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May 24, 2004

Great Books

Well apparently I'm not all that well-read either. Robert Prather has an interesting post on the 101 Great Books over at Insults Unpunished. I did my own list, books I've read in bold type. Obviously I have lots of work to do - I do fairly well with the classics but I'm terribly ill-read when it comes to modern lit.

But it looks as though it may actually rain here today - that right folks, actual water from the sky... in Southern California. I give them until noon to call out the National Guard and declare martial law... Good reading weather.

Go to list...

- Cassandra

May 24, 2004 at 09:07 AM | Permalink


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I always want to choke the maker of lists for making me feel that I'm incomplete. Mine are marked with an * Favorites with***

*Beowulf (bor-ing)
Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
*Agee, James - A Death in the Family
*Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
*Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily - Wuthering Heights (saw the movie)
***Camus, Albert - The Stranger
***Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
*Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales (not all of it)
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening (my girls liked this book, or maybe they hated it, I don't know)
***Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
***Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
***Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
*Dante – Inferno (And the book itself was a trip to Hell)
***Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
***Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
***Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities (the only Dickens I ever really liked)
*Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
***Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
*Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
*Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays (which ones are "selected"?)
***Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying The definitive dysfunctional Southern family)*Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
***Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones (outstanding book)
***Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
*Goethe, Johann Wolfgang - Faust (college assignment)
***Golding, William - Lord of the Flies –
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d’Urbervilles ( I saw the movie and was Natasia Kinski ever HOT!)
*Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter (groan)
***Heller, Joseph - Catch 22 (a TOP Three Favorite of all time book)
***Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
*Homer - The Iliad(should have waited for the movie)
*Homer - The Odyssey
*Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame (actually entitled "Notre-Dame de Paris")
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God (I've never even heard of this book. Am I missing something?)
*Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
*Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll’s House (saw the play)
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
*James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw (And I hated it. James turns the screw on his readers.)
***Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (After reading this at 18 I wanted to go live in a garret and die poor for the sake of my art. The Navy had other plans, however.)
***Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis (GIANT BUGS!!)
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior (Never heard of it.)
***Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird (Another Top Three Favorite)
*Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
***London, Jack - The Call of the Wild (All of his stuff is good).
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia - One Hundred Years of Solitude
*Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener (okay)
***Melville, Herman - Moby Dick (Yipes, ANOTHER Top Three Favorite of all time)
***Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
***O’Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find (Cass, if you don't read this soon, I'll quit posting. It's a fast read that you'll never forget. Just don't read it alone, in a darkened house. Probably my favorite American woman writer.)
***O’Neill, Eugene - Long Day’s Journey into Night (He could've have added a host of other O'Neill works too)
***Orwell, George - Animal Farm (I guess 1984 is passe in this new century, eh?)
*Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago (liked the movie too)
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar ( Call me a nudge, but I really never wanted to read an autobiographical account about a woman's decent into madness. I can view that process at home.)
****Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales (WHICH ONES, DAMMIT!)
Proust, Marcel - Swann’s Way
***Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49 (I would have chosen either "V" or "Gravity's Raibow over "Lot 49.")
***Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front (still haunting me after all these years)
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac (I think I only saw the movie...Jose Ferrar was magnificent)
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
*Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye (I read it as a youth. Now I probably just want to smack that little snot around some and send him back to boarding school. Brat.)
***********Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
***********Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
***********Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night’s Dream
***********Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet (Where the hell is "Richard III"?)
Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion (saw the movie)
***Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein (preferred teh movie)
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony (never heard of it)
***Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (I guess "Gulag Archipelago" isn't "PC" anymore.)
***Sophocles - Antigone (not only did I read it, I acted in it, in tenth grade summer stock... I graon when I think about it now).
*Sophocles - Oedipus Rex (creepy)
***Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
***Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island (Yep, it's another Top Three Favorite)
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom’s Cabin
***Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver’s Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David – Walden (many excerpts, but I never read the whole thing in a row - probably would jump out the window if I tried
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace (yeah, right....)
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
***Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (How many more "Top Three's do I get?)
Voltaire - Candide
***Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five (I liked "Cat's Cradle" better)
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
***Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories (No, maybe Ms. Welty is my favorite American woman writer. Cass, her voice, her ear for the syntax and style of the Southern person, is so magical and dear that you will find yourself making old friend with her. It was sad day for American literature when this fine Southern Lady passed on two years ago. Read about her by clicking my name, and then rush out to the library and get started with "Why I Live at The P.O.")
***Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass (New York boy makes good. What's not to love about Whitman?)
***Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
*Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie ( I did the lighting for this play in high scholl. Hated it.)
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
*Wright, Richard - Native Son (High school)

