The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    Lord of the Flies, William Golding


    On the other hand, there are some classics I just don't see what all the hubbub is about, namely Brave New World. It seemed pretty trite and contrived to me.

    But there are many, many great books out there, classics or not. Just start reading. Read what you like, whatever catches your interest. Any kind of reading is sure to improve your culture awareness (except maybe Harlequin romance novels).
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    May 16, 2009 1:01 AM GMT
    I like a lot of the books posted so far, but here are some of my suggestions:

    All The Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren. Quite possibly the best political novel of all time, chronicling the rise and fall of a southern politician through the eyes of a young confidant.

    The History of the Peloponnesian War
    by Thucydides. I fell in love with Herodotus' The History first, but Thucydides improves upon the founder in almost every aspect. Dealing with the events of the wars between Sparta and Athens, it is a much easier read than Herodotus, who tends to drone for some chapters.

    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. While I revile the author (just check it out of the library, don't give the bigot any of your money), this book is one of the most gripping Science Fiction novels ever. If you enjoy it and like Future Alternative History, I'd suggest reading the "Shadow" sequels (the ones which follow Bean instead of Ender).

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Tolkien was a genius. The movies are amazing (I've done the extended-edition marathon three times), but the books are even better.

    Those are the ones I'd suggest that span different genres. My other favorites (I tilt towards politics/scifi/alt history) in no particular order:

    The Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn (Heir to the Empire, Last Command, middle novel which I'm blanking on right now). The original and still best Star Wars novelizations.

    The Iliad and Odyssey by Homer

    The Emberverse Series of books by S.M. Stirling. What would happen if the lights went out and high technology ceased to work, forever? Wonderful Alt-History series.

    Rainbow Six and Executive Orders by Tom Clancy

    The Dao de Qing (Tao te Ching)

    The Art of War by Sun Tzu and On War by Carl von Clausewitz

    And a special mention:

    DON QUIXOTE. All 2000 pages of it. Read it over winter break my freshman year, and while it was a trek at points, the book is truly a wonder. It could quite possibly be the best book written between the Greeks and the Modern Era.
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    May 16, 2009 1:31 AM GMT
    siddhartha