Discussion Forums - Classic Literature

Topic: Compile "Best of" List

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Compile "Best of" List
Date Posted: 10/16/2010 11:54 PM ET
Member Since: 10/16/2010
Posts: 2
Back To Top

Although I like to think of myself as pretty well read, there are lots of authors I've never read (or only read a story in an anthology). Is anyone interested in compiling a "best of" list for prolific authors? For example, which is the best novel by Trollope, Laurence Sterne, Balzac, Thackery, Maugham, Thomas Mann, Hardy, Cather? Anyone care to add to the list? Weigh in? Thanks!

Date Posted: 10/17/2010 12:23 AM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2009
Posts: 482
Back To Top

Great idea, Leslie!

Date Posted: 10/17/2010 6:32 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
Back To Top

Leslie:  I've kept a list of the books I've read in the last several years, and there are so many great works of literature out there that there are only a dozen  or so writers of whose works I have read multiples.    And even among these, I would hate to have to select the "best" novel of one of them.  For instance, what is Thomas Hardy's 'best' novel?  Is it Far from the Madding Crowd. or Tess of the D'Urbervilles or The Return of the Native, or The Mayor of Casterbridge. or what?  Same problem with George Eliot, or  Willa Cather, or Margaret Atwood, or Edith Wharton, and so many others. 

I would be willing, though, to list Vanity Fair as William Makepeace Thackery's 'best' book (I don't envision reading anything else of his (at least not at the present time).  I would probably go along with the majority opinion as to which of Sinclair Lewis's novels should be called his 'best' work-----Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer GantryDodsworth, or Arrowsmith.  (I read It Can't Happen Here, about how some home-grown fascists take over the USA and mold it into the Corporate State. but that is a polemical novel and NOT Lewis's best work.)

Margaret Atwood is a prolific novelist, and I haven't read her latest books.  But I did advise some fellow readers that, if they were  only going to read ONE of her books, to make it Cat's Eye.  I suppose I'd have to read her last four novels to see if I would stick by that same recommendation.

With Harper Lee, it's easy, since she only wrote that one book, To Kill a Mockingbird.    Ditto with  Margaret Mitchell, and Gone With the Wind.

Face it, someone is going to quarrel with any list anyone puts together!    But you will get some excellent advice from some of the participants in this Forum.  Good luck (and don't forget authors from other countries besides Anglophone ones.)  

 

.



Last Edited on: 12/30/11 4:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 10/24/2010 2:22 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,443
Back To Top

Anything like this is fun. Are we talking about a personal list or something we put together as sort of a group project?

Subject: Compile "Best of" List
Date Posted: 10/24/2010 10:20 PM ET
Member Since: 10/16/2010
Posts: 2
Back To Top

I'd welcome group input! I had the bad luck, in one semester of college to be introduced to a number of authors for the first time with what I later came to think of as the "Worst of" their work and it turned me off of them for decades. Not until I read a fe of their better books later could I put things in perspective.  I'm motivated to read the authors cited in my first posting, but don't want to succumb to the same fate. (For the curious, the "Worst of" books I slogged through that semester were: Parade's End by Ford Maddox Ford, Jude the Obscure by Hardy, The Blithedale Romance by Hawthorne, and The Golden Bowl by Henry James.)  To kick things off, my "Best of" vote goes to: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, Sense and Sensibility by Austen, The Idiot by Dostoyevsky. Looking forward to hearing from readers of Maugham, Mann, Samuel Richardson, etc. Can I add the prolific Wilkie Collins to the list?

Date Posted: 10/25/2010 3:09 PM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
Back To Top

Maugham is my favorite. If I was to give a best of list this is who I would nominate:

  • "The Razor's Edge" by W. Somerset Maugham
  • "The Ponder Heart" by Eudora Welty
  • "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck
Date Posted: 10/26/2010 12:01 AM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,443
Back To Top

Of books with what I regard as "classic" credentials, my short list for best cures for insomnia:

Tristram Shandy   ---- Laurence Sterne

Pamela                   ---  Samuel Richardson

Anything by Henry James

An American Tragedy   ---  Theodore Dreiser

The Tin Drum       ---    Gunter Grass

Date Posted: 10/26/2010 6:52 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
Back To Top

Oh, Leslie, what a nasty thing to have happened in that fateful semester in the college  English Department!  

You poor dear . . .if it just had to be Ford Madox Ford,  why couldn't it at least have been his The Good Soldier

(Personally, after reading THAT one, I was pretty discombobulated.  In fact, I have never figured out how to assess Ford)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    it,



Last Edited on: 10/26/10 6:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 10/29/2010 3:49 AM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
Back To Top

I love this idea! I have to start thinking. . .

                                                       Rose

Date Posted: 11/2/2010 9:47 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2006
Posts: 314
Back To Top

Okay, I will come clean: I've never read more than one novel by Joyce Carol Oates (100 books in 45 years) or John Updike (60 or books in 50 years, plus poetry), so I won't judge. But I've read enough of the following to venture:

W. Somerset Maugham: I'd go with The Razor's Edge over Of Human Bondage.

Balzac: Pere Goriot

Georges Simenon
Hard novels: Toss up between Monsieur Monde Vanishes and Tropic Moon
sleaze Maigret: Maigret at Picratt's
upbeat Maigret: My Friend Maigret

Ross Macdonald: The Galton Case

Nonfiction
Simon Winchester: Krakatoa - The Day the World Exploded  
 



Last Edited on: 11/3/10 4:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/7/2010 6:16 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 244
Back To Top

re: Thomas Mann, it seems like "Death in Venice" is generally his most recognized (and if you don't like it, at leat it's short!) I didn't care much for "Buddenbrooks" & have yet to read "The Magic Mountain." 

