What's your favorite piece of Classic Literature?
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    What's your favorite piece of Classic Literature?

    Anything from Hemingway to Tolstoy to Shakespeare to Homer, what is your favorite classic book/play/poem/etc?

    I recently decided that in my daily 30 minutes of downtime I might try to squeeze in some reading. I've always wanted to read the "classics" but the last few that I picked up I could not get into at all (Slaughterhouse 5 and One Hundred Years of Solitude...the titles sounded way cooler than the actual text) so to avoid spending another 100 pages wasting my time before I finally put the thing down, I was hoping you guys could recommend me some classic literature that you found particularly enjoyable.

    Currently working through As I Lay Dying and The Tale of Genji. Looking at Don Quixote next...excited!

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    Some of my favorites are Dracula by Bram Stoker and the 2 Alice books by Lewis Carroll.

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    A Tale of Two Cities

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    Didn't like Slaughterhouse 5 or One Hundred Years of Solitude?

    Well, FWIW, I like all of Dostoevsky's stuff that I've read (The Bros. Karamazov, The Idiot, Notes From the Underground). Also, Kafka (The Trial and various short stories) and Borges (various short stories) (I like existential surrealism). The Odyssey is cool as is Dante's Inferno. I'd recommend Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, but if you didn't like Slaughterhouse 5.... (It's also a satirical WW2 novel).
    Also, for a more Sci-Fi bent (although I'm not sure if this qualifies as a "classic") I've always been fond of A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr.

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    I always enjoyed Romantic era poets like Shelley, Blake, Byron and from the next generation I liked T.S. Elliot a great deal.

    I accept that this almost certainly makes me a pretentious twat, just add me to your ignore list now.

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    War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Le Misaerables.
    Anything by Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy. I think I read everything those guys wrote. I've been getting into Anthony Trollope lately.
    Being a chick, I love Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Charlotte Bronte's stuff.
    I also like Ayn Rand, even though I think she's a bit over the top in some things.
    Kurt Vonnegut (does he fall under classics?)
    I couldn't deal with Homer or Plutarch.
    I wasn't that crazy about Moby Dick. It has it's good moments, when it talks about psychological stuff. The whale taxonomy and killings parts - not so much.
    Oh, and Oscar Wilde's Dorian Grey.
    Definite Yes on Hemingway. Farewell to Arms was my second book I read written in English. Hobbit was the first. That was some 25 or so years ago. I should re-read Hemingway!
    I've been on a kick of catching up on lengthy classics in last few years. Shakespearean English still eludes me enough to make it tough to understand.

    I'm not much into English language poetry, other then some Edgar Allan Poe.

    Last edited by Conniekat8; February 23rd, 2012 at 01:47 AM.
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    For Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle is probably an easier in than Slaughterhouse Five. I'm so grateful I discovered Vonnegut and Harlan Ellison when I was fourteen instead of Ayn Rand.
    I love Shakespeare, especially Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and King Lear.


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    I read too many books to even notice which are classics or not. My favorites are Cat's Cradle, Strangers in a Strange Land, Lolita, Crime and Punishment, Catcher in the Rye, Mice and Men, Frankenstein.

    L'Engle, Vonnegurt, Asimov, Bradbury, those people are pretty cool.

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    Although, for someone coming out of a communist country into the western culture, Ayn Rand can be an interesting read, to see overcompensation gone awry.
    Some of the depersonalized attitudes that she exhibits resonated with me in how people had to be systematically brainwashed in certain ways to bend to Soviet and Eastern European Communism... then coming to the west, and overcompensating in the opposite direction, but with a similar zeal, or overzealous and with a hefty level of depersonalization.

    Instead of making certain capitalist concepts look good and showing how they can work, she made them overboard and extreme. Very unfortunate.

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    I don't get fiction, for the most part. Steve King is about as close as I get to classic literature. :-)

    I did enjoy some individual books, mind you, such as "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and "Lord of the flies." Also much of what Vonnegut wrote (is there anyone who doesn't like Vonnegut!?).

    On my brother's advice I tried to read Dickens, struggled through Oliver Twist and found it one of the most spectacularly boring things I ever read. Apparently I am not all that sophisticated a reader. :-)

    With poetry it is the same thing: most of it fails to do anything whatever for me, and indeed, most of the time I cannot for the life of me work out what it even means in the first place. But here and there I do greatly enjoy a poem that somehow manages to speak to me, especially poems in my native language, in which I suppose I find it much easier to follow figures of speech and imagery and so on.