Well, there's a perfectly good 45 minutes wasted.
I can't believe there's no Kipling, no Washington Irving, no Robert Frost, and no Dr. Seuss.
So what exactly IS a great book?
It's one that you remember the rest of your life.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 24, 2004 11:57:06 AM

spd: Well I'd better run out - I don't want you to quit posting - I'd miss you too much :)

Actually I read a fair amount of Eudora Welty in HS, just not the selection they picked. Never read anything by Flannery O'Connor (that I remember). But in HS I was chewing through 3-4 books a week. There were a couple on this list that I thought I might've read long ago (like the Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neill) but figured if I'm not sure, that doesn't count.

And there were more books I loved that seem to be missing, but I ran out of time last nite. I've read a lot more of the Russian novelists, loved Kipling, almost put Ivanhoe on the list - can't believe no Walter Scott. sigh... Evelyn Waugh?

FWIW, I liked War and Peace - read it 3 times. But I was into Russia. And I'd never heard of the ones you mentioned either - Silko, Kingston, and Hurston. I noticed most of the ones I hadn't heard of were female authors - either the list got PC'd up or I'm a dam*ed gender-traitor...

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2004 12:17:39 PM

Well, I counted 49 that I have read or least studied the cliff notes. I have a little more modern novel stuff b/c of my college days, but it is enough to make me feel inadequate. I have read books by some authors but not the ones on the list, so that makes me feel better. Had they picked the right book by that author (the one I had read that is) I would be in the 60s probably.

Wuthering Heights is enogh to make you slit your writsts. It may have been "well written" and a "great book" but I wanted to push all the characters off a cliff. Then I wanted to jump off behind them and land on them to make sure they were dead. Then the anvil I had tied to my waist would follow and finish me off. Never give that book to somone on suicide watch.

Posted by: KJ at May 24, 2004 12:22:47 PM

But KJ, you're just a pup, there's plenty of time to get to "War and Peace." Why if Cass had read that gargantuan novel only once instead of three times, she would have found time not only to read all the others on the list, but to write two of her own. I think "W&P" was written for those who found themselves snowed in for 3 or 4 months at a time. And stop calling me Sasha, dammit.

I read my first Flannery O'Connor in college, and it knocked my socks off. I immediatley gobbled up as much of her as I could. She's a Georgia-born Roman Catholic who weaves so much symbolism into her stuff that you can read that same story over and over and still pick up new threads. Amazing.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 24, 2004 1:29:16 PM

Tovarich spd rdrovich:

Luckily for Cassandranovna, she reads quickly. And looking at some of the books I haven't read on that list, I must say have no desire to read them. I'd rather read a good book twice than two bad ones once.

FWIW, I read Wuthering a few times but I really lost patience with Catherine early in the novel - she was really very annoying.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2004 2:56:23 PM

I don't read fiction any longer. I read law, news, history, Sports Illustrated, and anything to do with cars and motorcycles. As I looked over my list, I was surprised that most of this stuff was force fed to me in school. I am still wondering how I avoided "Babbit," because I know it was assigned. Cliff Notes probably. (The Cliff Note for W&P are what, like three volumes?) I am not inspired to read anything on that list that I haven't already read, and damned few of those I have already read would I ever read twice. (Top Three's only).

