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Pulp => Pulp Discussion => Topic started by: clemsonfan on March 03, 2009, 04:49:27 PM

Title: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: clemsonfan on March 03, 2009, 04:49:27 PM
I was hoping to learn Spanish this summer with Rosetta Stone, but since we don't have several hundred dollars to spend on my spanish lessons, I guess I will have to find another project for myself this summer. In an effort to become a well read person, I have decided to read classics this summer. So that's where you guys come in.

Ok, here it goes: Recommend to me a classic book to read this summer. Don't just post a list of books, really think about it. And only recommend a maximum of 3 books. I don't want to be overwhelmed, so that's why I'm attempting to limit the recommendations per person. Also, please give me a brief reason why you are recommending the book. Tell me why I should read it.

Here is a brief list of "classics" that I have already read: (you might recognize these from a BBC list meme)
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Bible
Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: whigsgeek on March 03, 2009, 05:10:26 PM
CF, what types of books do you typically like to read? For example, did you enjoy Dickens when you read it, or was it torture for you? This will help in knowing what to recommend.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: clemsonfan on March 03, 2009, 05:35:23 PM
I really hated Dickens and Shakespeare. I didn't mind Fitzgerald or Hemingway (I read A Farewell To Arms and The Old Man and the Sea. I really enjoyed Brave New World.

Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Dan on March 03, 2009, 05:38:20 PM
I'm going to recommend a classic - but it's a classic from a certain viewpoint.

Jim Bouton - Ball Four

I recommend this b/c it's the funniest book I've ever read, it's about baseball, and it's the only book I've read more than 3 times. It is on the surface about baseball, but when you really look at it it's about humanity. Hopes and dreams. Times of change. Growth. Understanding. Love and hate. And many other wondrously qualities of life that we all go through.

"Classic" is definable in many ways, and some might argue it's not a classic, but it changed the world when it came out and that's a pretty good way to start the conversation. Much of what it speaks about that was controversial then is no longer controversial (i.e. Mickey Mantle was a huge drunk... we all know that now, but in 1970 this was blasphemy), but much of it amazingly still relevant.

This wouldn't be in any BBC list of classics, but then again I don't see why anything by Dan Brown should be included, either.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: rva on March 03, 2009, 05:57:42 PM
I'll give you three from the Time 100:

Book:  The Moviegoer by Percy Walker

Pragmatic reasons to read:  It's short and it's pretty easy read; not a whole lot of big word descriptions of stuff and a fairly straightforward if modest plot.

"Literary" reasons to read it:  Because it's everything the over-hyped and more widely read "Confederacy of Dunces" isn't.  Namely, a book that really captures New Orleans through the eyes of a loner/loser.  As opposed to an endless series of fat guy jokes.

---

Book:  The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Pragmatic reasons to read:  Do you want a book with a real thrilling plot and good pacing?  A book with real men doing real men things?  Or would you rather wade through a sprawling novel of passive aggressive class warfare about English men in boarding schools who carry teddy bears and may or may not be gay but are certainly wussy as crap?

"Literary" reason to read:  It's basically the creme de la creme of mystery-noir.  You read this one, then you pretty much understand the whole genre that spawned all the Bogey films and hard-boiled detectives and LA Confidential and whatnot.  They're all riffs off this one, and the bonus is that Big Sleep isn't gross with a lot of blood and sex like it's followers.  It's like being able to listen to one jazz record or one blues record and then not having to ever listen to any others because you get it and either you like the style or you don't.

---

Book:  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Pragmatic reason to read it:  White liberal guilt.  Now you don't have to feel like a culturally insensitive ass because you've read a seminal work of and African-American woman!

"Literary" reason to read it:  Quite frankly, I think this book sucks ass.  It's a book about a stupid person surrounded by stupid people making stupid decisions living in a stupid time.  But you know-- the stupid decisions were made out of love.  And the protagonist endures.  So if you like that kinda thing, this is the book for you.  It's a lot shorter than Gone with The Wind, that's for damn sure.

Easy books on the list to pick off:

Crying of Lot 49-- It's really short.  It's also kind of stupid and boring, but you could probably easily finish it in one night.

Watchmen-- Graphic novel, so not a whole lot of text to wade through.  Another one that can be finished in one night.  I love it, but it's kind of a comic geek/guy/existentialist thing so it's gonna leave a lot of people cold.

