-books -dates -Lists -Movies -Music -musicals and broadway 24 30 Rock 666 Park Avenue Alcatraz Alias America's Next Top Model American Horror Story American Idol Americans Are You There Chelsea? Arrested Development Arrow Awake Awkward Bates Motel Being Human Ben and Kate Bent Best Friends Forever Better with You Big Bang Theory Big Brother Big C Big Love Blue Bloods Boardwalk Empire Body of Proof Bones Borgias Boss Breaking Bad Breaking In Breaking Pointe Bridge Bunheads Camelot Carrie Diaries Charlie's Angels Chicago Code Chicago Fire Chuck Community Continuum Copper Cougar Town Cult Dark Tower Deception Defenders Degrassi Dexter Doctor Who Dollhouse Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 Downton Abbey Elementary Emily Owens MD Enlightened Episodes Event Fall Falling Skies Family Tree Felicity Finder Firefly Following Fosters Freaks and Geeks Friday Night Lights Friends Fringe Game of Thrones GCB Gifted Man Gilmore GIrls Girls Glee Glee Project Good Wife Gossip Girl Grey's Anatomy Grimm Hannibal Happy Endings Harry Potter Hart of Dixie Hawaii Five-O Hell on Wheels Hellcats Hemlock Grove Heroes Homeland House House of Cards House of Lies How I Met Your Mother How to Be a Gentleman How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) I Hate My Teenage Daughter In Treatment Intervention Jane by Design Jersey Shore Justified Last Man Standing Last Resort Life Unexpected Lone Star Longmire LOST Louie Lying Game Mad Men Make it or Break it Man Up Mindy Project Missing Mockingbird Lane Modern Family Mr Selfridge Napoleon Dynamite Nashville New Girl New Normal Nikita Nine Lives of Chloe King No Ordinary Family Off the Map Office Once Upon a Time Originals Outlaw Outsourced Pan Am Parenthood Parks and Recreation Perfect Couples Person of Interest Playboy Club Pretty Little Liars Prime Suspect Psych Raising Hope Real Housewives of New Jersey Revenge Revolution Ringer Rob Rookie Blue Running Wilde Saving Hope Scandal Scrubs Secret Circle Secret Life of the American Teenager Sex and the City Shameless Sherlock Smash So You Think You Can Dance Sons of Anarchy South Park Southland Suburgatory Supernatural Switched at Birth Teen Wolf Terra Nova The Fall The Fosters The Killing The River The Voice Touch true blood Twisted Two and a Half Men Two Broke Girls Under the Dome Unforgettable United States of Tara Up All Night V Vampire Diaries Veep Vegas Veronica Mars Walking Dead Web Therapy Weeds White Collar Whitney Whole Truth Wilfred Work It X-Factor X-Files Zero Hour

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Classic Books to Read and Skip

Classic books: Bane of the normal person’s existence or something you should check out post-high school? So many people mean to read classic books and never do. “One day I will whip out that Proust and be considered intelligent by mankind!” Some people have to read them all, to appear well-read.

Some people, like us, only want to read what we are going to enjoy and/or get something out of.

Now, there are uber-lit nerds who love just about every classic book and would crucify us for this post. But those people don’t NEED this post, because they’ve read, or will read, all of the books anyway. Here is our list of classic books that you have to read and classic books that you can skip. And classic books that you can just rent the movie instead. We haven't mentioned classic books that we haven't read, so the list isn't necessarily a complete one.

Pride and Prejudice: Blogger disagreement. Ern- "It’s so brilliant, it’s so witty, wah wah wah. Mark Twain didn't even like Jane Austen. If you have seen any of the movies (and unless you’ve lived under a rock your whole life), you’ve got the gist. Same story with Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Little Women. Don’t feel like you HAVE to read these chick classics if you don't want to. But they are fun if you WANT to read them. You have to at least see the movies though. These things go down better with hot guy visuals." Leeard- "Love Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite classics, and you must read it. Along with Little Women."

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: Read it. We know what you are thinking. “This is only for Christians.” No, no, no. We know a hardcore atheist who loves this book. It’s great for moral self-examination. It’s dark, it’s clever, it’s funny, it’s short, and it helps you look at your own arrogance, how you treat others, and how you think. Premise- One demon writes letters to a junior demon on how to ruin his “patient,” a human the junior demon is trying to destroy. How does this not sound awesome?

Harry Potter: Read it. Read it all. There are some people out there who don’t like fantasy. We don’t know how to help you, except to tell you to ease into it with romance (The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, up to “Obsidian Butterfly.” After that, things just get slutty and weird.) or funny mystery (The Dresden Files. The books, never the TV show). If you tried to get into it by reading the first book, and that didn’t work out, skip to the more adult ones. Read a summary of books one and two (or watch the movies, even though those two movies are the worst of the movies) and move onto book three. But if you miss 4, 5, 6, and 7 of this series, you are truly missing out.