Posted by: spd rdr at May 24, 2004 3:26:59 PM

I think I missed out on a real opportunity when I went back for my bachelors. I placed out of all but honors English as a freshman and one Eng Lit course, so I did little reading of literature for my degree.

I still love fiction - I like historical novels. Three female authors I would have put up there instead of some of the ones featured would be Dorothy Dunnett, Mary Renault, and possibly Mary Stewart, who wrote several silly books but also some very fine novels.

Dorothy Dunnett's two series are favorites - I've read them both (13 or 14 books total) twice and will certainly read them again in the next 5 years. They are challenging to read (there is actually a companion volume for each series due to all the historical and literary allusions).

FWIW, if anyone like historical fiction, I think they're probably the finest example I've seen.

Link to description of her first series: The Lymond Chronicles


Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2004 3:48:41 PM

I have read quite a few books - a lot on your lists but lately I find my choice of reading rather eclectic.

Latest Perousals...

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Self-Esteem by Mark J. Warner

How to Raise Your I.Q. by Eating Gifted Children : by Lewis B. Frumkes

Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George Milbry Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle

Just Doctoring: Medical Ethics in the Liberal State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991) by Troyen A. Brennan

Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism (1963, with a 2000 afterword) by Samuel Homola

Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not (New York: D. Appleton, 1860) by Florence Nightingale

A Guide to Health, Being an Exposition of the Principles of the Thomsonian System of Practice, and Their Mode of Application in the Cure of Every Form of Disease (1846 edition)

I also find myself reading a lot of stuff online. I have always been a gadget guy. Here is a few that you may find interesting. You can find them at the Minnesota State Library and online at “The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices Online”
Battle Creek Vibratory Chair
Bloodletting Devices
Contemporary Quackery
Gas Grill Igniters
Foot Operated Breast Enlarger
McGregor Rejuvenator
Micro-Dynameter 1963
Micro-Dynameter Type A
Natural Eye Sight System
Prostate Cures
The Psychograph
History of Phrenology
and the Psychograph
The Radium Case
Radium Ore Revigator
Shoe-Fitting X-Ray Device
The Timely Warning
Toftness Radiation
The Vibrometer
Violet Ray Generators

Oh yes, and the The Weekly World News on a regular basis….

Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at May 24, 2004 7:50:17 PM

101 ways to skin a dead cat.

Posted by: joatmoaf at May 24, 2004 8:01:02 PM


You worry me at times... And here I had typed a really snarky comment regarding the deleted words in your comment on ScrappleFace.

But the better angels of my nature prevailed (actually the phone rang) so I exited without posting it.

Your list looks like more fun.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2004 8:18:29 PM

A few of those Books: The Color Purple, Wuthering Heights, and Beowolf, were about as exciting to read as having your temperature taken ... rectally.

Time for a beer at 9PM.

Posted by: Purple Raider at May 24, 2004 8:31:08 PM

Purple, you so owe me for not even going there on that last comment...

Posted by: Cassandra at May 24, 2004 8:44:32 PM

Oh you have to go there.

I thought that was a ... whatever, you know, coffee on monitor moment.

Posted by: Purple Raider at May 25, 2004 12:54:55 AM

A "foot operated breast enlarger?"

Posted by: spd rdr at May 25, 2004 6:31:45 AM

That was the other place I was proud of myself for not going, spd...

Posted by: Cassandra at May 25, 2004 7:36:14 AM

There is also the breast operated foot enlarger. Feel free to go there all you want.

Posted by: Pile On® at May 25, 2004 7:47:32 AM

Now here I exercise masterful restraint... OK, I give up. I bow to the collective might of the peanut gallery.

Personally I was intrigued by the Relaxacisor...

Posted by: Cassandra at May 25, 2004 8:31:01 AM

I couldn't resist the list...
If you want to knock off an easy one: 'Things Fall Apart' will only take a few hours - and it's kinda fun.

BTW - Make mine Faulkner...

Posted by: bahabuddha™ at May 27, 2004 4:05:31 PM