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Thoughts after finishing a Classic Book Reading Challenge

#1 User is offline   Andorion 

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 04:11 PM

This year I read 24 classic books selected at random from the Goodreads Classics List. Here I am laying down my very brief thoughts on them. The books are grouped by the star rating I gave them.

I think a classic book should, by its very nature be able to appeal to readers across broad gulfs of space and time. From my experience while some books can definitely do this, others fail badly.

Interested to see if there are any reactions to this.

Classic Book Reading Challenge:

5 Star rated books:

1. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: An extremely poignant look at intelligence, happiness and humanity. The skill of the author in showing the escalating and degrading levels of intelligence of the primary protagonist through his written reports really makes this book. The interpersonal relationships of the protagonist and how they changed throughout was an excellent exploration on how we form our likes and dislikes and how important empathy is in everyday relationships.

2. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: This was an extremely difficult book to read. Anne is intelligent, curious and extremely relatable. Reading her most intimate thoughts, desires, plans and ambitions while knowing how tragically her story was going to end was undoubtedly one of the most heartbreaking things I have done as a reader.

3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith: I loved how this book just kept on getting better and better with each chapter. I greatly appreciated the very vivid portrait of working class Brooklyn that the author presented.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: What I especially appreciated about this book was how by using lucid and simple prose and a child's point of view the author composed a powerful tale of racism, righteousness, love and fatherhood. I loved Atticus. He maybe one of my favourite characters in fiction.

5. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro: A startlingly evocative and beautiful book set in Britain which grips far more in its subtlety and what it does not say rather than what it puts on the page. Never have descriptions of a butler serving drinks and waiting on a party been so intense.

4 star rated books:

6. Aeneid by Virgil: While not as grand as the Iliad or as thrilling as the Odyssey this story of the pre-history of Rome and the blending of Greco-Roman mythology is an excellent read. I loved the Graves translation.

7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: Very short but very intense and powerful. While the tragedy was somewhat foreseeable that only added to the compelling narrative. The ending is one of the saddest I have read.

8. The Godfather by Mario Puzo: This book starts off fast and rapidly descends into violence. While the middle area is somewhat emptyish, the ending is excellent. I loved the contrasting personalities of the different members of the Corleone family, and in the end felt quite bad for Michael.

9. The Idiot by Dostoevsky: I loved this scathing critique of Russian society. The author had a tendency of putting in a major twist or a development towards the ending of a section or a chapter. I enjoyed this much more than War and Peace.

10. The Divine Comedy by Dante: The highlight of this book is Inferno. The other parts are good but Inferno was my favourite.

11. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy: Hardy's unforgiving and brutal criticism of the moral hypocrisy of Victorian society really shines through in this extremely bleak and depressing book.

12. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: This book is unexpectedly violent and wild. While I am inclined to believe that some of the characters are a bit exaggarated, I really enjoyed this brilliantly dark take on tragic romance.

3 Star Ratings

13. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: While I am not so sure about the content of this book, I liked the author's beautiful style of writing.

14. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: While the depiction of racism and exploitation in Africa is certainly interesting, this book didn't leave much of an impression

15. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut: While I greatly enjoyed the core theme of the book and what the author was trying to say, I did not like his way of saying it.

16. Bleak House by Charles Dickens: This book is so odd. It starts off brilliantly with some excellent satire of the courts system of Victorian England. But after that the book slowly wanders off track. There are some very vanilla characters, Dickens crams in his trademark tragedies in the last section in a rather hurried way and the conclusion is silly and predictable.

17. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I liked this book for some reasons and greatly disliked it for others. The character construction was one of principal problems. Full review at Goodreads.

18. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: Neither good, nor bad. Just ok.

19. The Color Purple by Alice Walker: I was greatly intrigued by the theme and events of this book but I have to say the dialect used really put me off.

20. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: In some ways this book is prophetic, but I feel that with the rise of the internet, Bradbury's alarm about television seems misplaced. Also reading is still going strong and in fact seems more popular than ever.

2 star rated books

21. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott: While I appreciate how this book set up a lot of medieval tropes which were used in later fiction (GRRM for one) the story itself is very winding, slow and fragmented. Ivanhoe doesn't even show up till page 50 and then vanishes again. Also some characters were extremely, unnecessarily verbose.

22. The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham: This book really struggled to keep me from being utterly indifferent to it. Nothing much really happened. While some descriptions and sections were mildly amusing and interesting, most of the book was utterly unremarkable. There is an entire section which the author admits can be skipped that is a cringe inducing descent into an Oriental vision of colonial India.

23. Emma by Jane Austen: This is undoubtedly one of the most pointless books I have read. Literally nothing happens except conversation and some more conversation. The protagonist is painfully annoying.

24. How Green was my Valley by Richard Llewellyn: This is like the anti-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A journey of false nostalgia into the bleak history of a Welsh coal town, it is principally remarkable for its shabby treatment of female characters and the startling narrow mindedness of certain characters.

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