Classic books – NY Is Book Country Sun, 05 Dec 2021 10:07:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Classic books – NY Is Book Country 32 32 10 classic books that were banned Fri, 19 Nov 2021 08:00:00 +0000

From the Bible to Harry potter, some of the world’s most popular books have been challenged for reasons ranging from violence to occult connotations. In honor of National Book Lover’s Day, here’s a look at 10 classic books that have sparked controversy.


Call of the wild, Jack London’s adventure on the Klondike Gold Rush in 1903, was banned in Yugoslavia and Italy for being “too radical” and was burnt by the Nazis because of the author’s well-known socialist tendencies.


Although Grapes of Wrath—John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel about a family of sharecroppers who are forced to move from their Oklahoma home to California due to economic hardship – won the author both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize , it also drew anger across America because some thought it promoted Communist values. Kern County, California (where much of the book took place) was particularly enraged by Steinbeck’s portrayal of the area and its working conditions, which they viewed as libelous.


As some readers watch the main character of Dr. Seuss The Lorax and see a fuzzy little guy who “speaks for the trees”, others saw the 1971 children’s book as a dangerous political commentary, even the author reportedly referring to that as “propaganda”.


James Joyce’s 1922 novel Odysseus perhaps one of the most important and influential works of the early 20th century, but it has also been deemed obscene both for its language and sexual content, and not just in a few provincial locations. In 1921, a group known as the New York Society for the Removal of Defects managed to keep the book out of the United States, and the United States Post regularly burned copies. But in 1933, the book’s publisher, Random House, took the Case—United States v. One Book Called Odysseus– in court, and ended up having the ban overturned.


In 1929, Erich Maria Note, a German veteran of the First World War, wrote the novel In the west, nothing is new, which accounts for the extreme mental and physical stress German soldiers faced during their wartime. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the realism of the book did not suit the Nazi leaders, who feared that the book would deter their propaganda efforts.


The original publication of Farm animal, George Orwell’s allegorical short story from 1945, was delayed in the UK due to its anti-Stalin themes. It was confiscated in Germany by Allied troops, banned in Yugoslavia in 1946, banned in Kenya in 1991 and banned in the United Arab Emirates in 2002.


Although many people consider William Faulkner’s 1930 novel As i die a classic of American literature, the Graves County School District in Mayfield, Kentucky at variance. In 1986, the school district banned the book because it questioned the existence of God.


Of course, it is well known that Vladimir Nabokov Lolita is about a middle-aged literature professor obsessed with a 12-year-old girl who will eventually become his stepdaughter. It’s the kind of story that would raise eyebrows today, so imagine what the response was when the book came out in 1955. A number of countries including France, England, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa banned the book because it was obscene. . Canada did the same in 1958, although it later lifted the ban on what is now considered a literary classic – an unreliable narrator and all.


Reading by JD Salinger The catcher in the rye has practically become a rite of passage for teenagers, but when it was published in 1951, it wasn’t always easy for a child to get their hands on it. According to TIME, “Within two weeks of its release in 1951, JD Salinger’s novel rose to number one among New York Times bestseller list. Since then, the book, which explores three days in the life of a struggling 16-year-old boy, has been a “censor favorite since publication,” according to the American Library Association. “


The most recent book on this list, the 1993 Lois Lowry novel The donoron a dystopia disguised as utopiahas been banned in several US states, including California and Kentucky, for fixing issues such as euthanasia.

Jane Austen’s classic books seem oddly relevant today Fri, 05 Nov 2021 08:31:00 +0000

Jane Austen’s classic books seem oddly relevant today

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]]> Classic books to read: “The Sundial” by Shirley Jackson Wed, 03 Nov 2021 13:39:26 +0000

After concluding “HangedI can definitely say that I fell in love with Shirley Jackson’s writing and her scathing reviews of American society. Then, while searching for another captivating read, I came across one of Jackson’s most comical works: “The Sundial” (1958). The novel is an absurd, dynamically constructed ride with compelling main characters that keep dark comedy fresh in yet another magnificent analysis of the plight of female empowerment and wealth inequality.

