Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Classics

Top Ten Tuesday is a listy meme that happens every Tuesday and features a different bookish topic each week.  For July 1 the topic is favorite classics.  I would have said that I have always really enjoyed classics and have read quite a lot of them but when I looked at a list of popular classic titles, I was pretty stunned at how many I haven't read. hmmmm.. Sounds like I need to participate in some kind of challenge! Below are some I have read and really liked, though in some cases it's been so long since I read them that I don't remember why exactly:0).

1. Twelfth Night (or What You Will) by William Shakespeare

For the moment this is my favorite Shakespeare play.  It's not the most profound, it's not even the best of the comedies but there's something about the cross dressing heroine hijinks that I love.  And Malvolio, the original pompous jackass.  That's him yellow stockinged and cross gartered to the right.  I've seen the play performed at least twice, once by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London which is where the print is from. You know what would be awesome?  The RSC doing a residency at Iowa State University for like the next five years.  It could happen. maybe.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I think I've talked about this series ad nauseum so won't belabor how much I love it.  They are definitely the books I've re-read the most and despite their simple storytelling I always get something different from them every time I read them. A Horse and His Boy and Voyage of the Dawn Treader are probably my favorites.

3.  David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

I like Dickens generally and this is probably my favorite though it's been so long since I've read it I don't remember many particulars.  I just know I liked it.  And arguably it has Dicken's best named skeevy guy - Mr. Uriah Heep.

5. Dracula by Bram Stoker

To be honest, if I read this book now I'm not sure it would make this list but I read it at the height of my vampire obsession and ate up its Gothicy goodness.  I have also acted in the play of this book because I am that cool.  And just to protect my cred, Vampires have always been my jam since I was old enough to know what one was.  I used to have a recurring nightmare as a child that I was being chased by a vampire and I finally ended the chase by offering said vampire a PB&J which seemed to satisfy him.  Basically this was way before Stephenie Meyer or even Anne Rice got her paws on them.  However, and this is confession time, I did read Twilight and actually got caught up in it because I SO would've died to be Bella when I was 16.  Once I had some space from the book I realized it had possibly destroyed a bit of my soul and I felt no desire to read the rest of the series but Meyer definitely took me back to my teenage years.  And that's all to say...I like Dracula by Bram Stoker.

6. All Quiet on the Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque

I read this in high school and quite frankly remember little about it except it's about World War I and it rocked my world at the time.  I think it was likely the first book focused on war that I had read and it really made an impression. 

7. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I could've cheated and just said all Books by Jane Austen but because I've already done that with Chronicles of Narnia I'll just list my favorite book by her.  I really like the dynamic between the two sisters and the central conflict between Sense and... well ... Sensibility.  Is it better to keep all of one's emotions bottled up in service to civility or is it truer to be honest about how one feels?  Austen comes down relatively firmly on the side of Sense with a capital 'S' though the true answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

8. Washington Square by Henry James

Apparently Henry James ended up not liking this work but he also disliked Jane Austen so clearly he's not always a good judge.  Of his books that I have read, it is my favorite.  I like its simultaneously devastating and encouraging ending. 

9. The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton

This novel was Edith Wharton's last and she never finished it.  The novel apparently has three different endings written by three different writers in the 1990's and apparently all of them were thought to be untrue to Wharton's style.  I can't remember which I read or what the ending was like but I like the depiction of these naive American girls descending on British society and securing British peers for husbands with their noveau riche money.  It is disillusioning and unhappy in almost all ways. I like the clash of cultures and the clash between childhood and adult hood.

10. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

This is a classic book of natural history writing.  Aldo Leopold is considered by most to be the father of modern conservation and wildlife biology.  This series of essays is not technical though and it takes my breath away with its eloquence and prescience. If you enjoy writing about nature, it is a must read.

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”
 “The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” 

Okay, I'll stop now.  Only half are British books/authors so that's encouraging. though there isn't a ton of diversity.  One lone German and nothing outside of the western canon.  Perhaps I need to initiate more than one challenge...

What are your favorite classics?

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