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Tag / Classic books


Classic novels for the reader who’s been scared of them since High School

Did you cringe in fear every time your English teacher said "This semester we'll be reading....", and then proceeded to trot out some classic novel that sounded like a lot of work?
Take it from us, you are not alone!  Reading is rarely fun when it’s being forced upon you. That’s why so many of us are so resistant and resentful about some of the actually great books we've been assigned to read.

However now we're older, and wiser, it might just be time to take a second look at some of those books again... you just might enjoy them!
Payton has put together a list of common classroom classics that are definitely worth a second glance.

1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:

I approached this book with trepidation, believing that it would be full of dense sentences I would hardly be able to understand , but with less than two-hundred pages, I felt like I had no excuse to not dip my toe into the classic genre with this book. All of my worries turned out to be irrelevant as this quickly became one of my favourite stories of all time; the stream-of-consciousness writing style Salinger adopts sucked me into Holden's psyche. If you're interested in stories that don't sensationalise mental illness, and elaborate on the issues young adults go through, this book is timeless, relatable, and easy to read.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde:

The language of this novel is slightly less modern than that of The Catcher in the Rye, but the story is so twisted and gothic that I found it to be just as encapsulating. Plus – it's another short one with less than three-hundred pages!

 

 

3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut:

I just read this for my university literature class , and even researching and writing a series of mini-essays and a major two-thousand word essay hasn't negated from my love for this book. It is very easy to read, fast-paced, and the story itself is thought-provoking and sadly relevant in today 's political climate, where people all around the world become casualties in conflicts they cannot escape.

4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams:

Yes, yes, this is a play – I'm still new to the classic genre, too, okay? And I want to keep the running theme of books that are easy to read – we're still just dipping in our toes! This story is charming, sad, and incredibly aggravating as we see Blanche DuBois struggle with internal and external conflicts and pray that she finds self esteem, inner strength, and happiness.

5. A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen:

This is another play, and like “A Streetcar Named Desire” it deals with a female protagonist who struggles to be independent and respected in a male-dominated world. Both of these stories highlight how far our Western society has progressed in the past century, while also reminding us of what our fore-mothers had to live through and encouraging us to continue fighting for our rights and freedom.

I hope you enjoy these stories. Classic books don't have to be scary – or boring! ~ Payton

Reviewsday: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The last time I read this book was thirty or so years back, in my teens, and from then I would have described it as being a ‘dystopic novel’ ... a ‘world gone mad’. It was scary, in a kind of abstract way. But, reading it now was very different. Reading it now, with a greater awareness of the world, recent history, and contemporary politics and art ... it is startlingly 'now'. It is the horror of utopia, all our social dreams answered. Startling in the degree of its vision, written in its time, and also in the way it provides very few easy answers, other than Huxley’s own strangely dissatisfying post-war 1940s argument-antidote of a banal middle ground between savagery and civilization.

Much has come about as Hux had seen, but maybe through different means and technologies. Overt promiscuity: zippers were even seen as a sign of this in the 1930s due to how easy they made taking off one’s clothes. The idea that the family unit as destructive and unsavoury. And that overarching American mantra: the pursuit of happiness; hey, if it’s not hurting anyone else... Sure, we don’t have ‘feelies’, but we have 3D, HD, super HD, Smart TVs ... hyper-real animation on screens you could shelter under. And the crass electro-music and simplistic rhymed lyrics of American Pop music were ringing in my ears for much of this book, reading it. And the importance of consumption, and even consumption through sport (what would Hux think of a Superbowl now? He wrote this in the 30s...) the Semi-Demi-Womens wrestling finals, the aquarium antics of the tennis-champions, the Foot-and-mouth-ball, and even the Centrifugal Bumble-puppy (which, I admit, I kinda want to see in action...). COMMUNITY. IDENTITY. STABILITY. They reminded me of the Stay/anti-Brexit arguments almost immediately. There, were, after all, two fear campaigns going on. And the EU could easily stand in for something that could one day have become a Brave New World.

The utopia element of the civilised society has more cracks in it than I remember. People are still capable of dissidence. The interview between Mond and the Savage is an unmissable highlight of world literature. And the failure of the Savage, in the face of his baseness, is actually everything. It’s our own failure. And it’s the kind of failure that maybe has to happen, even if it’s terrible. That’s what the novel demands, in the end. It demands you confront the failure of civilization at the same time as you schmooze into its necessity; Shakespeare invented the World State, whether he likes it or not; he invented a world where he manifests himself as his own absence...