The story revolves around the Halloran family and the peculiar death of Lionel Halloran, the master of the deed of the exquisite Halloran mansion, but borderline garish. Suspicions arise within the family, and many believe that his mother, Orianna, murdered Lionel. She will inherit the house in the event of death as her husband, Richard, is under her guardianship due to his advanced age and illnesses. At this point, I thought the plot would unfold in a predictable fashion following similar rhythms to Rian Johnson’s movie “Knives Out” (2019), dampening my will to continue. Yet Jackson turns the tide of a family-run murder mystery, weaving a narrative about doomsday cults and the apocalypse.

Aunt Fanny, Richard’s sister living at the mansion, fears Orianna’s ownership of the deed, as Orianna despises her and will no doubt try to force her out of the family home. Distraught, Fanny wanders the sprawling, labyrinthine gardens of the mansion and stumbles upon a sundial, where she is said to have heard the voice of her father, the patriarch who built the mansion. Her father warns of the beginning of the end times and urges the family to come together to protect themselves and the mansion. Therefore, the focus of the novel shifts with the chaos resulting from backstabbing, power grabbing, and the general chaos that emerges among family members. Yet their struggle to prepare for the apocalypse is so overblown it’s downright hysterical, lightening the darker connotations in history.

A key selling point of “The Sundial” involves how the family dynamics before and after the revelation of the apocalypse underscore the struggle for women’s empowerment. Either way, Orianna is obviously meant to serve as a vehicle for this dialogue. Undoubtedly, she is the matriarch of the family: she dictates the coordination of preparations, provides authoritative direction and controls the family. However, in Orianna’s pursuit to do so, she is portrayed as an emotionless harpy who is ready to kill her son and as a dictatorial to impose guidelines for his ideal female-centric society to emerge from the ashes of the old. world order.

From Orianna’s perspective, her female-centric society is meant to contradict everything she despises in today’s male-centric world. For Orianna, her husband’s incapacity, her son’s death, and the potential for an apocalypse have given her the authority that at any other point in her life she is either clawed to reach or forced to shut up. . Perhaps this is why Orianna’s fight is so likable, even though its overall characterization borders on that of a comedic villain – it reflects how ambitious women have been misinterpreted as problems, not assets, during the 1950s. While such problems may not be as pronounced in today’s society, women in all walks of life still face systemic inequalities, which manifest themselves in society. unequal To pay, inadequate protection against violence and gender perceptions that degrade or objectify women.

Additionally, Hallorans frequently belittle and ignore the ability of the lower class. Many family members argue that the lower class is not worth saving due to a lack of sophistication; thus, they should not know the apocalypse. Instead, the family chooses to throw an end of the world party for them as a show of sympathy. However, during this holiday, the spirit and the general normality of the inhabitants of the city are fully exposed. Whether it is the librarian or the butcher, everyone takes the opportunity to elucidate the grotesque excesses of the Hallorans, their ability to waste time and their eccentric behavior.

Moreover, throughout the novel, the appearance of the Halloran manor is reinforced by its splendor, its excessiveness and its dignity; However, as the work progresses, the townspeople unveil a darker and more sinister story. The mansion built by Richard’s father was built using unscrupulous means, whether through a prominent estate, abusing contract laws to sue people, or buying them back into providing them with better facilities for doing business. Taken together, these elements reflect often seen inequalities in the ability of the rich to worry about absurd concerns about the desperate efforts of the working class to make ends meet. It also highlights the unethical efforts that prominent businessmen are taking today to secure power and wealth.

At its best, Jackson’s “The Sundial” is a poignant reflection of the plight of women’s empowerment and the inequalities experienced by the lower class. Additionally, the lingering absurdity of the Hallorans willingness to embrace the dubious apocalyptic proclamation makes it an eerily satisfying comic reward for its darker subjects. Overall, “The Sundial” is a masterful work of subverted expectations, creating a scathing social commentary that beautifully interweaves with moments of hilarity to provide a delightful read.

Mammas’ article is part of an ongoing column featuring reviews of classic books that one should read. Read the other articles here.

Dorothy turns classic books into stamps to celebrate great literature and our love of reading Thu, 21 Oct 2021 07:00:00 +0000

Celebrating the most influential, widely read and essential books from the 17th century to the present day, there are two new prints to feast you on, each containing 42 books reimagined as collectible postage stamps and forming one oversized sheet, just like you. might find if you buy bulk stamps at the post office. Each stamp features a graphic inspired by the book and the date of publication in book form.

