Bythelbs does the classics

24 Sep

So for the past several months I’ve been reading, reading, reading.  All kinds of reasonably entertaining fluff with a few good things sprinkled in the mix that I might actually talk about sometime in the near future. 

I started feeling a little guilty about all the time wasted on the fluffy fiction, so I decided to pick up a few classics that I had always meant to read, but never got around to.  (Because, you know, reading real literature totally makes up for neglecting the house and children.)  So far I’ve read Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby and Jane Eyre.  I’d actually like to discuss those at some point with y’all, but I don’t seem to be in writing mode right now, so I’m going to stay in reading mode.  Do you have any recommendations?  Any must-read classics no self-respecting human being could pass through this life without experiencing? 

If you don’t have any classics to recommend, I’ll welcome other suggestions as well.  What have you been reading?

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37 Responses to “Bythelbs does the classics”

  1. Mother of the Wild Boys September 24, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    Every few years I re-read Anne of Green Gables. It’s probably a bit on the light side, but I love it.

    • flip flop mama September 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm #

      I love Anne of Green Gables! What a wonderful story.

  2. bythelbs September 24, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    I love Anne of Green Gables, too, but right now I’m looking for stuff I haven’t read before. Although, now that you’ve mentioned it, I might have to make an exception.

  3. tawnya September 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    F. Scott Fitzgerald is my absolute favorite. LOVE.

    My go to classics:
    Scarlet Letter
    Little Women (though you could always read Long Fatal Love Chase by Alcott, as well, if you want something else by her…)
    Count of Monte Cristo
    Gatsby (and This Side of Paradise)

    Henry James
    Jane Austen

    And should be classics, darn it!
    Malcolm Gladwell
    Nick Hornby (esp. About a Boy)
    Plan B – Anne Lamott

    hmmmm….

    • bythelbs September 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

      I’ve read Scarlet Letter and all of Jane Austen. But I don’t think I’ve read any Henry James, and The Great Gatsby is the only thing I’ve read by Fitzgerald so far. Count of Monte Cristo is a great one for the list, and I appreciate the more contemporary recommendations, too. Thanks!

  4. E September 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    What did you think of Wuthering Heights? ’cause I hated it and I’m always looking for fellow haters. I think it’s because I didn’t read it until I was an adult and most people that I talk to read it in their teens. So they always say “I love Wuthering Heights” and I feel bad when I say “I hated it.” So I’m wondering-you’re and adult-was that my problem, or is there something else wrong with me that I didn’t enjoy spending days reading about a group of horrible narcissistic idiots destroying each others’ lives and then dying?

    I liked Jane Eyre and The Great Gatsby. So I’m not negative about everything.

    • bythelbs September 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

      It’s totally not just you, E. I think “a group of horrible narcissistic idiots destroying each others’ lives and then dying” is a very appropriate description. I actually enjoyed reading it in a strange way (I enjoyed Emily Bronte’s writing style and the story was kind of like watching a train wreck—I just couldn’t look away), but when I was done I thought, “What a bunch of losers.” I had zero investment in any of the characters. And for some reason I had it in my head that it would be a kind of romance, but there was nothing in that story that had anything to do with love. I actually had a whole post written in my head about Wuthering Heights. I might still write it.

    • tawnya September 24, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

      OOOOOOHHHHHH! ME! The Bronte sisters were NUTS!

  5. Julie September 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm #

    You’ve heard my list before, but I’d highly recommend Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

    • bythelbs September 24, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

      I haven’t read Great Expectations since 9th grade. I remember we were like halfway through the book, having a class discussion when one girl (who wasn’t necessarily known to be the sharpest tack on the bulletin board) said, “Who’s Pip?” My best friend and I still joke about that.

  6. Kamilli Vanilli September 24, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    I don’t read much, but I do love me a good CS Lewis book, I have to say….

    • bythelbs September 25, 2009 at 7:30 am #

      I’ve never read any CS Lewis other than the Narnia series. What else is good?

      • tawnya September 25, 2009 at 11:30 am #

        The Great Divorce is good…As is Mere Christianity

  7. annie valentine September 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    This is me exactly, minus the good stuff. I seem to be on a fluffy reading kick this year. I bought an award winning book at Costco this week, real American classical fiction, got three pages in and decided to take it back and exchange it for a vampire book.

    BUT.

    My second favorite book of all time, next to Jane Eyre (which I want to be buried with), is Peace Like a River. It is so good, a must read.

    • bythelbs September 25, 2009 at 7:32 am #

      What vampire book? (I love a good vampire book. Or even a not so good vampire book.)

      Another friend recommended Peace Like a River a while back. I think that one goes on the list.

  8. madhousewife September 24, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    Tender Is the Night – Fitzgerald

    Passage to India – E.M. Forster

    Mill on the Floss – George Eliot (I’ve heard rave reviews of Middlemarch, but I’ve never read it – that is to say, I have not read it yet.)

    Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

    I’m a fan of Henry James, but I recommend his short stories (which are long enough) and novellas to start. I was not a fan of Portrait of a Lady–which is not to scare you off Portrait of a Lady, but it’s the only long work of his that I’ve read, and holy cow was it long. So. Long.

    The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand (because even if you hate everything she stands for, it is quite the page turner)

    I preferred A Modern Mephistopholes to A Long and Fatal Love Chase. That’s the way I remember it, anyway. Hopefully it wasn’t the other way around. Hrm.

    A Lesson before Dying – Ernest J. Gaines

    O Pioneers – Willa Cather

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

    Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck

    On the contemporary literature side, I recommend everything by Kazuo Ishiguro, but especially Remains of the Day, An Artist of the Floating World and Never Let Me Go.