~ Jeremy, QBD Doncaster

Reviewsday: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Everything that is great about 20th century American culture is on display in this novel. Unafraid. Unrelenting. It's that good. This was my second time around, and I could see myself reading it again in another fifteen years or so. This time I really enjoyed Chief's narrative focus, and appreciated all the varying depths of storytelling Kesey was able to engage in by using him. I enjoyed a little Hamlet-feel I hadn't before, not to mention a post-Moby Dick understanding. I watched the film again straight afterwards, and I used to say that the film was just as good. It's not. It's good, but it's just not in the same ball-park.

Why this book is important to read is that you really couldn't see it being published today. Not in this climate; 'climate change' is real, and ongoing. But what goes around, comes around. I'm optimistic. Chief gets out. He is re-made. It can be done again. Which makes this book more and more important, and more and more readable. The terror of McMurphy, you Dionysian ideal, you impossible thing, you ... man. There are panes of glass everywhere that need your fist. If not yours, another's.
- Jeremy, QBD Doncaster

9780141024875 9780141037493 9780141187884

Reviewsday: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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It is hard to say I enjoyed this book, but I definitely appreciated it. The Bell Jar is the story of a woman who is struggling figure out who she is in a world that wants her to fit a particular mould.

The Bell Jar is the story of Esther Greenwood who suffered from depression, at the very least, in a time when mental health for women was based purely on male opinions of female emotion, namely we are hysterical and we must be lacking some kind of domestic hobby in order to be happy because we couldn't possibly feel oppressed when we have a house, husband and children to take care of.

The Bell Jar is a combination of many things, it's a feminist novel, it's a study of mental health, it's a study of human relations. From the very first page, I felt an affinity with Esther, whether it's because she is pessimistic and cynical (two traits women of her time shouldn't have) or because she clearly wanted more than the world was ready to make available for her, I really can't say.

I found the writing to be a little bit nonsensical in some places, but I also felt that this was not a negative to the text. It merely illustrated the state of Esther's mind. What I struggled with was the parts of the text where one paragraph would finish one event very suddenly before the next would start on another entirely different event, often a huge leap forward in the timeline.

This novel had a profound affect on me and I'm glad I still possess the mindset to appreciate it. I've often found that many novels that are considered classics or seminal reading, often have to be appreciated and read at a certain age, or you miss the point entirely. The Catcher in the Rye is another good example.

Everybody with a passion for literature is aware of the outcome of Sylvia Plath's life, this book was her cry for help. Unfortunately, she was Esther Greenwood, a woman with mental health issues so complex that the world she lived in was not advanced enough to help her, the world she lived in thought she had "nothing to be sad about."

This book has a lot of darkness, it is stressful, taught, honest, confusing, shattering, immature, wise. I could go on with the adjectives forever, but whatever words I come up with will do no justice to experience I feel like I have gained for reading it. The thing to know when reading The Bell Jar is that it is polarising, both in the results people get reading it and in the writing and Esther's story. She is a contradiction, she is a mystery.

~ Sam

The Ash Fault

theroad

The world is a but a husk; a broken and bitter place left smoking and quaking beneath a sullen sky. Ash and bones are all the remain in our once vibrant world yet despite the destruction of its entirety life still trudges along; barely.

The Road”, written by Cormac McCarthy is my all time favourite book. Now you're probably thinking: This pulitzer prize winning story with an overall theme of death and loss must be the most depressing story one can read; well it is...but tragically beautiful all the same. Set in a landscape of Grey with a few splotches of red smeared across the asphalt, the world McCarthy has created is undoubtedly grim, however amidst the blood and corpses we are given a brutally honest story of human struggle. Struggle which captures our hearts as we breathe each breath and take each step with our desperate heroes.

We see these stark circumstances through the eyes of a father, who must at all cost protect his son from dangers whilst simultaneously trying to be a good parent, and, let me tell you, it's pretty clear that doing that in between bullets and eating cockroaches is no easy feat. Though when we travel with the pair we experience the father's sadness and his fortitude, both of which become incredibly endearing, yet what really stands out is his son. The boy has only ever known the world for its sombre tones and knows only of colours from his old story books and collections of knick knacks he has collected along the road. Comparatively presented against his father's dire intensity, the young boy demonstrates that kindness and innocence are still profoundly powerful, teaching us with each word whom the true hero of our story is.

Each page is an intensely intimate insight into the hearts of fear and innocence and each time I pick up this book I am confronted yet again with a  picture that never fails to devour my mind. I would recommend this book to any and all readers - it is bleak, it is blunt, but most of all it is a captivating work of true beauty.

- Michael, QBD Plenty Valley