The first goes for the classics, such as Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The second concerns the modern literary titles of the early 20th century onwards, including The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

Stamp Books: Classic

Stamp Books: Classic

Stamp Books: Classic

“We included classics that made us laugh and cry, scared us, made us feel hot inside, turned us into sleuths and challenged our way of thinking,” says Ali Johnson , half of Dorothy, which she runs. with James Quail. “There are books that tell stories of love, romance, maturity, self-awareness, suffering, deception, excess, revenge, terror and dystopia.”

Each work was designed by James and follows that of Dorothy The color of the books and Reserve the card products, both popular tributes to the world of fiction. Does Ali have a favorite stamp? “At Virginia Woolf’s Lighthouse is my favorite book and I love this stamp. But my favorite stamp, even though I’m not a big fan of the book, is Dracula. I love its simplicity and the way two little dots sum it up. it goes up perfectly, ”she said.

“As for both works, I thought it would be the modern print as I tend to read more contemporary literature now. But working on these prints has rekindled my love for some older classics. dusted off a few favorites to reread including Wuthering Heights, Tess of the d’Urberville, The Yellow Wallpaper and The Good Soldier. “

The prints measure 80cm x 60cm and are printed in litho with an additional silver foil. The two literature-based additions join an ever-expanding line of ‘Stamp Collections’ prints by Dorothy and are available to purchase for £ 35 each from from now on.

Stamp Books: Modern

Stamp Books: Modern

Stamp Books: Modern

Stamp Books: Modern

Classic books summed up in hilarious one-line reviews Sun, 17 Oct 2021 07:00:00 +0000

It was the best review, it was the worst review. Or, in these particular cases, they were the shortest, strangest, and / or just the most direct of them.

We’ve rounded up the funniest and weirdest classic book reviews we could find on GoodReads – the home of some of the most cutting-edge, brutal, and succinct views.

Now we’re reconsidering all of our favorite high school readings. (Above all Catcher in the rye.)


Anna karenina, Leo Tolstoy

(Credit: GoodReads)

Guess Tolstoy never got the memo?

As i die, William Faulkner

(Credit: GoodReads)

In a way, they are not …wrong?

1984 (nineteen eighty-four), George Orwell

(Credit: GoodReads)
(Credit: GoodReads)

Big Brother is not happy with either.

Catcher in the rye, JD Salinger

(Good reads)
(Good reads)

Alright, ouch.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

(Good reads)

Hey, whatever works.

Great expectations, Charles Dickens

(Good reads)

Ah, OK. This tracks.

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

(Good reads)

Something is rotten in the state of the review section.

Jane eyre, Charlotte Brontë

(Good reads)

It doesn’t matter what floats on your boat, Cristin.

Little woman, Louisa May Alcott

(Good reads)

We can ship with all Taylor Swift classic crossover lit chick.

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

(Good reads)

It’s not even a bad summary.

Moby dick, Herman Melville

(Good reads)

Well. This is factually correct.

Mrs Dalloway, Virginia woolf

(Good reads)

She is trying to buy them for herself, Nate!

Of mice and Men, John Steinbeck

(Good reads)

Evergreen Review. Reliable. Five stars.

Portrait of the artist as a young man, James Joyce

(Good reads)

Moocoow is literally the 14th word in the book, then the 22nd. Nathan must have been happy.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

(Good reads)

Duly noted.

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

(Good reads)

Extremely fair analysis.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

(Good reads)

Another solid analysis. Children these days! (Or … a century ago.)

The old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

(Good reads)

Yeah, and say Moby dickit is Ishmael for righteousness overcome the whale? It doesn’t happen, Matt!

Dorian Gray’s photo, Oscar Wilde

(Good reads)

Hey, you don’t know.

The foreigner, Albert Camus

(Good reads)

I will definitely use it to get out of conversations. “Do you know who you remind me of?” Did you read The stranger? “

The Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

(Good reads)

Ah, a bittersweet conclusion: Contemporary and classics collide.

And scene.

Top 5 Classic Books Everyone Should Read Mon, 23 Aug 2021 07:00:00 +0000

Classics are something that will never go out of style as it showcases themes deeply rooted in human history. Literature is no exception. Today we are going to discuss five classic books that everyone should read. So what’s on the list?

