Friday, May 31, 2013

An English Major Begs for Book Recommendations

I set a goal this year of reading one nonfiction and one fiction book each month.

So far, I think it's going quite well. The goal reminds me to sprinkle all my detective novels and science fiction with the occasional serious read, and I've learned something about a number of interesting topics so far.

However, I'm already looking ahead to next year, and I think I know what my next reading goal needs to be: to read some of those Classics that I've never read.

I don't mean re-reading books I like or that I maybe read not-so-closely in a rush to get them done for school, though that would be another good list. I mean ones that I really have never read before.

My reading history is pretty erratic, and there are some somewhat surprising holes that deserve filling.

So, I'm taking suggestions. What classics do you think are Must Reads?

Here's a brief survey of some of what I have and haven't read:


I feel like I'm fairly well-read here. I've read two or three novels and myriad short stories by both Fitzgerald and Hemingway. My college adviser was a Faulkner scholar, so I've read almost everything he's written. I've read Walden and both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (though nothing else of Twain's save some short stories). I've read a fair amount of Poe.

For being an avid science fiction and fantasy reader, I've read very little of the classic authors--Asimov, Heinlein. Any speculative fiction fans out there who suggest I catch up on any of these?

Who else am I missing on this list? Clearly it's a very short one. Who are your favorite (North) American authors?


Ok, the big guns: I have most of Shakespeare under my belt, with the notable exception of the histories. Should I remedy that? I've read The Canterbury Tales and The Green Knight and most of what's in the Norton Anthology.

I've got a pretty good grounding in the twentieth century playwrights: Beckett, Stoppard, Orton. I've read Joyce though not Ulysses (my alma mater has a big Joyce collection, for some unknown reason).

This may shock you: the only Jane Austen I've read is Pride and Prejudice. What of her others should I read (choosing just one for the purpose of this challenge).

I've read Defoe's Moll Flanders but not Robinson Crusoe. I've read Jane Eyre but not Wuthering Heights. I've read a number of things by Dickens, though I'll admit that when I think of A Tale of Two Cities I mostly think of the Wishbone episode, even though I  had to memorize that famous first paragraph in the ninth grade.

Who are your favorite Brits? What do I neeeeeeed to read?


Maybe I'll lose most of you here, and anyway, I think my German major hit most of the highlights. Though admittedly I never did finish Mann's Joseph und seinen Bruedern, and I really have no excuse because my copy is an English translation.

Would anyone be interested in a German Greatest Hits list? Most things can be found auf Englisch, especially the older stuff. I could do a list on Filme, too, if anyone wanted.


I'll admit it. I've read pretty much none of those people. Tolstoy and his kin. I got halfway through Anna Karenina and abandoned it because my holds on the Twilight novels came in. *ducks and hides from thrown stones*

What of these should I really really read? Should I go back and finish Anna (I would have to start over from the beginning as this was several years ago).

Rest of World

Kafka is Czech but wrote auf Deutsch, so I've read most of his stuff. I even saw a stageplay of Metamorphosis which was the weirdest freaking thing I ever did see. (This is partly because the Freiburg theater company was weird weird weird).

I've read Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being (and loved it). I've read Inferno but not the rest of the Divine Comedy. I've never read The Three Musketeers or Don Quixote (again, do Wishbone episodes count?).

I'd especially like it if anyone has any suggestions of classics from some of the other parts of the world: Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America. I've read a few things here and there but definitely would enjoy more.

Ok. Paring this down to just twelve could be pretty difficult. Which is why I need your help. What are  your favorites, your Must Reads? I know you're a well-read bunch out there. Help!


  1. I remember loving "I, Robot" by Asimov and a few others in his Robot series. :)

    Also, Persuasion is a nice Jane Austin to read after Pride and Prejudice. It has a simple quiet, hardworking heroine who holds all her cards to her chest. As opposed to Lizzie Bennett's brash honesty. :) The ending is delightful.

    And I'm also recommending "Code Name Verity" by Elizabeth Wein. It's recent and will be a classic.

    Ta ta now! (Your husband's random coworker and your blogstaulker)

    1. Thanks, Christi! I think I'll add the Wein book to my list now.

      I don't remember if I've ever actually read I, Robot or not. I think I maybe did. I might have to start it and see if it sounds familiar. It might also just be one of those books that is so often referenced in other works that it feels like you've read it, even though you haven't.

      Thanks for the vote on the Jane Austen front. ;-)