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    I'm also a Shakespear fan. I love his comedies, especially 12th Night. I really liked the manipulation and tragedy of Othello but my favourite is still Romeo and Juliet. I loved the setting of Verona and Tybalts unyielding ferocity.

    Is The Catcher in the Rye too modern?

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    Shakespeare - the Scottish play all the way! I also like Moby Dick, the Iliad and the Odyssey. I tried reading Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury a couple of years ago and didn't know what the hell was going on. I may try to read it again now I know more about it.
    Oh, I also liked In Cold Blood (though more of a modern classic - according to Penguin, anyway!).

    Last edited by Slothboy3000; February 23rd, 2012 at 11:14 AM.
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    Haven't read that much classic litterature. But the one that comes to mind is "The Wolf Leader" by Alexandre Dumas.

    Otherwise I'm a fan of HG Wells and Asimov too.

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    i'm crazy about shakespeare, keats, byron, dostoyevsky, pushkin etc. I think it'd be a stretch to call Vonnegut etc and living authors classics, modern classics perhaps.

    "is there anyone who doesn't like Vonnegut!?"
    Yep, never been able to get into his work, read much of it and it just doesn't click. Never liked catch-22/the film dr. strangelove either, I suppose it's all similar dark humour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    I'm so grateful I discovered Vonnegut and Harlan Ellison when I was fourteen instead of Ayn Rand.
    I was grateful I discovered Shaw before her. Actually I was grateful I discovered Michael Moorcock, W B Yeats, John Wyndham and The Muppets before her.

    As for favourite classic literature:

    Dickens: 'Great Expectations'.
    Shakespeare: 'Richard III', 'King Lear','As You Like It' and 'Twelfth Night'.
    Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Wells, and maybe they ain't strictly 'classic' but Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler...

    But I love American Classic novels too: Steinbeck, Twain, London, Baum etc. Ah, where does one stop..? And I'd put 'The Old man and the Sea' in there too, by Hemingway...

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    I have so many... But Alexandre Dumas' The Black Tulip and The Count of Monte Cristo are ones that I like surprisingly much, considering I normally wouldn't touch books like that with a ten feet pole. I also like the usuals like Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, R. L Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I've read Stoker's Dracula several times.

    As for less classic type of stuff, you can hit me up with Maurice Leblanc's adventures of Arsène Lupin and Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books any time! Same with H.P Lovecraft.

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    Robin Hood
    The Invisible Man
    War of the Worlds
    The Time Machine
    Alice In Wonderland
    Through The Looking Glass
    The Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn stories
    Call of Cthulhu

    There are more I might like but haven't read yet.

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    I'll also put in a good word for Cat's Cradle, it's my favourite Vonnegut book.

    I'll also put in a good word for Agatha Christie. Although she wrote many books that were all of a similar pattern, her best books are really quite good and there's only a few that I would never want to read again. Much like Sherlock Holmes, her books hold up well even today. You can start with The Mysterious Affair at Styles (available at Project Gutenberg) or The Murder at the Vicarage which are the first Poirot and Miss Marple books respectively, or you can jump into the most popular ones like Murder on the Orient Express or And Then There Were None. With the exception of Curtain, which reads better after you've read a few other Poirot books, they're mostly stand-alone so there's no real reason to read them in order.

    I like Dorothy L. Sayers too but she has a tendency to ramble on. Christie is very spare in comparison.

    I've also been reading some G.K. Chesterton (the Father Brown Mysteries) and J.S. Fletcher, which were enjoyable enough. I liked Gaston Leroux's The Mystery of the Yellow Room too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    I love Shakespeare, especially Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and King Lear.
    Oh yeah. I'd add "Richard ii", "Henry iv, 1&2", and "Henry v", the so-called history plays. "The Psalms" in the Old Testament. I discovered "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Solzhenitsyn and "1984" by Orwell at age 14. They helped me make sense of high school. This single line from 'Denisovich, in its context, was absolutely revelatory for me, really did things to my head;

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    For Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle is probably an easier in than Slaughterhouse Five. I'm so grateful I discovered Vonnegut and Harlan Ellison when I was fourteen instead of Ayn Rand.
    I love Shakespeare, especially Richard III, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, and King Lear.
    Harlan Ellison woke me up on so many levels. "All I Need to Know I Learned From Harlan" oughta be a book...

    One day I'll tell the story about the time he called me at home and critiqued my portfolio...

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    I prefer to see Shakespeare than read him, and go to see the odd play every now and then.