Deliverance-- It's pretty much like Stephen King where you can blow right through it.  Except only 1/2 as long as a King book.  Honestly, I have no idea what's so good about this book.  James Dickey's poetry, yeah.  That's some amazing stuff.  This is just kind of standard horror fare.

The Catcher in the Rye--  Another short one.  Like a lot of young men, I thought this book was the nuts when I read it.  And I still kinda like it, but it's very much a book for gloomy young male teenagers.  I don't know that I'd dig it so much if I read it today, and I kinda doubt I'd like at all if I were an adult female.  

On the Road--  I hated this book.  I thought Dean Moriarty was kind of an annoying dick, and it's like so obvious that Jack Kerouac really, really, wishes he were Moriarity and that sort of fawning crush bleeds through the whole book.  What does it say about a guy when he spends his real life trying to live like a fake character in his own book, and only ends up being a pale imitation?  Kerouac did at least get the "annoying dick" part right.  Nonetheless, it's a pretty easy read.

A Clockwork Orange--  Another very short book, but you can pick off two birds with one stone by familiarizing yourself with a classic book AND a classic movie at the same time if you just watch the Kubrick film.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: va-vacious on March 03, 2009, 06:05:04 PM
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
I re-read this book for at least the fourth time this weekend.  It's a fairly new novel, but it is excellent.  Lots of puns, interesting story.  It is fantasy- based, but since you have HP on your read list, I think you'll appreciate it.  The main character is Thursday Next, and she is a Litera-Tec: a book detective. Essentially, someone has stolen Jane Eyre, and Thursday has to get her (and thus the book) back.
I like the puns and how the story is so well woven that elements from the beginning of the story are crucial to the end of it.  And did I mention I liked the puns?

Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold
Non-fiction, and was written in the '50s. It's a great description of life in Wisconsin. (I think it's Wisc., I haven't read it in awhile) A natural history book that traces the year and what happens ecologically in Sand County.  Sadly, Leopold was killed in a prairie fire soon after writing this book. The pace is smooth and relaxing, and the descriptions of the plants and animals are quite lyrical.  It's a short read, maybe 150 pages.

I'll have to think of a third.
OK, these aren't classics in the truest sense, but they are good!
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: kcneon on March 03, 2009, 06:17:43 PM
On the Road-- ...Kerouac did at least get the "annoying dick" part right.  Nonetheless, it's a pretty easy read.

So true, so true.  I hated that book, too!

Suggestion 1:  Graham Greene.  There are a few common threads to all his books.  Offhand I would say he writes about human shortcomings and vulnerabilities.  I think Monsignor Quixote is a great starter even though it was one of the last books he authored.  It parallels Don Quixote (which is another good classic) which even if you haven't read Cervantes' book it would still make sense.  We've all heard about chasing after windmills and such.

Suggestion 2:  Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo - it's a classic I can read over and over again filled with adventure and intrigue.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Buzzstein on March 03, 2009, 07:15:37 PM
Wait, The Da Vinci Code is a classic? I don't know about that...
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Rafe on March 03, 2009, 07:41:54 PM
I had a long post typed out when suddenly my PC died on me again. One of the three reads I had thought to suggest from those lost ramblings is this one:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It's very short and extremely moving. One of the greatest (and bravest) novels ever written. It's set in a Soviet Gulag at the time of Stalin and is about, well, a day in the life of one of the men incarcerated there. I've read this book about once every 18 months or so since I was 14.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: clemsonfan on March 03, 2009, 07:52:20 PM
Wait, The Da Vinci Code is a classic? I don't know about that...

Yeah, I don't really consider it a classic either. I just basically got it from a meme list.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: whigsgeek on March 03, 2009, 08:33:58 PM
Okay, here's my first recommendation ...

1. God’s Bits of Wood, Sembene Ousmane (245 pages)

Of all the college courses I’ve taken, the very best was African Literature. Every book we read was fantastic, but God’s Bits of Wood was my favorite of the bunch. In this novel (his third), Ousmane writes about western African railway workers who go on strike after WWII. (“Gods Bits of Wood” are what the African women call their newborn babies.)

The women in the story are strong---they keep everything together (the families, etc.) in the face of tremendous hardship and political unrest. They’re the lifeblood of the story, and one of the main reasons to read it.

Ousmane’s writing is lyrical. He strikes a wonderful balance between setting political context and creating rich, vivid characters that retain such dignity in the face of cruelty at the hands of the French colonials. Really powerful stuff.