Lord of the Flies

A brilliant novel by British writer William Golding. First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies themes are still relevant to readers today. Here you can find the tension between group membership and being individual, betrayal and loyalty, moral and immoral aspects of human life. The plot of Lord of the Fliesrevolves around a group of boys who were on the remote uninhabited island and their very human attempt to function as a group and rule themselves. This novel is often at the top of the list of the world’s best written texts and its questioning of what democracy is when no one is watching it has made it the subject of many free essays, literary reviews and political publications.

Catcher in the rye

JD Salinger’s article, originally published as a series and in 1951 as a novel, still captures the hearts and minds of readers today. It is a story that describes a long road of self-identification that every student can relate to. Holden Caulfield, 16, is looking for his way out of the California institution. He remembers his life on the east coast, his school and his first encounters with “street life” as he meets the prostitutes, the homeless, as well as those who live in the residences of the center. -city.

“Catcher in the Rye” is a great account of postwar American society that is so fragmented and divided. The novel has often been banned in schools because it uncovers issues of class, innocence, sexuality and depression.


Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a classic tragedy without which literary education is impossible to imagine. ‘The tragedy of Macbeth‘, as the full title suggests, dates back to 1606 and tells the story of a general who received a prophecy that he would become king. Obsessed with the concept of power and the desire to fulfill prophecy, he becomes paranoid about the throne and crown and commits various crimes, including murder. The five-act play also tackles the topics of tyranny, influence, witchcraft, and superstitions that have their place in politics, and many essayists use the text for reference when writing on political themes and dictators.

Kill a mockingbird

If you don’t know anything about racism, here is the novel that will show all its atrocities. Written by Harper Lee in 1960 and set in 1930s Alabama, the story chronicles the thoughts and observations of Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch after his father was appointed to defend the black man accused of raping a white woman.

Lee used a lot of references from his childhood (like the one his father defended for two men accused of murder), although this is not an autobiographical novel. The story explores themes of mob mentality, segregation, discrimination, and the social consequences of slavery in America, particularly with regard to justice.

Gatsby the magnificent

This novel is indeed one of the best representations of the society of the jazz age in literature. Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, the novel addresses the issues of class conflict, flamboyance, the self-made man, the American dream, greed, love, jealousy and lust. ‘obsession.

The story revolves around Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire, who stops at nothing to regain the attention of his former lover Daisy Buchanan. Intrigue, jealousy, the Prohibition Age, and high class lavishness are masterfully portrayed by the author, who is considered one of the best American writers of all time.

The classical texts mentioned not only describe universal sentiments and familiar social orders, but are also used by modern writers as a reference as a metatext. Be careful, after reading them you might spot similar themes and plots in postmodern literature, but you’ll know where it started.

]]> Kelvyn Park high school throws away hundreds of classic books, scandalizing neighbors Mon, 09 Aug 2021 07:00:00 +0000

KELVYN PARK – Hundreds of classic Kelvyn Park High School books were thrown away last week, sparking outrage from neighbors.

Photos of the trash can full of high school books began to circulate widely online over the weekend, with angry commentators claiming the books shouldn’t have been thrown out or, at the very least, should have been given away. to local organizations.

The mountain of discarded books included copies of “Hamlet,” “Crime And Punishment,” and “The Metamorphosis,” among other classics.

“I was so upset because these aren’t books – they’re classics,” said Ruth Torres, a local resident, who wrote about the books on Facebook.

“They had Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, they had so many. And it was like, Wow, these are books that I grew up reading that changed my life and my perspective. I was like, why would they get rid of it that way? There are so many different ways to distribute books that are not in use.

In response to the messages, several neighbors rescued books from the dumpster – and the rain – over the weekend, Torres said. A local scout troop supervised by Torres plans to stock small libraries with some of the recovered books.

Credit: Courtesy of Ruth Torres
Some of the books recovered.

CPS officials said Kelvyn Park High School is currently undergoing renovations and books have been “disposed of” as part of that process.

“Weeding” is an essential process to ensure that schools maintain a relevant book collection. Condition, use in the curriculum, or provision of erroneous or dated information are among the factors considered in the weeding process, according to CPC policy.

“All students deserve to have access to appropriate reading material that will enrich their academic experience and we appreciate that the community has expressed such interest. Discarded books were obsolete, in poor condition, and no longer suitable for classroom use. The books weren’t properly disposed of until the alternatives were exhausted, ”CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in a written statement.