    About 20 years ago a publisher printed tons of classics for £1 a shot and I went on a wild reading spree. The narrator on Tom Jones totally got up my nose - smug git, Lorna Doone was a totally ripping yarn (beginning is very funny), never got into Dickens and should try again, love Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters have their ups and downs - loved Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Wilkie Collins Woman in White is much better than The Moonstone, second The Picture of Dorian Gray. There are a ton of others, that I need to remind myself of.

    I like a good story and if it's written well, so much the better, but I found it hard to get into Lord Jim and never finished it. Might try again.


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    Quote Originally Posted by jpacer View Post
    I'd recommend Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, but if you didn't like Slaughterhouse 5.... (It's also a satirical WW2 novel).
    I could see what he was trying to get at with all of it and I did give it til halfway through, I just wasn't interested in the main character or his story. Probably a lot of my distaste was because I had just come off of reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in a weekend...kind of a theme/style shift. That may've had quite a bit to do with it, Catch-22 is in my pile right now. Hopefully I can get into it.

    I read War and Peace and the Gormenghast books over the summer, so I think that's kind of what kicked me off on this classics binge--and no, Catcher in the Rye is not too modern, it's coming up in my que as well.

    Thanks for all of the suggestions everyone! I've got quite a few to add to my list now (Can't believe I forgot Old Man and the Sea..)!

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    The Book of Job is a really good story if you're into "the Bible as literature."

    Basically, God and his Angels are sitting around their conference room table drinking coffee and eating donuts:

    and God's like: "Look at my good servant Job, what a fine fellow he is."

    And Satan's like: "Yeah. . . he wouldn't be such a kiss-ass if you let me mess with him."

    God: "Oh really! OK then, go ahead and mess with him-- just don't kill him."

    Satan: "M'kay, Bye!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocity Kendall View Post
    A Tale of Two Cities
    This is surprising, since ATOTC holds a special place in my heart, as one of the worst books I have read in the last few years (I read about 20 a year).

    However, Great Expectations (also by Dickens) is one of my favorite books of all time. Amazing.

    Also, 1984, George Orwell.

    If you have never read "The Republic" by Plato.... Socrates is legit. Took fools to school.

    If you don't think you'll be capable of making up your own mind, or developing the ability, and if you have a propensity for throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Ayn Rand is probably not for you.

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    Moreover, Socrates never wrote anything down and discourage others from quoting him since he didn't want to be taken out of context.

    Plato's republic reads as fiction, where most Greek philosophers made an appeared and debate with one another. For some of the parts he quotes Socrates pretty well, but then starts injecting his own ideas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jetpack42 View Post
    This is surprising, since ATOTC holds a special place in my heart, as one of the worst books I have read in the last few years (I read about 20 a year).

    However, Great Expectations (also by Dickens) is one of my favorite books of all time. Amazing.
    Great Expectations made me want to kick a puppy. Perhaps we need a 'least favorite' counterpart thread so we can all vent. I'll gladly throw Romeo and Juliet and The Scarlet Letter on that pile, as well. That's probably sacrilege...

    Lots of my favorites were already mentioned, but I'll add

    The Importance of Being Earnest
    Animal Farm
    Wuthering Heights
    The Great Gatsby
    Much Ado About Nothing
    Metamorphoses


    Some of those are probably modern classics. Still worth reading.

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    I don't have any one favorite or even any ten favorites that I could possibly narrow down...

    But some that I've particularly enjoyed at various times that maybe haven't been mentioned yet (or maybe they have):

    Raymond Chandler, "The Big Sleep" and "The High Window" being a couple of my faves... "Farewell My Lovely" is good too, as are the short stories...

    Dashiell Hammet, short stories and novels both

    Or if you want really fluffy but highly entertaining mysteries, there's Rex Stout...

    For Vonnegut, I started with "Breakfast of Champions" and enjoyed it just fine...

    Mikhael Bulgakov, "The Master and Margarita"

    George Bernard Shaw's plays can be all right but after a while I kind of want to whop GBS upside the head for being such a smug twit...

    E. T. A. Hoffman's stories

    Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"

    Dickens "Barnaby Rudge"

    Gulliver's Travels - the complete version, not one of the abridged versions marketed as kid's books...

    Lord Dunsany's short stories are lovely little gems. If you can find a copy with pics by Sidney Sime, so much the better.

