Hello Readers! We’re back with another Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday!
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This Weeks Theme is Top Ten Classics
Bry: What constitutes a classic these days? This topic lead to an interesting discussion with several people, for many books I would consider too modern for the title ‘classic’ are being hailed as such, but do books written thousands or hundreds of years ago count? The boyfriend suggested “Anything that is taught in English class” but I hated most of that shit. So, I turned to Goodreads and its ‘Classics’ genre, and picked my favourites out of what came about.
1. Everything Shakespeare ever wrote.
I am a DIE HARD Shakespeare lover. I’ve read them all, seen them all, nerded out to every movie or film adaptation, and I might as well just live in the white tents of Bard on the Beach every Vancouver summer. I’m desperately in love with Shakespeare. My favourite is Hamlet, and other high contenders are Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, Titus Andronicus, and Twelfth Night.
2. The Prince by Machiavelli
It should come as a shock to no one that I, the Medici fan girl, would have to have Machiavelli on my list, especially when he was writing in dedication to Lorenzo the Magnificent Medici. Machiavelli’s shrewd evaluations of what it meant to rule, how to succeed in politics, and how to play with power truly shaped the Renaissance world, and is deserving of all due praise.
3. Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (and all subsequent Musketeer/D’artagnan tales)
I freaking love me some Musketeers. I’ve always loved this fictionalized tale so closely enmeshed with the real world history of France, and it will always be a story I return to again and again. I don’t want children, but if I did have a son, I would very seriously name him D’artagnan.
4. The Divine Comedy (Paradiso, Purgatorio and Inferno) by Dante
Dante’s imaginings of Purgatory, Heaven and Hell are still to this day staples of our modern perception. He was a fearless writer, leaving no stone unturned, and no detail left unexplored. Dante’s visceral writing stands as a stark insight into the concerns over the soul in the Renaissance
5. Everything by Edgar Allen Poe.
Especially the Facts of the Case of M Valdemar, the Tell-Tale Heart, and the Fall of the House of Usher. I absolutely love Poe’s dark, dreary, tense and gothic work. Furthermore, even at his most gruseom, Poe was a wonderful commentator on society and identity, and isn’t often credited enough for his observations. He wrote like no one else ever has, or likely ever will!
6. The Cantebury Tales by Chaucer.
Considered to be one of the first works published in the English vernacular, and credited for popularizing such, The Cantebury tales are some of the best peepholes we have into the life of such varying lifestyles in 14th century England. Where else would such a collection of stories, ranging from peasants to knights, prioresses and bawdy housewives? Unsurprisingly, my favourites include the Prioress’s Tale and the Tale of the Wife of Bath.
7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
So this would be one of those books I’d consider too modern for ‘Classics’ but Goodreads says so, and there is never enough praise for Douglas Adams. I have a deep love for dry British humour, and having Douglas Adams be a part of my formative literary years is partially responsible for that. Its rare that I laugh out loud while reading, but this was accomplished more by Adams than anyone else! He was so ahead of his time, and will become one of those permanently relevant figures. He’s also responsible for an important life lesson: DON’T PANIC!
8. Ten Little Indians (or And Then There Were None) by Agatha Christie.
I am a huge huge fan of locked room mysteries and whodunits! Agatha Christie certainly is one of the best for this genre, and ‘And Then There Were None’ was one of the first locked room books to fall into my hands. I attribute my inspiration from her writing into my future love of authors like Michael Slade.
9. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Or more accurately, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick. Any list of classics would be entirely remiss without a satirical suggestion of eating children. Enough said!
10. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Recommended to me in middle school as one of the best horror/thriller/mystery books ever written, the Woman in White was a huge hit with me. I love books that make me squirm, or want to bite my nails the way this did.
Fry: I don’t really read classics. So, I suppose my list is going to have to be a top ten on books I want to read at some point. You’re going to quickly discover a trend. As I’m not big into contemporary no matter the time period. The closest I’ll get to Austen is yet another rewatch of Austenland (c’mon, that movie is fantastic).
1. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
2. Dune by Frank Herbert
3. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
5. Ringworld by Larry Niven
6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
7. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
9. Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler
10. The Stand by Stephen King
Carol: The definition of a classic is different for everyone, especially as a genre. But for my personal picks, it comes down to a few things:
1. It must be a book that was written prior to 1940- anything later than that is too ‘contemporary’. Sorry. That’s how it goes. Classics have to have some definitive age.
2. It must be able to ‘age’ well. Classics can be read, any time, at any age, and anywhere, and still be as compelling today in the modern world as it was in the day it first was written. Some books, however good, don’t age well with the time, and can be very hard to get in to.
3. It has to be memorable. True Classics can’t be forgotten, whether you love them or hate them. They stick with you, either as an image, a theme, a thought, or something else. Because it is memorable, classics can define other works and lead to adaptations (radio, television, films) and thus they leave a permanent mark. So if it ain’t memorable, it ain’t on my list.
Let’s get started, bottom on up!
10. The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe by Edgar Allen Poe.
Honestly, I couldn’t just choose one of Poe’s works, and for the most part, his writings are mostly either short stories or poems. But everything that Poe has put to paper is a classic, to me. I was terrified by his horror stories and his poem ‘The Raven’, I was enthralled by his morality tales, his poetry is haunting in imagery as it is in rhyme and meter. I cannot stress enough how important it is to read Poe, at least ONE of his poems or stories, in your lifetime. As for it’s enduring legacy, well, ‘The Raven’, as I said, is so well known that it’s been featured on ‘The Simpsons’, there are numerous film versions of ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, and ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’. Hell, Poe himself was the subject of a ‘fictional-history/action/horror film’! How’s that for memorable?
