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The 5-Minute Iliad and Other Instant Classics: Great Books For The Short Attention Span

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  198 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Was Homer really blind, or was that just his shtick? Was Dante a righty or a lefty? Why aren't there any pictures of Jane Austen in a bikini? What made Oscar so Wilde? How much did Hemingway? These are just some of the many great questions of Western literature ignored in this book.
From the author of A Prairie Home Companion's beloved "Five-Minute Classics" comes The Fiv
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 28th 2000 by Touchstone (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 417)
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May 01, 2011 Trekscribbler rated it liked it
THE FIVE MINUTE ILIAD is definitely funny if ... you've read the classic upon which the 5-minute translation is based. If you haven't, THE 5-MINUTE ILIAD AND OTHER INSTANT CLASSICS still provide plenty of merriment -- with maybe a touch of confusion. (In particular, Bram Stoker's "Dracula" is an absolute howler and George Orwell's "1984" might even have you running to pick up a copy of the original to find all of the hints.) While a few of the 'instant classics' do feel like one-note jokes that ...more
Stephen Gallup
Jul 27, 2015 Stephen Gallup rated it liked it
I began with mixed feelings about the idea of irreverent summaries of classics of Western literature. But I'm not above having fun with the material, and noted the author's effort at preserving something of the original language use, and so enjoyed the first few selections.

From The Iliad:
"Achilles loved Patroclus--not like that,
but you know, the way guys love each other--
and he didn't want Patroclus to die,
so he told him: 'Listen. Take my armor. Take my men.
Fight the Trojans, kick their butts.
Sep 04, 2014 Elhana rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although it seems like this books introduces you to classics, it is best enjoyed to know the classics first. That way you'd *get* the joke. My favourites are probably "Crime and Punishment" (Rasholnikov Sonofabich) with all its depressing Russian life, "Paradise Lost," and the most surprising of all, "Ulysses." But the awesome part of all is definitely "The Five-Minute History of Western Civ." I highly recommend you to read this book if you're familiar with the hi ...more
May 24, 2007 MsBrie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor
Did you skip reading Crime and Punishment, 1984, and Sense and Sensibility? Have you made it your personal goal to never read the Iliad? Then this book is for you. Nagan expertly cuts all the unimportant stuff out of the classics, shortens them so you can read them in only 5 minutes each, and adds a bit of humor so you actually want to read them. I tested my new familiarity with the classics by discussing The Iliad with a friend who was taking Great Books. She couldn’t tell I’d never actually re ...more
Mar 23, 2011 Jen3n rated it liked it
Shelves: humor
A very cute and highly intelligent sum-up/send-up of some of the great works in Western Literature. Some of my favorites from this book include the condensed version of Dante Alighieri's Inferno (written in limrick form), and James Joyce's Ulysses (summed up for this book in one sentence.

A quote from the back flap calls this book gentle and weird, and to that I'd like to add clever and suprising.

Recommended, if you like this sort of thing.
Paul Bard
Nov 13, 2014 Paul Bard rated it liked it
A pleasant, humorous, diverting half-hour read. Good fun. The Illiad translation is the best, and the others at least are better introductions to the classics than the dreary scholarly intros that Penguin Books do, where they name everything bad about the book and spoil the ending.

William Sariego
Jan 02, 2016 William Sariego rated it really liked it
You have to be familiar with the classics of Western literature or much of the humor will be lost. If you are at least passingly familiar, and have a sense of humor, this is a wonderful, light read that will cause a grin or two.
Jun 28, 2014 Larisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, humor
This book is too funny. All those Limericks about hell had me in stitches, and there can never be enough in this world that makes fun of Catcher in the Rye, Dracula, and hell, everything in this book.
Apr 17, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it
Not only is this book a funny take on some dusty classics, it covers the key plot points sufficiently to allow you to fake reading the actual book at your next social gathering with the literati.
Dec 06, 2009 Alex rated it liked it
Putting humor in long-form becomes problematic for me because once you "get" the joke, you keep rehashing it page after page after page, so there was some staleness to 5-Minute Iliad once I got into the pattern of Nagan's humor. On the other hand, since it was broken up into short stories it minimized the monotony of the humor. On a third hand, if I were some three-handed beast, the final chapters about "On the Road" and "Catcher in the Rye" felt like his weakest efforts, so I kind of ended the ...more
Jamie Vollrath
Jan 23, 2016 Jamie Vollrath rated it did not like it
Disappointed. The humor was forced. There was little or nothing unique about Nagan's take on these classic works.
Feb 16, 2011 Kate rated it liked it
Recommended to Kate by: found at library
I picked up this book for my kids to read, thinking it would be a brief telling of some classics. I'm glad I read it first because it really isn't appropriate for kids. They wouldn't understand this type of humor and there is some crass-ness.
I had previously read only 3 of these 15 classics and those were actually quite humorous in the way it was retold. But it was hard to understand the humor in the other stories when I didn't know the story very well, so I got a little bored.
I think if you kno
Dec 29, 2009 Kevin rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
I probably would have liked this book more if I had read the original stories first. I often wondered how much of the stories were just being made up, because Nagan's version of A Christmas Carol was not like the original at all.