    Fielding's "Tom Jones"

    Byron's "Don Juan"

    Dumas, "The Three Musketeers", "Forty Years After" (AKA The Man in the Iron Mask,) "The Count of Monte Christo"

    Robert Louis Stevenson: "Kidnapped", "Treasure Island", "Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" being all good bets to start with...Or if you want medieval stuff, "The Black Arrow"

    Any Mark Twain, though Huck Finn is probably one of the best books in the English language. When I started on Twain as a kid I went on and read everything the library had...

    Henry James short stories, though you might have to be in the right frame of mind for him (you can't read him in a hurry. Sentences that go on for half a page, man...) (Perfectly constructed sentences, but still...) (For some reason I love James in the Winter, but in the Summer I'm never in the mood...)

    Sheridan Le Fanu's short stories

    H. P. Lovecraft's short stories (and Poe's stories too, while we're at it...)

    Thackeray, "Vanity Fair" might be the best place to start though much of his stuff is good reading...

    Theophile Gautier, "Mademoiselle de Maupin" and various stories (this is probably an acquired taste, though...)

    Ovid's Metamorphoses *cough* (sex galore...)

    Plays of Aristophanes, Terence, Aeschylus, Euripedes, Sophocles (translations may vary though. Some get a bit annoying when the translator tries to over-modernize...)

    Victor Hugo, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", various plays, etc.

    Wilkie Collins, "The Woman in White"

    Max Beerbohm's stories, maybe

    Any of Leonora Carrington's stories

    Dorothy Parker's short stories and poems

    Virginia Woolf's "Orlando"

    Stories of Isak Dinesen

    Dunno how much they count as "classics", but most of Thurber's stuff, random ramblings of Donald Barthelme, poems of Don Marquis and Ogden Nash...

    Also dunno if it counts as "classic", but pretty much any Hunter S. Thompson

    Lately I've been getting into Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen and finding them interesting, verdict is still out though.

    Also I've been trying Abraham Merritt because Michael Moorcock mentioned him as an influence. So far so good... (And of course, there's Michael Moorcock, too.)

    If you dig Shakespeare, maybe also try:
    John Webster, "The Duchess of Malfi" and "The White Devil" - two of my faves...

    Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, but find an unexpurgated verse translation (unless you can read Italian, in which case I envy you)... You'll want ALL the sex and weirdness for full effect.

    Spencer's "Faerie Queen" - more sex and weirdness, especially after you get past the first book...

    And Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, of course

    Pretty much any Beaumont and Fletcher plays, general Elizabethan larks...

    Dante's Divine Comedy - though the Inferno is the most interesting, things get less interesting the closer you get to heaven...If you can find a copy with thorough footnotes, that's best, it works better when you can get all the social-political context behind Dante's rants. (I started with the John Ciardi translation, which is nice and readable and has lots of notes.)

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; February 24th, 2012 at 06:55 PM. Reason: Added More, yep...
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  34. #29
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    Back in high school I rather liked a lot of the books that were forced upon me in English class. Huh! Oh, except Shakespeare. Never could understand his stuff. I haven't read too much since then, which is a shame...



    I'm not particularly enthusiastic about any of these, but, in retrospect, they are the ones I've enjoyed the most:

    1984
    Animal Farm
    Catch-22 (first 80% was boring, finally got super into the last 20%, but then it ended--FFFFFFFUUUUUUU)
    Lolita
    Lord of the Flies
    Pride and Prejudice (conflicted as to whether or not I feel guilty for enjoying this...)
    The Scarlet Letter
    Ringworld (the series; but there are some things about it that frustrate me...)


    I keep meaning to read more of Anton Chekhov, Kurt Vonnegut, and Vladimir Nabokov's stuff (particularly his Invitation to a Beheading), but I never get around to doing it. Heck, there is a huge list of books I've been meaning to read and reread.




    Quote Originally Posted by jpacer View Post
    One day I'll tell the story about the time he called me at home and critiqued my portfolio...


    Last edited by Kuroyue; February 24th, 2012 at 07:15 PM.
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  36. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by manlybrian View Post
    Robin Hood
    The Invisible Man
    War of the Worlds
    The Time Machine
    Alice In Wonderland
    Through The Looking Glass
    The Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn stories
    Call of Cthulhu

    There are more I might like but haven't read yet.
    You like the same books as me!
    Thus I recommend you:
    The House on the Borderland.
    The Beckoning Fair One. (Short story)

    I'm a big Thomas Hardy fan... but it's a different kind of taste, so they may not appeal to you.

    From Gegarin's point of view
    http://www.chrisbennettartist.co.uk/
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