9. The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
With a semi-supernatural, semi-scientific explanation of Jekyll’s formula, and the thrilling intrigue brought by his alter-ego, Hyde, this story of a man’s inner struggle brought out to flesh and blood is intense! It has been the subject of many retellings, plays, movies, and even a musical adaptation. The haunting story of Jekyll and Hyde is a story you can’t pass up, if you ever meet it in a dark library isle.
8. Twelth Night by William Shakespeare.
Technically not a novel, but it is one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s works. Why? Well, there’s comedy, there’s mistaken identity, there’s love, there are challenges of gender-rolls and convention, sword-fights! How can you be bored? There’s even music! One of my favorite adaptations of the story is a film starring Ben Kingsley, and he plays Feste, a clown and trickster who wanders about, knowing all the truth but never giving any of it at the right time, but still trying to be a guiding hand while being quite funny. Read the play, see it on stage, or find the movie! You’ll be glad, and I assure you you’ll find great humor in the Bard’s words.
7. The Hound of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
One of the best stories of the Sherlock Holmes collections, this story remains a staple of adaptations (I love the episode of ‘BBC’s Sherlock’ based on this story) and is a must-read for mystery loving readers. Most of the story involves our dear Watson alone, in fact, without Holmes’ guidance! But when Holmes does join in, the game is most certainly afoot, and they do have to work together to uncover the truth behind the hound that plagues Sir Henry Baskerville.
6. Frankenstien by Mary Shelley.
One of the most feared monsters in modern fiction, but also a misunderstood Adam seeking acceptance from his maker, this story by Mary Shelley strikes a chord within us. It asks if we mere mortals should be playing with the mystery that is life, and if we are going too far in science and medicine. A woman ahead of her time, Shelley knew that there was always a dark path one could take. Inspired by a nightmare, she wrote one of the scariest, and also thought-provoking stories ever. This book has been made in to movies and stage-plays a plenty, with my favorite being the Brannagh feature starring Robert DeNiro (you read that right) as The Creature. I do, however, recommend finding a copy or showing of the stage production starring Johnny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch (alternatively) as Frankenstien and the Creature. Overall, though, I urge you to read the book. Much more shocking than any visual medium.
5. Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Up in the ‘classic monster’ hierarchy is the Count himself, Dracula. Stoker studied many reported ‘vampires’ in his day, among them the countess Elizabeth Bathory and the dreaded Vlad Dracul, who was said to drink the blood of his enemies after impaling them. Vlad was not actually a vampire, but that didn’t stop Stoker from taking his name and making him the archetype for the ‘gentleman predator’. He was suave and compelling, but ended up draining the blood of his victims in order to hide is true grotesque nature. Dracula has been seen stalking the stage and the silver-screen, and helped birth the modern vampire craze. But no sparkling idiots or wimpy fang-faced fonies can match the first Vampyre, Count Dracula. Before you look to either Legosi or Oldman for film versions of this character, look in the pages first.
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.
Perhaps one of the best examples of a story that can be read straight up or looked through for very subtle subtext, Dorian Gray’s tale is one of tragedy. A beautiful young man caught up in an odd, mystic circumstance and taking advantage of seeming eternal youth. He engages in vices and hedonistic living, but to what end? The original versions (and restored editions that appear now) hint that Dorian was openly bi-sexual or gay (as Wilde himself was hiding his own sexuality at the time). One very difinitive movie from the black and white era of cinema exists that carries these over-tones, and was just as daring in its own time. But at the heart of this book is the story of a young man trying to hide his inner darkness behind a beautiful mask. Pick it up and read it, I beg you!
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I read this book in middleschool, and have seen two film versions since then, but I still enjoy this story. I felt very akin to Jane, seeing myself as a plain girl, myself, and yearning for both something more but also seeking just to have a little expression and success. Jane is also a governess, which I connect with wanting to be a teacher in my own life. Jane went through strife and uncertainty, and yet when she had chances to take other opportunities or turn back, she still ended up finding something she never thought she would have. Please, don’t pass this book up.
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
Another from the Bronte Sisters, I like this story because I’m both drawn to and completely shocked by Heathcliff, the roguish man who first loses his great love, Catherine Earnshaw, before exacting his revenge on all who had caused him heartache and strife. With romance, intense intrigue, and a little bit of a ghost story, this book is one of my favorites and one that I want everyone to read.
1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Skirting by my date requirements by just a few years is my absolute FAVORITE book! Yeah, I know, it’s kind of a cheat, but this book is indeed a classic! Not only because it is still read and still loved by people the world over today, and not only because it first appeared in 1937, but because of the heart of the book- A small, and somewhat frightened protagonist goes on an unexpected, and very long adventure that changes him inside and out, and also begins the works of a greater event down the line for his whole world. Had Bilbo never run out that door of his after some treasure-seeking dwarves, who knows what could have happened!
We all know there is a film series about this book, but even I must admit, there is FAR FAR too much added in to the movies! I suggest, if you want a visual medium, that you seek the animated Hobbit film by the Rankin-Bass animation company. It told the core-story, kept much of the book’s charm, and added a little influence of its own. But above all, I encourage everyone to read the book before you watch or see anything else.