The Kelvyn Park High School principal did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

Hermosa High School is far from the first public school in Chicago to throw away books in droves – and generate frustration by doing so; this has played out in many CPS schools over the years.

Edgewater’s Senn High School made headlines in 2019 for throwing away hundreds of copies of classic books, including “The Great Gatsby” and “Hiroshima.”

At the time, CPS officials said the books were “weeded” after another high school left Senn’s building.

Hundreds of books were also thrown away at Foreman High School in 2016. The school in Portage Park threw away textbooks, many of which were still wrapped in plastic wrap.

CPS officials and then-director Foreman said the books were obsolete and had been disposed of in accordance with district policy.

Lee Helmer, executive director of the Hermosa Neighborhood Association, a community group that works closely with Kelvyn Park High School, said it was important that principals were not blamed for throwing away the books. They are doing their best with limited resources, Helmer said.

Kelvyn Park High School at 4343 W. Wrightwood Ave. primarily welcomes Hispanic students from low-income families, according to CPS.

“If we are to save these books, if people are afraid to save them, then communities and community organizations like the Hermosa Neighborhood Association need volunteers to connect with schools and make those connections to move these books before they go.” don’t end up in the dumpster. “Helmer said.

To volunteer with the Hermosa Neighborhood Association, visit the group’s website website.

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]]> Classic Books You Should Read: “Hangsaman” by Shirley Jackson Mon, 09 Aug 2021 07:00:00 +0000

When I’m looking for new books to read, I tend to stay within my comfort zone; I usually fall into the trap of relying on a fantasy or adventure novel to get my reading fix. But this summer, I thought about experimenting and exploring different genres to broaden my horizons. While doing so, I came across Shirley Jackson’s “Hangsaman” (1951), a landmark work of Gothic literature whose unsuspecting characters and suspenseful story sent me on a grueling roller coaster ride. At the end of Jackson’s novel, she invests a touch of optimism that made the experience rewarding and strangely bittersweet.

“Hangsaman” revolves around an introspective and introverted 17-year-old college girl named Natalie Waite. Throughout the novel, she struggles to define herself amid the influences of her egotistical parents and manipulative friends who try to impose their will on her. Natalie’s inability to meet the expectations of others causes her to become toxic to herself, compromising her already low self-esteem. Such cases push her mental state to the brink, as she can no longer distinguish herself from the machinations of those around her. Her story on its own is gripping, as her struggle to understand her identity merges almost tragically with her loose grip on reality, to the point that I couldn’t help but read on to find out how her story comes together. is unrolled.

There are various other characters in “Hangsaman” whose creepy, intriguing, and at times depressing personalities are equally vibrant. For example, Natalie’s father, who charms with his sarcastic remarks, is actually an absolutely horrible individual. His relationship with Natalie is defined by his misogynistic view of the role of women in society, which he uses to justify the constraint of his life. Another notable character is Arthur Langdon, a selfish English teacher at Natalie’s College who students adore for his laissez-faire style. He is also a renowned womanizer who values ​​fellowship with his students and uses his position of power to manipulate them into questionable situations. These characters and more are what makes “Hangsaman” such a deeply engaging novel, as Natalie’s interactions with these corrupt and terrible people end up unraveling her psyche.

Shirley Jackson, the author of “Hangsaman”. (Wikimedia Commons / Armen)

Perhaps what makes “Hangsaman” such a compelling read isn’t just the characters, but the setting of the novel: the United States of the 1950s. It speaks to how far we’ve come and where we are as a society. . Natalie’s journey into adulthood to discover her true identity is hampered by a deeply misogynistic society that views women’s intellectual advancement as secondary to family duties. The novel is in part a scathing critique of the marginalization of women and entrenched gender norms in the United States in the 1950s. Without a doubt, we have made giant strides in breaking down barriers to access and empowering the women. Yet even today, women face systemic inequalities, which manifest themselves unequal To pay, inadequate protections against violence and inability to access health care Where education, as well as sexist perceptions that degrade or objectify women. Jackson demonstrates how we as a society have solved some glaring issues, but we still have a long way to go to truly create an equal society for people of all gender identities.

