01 February 2011

Literary Lists

I've been keeping tabs on Penguin Books USA through Twitter lately -- and not just because I really, really, really want to work or intern there. There are some pretty interesting posts about up and coming authors, interviews, and (obviously) books. And I just read that Penguin has released a list of the top 10, reader-chosen must-read classic books.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm skeptical as to why the classics are classics. The writing is typically dense and inaccessible and the stories tend to revolve around mundane daily matters. I've read books like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Romeo and Juliet (all of which are on the reader-chosen list), and I just don't get what's so overwhelmingly great about them. I'd take a modern, experimental read like Shane Jones' simultaneously whimsical and somber novel, Light Boxes, over the classics any day. 

Then again, I did enjoy Little Women (on the list, thankfully) a lot when I was younger, so maybe I'm just erecting a double standard here. I checked last year's list, not chosen by readers, which included Thoreau's Walden and Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, two books I did enjoy. I'm sad to see that no one thought to include A Separate Peace by John Knowles, which everyone knows is one of my favorite and most-referenced books of all time.

What do you think about the reader-created list? I'm tempted to make my own list of top ten not-just-classics that every person should read, so maybe I'll ruminate on that and get back to you with it.


the walking man said...

Create a list, it will be interesting to see who appears on it.

Personally I go back to the Russians and other 19th century writers because of their use of language. Most of the modern authors I have read all seem to be struggling to be minimalist and in that forget that words have a use but they are afraid to use them.

Editors want to chop the shit out of everything when to be honest they just should edit for grammar and leave the text alone. Point out glaring errors and have the author rewrite.

Chris said...

I haven't read too much of the Russian literature, only one or two things here and there, which I enjoyed but also found kind of dense. I was younger though, so that could be why.

I think some modern writers are not minimalist in the sense that they are afraid to use words, but rather in the sense that, rather than use lots of words to express one idea, they just want to use the best words possible. That's not true for a lot of writers, but I think for some it is, at least.

As for editors, I don't think I've had enough experience to know haha. I'll just be my own editor for now.