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Old 05-23-2009, 10:13 PM   #1
Wil
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Classical/School Must-Reads

Hey there!

I'm curious as to what those here deem to be must-reads in terms of clasical books. Clasical being, mostly, what most public schools require their students to read throughout the years. I ask this question because, since I was home schooled, I never was required to read, so I feel I am quite behind! Any ideas?

Wil

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Old 05-23-2009, 10:26 PM   #2
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A UK perspective, in no particular order in terms of which years we read them (and these are by no means all the books we read, just those that I remember) :
Charles Dickens: Bleak House, Tale of Two Cities, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carol
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Shakespeare: Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Measure for Measure
Ray Bradbury: Farenheit 451
George Orwell: Animal Farm, 1984
Aldous Huxley: Brave New world
Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz & Guildernstern Are Dead
Jill Paton Walsh: Fireweed (which I only remember as it was the book we were reading when our English teacher introduced the class to the concept of quantum physics.)

Whether all of thse are "must-reads" is another matter entirely...
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Old 05-23-2009, 10:54 PM   #3
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When I went to school, there were very few "must reads"; you weren't required to take English or American Lit; you could take other English classes which may require short reading but not novels. I think most American kids read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (and even that may no longer be the case), but beyond that there's plenty of variety in what they read.

You will find a HUGE number of books in the lists below. Many are Greek and Latin classics which are rarely read today. The more modern fiction on those lists (The Prince, Moby Dick, etc.) are more commonly read.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_Classics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Books
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_B..._Western_World
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_canon
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Old 05-23-2009, 11:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShortNCuddlyAm View Post
A UK perspective, in no particular order in terms of which years we read them (and these are by no means all the books we read, just those that I remember) :
Charles Dickens: Bleak House, Tale of Two Cities, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carol
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Shakespeare: Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Measure for Measure
Ray Bradbury: Farenheit 451
George Orwell: Animal Farm, 1984
Aldous Huxley: Brave New world
Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz & Guildernstern Are Dead
Jill Paton Walsh: Fireweed (which I only remember as it was the book we were reading when our English teacher introduced the class to the concept of quantum physics.)

Whether all of thse are "must-reads" is another matter entirely...
Animal farm is the only book there that I had to read for school, it would have been nice ti get some 451 or brave new world into my school. instead we get things like Jane Eyre, and Nathan Frome
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Old 05-23-2009, 11:34 PM   #5
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There were more, but off the top of my head these were books I had to read for various classes in High School...

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
All Quiet On The Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper
The Red Badge of Courage - Steven Crane
The Iliad - Homer
The Odyssey - Homer
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
Hamlet - William Shakespeare
Macbeth - William Shakespeare
A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
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Old 05-24-2009, 12:15 AM   #6
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I don't know why, but my reading "education" from school didn't cover novel at all. I guess they figured that our attention span ended with novellas, and usually novelettes. Didn't affect me much, as I had access to novels at home.

I must mention some short stories, as they are as important as novels.

Shirley Jackson - The Lottery
Ernest Hemingway - A Clean, Well Lighted, Place
John Steinbeck - The Pearl
Edgar Allen Poe - Tales of Mystery and Imagination
??? - The Man Without A Country
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - The first dozen Sherlock Holmes Stories
Mark Twain - The Man Who Corrupted Hadlyburg

These are ones that "stick out" in my mind. I read so much on my own that I really don't remember much about the class reading from school.

And poetry - Poets rather than individual poems.

Ogden Nash
Carl Sandberg
e. e. cummings
W.S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame)
Colridge
Robert Frost
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Rudyard Kipling
Emily Dickenson

poems (because I can't remember the poets)

Minniver Cheevy


And Plays -

Shakespeare (of course) but also...

The Mikado
Our Town
Twelve Angry Men
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Old 05-24-2009, 04:52 AM   #7
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I covered Romeo and Juliet every year from grade 7, to grade 11,
I was in womans Lit for my senior year.
My teacher in grade 8 and 9 also taught womans lit when they werent teaching romeo and juliet
my 10th grade teacher, my only male english teacher mind you, who I only had for one term taught animal farm and old man on the sea, and stoped teaching books after that cause my class was so stupid everyone except me and another student failed every test. so he made everyone just copy english workbooks cause of how stupid they were. he even apologized to me and the other student.

