Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On the subject of books: The Contenders

Please excuse the minimalist blog post, but I would very much like your votes for this year's monthly classics.

Here are the contenders*:

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
  • Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • The Black Sheep, by Honoré De Balzac
  • The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks
  • The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
  • The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  • The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
  • Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
  • An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas
  • As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  • The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass
  • The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
  • The Rainbow, by D. H. Lawrence
  • Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
  • The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
  • Atonement, by Ian McEwan
  • Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
  • American Pastoral, by Philip Roth
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  • Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

*Though if you really really love something that's not on the list, please feel free to suggest it! I've particularly been trying to seek out more classics by women and non-white people, but it's hard, since who gets put in the "classic literature" bucket has kind of a long history involving a lot of '-isms.'

Since I've been doing for a few years now, here's all the ones I've read in past years:


  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  • A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  • The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne
  • A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  • The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner


  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.
  • The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin.
  • The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy.
  • Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.
  • The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.
  • Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
  • The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Cider House Rules, by John Irving


  • Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  • All The King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren


  1. I haven't read most of these, though some (The Remains of the Day, The Tin Drum) are on my "To Read" list. The Little Prince is beautiful and also pretty short-- might be a good option for a busy month.

  2. Lovely Bones is haunting, but good and a reasonably quick read. Robinson Crusoe is one I remember fondly from childhood.

    I also nominate Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston) or The Poisonwood Bible (Kingsolver), or Native Son (Wright)!

  3. I'm going to cast my vote for Pride and Prejudice (because it's my very favorite book - really, it's the wellspring from which every romantic comedy came from), but a close second for the Woman in White - it's a fun read!

  4. Comments, where I have them:

    The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
    **My 2007 review: Cheesy and trite but true. Sad and beautiful. A perfect cross-country plane read if you enjoy sappy emotional books that make you cry and grateful for your life.

    Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    **Such a classic tale full of period-specific romance and gender norms (with the pushing of boundaries being done in areas that are so quaint today). Also, I feel like there are more references to it in pop-culture than many other classics, so it pays bigger dividends than many.

    The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks
    **Just read this one, thanks to Cat's recommendation. Super short, concise, and draws you in. Very clever ending. Well done, but almost more of a novella than a novel. Worth reading, for sure. If you like the Culture novels, it's an interesting look into the author's mindset before he started to explore these themes off-earth.

    The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    **If you've already read any Ishiguro and loved it, then this is a no-brainer. My favorite Ishiguro book. A lovely tale of love and longing. More here:

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    **Same comment as Ishiguro. McEwan has a signature style and if you like it, you'll likely like this as well. More here:

    The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    **Such a lovely classic. And very short. You should read it.

    The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
    **Haunting, but wonderful. A sad topic (abduction, murder, survival of the family) told well, with compassion and laughter and reality. Very well done. Highly recommended.

    Can't wait to see your choices and reviews!