Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Lists and Pondering the Classics

I saw this interesting list on The Magic Lasso's Sunday Salon post and was intrigued. These books, according to Entertainment Weekly, are the new classics (1983-2008). The books in red are the ones I've read. A handful of the others are on my reading list, but that leaves a lot I may need to add to my TBR list. Maybe. The thing is, a lot of the books that I have read on this list-- apparently considered "new classics"--are not among my favorite books. For example, Into Thin Air was great--but a classic? And why Black Water and A Thousand Acres? On the other hand, I'd agree with The Kite Runner, Poisonwood Bible, and The Glass Castle.

This all goes back to the question: what is a classic? What makes a book a classic? This was one of the first topics of discussion in the American Lit class I taught this past year.
I loved hearing their answers, ranging from "it's fun to read" to "it's long and old." When preparing for the class, I asked this question on my other blog last year, and here are some of the responses:

* Classic literature holds a universal truth.

* Classic literature speaks beyond the story. The story is but the context, the setting in which some universal truth, or universal human condition can be explored. true - many novels do this, but may not couch the universality in a compelling story. others may be great stories, but not contain that grain of universal truth. GREAT writers are able to do both.

* Books are classics if they meet one of the following criteria:
1) Part of the card game "Authors"
2 If the books smells like it belonged in my grandmother's library (she only kept books that were good to read).
3) If you had to read the book in your 9th or 10th grade English class and spent weeks talking about the symbolism in the book (Great Expectations, To Kill A Mockingbird and ...yes The Scarlett Letter).

* A book is classic if:
1. It serves as a standard of excellence in literature.
2. Or it is symbolic of a specific style in literature. (Didn't like "A Catcher in the Rye," but they do make you read it in high school.)
3. Or if I read it in high school and cannot possibly live without a copy in my home -- which is a challenge, because I think everyone else should read it and keep lending mine out. I have ordered so many copies of "The Little Prince" by Antoine de St. Exupery and continue to believe that no life is complete and no grown-up truly grown-up until it has been read, embraced and understood.

* The first thing that came to my mind, in trying to embrace more modern literature lately (and not finding much of worth, to be honest), is thatit does not have gratuitous explicit cheap love scenes or nasty unnecessary foul language.

So here is the list of new classics according to Entertainment Weekly:

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

So which ones that I haven't read should I add to my TBR list?

And speaking of my TBR list, I've added several new titles the past few weeks. Most of these are gleaned from fellow book bloggers.

Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton (reviewed by Caribous Mom)
Loving Frank by N. Horan
Namesake, The by Jhumpari Lahiri
Beautiful Boy
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (Reviewed at Maw Books)
Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks by Greg Bottoms (Reviewed by Sage)
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Reviewed by Just Another Blogger)
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (Reviewed by Reading to Know)
Dedication by Emma McLaughling and Nicola Strauss (Reviewed by Bookstack)

If you've reviewed any of those as well, send me your link and I'll post it on my TBR list.

And finally, in other reading news, this week I posted a review of Deborah Weisgall's The World Before Her, revisted the Books Around the World challenge that I've neglected for several months (thanks to Weekly Geeks for that inspiration), and last night finished reading the phenomenal memoir of growing up in the Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson, I Have Lived a Thousand Years. I've not yet reviewed it, but it was terrifying and amazing.

Next up on my reading list: A Beginning, a Muddle and an End by Avi, a young adult writing guide which promises "the right way to write righting." I think it'll be a great tool for the upcoming writing classes (middle school) I'll be teaching this year.

(Want to participate in The Sunday Salon? Read all about it and sign up here.)


Jill said...

Thanks for reposting on your blog! You have made a small dent on these listed books. =)LOVE the classics definitions too!

=) Jill

Literary Feline said...

I will be posting the list tomorrow. I actually have the copy of EW where the list was first published and the editor explains the reason behind the choices. The titles are all books the staff felt are among the most memorable and have stood the test of time so to speak. It's an interesting list regardless.

I am really looking forward to reading Livia Bitton-Jackson's book. A fellow blogger has been kind enough to offer me her copy.

I hope you have a great week!

BooksPlease said...

I've only read a few of the books on the "new classics" list! And there are loads I haven't heard of - plenty for me to look up.

Of the ones you haven't read I have read and enjoyed "Possession", "Case Histories", "His Dark Materials", "The Remains of the Day", and "Atonement".

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

Persepolis and Persepolis 2 and Interpreter of Maladies are incredible reads....well, I thought so.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I think you probably have to many books on your TBR list, like me, which just got larger, thanks to a book sale in recent weeks and an ill-advised trip to a bookstore.

Second, though, I will recommend a few you should add: the Zadie Smith and Jonathan Franzen book; Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch, which is a wonderful beginning point on the history of the Civil Rights Era and Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I posted my list yesterday, It's fun to read which ones you have read and your take on it:)

Overeducated Twit said...

I'm glad to see Cormac McCarthy's The Road at the top of the list--it's an amazing, albeit bleak, read. It reads as though there are absolutely no unnecessary words.

The Giver is another good one; each time I've re-read it, I've found new gems within.

Jon said...

Interesting post. I've only read a couple of the books on the list, whether or not they are 'timeless' classics remains to be seen.

I'm one of those people who cant pass a bookshop without entering and purchasing something. Needless to say my shelves are full of books I haven't read. So, if I get round to reading all of the books on the list it will be a miracle.

A classic novel - for me - is one that many, many years after its first publication will still have people eagerly turning the pages. Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' is one of my firm favourites.

Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.

Justin Hamm said...

Read "The Things They Carried"; "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down"; "Cathedral"; "Jesus' Son"; and "Friday Night Lights."

I completely agree that each of these books is a "classic" of the past 25 years, and each has had a hand in changing my worldview.

Anonymous said...

This is a really interesting post and list, because I've found myself thinking quite often about what the classics of the next generation will be.

I would agree that many of these will be read by my grandchildren and hopefully theirs as well.

As for your TBR list - The Namesake is my favorite on that list. Actually, all of her work will be considered classics, I think. A writer to savor and study.

Great post, and thanks for the link :)

gautami tripathy said...

I have quite a few from this list!

Here is my SS post

Marbel said...

Classic literature holds a universal truth.

I'd go along with that. So I wonder why The DaVinci Code would be on that list.

Erin said...

"Classic literature speaks beyond the story." I love that!

Thanks for stopping by my blog and directing me back to your own TSS Classics post! You've given me lots to think about. I'm not sure I'd consider all of these classics, but I would consider (most) of them to be part of the Western canon. So now I get to consider where the line is drawn there!