I hated reading until I started reading ebooks.
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Old 05-24-2009, 05:40 AM   #8
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About the only thing I remember from high school was Milton's "Paradise Lost." I was in an advanced group, so I don't think this was typical. In fact, I'm surprised that didn't kill my love of reading.
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Old 05-24-2009, 05:50 AM   #9
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"Paradise Lost" is a work of genius. However, the typical teenager certainly won't get a lot out of it, if for no other reason that these days most people are unfamiliar with Greek and Roman mythology, and hence won't understand all the classical allusions in the poem. It's one of those books that unfortunately, most people today will only "understand" with the aid of a good modern edition which has lots of footnotes to explain what it means - the straight eText of the poem won't be a lot of use.

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Old 05-24-2009, 06:00 AM   #10
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The Odyssey (Fantastic! Great Adventure story.)
Macbeth (Gets better every time I read it!)
A Tale of Two Cities (Have read it now 3-4 times! Better as an adult.)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Great if you're still a teen)
The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner (Read it so many times it's almost memorized!)
Silas Marner (Horrible book for a 12 year old!)
Moby Dick (A 'must read!' and enjoyable to do so!)
Great Expectations (Almost turned me away from reading!)
Robert Frost's poems (Still read them often)
Siddhartha (A great introduction to the ideas of other religions)
Animal Farm (Very interesting idea...)
1984 (We live it now. Why read it?)

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Old 05-24-2009, 06:04 AM   #11
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"Paradise Lost" is a work of genius. However, the typical teenager certainly won't get a lot out of it, if for no other reason that these days most people are unfamiliar with Greek and Roman mythology, and hence won't understand all the classical allusions in the poem. It's one of those books that unfortunately, most people today will only "understand" with the aid of a good modern edition which has lots of footnotes to explain what it means - the straight eText of the poem won't be a lot of use.
I think this can be a problem for many folks, not just teens.
For myself, when I read a 'classic' I always read the 'Cliff Notes' for the book at the same time. This gives me all the 'you should be aware of' sort of concepts that make the actual reading of the book much better, and certainly much more understandable to me. I get a lot more out of it.

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Old 05-24-2009, 06:05 AM   #12
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Oh sure, now I can appreciate it. And remember, I did end up doing a degree in English lit, so it didn't ruin me. But a poem on that scale about heaven and hell is sort of gloomy for a handful of happy-go-lucky teens.
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Old 05-24-2009, 06:08 AM   #13
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Oh sure, now I can appreciate it. And remember, I did end up doing a degree in English lit, so it didn't ruin me. But a poem on that scale about heaven and hell is sort of gloomy for a handful of happy-go-lucky teens.
Totally agree. That's why I think that there's a "danger" of putting people off that kind of thing for life by making them read it in school. It's the kind of poem you have to read as an adult to truly appreciate, I think.
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Old 05-24-2009, 06:11 AM   #14
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I think this can be a problem for many folks, not just teens.
For myself, when I read a 'classic' I always read the 'Cliff Notes' for the book at the same time. This gives me all the 'you should be aware of' sort of concepts that make the actual reading of the book much better, and certainly much more understandable to me. I get a lot more out of it.

Stitchawl
Absolutely agree. Sure, I could read it without footnotes and commentary, but the experience is so much richer with the added info. Even with an extensive study of lit history and so on, I think I would miss a lot of nuance with just a cold reading. Then again, some of the comments seem to be pure BS, so you have to use your own judgement on the usefulness of them sometimes.
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Old 05-24-2009, 06:14 AM   #15
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Absolutely agree. Sure, I could read it without footnotes and commentary, but the experience is so much richer with the added info. Even with an extensive study of lit history and so on, I think I would miss a lot of nuance with just a cold reading. Then again, some of the comments seem to be pure BS, so you have to use your own judgement on the usefulness of them sometimes.
That's why I still have a bookcase full of Penguin and "Oxford World Classics" books, even though the actual "texts" are freely available here. It's worth paying for a decent edition, even when the text is in the public domain.
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