Hey all, Dani here.
Happy Thursday everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US. Also, welcome back to another post in my series of book recommendations. We have made it to a topic that I haven’t really read much of the past couple years, at least by my definition of the term. Anyway, let’s get started.
First of all, when it comes to books, how do we define what is and is not a classic? Technically speaking, from a literary standpoint, a classic is a book that is generally accepted as noteworthy or exemplary. But the definition of a classic has shifted and evolved and been reassessed many times over the years. Some say that a classic is something we assume everyone has read. Others have said that classics are books that people want to say they have read, but they actually don’t want to read.
For those of us who have taken many literature courses in school, classics probably defined our existences for a while. We read them, discussed them, watched adaptations of them, analyzed them, compared them to other works of the time…and just when we thought we were done, we’d have to do it all over again with another book, another story, another poem, or just another class. I enjoyed about 95% of my assigned reading in college, and I’ve kept all of my literature textbooks in case I want to reread anything.
So, while this list could probably include some more recently published books that I could suggest as modern classics, for the moment I’m going to stick to some of my favorite literary classics from 30ish years ago or more. Basically nothing that has come out in my lifetime.
All right, let’s get started.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Obviously I have to start my list here. This book is still taught in a large number of schools. It has also made it on the banned books list many times. But obviously the issues of race contained within this book are still relevant today. Maybe we’d be a better society if we took the advice of understanding someone by walking a mile in their shoes.
1984 by George Orwell. Of course, Animal Farm could just as easily be on this list. Honestly, I think the portrayal of governments, politics, and power in these books are what makes them so important and relevant. Actually, I haven’t read either in quite some time. I think I’m very overdue for a reread.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding. On the other side of things, I think this book is important because of what it shows about not having proper rules of society, or technically not having consequences or punishments for wrongdoing. I remember reading this one back in school and then watching an old VHS film version of it. I think the movie was in black and white too. But it’s a story that sticks with you.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This series was obviously a big part of my childhood, and I desperately need a reread of them all because it has been far too long. I loved visiting Narnia, even with the obvious issues and turmoil in the land. Plus they were just fun adventure stories. And how many of us started exploring every closet/wardrobe we came across in the hopes that the path to Narnia would reveal itself? I know I did.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. A classic staple of childhood, the tale of spider Charlotte and Wilbur the pig. Despite being two completely different creatures, it is clear that they looked out for one another and helped each other. This is another story I need to reread. Thank goodness I can just buy a copy and read it before donating it to my boyfriend’s little niece’s library collection. She may only be 5 months old, but I’ve made sure that she will have a good collection of books to appreciate for years to come. This will have to be one of them.
The Odyssey by Homer. I have to include this one. Come on, Odysseus has the longest trip ever trying to get back home, but he doesn’t give up. And he has to face a number of hurdles and roadblocks along the way. Patience and determination and perseverance can really help a person survive though. And hey, this is about as classic as you can get with a story.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. How could I not include this book? I have had to read it a couple times for school and it is such a valuable read. There are so many issues covered in this book, and you can’t help but connect with Celie and hope for her to keep fighting and to find a better life for herself.
Matilda by Roald Dahl. This is about as close to my personal restrictions as you can get. Technically this book was released in 1988, which also happens to be the year I was born. I said I was just going to limit myself by not having books from my lifetime..but this is Matilda. It is the classic tale of an adorable bookworm who faces neglect and bullying and still manages to handle it all in a really cool way. How could I not recommend my favorite reader from literature?
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Another staple of my childhood. I don’t know how many times I read this book over the years, partly due to my obsession for horses. This book is important for its treatment of animals. Black Beauty is good to the people who are good to him, but does not do so well with those who are cruel or neglectful. And yet even when in not so good conditions, Black Beauty trudges on, and eventually things do get better.
Okay, so I have a few others that aren’t quite high enough on my list to be full recommendations, but I still feel that they are worth mentioning.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. It may be obvious by now that I rather liked books with animals in them. This tale of a boy and his two hunting dogs has really stuck with me, but not in the way to where I could rattle off the details or events of the story. It’s more what I recall feeling when I read it. But I still think it’s a worthwhile read.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. This book did not make the list for one reason only–it was published in 1989. However, I read this book in 4th or 5th grade and it has stuck with me ever since. The tale of two girls, one who is Jewish while the other girl’s family is protecting her, during WWII was something that has been cemented in my mind for the past two decades. I definitely recommend this book. It isn’t very long, but I still think it’s important.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin. I had to include this one. I just think reading the classics of fantasy and science fiction can be truly beneficial to us in the modern day. Plus following around Ged as he learns magic and gets into all sorts of trouble and adventure is just rather entertaining.
Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Okay, yeah, another obsession of my childhood. I loved the family dynamics in this series, and I don’t feel like we see that as much at all in books. It’s sad how often a YA or MG book will just push parents etc into the background as if they don’t play a role in the lives of children and teens.
Anyway, those are just a few classic recommendations. I’m sure I could list off a whole lot more though. Notice how I did not include any Austen or Shakespeare, Doyle or Poe, or so many other authors we accept as being classic.
What about you guys? Do you have any classic books you’d like to add to my list? Let me know in the comments.