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Classics

Which "classics" have you read that actually made a strong impression on you, and/or had a significant influence on you? Which do you keep in your library because you truly want to have them at your fingertips to read -- or at least dip into -- again and again?


ETA: Lists are great, folks -- but what I'm really interested in is why and/or how these books touched you in such an important way.

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
wlotus
May. 25th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Jane Eyre. I like the story of Jane and Mr. Rochester and how they ended up together, against all odds. It appealed to my desire to be rescued from an unloving, cold, lonely world by the validating love of another, powerful person.
qos
May. 25th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing.
druidharper
May. 25th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
Define 'classics'?

When you say Classics the authors that pop into my head immediately are people like Vegetius, Tacitus, Agricola, Thucydides, Caesar, Homer and similar folk. Okay, I admit, I'm weird that way. O-o
qos
May. 25th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
LOL!

I was thinking about the books that have been judged "timeless" and appear on lists of "Books Everyone Should Read" and college literature course lists. But anything still in print more than two thousand years later definitely counts!

The Greek tragedians are on my list.

I need to go back and read Homer again. . . .
(Deleted comment)
qos
May. 25th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the list.

Care to elaborate on why or how some or all of those had such an influence or impact?
oakmouse
May. 25th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
This is going to require a post of its own. And, ironically, I've been contemplating such a post, having just finished The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire. I'll try to put that together today.
qos
May. 25th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
Looking forward to it!

athenian_abroad
May. 25th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm...off the top of my head:

Autobiography of John Stuart Mill
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin*
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

And parts of....

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides



------------
* A newcomer to the list, but a keeper, I think. Time will tell.
qos
May. 25th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
We both seem to be on a literary bent this morning. . .

Care to elaborate on why those have had the impact/influence they do?
athenian_abroad
May. 26th, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)
Well....

Autobiography of John Stuart Mill: traces the development of one of the most extraordinary intellects of the 19th century, beginning with an incredibly exacting education at the hands of his father (James Mill, a formidable intellect in his own right), his ensuing depression and recovery (by means of the healing power of poetry, no less), and his adult career as a writer/editor/economist/public intellectual. The Autobiography is also a document of the day-to-day mechanics of the intellectual life of the period -- what did one actually do? (Answer: collaborative study circles...think Bible study groups, but with tomes of political economy instead of epistles and psalms; also, setting up and running lots of little, marginally funded periodicals.)

The Fire Next Time: A recent discovery for me -- as in, I read it last week, but I'm already inclined to add it to my "permanent list." I'm not sure I know how to write about this book yet, other than to say the obvious, that it is about race in America. Except that what it is really about is James Baldwin. That is, the authorial voice and personality, the presence is what makes the book memorable.

Slaughterhouse Five: Vonnegut is the cynics' romantic. And this is his best work. (Though I can see a case for Galapagos, Cat's Cradle, and Bluebeard.)

Breakfast of Champions: More Vonnegut, but for a very specific reason. There is a sort of internal quarrel going on in Vonnegut's novels, and Breakfast of Champions is the only one of his novels that I know of in which this quarrel breaks out into the open. The quarrel is between two competing theories of human nature: the "rubbery test-tube full of chemicals" theory and the "shining beam of light" theory. Vonnegut, as befits the cynics' romantic, alternates between these views depending, approximately, on how depressed he is when he writes a particular chapter. Breakfast is one of the most relentlessly "rubbery test-tube"-centric of Vonnegut's novels...until one of the minor characters (to Vonnegut's surprise, if I recall correctly) pounds on a table and says, "no!" to the whole construct, insisting that it's the artist's job to point out the shining beam of light concealed in the meat-sack.

The Peloponnesian War: I'm going to cheat and link to my own journal on this one.

rocket_jockey
May. 25th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
My classics may be a little off the track from what you have in mind, but...

The Iliad and The Odyssey, by Homer. A good lesson in the price of hubris and the power of cleverness over brawn (even if Odysseus is more like a used-car salesman than a hero).

Principia Mathematica, by Isaac Newton. It proves that a human mind can encompass and describe the foundations of the world.

Autobiography, by Benjamin Franklin. It humanized a larger-than-life figure, and showed that even great geniuses may be both warm and flawed. He didn't even ever finish writing the book!

Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. My introduction to modern verse, and some of te most frankly sensual poetry in two centuries. A poetry class in a book.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Drove home that law and justice and right are not the same.

A World Between, by Norman Spinrad. The destructive power of extremism and narrowness of vision.
(Reply to this)
qos
May. 25th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
I like your list!

I love Leaves of Grass for exactly the same reasons.

Need to read To Kill a Mockingbird again. It's on my shelves, but it's been many years since I've read it.

Will put Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and A World Between on my list. I loved Spinrad's Child of Fortune (it's still on my shelves) and enjoyed and was disturbed by The Void Captain's Tale.
rocket_jockey
May. 26th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
When you read A World Between keep in mind it was meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek-satirical, so the extremists are *really* extreme.
purplevenus
May. 25th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
Wuthering Heights I loved Heathcliff the moment he arrived. She should have married him. I just adored that he was this outcast, brought into society...very much like the Beast.
The Story of O (Obvious)
Lady Chatterley's Lover The first book I ever read wherein the heroine enjoyed sex.
Song of Solomon (The Biblical book, not the Morrison)Just beautiful and touching
Alice in Wonderland I don't know why, exactly. I have read it every year since I was 7.
The Awakening Kate Chopin What an odd story. First book I ever read where someone who "had it all" wanted something different.
Beauty and the Beast, I read every version of this I can get my hands on. I just adore the beast, and watching beauty fall in love with him, well, rather realizing she loves him after all.
_storyteller_
May. 26th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
Ulysses by James Joyce - Simply a facinating read.

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany - One of the most interesting science fiction books I have ever read. The main character is possibly schizophrenic, but you don't know. The book also deals with poly relationships and bisexuality. In addition, it breaks some literary conventions about plot structure and even the definition of a novel. It is the literary equivalent of a M.C. Escher print. Hands down the most difficult book I have ever read.

Gravity's Rainbow - One of the best novels ever written, also has a reputation as being difficult, but it is this very quality that makes it worth while.
"Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death."

The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck (Along with the other two in the trilogy) Nobel prizewinner and one of the books I read in highschool that stayed with me the strongest.

1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm - I like dystopian political fiction, these books are important to our culture and many of the stories that have been told since.

This is all that I can think of tonight.


qos
May. 26th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
You always end up surprising me....
Thanks for sharing these.

I read The Good Earth in junior high or high school. I seem to remember that the last line was to the effect of "O-Lan, you are the earth!" I did not, however, realize that it was part of a trilogy.

Also have read Animal Farm, but that too was a very long time ago.

I should put both Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow on my To-Read list. I've never read Joyce, and I should.
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