Jackson’s novel also directs fire on the waning soul of college education. As Natalie struggles to define herself, one of her biggest hurdles is a college system overly preoccupied with increasing profit margins, normalizing education, and suppressing individuality. In this sense, Jackson’s work is a poignant reflection of what some institutions of higher education have become today: companies concerned with ticking boxes for a brochure rather than cultivating a passionate heart that seeks wisdom.

At its core, Jackson’s “Hangsaman” is a suspenseful and thought-provoking novel that tackles big issues. While Natalie’s story is certainly one that strikes a chord, her story is poetic as she takes a Herculean stance to define herself in the midst of a society that sees her as inferior because she is a woman. Yet the best part of Natalie’s journey is that Jackson forces you to ask yourself who you are, why you are this way, what you can become and encourages you to rage through thick and thin to forge your own path.

Mammas’ article is part of an ongoing column featuring reviews of classic books that one should read. Read the other articles here.

The 22 best classic books to read in your life Mon, 26 Jul 2021 07:00:00 +0000

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  • Classic books have characters, stories, or messages that stand the test of time.
  • All of the books on this list were published before 1987, although most are much older.
  • Want more books? Check out our top fantasy books, sci-fi books, and beach readings.

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While many readers prefer the newer versions, classic books are remarkable literary works that stand up to downtime, memorable for their beautiful prose, intricate characters, or their ability to capture life in the moment they were written. Our definition of a “classic” changes every decade or so, not only as great books become classics, but also as our understanding of humanity evolves.

All of the books on this list were published before 1987, although most are much older, dating back to the 11th century. In order to always be cherished, classic novels must have themes or messages that resonate with today’s readers and each book on this list was chosen because it is still a revered piece of literature – many of them. ‘between them remain at the top of List of Goodreads “Most Read Classics”.

Whether you are looking for a great intense


story or one of the first novels to ever be published, this must-see list of classic books has a read you will love.

22 classic books to read in your lifetime:

Classic books or miscellaneous books? Mon, 19 Jul 2021 07:00:00 +0000

St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of the earliest documents in the collection of texts that we call the New Testament. It is a cranky letter in which Paul berates a rival faction of the early Christians who sought to keep the movement going within Judaism by insisting that new converts be circumcised. Paul simply refers to his opponents as “the Jews”. Over time, the letter’s vitriol fueled the anti-Semitism that tainted Christianity for centuries, with horrific consequences that included the genocide of European Jews. A few years ago, I heard a Lutheran pastor and seminary professor tell undergraduates that Paul’s letter is a “tainted text,” and that his work as a pastor and scholar was, in effect. part, an effort to decontaminate it.

The fate of this scholar will be familiar to many teachers. Most academic disciplines, especially in the social sciences, have grim histories. Many are involved in the justification of imperialist, racist or eugenicist policies. My own field of American study has been the servant of Cold War ideology and an instrument of American chauvinism and chauvinism.

Recently a brawl broke out between the classics as the discipline grapples with the noxious aroma bequeathed by its association with racism, colonialism and fascism. The smell is more palpable to a new generation of academics steeped in critical theory and who, in some cases, are themselves members of minority groups hitherto unrepresented in the field. One of those young academics is Dan-el Padilla Peralta, a Dominican immigrant who spent much of his childhood in New York City’s homeless shelter system and whose revolutionary scholarship earned him d ‘be appointed to one of the citadels in the area – the Department of Classical Studies at Princeton University. Having probed the beast from within and having achieved the highest degree of professional success, Padilla almost turned against discipline.

Padilla’s challenge to the discipline, and his willingness to see the “contemporary configuration of the classics … to die”, Sounded the alarm so far and large, mobilizing the conservative establishment against what it sees as a dangerous protrusion of the critical-race-theory-cancellation-culture-awakening hydra. But concern about the future of the classics goes beyond the hysteria of culture wars. Everywhere, there seems to be bad news for the field, with several departments shutting down and a precipitous decline in undergraduate majors nationwide. It is not uncommon for the number of faculty members in a department to exceed the number of graduating majors. In a recent editorial in The Washington Post, Cornel West and Jeremy Tate called the closure of Howard University Classics, the only one of its kind in a historically black college or university, a “spiritual catastrophe.”