 

re: Hardy: He is so bleak & depressing (& that's given that so many artists already are "dark") ...I didn't care for "Jude the Obscure", & "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" didn't do much for me either.

re: George Eliot: "Middlemarch," absolutely.

I'd definitely consider "Catch 22" a must-read if you haven't already.

Date Posted: 11/7/2010 7:15 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
Back To Top

Kristen, I read Catch 22 for this year's challenge.  I'll have to say that I hated that book.  I've never been so glad to send it on its way to another pbs member (and I usually keep classics).  That being said, I think (?) I'm glad that I read it.

Date Posted: 11/8/2010 10:11 AM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 244
Back To Top

I guess it's one of those "you either love it or hate it" works. I'm like that with Hemingway -- have tried him 3-4 different times, at very different points in my life, & just can't do it.

What were your favorites?

Date Posted: 11/8/2010 5:28 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
Back To Top

There are some authors I have no favorites of--Hemingway is certainly one!

                                                                                                Rose

Date Posted: 11/8/2010 5:34 PM ET
Member Since: 12/22/2008
Posts: 533
Back To Top

I find his short stories more palatable.

Date Posted: 11/10/2010 1:40 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
Back To Top

I adore Hemingway.

 

That's a boldface lie. 

 

He's so economical with his words that its like those bag of chips that hold mostly air and maybe 1 ounce of actual product.

 

His copycatters  are better than him. 

 

and If I recall correcly, there is an author who writes in a terse style that Hemingway loved and imitated..but for the life of me I can't remember who.....it's Crane. Stephen Crane. Hemingway was a fan of Crane. Which is interesting because I enjoy Crane's work and dislike Hemingway so much.

Date Posted: 12/16/2010 11:39 AM ET
Member Since: 7/27/2008
Posts: 123
Back To Top

This is a great idea. I really started into classics this past year. (As in intentionally reading, and not when the occasion struck me).  I really like Jules Verne, but I have to say that Around the World in 80 days, read so much easier and quicker than 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I also read Pride and Prejudice for the first time, and it took me a couple of weeks of thinking about it afterward to figure out why it has so much mass appeal.

I haven't read anything by Hemingway this year, but I do tend to be on the "like" side of things.

I also read 5 Sherlock Holmes books, 3 of short stories, and 2 novels. The fact that I read 5 probably says that I liked them.

I expect that by this time next year I will have a lot more opinions, but for now I am just sort of drifting.

Date Posted: 12/17/2010 6:35 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
Back To Top

Matt B., You say you've read only one of  Joyce Carol Oates's novels . . . . .and my curiosity impels me to ask you Which one?   Something about your post suggests to me that whatever it was, it will be the only  JCO novel you will ever read . . . .yes?    And how come you read the singular one you did read?  And are you some kind of masochistic reader, or sumpin?   I read Them, and it had some of the nastiest characters I've ever encountered in the pages of fiction works, aside from The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kozinsky, and/or Too Far to Walk by John Hersey.



Last Edited on: 12/17/10 6:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/30/2010 8:04 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,867
Back To Top

My favorite classics for the year were Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, Tristan and Iseult, The Stranger and Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage,  Of course, I have read others that I love over the years but I'll stay with this short list.

 



Last Edited on: 12/30/10 8:09 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/31/2010 7:46 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
Back To Top

Leslie, if you really meant "prolific; authors, I'll venture a couple of recommendations.  Naguib Mahfouz must have written at least 40 books, of which I have read eight..  Of  those, easily the 'best' was his Cairo trilogy, although if you disallow a trilogy, then I'll just say (Vol. I) Palace Walk. is "the best."

Now, about Nadine Gordimer, who has also written a shelf of novels.  Choosing is difficult, but for me, it's a toss-up between Burger's Daughter and July's People.   (I would really like to hear some more opinions, on this.)

Another Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Knut Hamsun, wrote a buncha books, too, but I've only read one,  and it is one I can recommend---The Growth of the Soil.   I feel I should warn persons picking up this book that some of the actions of the principal male character, and the principal female character, ain't pretty.

I'm gonna stay out of any discussion of F.Scott Fitzgerald and D. H. Lawrence.  (For the record, I really disliked Lady Chatterley's Lover.)

The most recent American Nobelist is Toni Morrison, and maybe any American with a taste for reading books should read something of hers,  I've read four of her works, and plan to read Sula in the coming year.   On a "best" list, she maybe should be represented by either Beloved or Song of Solomon, but I'm ready to listen to disagreeing opinions.



Last Edited on: 12/30/11 3:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 1/4/2011 7:44 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2009
Posts: 2,456
Back To Top

In my quest to read authors from Virginia; I started with  Ellen Glasgow-- "In This Our Life"   I enjoy books with a movie connection. The book is almost always better than the movie.