What So-Called Classics are Actually Worth Reading?

There are oodles of classic books that everyone is supposed to have read, but which ones are actually worth reading and which ones deserve to vanish off the face of the Earth?


In my not-so-humble-actually-rather-elitist opinion, I think that Wilde, Poe, Shakespeare, Twain and Vonnegut should be absolutely top on your list of required reading.  However, I absolutely hate Joyce, Steinbeck, Hawthorne, and Alcott.


I'm interested to know what Nerdfighteria thinks about this.  Am I spot-on...or woefully misguided?
What classics do you think every one should read and which ones should Nerdfighters skip altogether.


Comment and let me know!

Tags: Alcott, Classics, Hawthorne, Joyce, Nerdfighteria, Poe, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Twain, Vonnegut, More…Wilde, reading, required

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I'm probably unique in the opinion that the classics are not for everyone.  I find them to be a waste of my time, and would rather read contemporary books that have immediate relevance to my life.
This is true.  I know a lot of my friends get frustrated for this reason.  Another reason that I think people are averse to classics is that so many of them are almost exclusively written in narrative and thus can be rather tedious to read for some people.

I get what you're saying, but I think the idea is that the real classics will always be "relevant" to our lives because they hit on the real meat of the human heart in a way that transcends time and place. Take Othello for example. We might not all have crazy rivals trying to bring us down, or love affairs that are complicated because of race relations, but I think everyone can relate to that stomach-churning disconnect that happens when our trust starts to fail. And that's what Othello is really about: trust. You don't have to be Moorish (or Italian) to understand that.


All that said, I do understand what you're getting at. A lot of the older Greek classics don't hit home very strong unless you do a little background research about, say, Athenian politics. Which can definitely take away the enjoyment for a lot of people. 

I'm with Peter. True classics ARE relevant to your life. Most of the books I have found to be relevant to my life, in fact, were written in the Victorian Era. A true classic will raise questions and create parallels that are still as relevant today as they were two hundred years ago. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray are good examples.
I absolutely agree. Look at 1984 - Orwell predicted the existence of CCTV. 'Nuff said.
Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens was surprisingly good. We read it for school in 8th grade and I really enjoyed it. Only read it if you can pay close attention. If you try to read to quickly you will miss things.
I've already read it and you're right, it's not a speed through.  I absolutely adore Dickens.  I should have added him to my list!
I love all Shakespeare, but I understand that he's not for everyone.  I recommend Twelfth Night.  It's a nice easily readable farce.
Well, sanity is always questionable in Shakespeare's comedies...

Then might I recommend Richard III, King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream? Shakespeare LOVES the crazies. Actually, pretty much all of his plays are about some level of madness or social deviance. That's where really great tragedy AND comedy comes from.

I completely agree with the above statement.
I think if you're going to delve into Shakespeare, you need to see them performed. I wasn't a convert until I went to see a performance of Hamlet about a year ago, absolutely stunning and completely won me over (not to mention John Simm as Hamlet, yum yum). But, as with all plays, they need to be seen, not read, if you're going to enjoy them properly.


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