AMES: Required Reading Books You Shouldn’t Just Skim SparkNotes | Culture

“Frankenstein” by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

I have never been more addicted to a classic novel than “Frankenstein”. Sometimes I dread assigned reading even though I’m currently taking two literature-focused classes – the irony isn’t lost on me. But when I picked up the Shelley classic, I was transported to a world of darkness and science. She found a way to create a “monster” that doesn’t appear to be a monster at all, just a being looking for a family, and she created an accessible novel for the common man to read. Shelley was a driving force as a woman writing science fiction, and to think that she wrote “Frankenstein” at 19 makes me feel like a 19-year-old loser. I return to annotate the text monthly, and continue to find new aspects of Shelley’s writing and themes of the text that I had missed before. If you picked up my copy, you’d find ink blots, margin notes, and a rainbow of colored tabs.

“Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

I just finished “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” for my gothic literature class, and I fell in love. In the short-lived short story, Stevenson built a bleak atmosphere following a simple lawyer investigating the duality of good and evil through Dr. Jekyll and his evil inner persona, Mr. Hyde. I read “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in one sitting at Love Library, and I’m sure other students were perplexed by my furious scribbling of notes and ideas on the subject of Stevenson of the Universality of Evil. It has a similar plot to “Frankenstein” where a scientist creates a “monster”, but it takes a different twist as to how the “monster” affects those around it. As I sat in class discussing the themes and symbols of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, I wanted to go back and re-read the scary story. I think if you want to read a classic novel on the shorter side, this is a great start.

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

I can’t even begin to explain the hold “Hamlet” has on me. Immersing yourself in a Shakespeare play can be daunting, but I think “Hamlet” is a painless and simple play to start with. I still go back and read my analysis of Hamlet’s sexualization of his mother because I’m still fascinated by the concepts that Shakespeare wrote about. I love reading from the perspective of someone going mad, and Hamlet is the golden boy of characters going mad. His nerve-wracking monologues and sassy remarks are sure to entertain you. Shakespeare fills “Hamlet” with puns and jokes for those still listening to My Chemical Romance. It was made for emo kids, and I won’t dwell on that.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I believe “Brave New World” is better than “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451”, and I will proudly admit it. Huxley has created a dystopia where everyone seems to be happy but just lives off simple pleasures. The meaning of sex has changed to a means of quick pleasure, and children are created in a laboratory with personalities based on their social hierarchy. The spirit was not meant to be used and the satisfaction came from drugs and sex. Huxley has built a world that feels like it was written yesterday, despite being published in 1932. Even as I write this explanation, I want to go buy a copy of “Brave New World”. I continually recoiled from the characters and their inability to see that they were trapped in a world of little meaning, but I continued to root for them to discover that they needed more in their lives. insignificant. After finishing “Brave New World,” I couldn’t help but contemplate how Huxley predicted a culture so focused on immediate gratification rather than meaningful relationships. If anyone reads “Brave New World” and needs someone to rave about the details, I’ll be there.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I’m ashamed to admit that I only read Oscar Wilde because he’s referenced in Cassandra Clare’s “The Infernal Devices,” but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I loved reading and annotating “The Picture of Dorian Grey”. Wilde questions what it means to be young and whether innocence can be restored. His use of language is not only luscious, but also witty. Wilde expresses themes of identity and experience through the lens of Dorian Gray, an archetype of masculine youth and beauty. I believe that as a society we will never outgrow the need for a beautifully and eloquently written novel, and of all the books listed, I believe “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is that novel. It is the dazzling prose that will surely make you wonder what it means to be young and how quickly we can fall into corruption because of our desires.

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About Marcia G. Hussain

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