Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Favorite "Classic" Books

My list of favorite classic books confirms one fact about me: I'm a sucker for a tragic ending. Even the one story that ends "happily ever after" contains a death that hits the main character pretty hard (and it barely makes the list). I'm not sure why exactly I like tragic endings, except I always have. There is something poignant and beautiful about tragedy. Maybe it's because life is, in many ways, a tragedy.

A quick note on this list. Plays were allowed to be considered as "classics" and because plays are meant to be viewed, I allowed viewings to be considered as a read.

Number One: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Number of Reads: 7
Rationale: I love existential plays, and I love how this play is a really a discussion on fiction. It's such a deep little play and it so insanely quotable. My favorite quote of all time comes from the play. "Words, words. They're all we have to go on." On surface level, it's just a comment on the fact that they're trying to decipher what's up with Hamlet from his words. Deeper, it's a comment on how all they have are the words of the play they're trapped in. Even deeper it's a comment on life. We live most of our lives trying to decipher words, the words of others, the words of books. And for me personally, it just makes me think of reading and writing and how nothing ever seems real to me without words put to it. And that's just one line. The entire play is like that. What's not to love?

Number Two: The Great Gatbsy by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Number of Reads: 5
Rationale: I read The Great Gatsby for the first time in the sixth grade. I was not forced to read it. Rather my older sister was, and she left the book laying around the house. I was bored, so I picked it up and read it in one sitting. Nick's voice just jumped off the page for me, and I was as taken with Gatsby and his struggles as Nick was. I re-read the book again in the eighth grade, and then was finally required to read it in eleventh. I enjoyed it each time. When I re-read it in college and then earlier this year, I was still taken with it. It pains me every time, how Gatsby struggles and fails to attain his dream. It's a statement on life, on the American Dream, on everything, and I think it's beautiful.

Number Three: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Number of Reads: 3
Rationale: I like Wuthering Heights, because I enjoy seeing how decisions made while young domino effect into the rest of the characters' lives. It's not often that a novel covers the entire life of the main characters and several generations of the family. I get enthralled by how one failed relationship essentially destroys two different families. That's not something we often see in modern novels, and I really like it.

Number Four: Othello by William Shakespeare
Number of Reads: 3
Rationale: This is my favorite Shakespeare play. My love of the tragic means my favorite play would be a tragedy, but why this play over Hamlet? Hamlet might seem more logical because of what my favorite classic is, but Othello wins because of Iago. Iago is simply the most amazing villain ever written, but even though Iago is the catalyst, Iago doesn't make anyone do anything they didn't already have the capability of doing. He just unearths the darkness within all of them. It's amazing and terrible. On both the page and stage, it's riveting.

Number Five: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Number of Reads: 2
Rationale: What's not to love about Little Women? I come from a family of mostly girls, so I can see all of us in the March sisters. As a writer, I identify with Jo. It's truly amazing how much I can identify with these girls in a novel written over one hundred years ago. They read like real modern characters. They read like girls I would be friends with. And it's a beautiful tale of sisterhood and family. 

So there it is. My favorite classic books! What are yours?


  1. I'm rather partial to King Solomon's Mines, as well as a number of Jules Verne novels.
    I also like Fyodor Dostoevsky. His stuff is intense.

    1. I haven't read much Dostoevsky, though I did love Crime and Punishment. And I haven't heard of King Solomon's Mines. I'll have to check it out.