I didn’t have enough money to buy textbooks my last semester of college; I either borrowed books from classmates, got them from the library, or relied on lecture notes. (I learned to take impeccable lecture notes.) As soon as I had a real job after graduation, one of the first things I did was buy this book. That’s how good it is. (IMHO  :))
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: trixi on March 03, 2009, 10:17:27 PM
CF,

Just to keep the Spanish in mind, you can get language instruction dvds and cds at your local library.  :)
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Dan on March 03, 2009, 10:17:55 PM
This thread makes me want to read.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: clemsonfan on March 04, 2009, 06:12:09 AM
Butter and I were talking last night about the books we had to read in high school. It was so weird that we pretty much read none of the same books. Well, there is one book I read in 9th or 10th grade that I cannot remember the title of. Let's see if any of you can help me.

It was by an American author (cannot remember the name). It was about an all boys high school (boarding school) or college. And it dealt with one of the World Wars. That's all I got.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: frizgolf on March 04, 2009, 07:35:44 AM
I got a lot of historical perspective on war, civilization, and migration patterns from Guns, Germs And Steel by Jared Diamond.
Kinda explains why Europe wound up the center of power over the centuries (millennia, really) and why class struggle is a kinda built-in defense mechanism for humans. I really think it should be standard reading for anyone who wants to understand why peoples of the world some times have trouble getting along. It describes how weapons, industry, crop cultivation, weather patterns, and diseases shaped the settlement of the planet.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Butter on March 04, 2009, 07:37:08 AM
The Catcher in the Rye--  Another short one.  Like a lot of young men, I thought this book was the nuts when I read it.  And I still kinda like it, but it's very much a book for gloomy young male teenagers.  I don't know that I'd dig it so much if I read it today, and I kinda doubt I'd like at all if I were an adult female.  

I read this for the first time about 3 years ago.  I hated it, probably because I wasn't 17 at the time I read it.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Butter on March 04, 2009, 07:38:47 AM
One we didn't talk about that I'd recommend openly is Night by Elie Wiesel.  I think you may have already read this before, because I think we have talked about it before.  But if you haven't, it's short and incredibly moving.  It would also meet any Holocaust requirements that your list should have.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Butter on March 04, 2009, 07:41:04 AM
Jim Bouton - Ball Four

There's no way in hell she's going to read a baseball book.

See, this is reverse psychology... let's see if it works!
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Kwyjibo on March 04, 2009, 07:52:36 AM
Butter and I were talking last night about the books we had to read in high school. It was so weird that we pretty much read none of the same books. Well, there is one book I read in 9th or 10th grade that I cannot remember the title of. Let's see if any of you can help me.

It was by an American author (cannot remember the name). It was about an all boys high school (boarding school) or college. And it dealt with one of the World Wars. That's all I got.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles?  I hated that stupid book.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: whigsgeek on March 04, 2009, 08:51:54 AM
CF, was it Another Country by James Baldwin?
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Juliana on March 04, 2009, 11:22:13 AM
Butter and I were talking last night about the books we had to read in high school. It was so weird that we pretty much read none of the same books.

Yeah, Kwyj and I found the same thing to be true.  He didn't even have to read To Kill a Mockingbird.  What the heck?

I'll throw in both Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn.  If you haven't read them, you really should.  You've probably already read it (since you're from the South and all), but Gone With the Wind really is a great read.  I'm throwing these in because they do show a different slice of American life in the pre and in the case of GWTW post Civil War era.  TS & HF are both billed as "young adult" books, but that's not a bad thing, and honestly a lot of what's in them is pretty heavy stuff.  Especially Huck Finn.

Also, if you dug the Anne of Greene Gables stuff, there are like 8 books in the series.  They go with Anne into adulthood.  I LOVED those books.  She also wrote a couple of other series (can't think of the names), but they were just like Anne but slightly different.  I think the Anne books really captured what it was like to grow up as a young woman in that era.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Dan on March 04, 2009, 11:30:04 AM
Jim Bouton - Ball Four

There's no way in hell she's going to read a baseball book.

But it's not a baseball book. It's a book about humanity. :)
Of course, it helps if you understand what ERA means and all that, but still.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Kwyjibo on March 04, 2009, 11:44:58 AM
The Little House on the Prairie series really can't be beat for showcasing what it was like to live on the frontier.  There's like 8 of those though.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: clemsonfan on March 04, 2009, 12:20:10 PM
Butter and I were talking last night about the books we had to read in high school. It was so weird that we pretty much read none of the same books. Well, there is one book I read in 9th or 10th grade that I cannot remember the title of. Let's see if any of you can help me.