    However, I think many self-respecting people go through life without reading these, so take it all with a grain of salt. I just like to recommend books and hope that people don’t hate them. It’s okay if you hate them. I won’t take it personally.

    • bythelbs September 25, 2009 at 7:33 am #

      I keep meaning to check out Ishiguro, but then I forget by the time I get to the library. It’s going on the list. And a bunch of these others as well.

  9. madhousewife September 24, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    P.S. Who’s Pip?

    I’ve never read Great Expectations.

    • bythelbs September 25, 2009 at 7:32 am #

      Pip is the main character.

  10. flip flop mama September 24, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    I’ve recently read and loved The Secret Life of Bees, Gilead by Marylynne Robinson, Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton is a classic that we read in book club a couple years ago. Personally I thought it was very long and depressing but other members of the club loved it. How about Of Mice and Men or The Princess Bride?

    • bythelbs September 25, 2009 at 7:36 am #

      The House of Mirth is depressing? That sounds like false advertising!

      Loved Life of Pi. I’ve also heard good things about The Secret Life of Bees. I’ve read the others. Steinbeck is so sad, but Princess Bride is great.

  11. Kathy September 25, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    I listen to books on tape so I have my hands freed up to do other things… like drive. Anyway, I decided awhile back to ‘read’ some classics, too. I read Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, Count of Monte Christo, Crime and Punishment, Don Quixote, Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I have to say the only one I truly loved was Count of Monte Christo. As much as I like the writing style of the classics, they all felt like I was watching an over-acted B rated movie. Didn’t anyone smile or have fun back then? I could recommend some more current books that I absolutely loved, though.

    Life of Pi
    Power of One
    The Book Thief
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    • bythelbs September 25, 2009 at 7:39 am #

      I’ve never really listened to a book on tape. I tried once with The DaVinci Code, and just couldn’t get into it—it seemed so cheesy. I wonder how some of my favorite books would stand up to audio versions.

      I think Count of Monte Cristo definitely needs to go on the list. And I’m going to look into some of these others also. Thanks for the recommendations!

      • Kathy September 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

        After you listen to books for awhile you kinda get over the ‘cheesy’ feeling. If you get a really good reader they can add so much to the story. A bad reader is painful. I also never trust the author of the book to do a good job reading it. There are professionals for that… just let them do their job. I tried to listen to A Wrinkle In Time read by the author. I still have nightmares about that.. she was the worst. I finally called up my daughter to ask her how it ended so I didn’t have to listen to her anymore. I suppose I could have picked up the book and just read it… never thought of that! lol

  12. Catherine September 25, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    I listened to Count of Monte Cristo and lived every second of it!

    Another contemporary good read is Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong. It was a recommendation from my father and I really enjoyed it.

    • bythelbs September 25, 2009 at 11:58 am #

      Great–thanks Catherine!

  13. Amanda D September 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    I just read Hondo by Louis L’Amour. I don’t know if I would call it a “classic” by my mom and dad would. And it is more than 50 years old. It was good. Some action, adventure and romance. And it was a quick read – that’s always a bonus for me.

    • bythelbs September 26, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

      Thanks Amanda! Quick reads are one of my favorite bonuses!

  14. flip flop mama September 26, 2009 at 9:01 am #

    This isn’t a classic but we read it a few months ago and I loved it! It was great to listen to as well. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

  15. patience September 26, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    Lots of good suggestions here. I’ll just make one more: Anthony Trollope. Try Barchester Towers for starters. And the movie of his “The Way We Live Now” is my all-time favorite Masterpiece Theater.

  16. bythelbs September 26, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

    Thank you, Patience. Trollope’s on the list!

  17. bythelbs September 26, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    Kathy, now I’m morbidly curious to hear Ms. L’engle read…

    • Kathy September 28, 2009 at 9:25 am #

      You can go to audible.com and hear a sample of her reading. She died a couple years ago at the age of 91. She did the reading in 2003 so you can imagine what her voice sounded like. Gotta give her kudos though for trying. I still say.. let the professionals do it.

      • bythelbs September 28, 2009 at 9:31 am #

        Ooooh, Kathy, that IS bad!

  18. Janelle September 27, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    Ok, so every one on Mad’s list are must reads, but it doesn’t mean you’ll like them.

    Like Hemingway’s characters stay with you forever, but you may not want them to.

    O Pioneer. Agh. Memorable. But lovable?

    Steinbeck’s imagery was the most lasting for me. Mostly because I’m Californian. There are scenes from Grapes of Wrath that are indelible in my brain.

    The Count – I love the Count of Monte Cristo.

    And A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is great.

    Some of my recently read books are Chains, Hunger Games, Guernsey Literary Society and The Help. All were good to great. And I still love Poisonwood Bible.

    I am a Wuthering Heights hater. I second North and South though. Who read Princess Bride? That is a great one to read along side an older daughter. I’m thinking of starting a book group for my daughter.

    Reading is a great way to spend your time. I think it is very worth while.

  19. boquinha September 28, 2009 at 8:24 am #

    Lbs, I think you and I have the same thing. It must be going around. More reading. Less blogging. There must be a correlation.

    Mad’s list is GREAT.

    I heartily recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (recent–everyone in our book club loved it) and Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (classic and my favorite novel).

  20. bythelbs September 28, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    Janelle—Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll have to add some of those to the list. I loved Poisonwood Bible, and really enjoyed Hunger Games as well. Wasn’t the sequel to that out this month?

    Boquinha—OK, looks like Guernsey needs to go on the list (seeing how you are the third to recommend it. And I loved Rebecca.

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