Lord of the Rings: Read the famous quotes (just google “famous quotes” and the dialogue in the books, after you see the extended versions of all the movies. The movies aren’t missing scenery and story. What the movies lack is the amazing dialogue. And read the Tom Bombadil part in book one. That’s all you need, but we think if you’re a fantasy person, you will want to read it all.

Crime and Punishment: Skip it. Read The Brothers Karamazov instead. Why do they teach Crime and Punishment in high school? Because it’s considerably more lightweight than Brothers, Dostoevsky’s last book and spiritual powerhouse. Pressed for time? Just read the chapter called “The Grand Inquisitor” and the chapter before that.

Aaaand this paragraph threatens to incur the wrath of Cat, but we will risk it. Shakespeare!: Ones you have to read- Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, The Tempest, Macbeth, Othello, Merchant of Venice Well, maybe. It's a little anti-Semitic). But if you have the chance to see a decent production of ANY Shakespeare play, go. Also, his poetry isn’t great. Very skip-able. Try Rainer Maria Rilke instead. Or T.S. Eliot. We fully believe that plays were meant to be performed and watched, not read.

Pilgrim’s Progress: There is a very good picture book version of this that haunted our nightmares as children. If you can’t find that, then yes, you have to read the book, if only because it’s just so amazingly weird and dark. But we’re pretty sure only religious people are going to get this one.

Wuthering Heights: It is short and easy, so go ahead and read it.

1984: You must. The movie doesn't make sense unless you read it anyway.

Anna Karenina: Another one that fares better onscreen. The book is a little dull. War and Peace is better, if you want Tolstoy. But that’s another long one. Tolstoy has great character descriptions, if you are into that.

The Secret Garden and Last of the Mohicans: It’s movie time.

Les Miserables: See the musical. It’s a great story though.

Anything by Charles Dickens: MOVIES.

Ender’s Game: Unless someone has spoiled it for you, like that beyotch in Barnes and Noble did to Ern's brother, read it. Leeard thinks that even if someone has spoiled it for you, you should still read it. Orson Scott Card creates an entire world in this book, and never has to dumb it down.

The Shining by Stephen King: YES this counts as a classic. Don’t argue with us. Also, The Dark Tower series. Read them. Skip The Shining if you’ve seen the movie, but if you haven’t, read the book and then see the movie.

Flatland: Yes. It’s short and full of good information for humans.

The Sound and the Fury: Read it if you are compassionate and you like characters. Read it if you are a Cormac McCarthy fan, because he is above the use of punctuation and you wish other authors were as free with their style. But keep the cliffnotes handy, because several parts of it are hard to follow, even for good readers.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Read it. It’s very different from the Disney version. After the book depresses you, rent the Disney version.

Moby Dick: Unless you are thrilled by the subject, get the cliffnotes.

Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn: Read them. They are fun.

Heart of Darkness: There is a kid in every high school class. He wears dark, disheveled clothes, and yet he is still cool. He is cynical, dark, mocking, sarcastic, and superior to everyone. His favorite movies are A Clockwork Orange and Donnie Darko (not that there’s anything wrong with that). He loves this book. Unless you are him, you can skip it.

Dante’s Inferno: Read it if you are at all interested. You will know if this kind of thing is your bag. But it’s very, very good and worthwhile.

The Stranger and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man: If you are an atheist or an existentialist, you will love these. If you are not, you will find them simplistic, depressing and shallow.

Narnia: To read- The Silver Chair, The Last Battle, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. To skip- The others. To see the movie: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. Bonus points if you watch the British versions with the really funny-looking Lucy.

The Scarlett Letter: Skip it. Just don't judge people. Big Love is much more timely.

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Skip it. The bloggers are in complete and total agreement on that.

The Odyssey: Surprisingly not boring.

The Red Badge of Courage: Skip it. The guy is a chicken anyway, so why is it called that?

A Separate Peace: Read it.

The Bible: No other book has shaped this culture as much as this one. Even if you know you won't believe a word of it, it's a must. You can just read a summary of Numbers and Joshua if you want though. And maybe Leviticus. We think that's important though.

Brideshead Revisited: Laaaame. Ok, there's this old man who does not like religion, but just before he dies, he calls for a priest and gets religious for two seconds, because he is about to die. It's supposed to be a good thing, but we think it's incredibly disappointing that he didn't stick to his guns and how he lived his life.

Beloved: Leeard has been forced to read this book 3 times for different classes, and has hated it every time. Some people love this book, but we can't figure out why.