It was by an American author (cannot remember the name). It was about an all boys high school (boarding school) or college. And it dealt with one of the World Wars. That's all I got.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles?  I hated that stupid book.

Yes!
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: clemsonfan on March 04, 2009, 12:23:18 PM


Yeah, Kwyj and I found the same thing to be true.  He didn't even have to read To Kill a Mockingbird.  What the heck?

I'll throw in both Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn.  If you haven't read them, you really should.  You've probably already read it (since you're from the South and all), but Gone With the Wind really is a great read.  I'm throwing these in because they do show a different slice of American life in the pre and in the case of GWTW post Civil War era.  TS & HF are both billed as "young adult" books, but that's not a bad thing, and honestly a lot of what's in them is pretty heavy stuff.  Especially Huck Finn.

Also, if you dug the Anne of Greene Gables stuff, there are like 8 books in the series.  They go with Anne into adulthood.  I LOVED those books.  She also wrote a couple of other series (can't think of the names), but they were just like Anne but slightly different.  I think the Anne books really captured what it was like to grow up as a young woman in that era.

Yeah, I read Tom Sawyer. Maybe I'll try some more Anne stuff.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Buzzstein on March 04, 2009, 06:31:01 PM
I would recommend something by Ray Bradbury.  I do believe he's my favorite author.  If you liked 1984 definitely read Fahrenheit 451.  It's not my favorite Bradbury novel, but I enjoyed it and it's one of those sci-fi classics that everyone should read at some point or another.  My favorite by him so far is The Martian Chronicles though.  It's a series of related stories about the destruction of earth and the human colonization of Mars. 

The thing I like most about Bradbury is his nostalgic tendencies.  He knows how to make you feel wistful for times gone by.  He can also be really twisted and dark though.  There's kind of a huge contrast between those two things but he does both very well.  I think the best example of his two opposing tendencies is Something Wicked This Way Comes.  It's a really cool combination of nostalgia and horror.  I also like it when he gets on a semi free flow stream of consciousness kick.  And the dude loves books.  I know that sounds like a funny thing to say because duh, the dude is a writer, but it's true.  He makes a lot of references to literature in his novels.  Anywaay I recommend you read Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles before you try any of his other works.  If you like those two novels you will probably like the rest of his stuff.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: redbobsled on March 04, 2009, 09:02:42 PM

It was by an American author (cannot remember the name). It was about an all boys high school (boarding school) or college. And it dealt with one of the World Wars. That's all I got.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles?
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: va-vacious on March 04, 2009, 09:37:02 PM
Ooh! Fahrenheit 451 is good.

My favorite Anne of GG is Anne of Windy Poplars.  And another good one (different!) by LM Montgomery is The Blue Castle. 

Watership Down was another of those high school books.  We were required to read so many books beyond the regular literature for English. My teacher kept insisting I read it, but I didn't want to (It's about rabbits, who cares?  right?) Eventually, she refused to accept any of my readings until I read that book.  Turned out I really liked it.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Kwyjibo on March 04, 2009, 10:37:31 PM

It was by an American author (cannot remember the name). It was about an all boys high school (boarding school) or college. And it dealt with one of the World Wars. That's all I got.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles?

Check three posts up.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Dan on March 12, 2009, 03:26:40 PM
I also really liked John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie." I mean, Steinbeck is an important author and if you want his famous stuff you'd go with "Grapes of Wrath" or "Of Mice and Men." So TwC isn't exactly his most important, but I really liked how he just got in a truck with his dog and traveled across the country. It's a simple enough concept but very accessible and done with fantastic observations about people.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: cuddlyevil on March 12, 2009, 03:45:31 PM
Buzz should also add "Something wicked this way comes" to his Bradybury list.

 "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck. It's a bit shorter and a little simpler than some of his other stories.



Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: rva on March 12, 2009, 06:53:23 PM
I think even people who've read "Travels with Charley" should go back and re-read it.  Because you know what puts that book in an entirely different context and makes it really, really awesome?

He was dying when he wrote it, and he knew it.  That's why he took the trip.
Title: Re: Recommend me a classic this summer
Post by: Dan on March 13, 2009, 01:33:41 PM
Whoa, really? Didn't ever realize that. Of course, I was in like 9th grade when I read it, but still. That's ... powerful.