Monday, March 5, 2018

How Do We – And Should We - Craft A List Of Classic Books?

If one were looking to craft a list of classic books to read, how would he or she go about putting it together?

The Internet reflects many recommendations, from NetGalley and GoodReads to Amazon and, not to mention school reading lists, best-seller lists, recommendations from friends, family and book clubs.  There are also a variety of lists posted online and in magazines or newspapers.  Which ones should we choose from?

The posts lists from the Learning Channel, English PEN, National Book Awards, and other reputable sources.  You will often see the same titles appear on all of these lists. If one somehow could agree with the experts on the 10 best books of each year, one would be left with the task of reading 4,000 books if they go back to 1618 and Shakespeare’s time.  If you even read two books a week – a brisk pace for the person with a full life – you would need 40 years to get through them.  If you slip to a book a week, we’re looking at 80 years.  If one started at age 15, they’d be 95 upon completing this list.  We may need a better way to target a more compact lists of prized books.

The other problem here is should one only read those books that are deemed by critics, academicians, or even fans as worthy of one’s time – or should we read experimental fiction, poetry, a book by an unknown author, or a book on an obscure topic?

If you compare life itself to reading books, we don’t just go on vacation or have amazing moments.  Most of our days are spent on ordinary, if not simple activities – work, commuting, eating, exercise, chores, chats with friends, researching something, shopping, etc.  We don’t fill our time merely by doing the extraordinary in life – and perhaps we can’t overload on the greats when reading books.  I don’t know.

But, if you were to invest some time into reading books deemed by many in the know as great or significant, consider any or all of these:

Don Quixote                                                   Miguel de Cervantes
The Prince                                                       Niccolo Machiavelli
The Divine Comedy                                        Dante Alighieri
Moby Dick                                                      Herman Melville
Walden                                                            Henry David Thoreau
Uncle Tom’s Cabin                                         Harriet Beecher Stowe
War and Peace                                                 Leo Tolstoy
On Liberty                                                      John Stuart Mill
Communist Manifesto                                    Karl Marx and Friederich Engels
The Republic                                                   Plato
The Odyssey                                                   Homer
The Art of War                                               Sun Zj
Paradise Lost                                                  John Milton
Meditations                                                     Marcus Aurelius
1984                                                                George Orwell
Pride and Prejudice                                         Jane Austen
Les Miserables                                                Victor Hugo
A Tale of Two Cities                                      Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment                                    Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn             Mark Twain
The Raven                                                       Edgar Allan Poe
Catch-22                                                         Joseph Heller
Where the Wild Things Are                            Maurice Sendak
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory                Roald Dahl
The World According to Garp                        John Irving
The Right Stuff                                               Tom Wolfe
The Poems of John Keats                               John Keats
The Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley               Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Book Thief                                               Markus Zusak
The Aeneid                                                     Virgil
The Handmaid’s Tale                                      Margaret Atwood
A Doll’s House                                               Henrik Ibsen
Candide                                                          Voltaire
The History of the Peloponnesian War           Thucydides
Oedipus the King                                            Sophocles
The Metamorphosis                                         Franz Kafka   
Siddhartha                                                      Hermann Hesse
Waiting for Godot                                          Samuel Beckett
The Interpretation of Dreams                         Sigmund Freud
On the Origin of Species                                Charles Darwin
The Wealth of Nations                                    Adam Smith
King Lear                                                        William Shakespeare
The Tale of Genji                                            Murasaki Shikibu
Confessions                                                     Augustine
A Clockwork Orange                                      Anthony Burgess
Breakfast at Tiffany’s                                     Truman Capote
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest                 Ken Kesey
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof                                    Tennessee Williams
Death of a Salesman                                       Arthur Miller
The Stranger                                                    Albert Camus
Lady Chatterley’s Lover                                 D.H. Lawrence
The Turn of the Screw                                    Henry James
The Complete Sherlock Holmes                     Arthur Conan Doyle
Madame Bovary                                             Gustave Flaubert
Don Juan:  A Poem                                         Lord Byron
The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau   Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The Shining                                                     Stephen King
Slaughterhouse-Five                                       Kurt Vonnegut
Lolita                                                               Vladimir Nabokov
Invisible Man                                                  Ralph Ellison
All the King’s Men                                         Robert Penn Warren
The Postman Always Rings Twice                 James M. Cain
Tropic of Cancer                                             Henry Miller
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone     J.K. Rowling
The Color Purple                                            Alice Walker
To Kill a Mockingbird                                    Harper Lee
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest                 Ken Kesey
The Lord of the Rings                                    J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Flies                                             William Golding
The Grapes of Wrath                                      John Steinbeck
The Diary of a Young Girl                              Anne Frank
The Catcher in the Rye                                   J.D. Salinger   
War of the Worlds                                          H.G. Wells
The Count of Monte Cristo                            Alexandre Dumas
Wuthering Heights                                          Emily Bronte
Jane Eyre                                                         Charlotte Bronte
Robinson Crusoe                                             Daniel Defoe
Gulliver’s Travels                                            Jonathan Swift
Frankenstein                                                    Mary Shelley
The Canterbury Tales                                      Geoffrey Chaucer
Hamlet                                                            William Shakespeare
The Poems of Walt Whitman                          Walt Whitman
In Search of Lost Time                                   Marcel Proust
Kama Sutra                                                     Vatsyayana
The Ouran                                                       Various Authors
The Canterbury Tales                                      Geoffrey Chaucer
A Dictionary of the English Language           Samuel Johnson
Common Sense                                               Thomas Paine
A Christmas Carol                                          Charles Dickens
The Age of Innocence                                    Edith Wharton
Out of Africa                                                  Isak Dinesen
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland                Lewis Carroll
Ulysses                                                            James Joyce
The Great Gatsby                                            F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sun Also Rises                                         Ernest Hemingway
Charlotte’s Web                                              E.B. White
On the Road                                                   Jack Kerouac
The Waste Land and Other Poems                 T.S. Eliot        

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource."

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