Books: Catching Up On Classics

We all know we should read more, and for a combined sense of FOMO (Fear of missing out) and day to day cultural references to literature classics just make me want to read every classic story out there so I know what people are talking about.  Spending so much time the past year practically removed any and all excuses not to do that and catch-up on my English literature gaps.  So the first half of this year I made the attempt of catching up on classics here are the 7 I was able to get through.  I have a stack of 5 more to finish up, hopefully before year’s end…hopefully!

A Brave New World (by: Aldous Huxley) – A future in which an “ideal” society has developed, controlled by a number of concepts including genetic engineering, indoctrination, and drugs.  Seemingly alone in his scepticism of this new society, the psychologist Bernard Marx (who is categorized in this new society as an Alpha Plus), begins to voice critical opinions about this new world.  I find this book a good read, and although I read this in high school, going through it again gave me a new found appreciation of it, especially seeing some parallels with our current society’s perception (some things not everything).  Not a long read and the language is fairly easy – this story had an impact on me way after I read it.  Watching the British series afterwards (despite some difference) further enhanced it in my mind, but read the book first! 

Three Men in a Boat (by: Jerome K. Jerome) – When three young men ser out on a boating trip down the River Thames in England, along with their fox-terrier, the go through various adventures and mishaps along the way.  Has some great classic funny moments that are still hilarious today, despite the fact that it was first published in 1889 (and has never since been out of print).  Some great visual description of places along the river that still exist today – some still unchanged – part travel guide book, part comedic gold.  Some parts may drag out a bit, however overall an easy read and an entertaining one at that.

Tale of Two Cities (by: Charles Dickens) – A big classic book here written in 1859.  It moves between the two cities of Paris and London, set before and during the French Revolution.  The struggle between the different classes in France and how the hatred between the two threatens to destroy the happiness of an exiled French noble called Charles Darnay.  When he risks death by returning to Paris, his friend and barrister Sydney Carton promises to sacrifice his life for his.  I might get death threats but this book didn’t do it for me.  It was a long heavy read and I found myself looking online for explanations and translations to get through it.  The story line is great but the language and the length really weighed it down in my mind.  However going through it I still have an appreciation of the work.

The Prophet (by: Khalil Gibran) – This beautiful book about life is uncomplicated in it s wisdom and the simple description speaks directly to the reader.  It was almost a very meditative experience reading this book.  Centred around the story of a prophet who is leaving a country he is exiled in, but before doing so imparting his wisdom on a number of life’s major pillars.  A short read, but very profound – I find myself quoting it regularly and will continue to do so due to it’s sustaining relevancy to my day to day.

The Diary of a Nobody (by: George and Weedon Grossmith) – This is another comic masterpiece which made me laugh out loud in many places through the book.  About an accident prone man who lives in a house in London.  Written in a diary format from the character’s point of view, it is a catalogue of his trivial victories and hilarious disasters.  With his dry jokes, hapless attempts at renovations, and arguments with his son, his jokes are still relatable and fun to read.

Animal Farm (by: George Orwell) – This is a great short read but one that throws a big punch.  Set in “Manor farm”, there is a revolution in the air after old Major, a prize boar, tells the other animals about his dream of freedom and teaches them to sing “Beasts of England”.  Mt. Jones, the drunken farmer, is deposed and a committee of pigs takes over the running of the farm.  The animals are taught to read and write, but as the dream take a dark turn as the oppressed begin to act like the oppressors before them.  The political tones are obvious and clear – and makes this a still relevant read that applies equally to any form of government.  Well written, and expressive making this a very entertaining read – highly recommend it. 

Frankenstein (by: Mary Shelley) – With the intent of creating a “perfect living being”, scientist victor Frankenstein secretly assembles a collection of body parts and activates it with an electrical charge.  The result is horrifying – even to the Dr. himself – the “monster” is never named.  He escapes the lab and searches in vain for friendship, desperate for any type of personal connection.  Unsuccessful, he returns to Frankenstein, and demands a partner as his right.  But the Dr. after making the promise decides to destroy her.  A surprisingly emotional storyline with some very horrifying scenes (even for an avid horror movie watcher who is used to seeing all sorts of things).  One of the first sci-fi come horror story, it still holds its own and is a definite recommendation.

Classic Tales of Horror (by: Edgar Allan Poe) – This is a collection of some truly gruesome stories even for our modern and contemporary sensibilities.  The language can be arduous and I do recommend reading a simplified translation before you go through the more colourful original language, it makes it that much more pleasurable.  Themes of guilt, fear and revenge make each short story a stand alone, making the collective variety a great group of mood-driven and detail oriented pieces of story telling.


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