The recent decision at Princeton to eliminate the Greek and Latin language requirement for undergraduate majors has only added to the general anxiety. Reviews were quick to present this decision as a relaxation of scientific rigor and as a soft surrender to the academic left’s obsession with race and inclusion. But this framing of the problem sidesteps the substantive questions that Padilla and like-minded academics raise. The place of mastery of Greek and Latin arises from a deeper question on the identity and future of the discipline.

If by “classics” we mean primarily the study of ancient texts written in Greek and Latin, then there is good reason to require undergraduate majors to develop sufficient skills to read these. texts directly rather than relying on translations. But if by “classics” we mean something broader, like the study of ancient Mediterranean cultures in a way that takes seriously not only the Greek and Latin texts produced by its elite class, but also the discoveries. archeology, architecture, art history, etc. , along with the cultural exchanges and practices that shaped Antiquity, the case for a Greek and Latin language requirement for undergraduates is much weaker.

If, instead of meaning “the study of ancient Greek and Latin texts”, “classics” means the study of ancient Mediterranean culture in a multidisciplinary way – as is now the case in an increasing number of departments – then proficiency in Greek and Latin languages ​​may well be seen as a valuable asset for undergraduates rather than a field defining requirement. Specializing in the classics – or anything else – is not the same as embarking on a career in the field, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Bhen debating the disciplinary and institutional future of the “classic” major, we must not lose sight of the critical value of the “classics” in general education. Indeed, much of the concern about the future of classical literature departments confuses the crisis within the discipline with the related but distinct debate over the place of canonical – “classical” – texts in general education.

By “general education” I mean the curriculum requirements common to all students, regardless of the subject chosen. In most places, general education means courses in the humanities and social sciences. In such courses, which do not aim at disciplinary training but at the initiation of students to the intellectual tools and traditions from which the disciplines emerge, the value of the classics is impossible to overestimate.

I know of no better definition of a classic than that arrived at by John Erskine, who in the 1920s conceived the literary requirement of Columbia’s “ledgers”. The college instructional committee, unable to define the type of text suitable for such a course, referred the task to Erskine, who produced a list of 75 “ledgers” guided by the principle that “one great book is one that has meaning, and continues to have meaning, to a variety of people over a long period of time.

Following this definition, the textual traditions behind contemporary culture will suggest a large number of texts that significantly overlap, but are not identical with, the texts commonly associated with the discipline of the classics – Plato, Aristotle and the ancients. Greek playwrights, but also Michel de Montaigne, Virginia Woolf and Ralph Ellison, to name a few. The ability of these texts to speak to many types of people in many different historical circumstances arises from their being rooted in a common base of humanity that transcends the conditions of their own creation. Such texts provide the richest possible basis for general education.

There is, of course, an obvious problem with the literary and philosophical tradition that has produced our contemporary culture: as it has come to us in textual form, it is dominated by dead white men. Any program that focuses on influential works from the past will fail to represent our contemporary diversity. This is a problem that we must face if we are to present to our students the evolution and development of the institutions, norms and categories that organize their contemporary life.

We can take several approaches to this problem. The easiest – and most misguided – is to strike out the whole tradition and limit it to a specialized area of ​​study that students can seek out, such as majoring in Classics. A more responsible approach, though more difficult, is to take a critical look at tradition without idolizing it as the pinnacle of wisdom and virtue or dismissing it as a mere expression of Eurocentrism, oppression and exclusion. Meeting this challenge requires nuance, honesty and resistance to easy formulas, however psychologically satisfying they may be.

The choice between classical texts or various texts of general education is false. We must teach the canon no instead of a diverse set of voices, but as a precursor of this diversity and of the values ​​that support it. And that should be the backbone of general education – education not only for traditional elites, but also for students from marginalized communities. It is as much a mistake to think that students from under-represented backgrounds can only see themselves in texts written by people who look like them as to assume that texts that reflect our diversity can only speak forcefully. to students who share the background of the authors.

A general education based on the study of texts of major cultural importance is essential to the inclusion and diversity project. For years Padilla and I taught side by side in Columbia Freedom and Citizenship Program, a summer program that introduces low-income high school students to the basic texts of Western political tradition, mostly “classics.” Our aim is not to turn these aspiring first-generation academics into classics, but to equip them with the intellectual tools and critical perspectives to act as effective political agents in the world around them. It is a fundamental objective of all general education. The continuing debate in the discipline of the “classics” should not make us forget the indispensable value of the “classics” for this task.