Thursday, October 20, 2005

What books have taught me

In honor of Time’s 100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 to present (props to the Vol Abroad for first posting this), I’d like to give MY list of the 20 (100 would defeat the purpose, I think) best novels/stories/plays/epic poems to learn about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Some are traditional, some are not. But all of them have taught me something, good or bad. Let me stress: this is not necessarily my list of my 20 all time favorites (as that list is always changing). These are simply some of the books that factored the most in the way I see the world.

The Iliad, Homer
Heroes are not always what they seem

The Oresteia, Aeschylus (it counts as ONE!)
Revenge or justice?

Beowulf, Anonymous
Nordic heroes are always what they seem

Hamlet, Shakespeare
See The Oresteia

The Monk, Matthew Lewis
When good Christians go bad

Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg
A soul is a terrible thing to waste

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
True love is tragic

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
Who knew Austen had a sense of humor?

Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser
Life sucks

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
My mother is a fish

Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
One stop moral/ethic shopping

A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
Looters and moochers, moochers and looters

The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty
Life happens

The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
It pays to be earnest

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
Drugs are bad, mmmkkk

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
It’s all about the books

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
How to come of age the hard way

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
Life is tragic


hobbes said...

Jeez - I have to update my library

deviousdiva said...

My Top Ten

"The Child in Time" Ian McEwan
"Dispatches" Michael Herr
"Billy" Albert French
"Nobody Knows my Name" James Baldwin
"The Bluest Eye" Toni Morrison
"Mama" Terry McMillan
"The Wasp Factory" Iain Banks
"King Lear" William Shakespeare
"Invisible Man" Ralph Ellison
"The Lorax" Dr.Suess

It's funny how a booklist can tell you quite a bit about a person isn't it? That was fun. Thanks Mel.

melusina said...

Those are some good books too. You know, I didn't think about putting any of the books I read as a young child on my list, like Dr. Seuss, but some of them were pretty influential.

St. Caffeine said...

Hey, Mel, did you happen to catch my list of 5 "desert isle" books from a month or so ago ( I'm impressed that my 5 and your 20 have a book in common. I'm even more impressed as to which book we have in common.

melusina said...

I hadn't read your desert isle list, but The Secret History is a damn fine book. It really sunk underneath my skin when I read it. I've turned a couple of people on to it as well (including my husband).

Have you read Tartt's second novel, The Little Friend? It is very different, in a lot of ways, but still the same great writing style. I don't think it is as strong a book as SH though.

Thanos said...

I have to say The Secret History was amazing. I had read it in greek first, then Mel gave me an english copy. I have read a few books since and had quite a few before and I'll say that, plot aside, it's one of the best books I've ever read. It's true literature, a singing, lamenting, exhuberant procession of words - nothing random or haphazard about it! - a procession that ascends to the climax to reach the inevitable catharsis, all the way chanting to the reader's soul, praying to the living Word. Truly incredible. Add to that a compelling plot, excellent characters - familiar yet dark and deep and you have a masterpiece, a true masterpiece. I cannot very well express my admiration, sorry.

St. Caffeine said...

I did read The Little Friend and I was oh so disappointed! Part of it may have been my own fault as I had HUGE expectations for the book. Still, I just thought it was dull. I think she tried too hard to write a new Mockingbird rather than doing something original. Anyway, that's my opinion. I ended up donating my copy to the local library.

melusina said...

I liked it for what it was. I mean, I think she does an incredible job of portraying the South, in characters and setting. But I got the feeling throughout the book that she had an idea, maybe had some pressure to come out with the book, and just sort of threw it all together. The ending was really weak. Still, I didn't hate it as much as you did, and my husband isn't liking it too much either.