Others to read: Brave New World, The Catcher In the Rye, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Diary of Anne Frank (the unabridged version where she reveals she's kind of a lesbian), anything by G.K. Chesterton, old fairy tales. The Great Gatsby, The Phantom Tollbooth, and To Kill a Mockingbird (but if you don't want to, the movie will suffice).

Agree? Disagree? Have some of your own to add to the must-read list?


  1. I just read the Harry Potter series (I love them but I hated the last film) and The Diary of Anne Frank and I really liked it, thanks a lot for your suggestions (:

  2. You hated the last film? The Deathly Hallows? Wow, we thought it was decent. Of course, none of them are nearly as good as the books.

  3. It was pretty decent in general, but not what I was expecting and Emma Watson looked so tired of being Hermione.

  4. Wow. Very exhaustive list. Hard to add anything as you pretty much nailed the classics. Here are some others you might enjoy:

    James Michener's "The Source". My favorite work of historical fiction.

    Milton's "Paradise Lost". It's an acquired taste, but I loved it.

    Saint Thomas Aquanis's "Summa Theologica". My favorite Saint's best work. Read it during confirmation Heavy, but worth the effort.

    John Donne's "Sonnets". 'Death be not proud...' Had me at that point. Incredible, spiritual poetry.

  5. In the last couple of movies, we thought she played Hermione too "upset." She always seemed angry or worried, even when there was no doom and gloom. She dialed that down in the last movie.

    We've had so many of our favorite books made into movies that we wouldn't have pictured. We've kind of stopped expecting them to be the way we would make them. As long as they aren't hideous, we are happy.

    Harry Potter movie 2 was hideous.

  6. JimZ: We've been told to check out John Donne! One of us has read The Source. It's good and well-researched, but does it qualify as a classic? Hopefully someday. Thanks for the recs.

  7. I wrote a really long comment for this post and then my computer died and the whole thing vanished and I am not rewriting it all. But I really enjoyed this post and I think I might do my own "must read" list on my blog.

  8. Noooooo. We've been deprived by technological malfunction!!!! :(

    This post dealt with only classic books. If we were to do more for "all books," we might have to break the posts up by genre.

    Both of us read a lot, so between the two of us, that would be one monster of a list.

  9. Do either of you use goodreads? If so, find me on there.

  10. Naw. Maybe this summer we will join though.

  11. Ok I saw this post when you first posted it, but I've been a major slacker lately.

    I sort of skipped around in English in high school because I was all "Don't tell me what to do, you mind controlled puppet!" (yes, I was obnoxious) and because I hated some of my teachers. As a result, I missed out on a lot of classics. On the one hand, I'm disappointed because I feel left out of some literary references. On the other hand, I believe reading is supposed to be enjoyable, and so many classics are just not as relatable anymore. Difficult to understand and a chore to read.

    But I love books.

    I agree with most of your reviews (of the books I read, which wasn't as many as I had hoped). There are movie versions of books that do justice to the original or even improve upon an already great piece of awesomeness. Lord of the Rings is an example... the books were great once you got into them (and skipped the songs), but the movies were so beautifully done and so true to form that the books are an acceptable skip.

    Now, as a history major, I'm frequently crucified for this, but I loooooooooove Gone With The Wind, both the book and the movie. The thing is, they send such different messages, so it's hard to tell people to skip the book.

    I could go on for hours, but I'll just end on P&P... If you watch the horrific Kierra Knightly version, you must read the book. If you have the sheer dedication or nerdiness to watch (or own... :D ) the 5hr BBC version, you can skip the book. Say what you want about the budget films BBC cranks out; they stick to the books with their movies (even if it's funny looking Lucy Pevensy). Besides, it was where I went from "Colin Firth? He looks ridiculous. Let's refer to him only as Skulking Darcy" to "Omigaaaawd I luuuurve Mr. Darcy!"

  12. The reason we think people need to read all the dialogue in Lord of the Rings is that the books are actually a lot deeper than the already deep movies. Watch the third movie with just the sound. Don't look at it. It's astonishing how lame most of the lines are, and when you aren't dazzled by everything else, you notice.

    Gone with the Wind IS a fun read, but steer clear of the sequel. Yeesh.

    Ern saw the Keira Knightley version first and really liked it. Then Leeard made Ern watch the Colin Firth one. While Ern admits that she needed to see it, and it was fun, she thought that the Keira one nailed all the best parts. It kept in the funny and romantic parts and kept out all the subplots/lines only the obsessed would care about. Plus, the Keira one looked better, and we thought Keira made a better Elizabeth. Not everybody reads or has five hours. But to each their own. The BBC really does make an effort to leave everything in there.

    They should do that with Harry Potter one day, if they get a bigger budget. Much bigger.