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Don Quixote. The Iliad, Middlemarch, the Brothers Karamazov, the Aeneid, The Persian War (Herodotus), the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides), the Annals (Tacitus).

Those were the first that sprang to my mind.

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Turgenev's Spring Torrents is one of my favorite non-painful classics.

The strange but wondrous Parzival by Wolfram Von Eschenbach is another.

BTW: the definitive list of classics was compiled by the erstwhile Harold Bloom in his The Western Canon

Check it out: The Western Canon

I refer to Moby-Dick as painful because I was once reading it in bed while holding it over my head...fell asleep and dropped the tome on my face. Where's Starbucks when you need him?

Damn you, white whale!


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Check out St. John's College Great Books program list. It's got a list of 100 western classic through the ages. Some are philosophy books, others are novels. There are other groups that put together lists like this, but St. John's program (originally developed at Univ. of Chicago) is the one all the others have imitated.

My own personal list:

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice or Emma.

Tolstoy: War & Peace. I read it once a decade. Make sure yours is unabridged.

Willa Cather: Death Comes to the Archbishop, Song of the Lark or My Antonia

Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities

Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon or Beloved

Arthur Koestler: Darkness at Noon

Flannery O'Connor: A Good Man is Hard to Find

John Steinback: Grapes of Wrath

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With the exception of Homer and the Bible all written in English.

Shakespeare-- Julius Ceasar and Antony and Cleopatra were two of my favorites years ago, since they were full of historical figures that I recognized--didn't have to spend so much time figuring out who was who.

The four Gospels, The Acts of the Apostles and The Book of Revelation. King James version.

Homer--The Illiad

James Joyce--Dubliners--the ubiquitous and occasionally exercable Harold Bloom calls it the greatest volume of short stories in English.

Thomas Hardy The Mayor of Casterbridge

Joseph Conrad Typhoon

MelvilleMoby Dick and Benito Cereno

Edith Wharton Custom of the Country

Mark Twain Life on the Mississippi

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thank you, Mr. Waffle, except that I would say the ubiquitous and FREQUENTLY execrable Harold Bloom....... :green:

as much classical literature as you can read, including all the works mentioned already (the Iliad, the Aeneid, Thucydides, and various Romans as well)

Chaucer: Canterbury Tales

Dante: The Divine Comedy (there are now some good translations, including side-by-side)

Melville: Moby-Dick

Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment

Flaubert: Madame Bovary

Tolstoy: Anna Karenina

Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

James (Henry): The Portrait of a Lady

Cather: Death Comes for the Archbishop

Wharton: The House of Mirth

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This is a great thread and as always I feel I should be reading the books I haven't read yet, instead of reading the thread, but it's kind of funny because it really shows off the Americentricity (that's not a word, is it?) of this board.

Marjolein, I notice you're located in Belgium, and I don't think that everything listed here will be considered a 'great classic' in Belgium, for instance Willa Cather or Mark Twain.

Notwithstanding, I'll add some of my own biased choices: the Old Testament esp. Genesis and Alice in Wonderland,

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Want some real fun? Read Vanity Fair followerd by Bonfire of the Vanities Wolfe is our Thackeray...proving yet once again: the more things change the more they stay the same.

But if one doen't read the classics how is one to know that?

BTW: I'd admit Bloom is sometimes flatulent... but never execrable.

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Oooh, amid all these heavy heavyweights, Aristophanes (anything but Wealth,), the Master and Margarita by Bulgakov and Ovid (his biggie is the Metamorphoses, but the Ars Amatoria or the Amores is funnier, and really more representative).

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This is such a great thread, thanks for all the suggestions.

GWTW, it's true that some books that you refer to as classics might not be classics to us, however I want to read classics from all over the world, not just our good old Flemish and Dutch classics. I went to the US as an exchange student, and took an American Lit class there. We read quite a lot of classics, but I want to read more than we did in that class. I prefer reading books in the original language, so I'm glad most books suggested here are originaly in English.

Old Fashioned, Victor Hugo is one of my favorite authors. I'm going to attempt reading his books in French now.

Anyway, keep on suggesting, I'm really enjoying this thread.

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Anything written by Joost Vondel, is pretty much a classic. Max Havelaar, by Multatuli is good too. The Lion of Flanders, by Conscience is a good Flemish classic. There's lots of medieval stories, like The Fox Reynaerd, that are Flemish classics too, though very hard to read, as they are written in old Dutch. (Btw, Dutch and Flemish are the same language, only the accent is different, like the difference between british and american english). That's all I can think of now, but there's more. I just can't think of any now.

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Henry James's "Washington Square"

Any Edgar Allan Poe

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" and "Macbeth"

Jane Austen's "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice"

Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights"

Cervantes's "Don Quixote"

Homerus's "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" (sp?)

Any Oscar Wilde

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I am a certified Shakespeare Nut, so I have to say right off the bat, anything by him. Ones to get you hooked are Much Ado About Nothing and Love's Labours Lost; there are a few long speeches at the beginning of the latter, but it is worth it in the long run. Darker Masterpieces are Hamlet (of course), Macbeth and Othello, but I would recommend leaving those until you become fond of his work.

More Classics...

Oliver Twist and A Cristmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

These are only a very few of my favourites... I'll add to the list soon. :)

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A few more classics:

Any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books, but notably his Sherlock Holmes mysteries

Some of Jack London's works could be called classics, though I don't think they are generally recognised as such. As someone who loves wolves, I found the general attitude of "wolves are vicious, man-eating devils and we had better shoot them all' exhibited by many of London's characters rather sad and -- for lack of a better word -- disturbing, but I was able to look over that and enjoyed most of his works to some degree anyway.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Island of the Blue Dolphins and the sequel, Kia, by Scott O'Dell — these could be considered young adult fiction but my mother read them and liked them quite a bit.

The Borrowers series — these books are good for anyone from 9 or 10 to 90 or 100. Very lovely little books, most certainly classics:

  • The Borrowers
  • The Borrowers Aloft
  • The Borrowers Afloat
  • The Borrowers Afield
  • The Borrowers Avenged

I'm not sure of the order, but if I find out I'll edit the list.

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