After some time off from writing (part laziness part busy-ness) I feel like this week’s The Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday topic of favourite classics is one of my favourites. I have read many many books that I read over and over again, though some of them I don’t know how well they’d fit into that “classics” canon, unless there’s something about Meg Cabot that I’ve missed! The books below are special to me; I read them as annual events, to cheer me up, to inspire me, to remind me that anything is possible.
- Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
Controversial subject matter aside, this book is possibly the most well written story I have ever read. Nabokov eloquently paints such an elegant picture of his characters that you really can’t help but sympathise with them. I recently watched the Kubrick movie version of Lolita, and while there would always be differences between books and their movie adaptations, I felt that the main thing missing from the film was that almost unconscious positioning of the reader/viewer. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that Nabokov was not a native English speaker when he wrote Lolita. Absolutely remarkable.
- The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
The impetus for the Middle Earth epics, and hence the starting point for arguably all great fantasy writers now. If there was no Middle Earth, there would be no Westeros, no Hogwarts, no Camp Half Blood, and many many others. As a sometimes teacher, whenever students ask me for a book to read this is the one I always recommend, and to my abject horror so many of them think that because they have seen the movies that they don’t need to read the book. Kids these days. (aaand I cannot believe that actually just came out of my mouth/typing fingers!) I read The Hobbit along with The Lord of the Rings annually, usually around Christmas time.
- Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
What always amazes me about this story is that besides the fact that Shelley wrote about the conflict of man playing God and the inherent religious undertones in science centuries before the issue was so prevalent, but that she did so at the age of 18. EIGHTEEN years old, and she wrote such a highly influential piece of literature. Whenever I am feeling uninspired or unmotivated, I sometimes think of Mary Shelley and think to myself, “hey, if she can write an incredible story at the age of 18 in the nineteenth century, you can do anything.” I remember reading this book in high school English Lit class and being so captivated by the doctor’s internal struggles. I think that for as much as the plot is about the doctor creating his monster,it’s also a really intriguing look at how he has a monster within him too – not a Jekyll and Hyde one but one in the sense that he internally is in conflict with himself over his actions and what they have done to his life. And for the record, I barely control the impulse to slap anyone in the face who tries to tell me “No, the monster is called Frankenstein.”
- Blinky Bill – Dorothy Wall
If you are an Australian young adult, I believe it is absolutely criminal if you have not read this book. I used to borrow the illustrated edition from my local library over and over again, and I still really enjoy reading it. The TV show is also a classic in my eyes, but this is the book that I will probably first give to my own children.
- To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
I was reading a Flavorwire article the other day about one hit wonder authors, and even though I knew Lee only wrote one novel, I was surprised to see her on their list. To me, one hit wonder sort of signifies having only one success among a multitude of failures, which I don’t think anyone would seriously associate with Ms Lee. Mockingbird is a phenomenal book which helped me to better understand the context and events associated with the content. Not being an African American but still identifying with the culture as I do, it’s always a really interesting read for me, and I absolutely love Scout as narrator. I think the choice to view the story through a child’s eyes helps to highlight the brutality and (to me anyway) senseless actions that wake place.
- And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
One of the only books that I actually can’t read if I’m alone, or without all the lights on in my house. This story gives me chills every time I read it; it’s a remarkable thriller for the way that it still surprises me even though I’ve read it countless times. This is the Agatha that I recommend when asked, above any Poirot or Marple (though for those I would recommend Death on the Nile/Card on the Table and Nemesis).
- Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
I would like to state for the record that I read this book well before Twilight. I actually get a little angry when I see the two associated with each other, but that has more to do with my sometimes disdain for Twilight. I know that WH does get angsty at times, and Cathy certainly is not my favourite romantic heroine, but there is something about the intensity and depth of the story, the characters and the moors that always pulls me in. And having read Jane Eyre not too long ago, I definitely think that this is the best Bronte book.
- The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
I once gave this book as a present to someone with an inscription about how it changed my life. Gatsby for me is not just about the decadence and the facade of it, but also the loss of innocence and discovering the need to grow up, in the face of seeing someone fighting against that current. I think that is a lesson that I always carry with me, and that I always try to learn from (however successful I may be). But I really love this book for all the superficialness to it too, and I am always really compelled by Nick, despise Daisy and wish with all my heart that Jay would move on, every single time I read it.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
By far my favourite Shakespeare to read, perform and see performed. I first read this play in high school, and memorised the start of Act Two for a scene we had to perform (“How now spirit, whither wonder you?”). I got to teach this play to two classes of year nines last year and had one of my favourite Shakespeare moments every in reciting the scene to the amazement of those girls. AMND was their first Shakespeare, and I think that it’s a good first one to do because there’s a reason for the language to be as creative and elaborate – fairies. I love this play so much, and I adore Shakespeare and I could probably talk about it all for much, much, MUCH longer!
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
My love for this book (and its author) has already been expressed many times; here, here and here.
What are some of your favourite classics? I tend to have a huge hole in my pop culture knowledge (for example, I only saw Mary Poppins for the first time last year and I have never watched Breaking Bad, and I think I am on the cusp of refusing to read any John Green)so any suggestions are most welcome!