While this is a fantastic idea for a book, I was expecting it to be more like Cliff's Notes with some humor. What it ended up being was a retelling of the different stories in shorter form.

I did, however, love The Picture of Dorian Gray, and plan on reading the full boo
Sep 27, 2012 Jay rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
I can't speak for anyone who is reading these excellent parodies without having read the originals, but for someone who has read these books... this is really enjoyable. The author does a great job of capturing the flavor of each story, putting in in a humorous context (with tendrils of reality), including a quote from the book itself, and getting all that work done in just a few pages. I liked all of them so much... Dracula might have been my favorite, but they are all so well done. My only com ...more
LiZi Bruklinsk
Mar 04, 2015 LiZi Bruklinsk rated it it was amazing
Book span
Sep 19, 2012 Tricia rated it did not like it
Ok, I admit, sometimes I am a cheater and want to know the stories of all the great classics, but not go to all of the work. That is why I checked this book out.
The author is very negative. His work is full of swear words, tongue in cheek antagonisms of all of the works. There are nude drawings at the beginning of a number of the stories.

I guess I might have to go to more work to actually enjoy the classics. I would not recommend this one.
Phil Wardlow
Jun 11, 2015 Phil Wardlow rated it liked it
This had some charm. The way Mr. Nagan chose to write his "synopsis", in the style of the original author, was clever and some were very good. This would have been a better book for me had I read most of the books listed. As it was, I found the books I had read to be well covered in an entertaining fashion.
April Duclos
Feb 08, 2016 April Duclos rated it really liked it
A clever, artistic re-write of a good-sized handful of "Lit Classics" in very quick, amusing, and intriguing ways. A few are almost as good as a Thug Notes riff on the story; some are just down-right funny (even if you HAVEN'T read the classic in question) and a few actually made me want to maybe pick up the riffed-on classic to read it for real. Definitely worth the read :)
Feb 21, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it
This book kicks a lot of butt. Playful recreations of classic books in a more modern attention span. My favorite is "1984." It opens up, more or less, saying "everything in the future sucks," and it was enough to get me rolling.

let's see, catcher in the rye, iliad, Joyce's ulysses, and about ten others i can't remember cause i read this ages ago.
Jan 23, 2009 Z rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
I enjoy this book quite a bit. I've read it several times, which has to mean something. It's particularly amusing if you're familiar with the work being parodied, though - at least in the case of Crime and Punishment - it's the parody that encouraged me to read the actual work, if only because it seemed like it would be hilarious.
D Books
Oct 09, 2011 D Books rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Hilarious! I read this book years ago when it first came out and it just tickled me to death! Picture a comedian trying to tell you about different works of historic literature and this is it. You will not be disappointed! I just wish that this author would have continued to write more funny books like this.
Sep 16, 2009 Elizabeth rated it liked it
This is book 1 for week "five". It is a kind of hit and miss set of paraphrased classics. I loved Nagan's brief overview of western history, and his versions of: The Inferno (in limericks), 1984, Dracula, and Ulyses. His versions of Sense and Sensibility and A Christmas Carol were less entertaining.
Jul 26, 2007 Leslie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: former lit majors
Shelves: humor
This was a fun read. It was fun to read the satiric summaries of books I had read in high school in college. I laughed so hard at the synopsis of Ulysses b/c I had to read that in college and it made no sense at the time. The Five-Minute Iliad cleared that one up for me.
Jun 05, 2013 Kat rated it really liked it
I have only read a couple of the works that these humorous abridgements were based on, but I can say that Dracula and The Metamorphosis were very accurate indeed. My favorite is still probably the Iliad, but the Inferno done in limerick form is also quite excellent.
Joey Pruger
Apr 02, 2008 Joey Pruger rated it really liked it
Hilarious. Not only are a number of western civilization's classics summarized and spoofed, but he writes each one in the style of the original. My personal favorites are his takes on Paradise Lost and Ulysses.
Dec 29, 2013 Caiti rated it it was amazing
Hilarious, irreverent, and brilliant parodies of classic literature. I laughed aloud many times.
Oct 24, 2012 Kim rated it it was amazing
I love this Greg Nagan, I think he is super clever and funny and talented and original!! Plus, got to find out how several books I just couldn't get through ended!
May 02, 2008 angrykitty rated it it was amazing
this is great. the best is ulysses. it takes the book that everyone always says is the greatest book ever written and it sums it up in like four words.
Catherine Austen
Aug 13, 2011 Catherine Austen rated it it was amazing
This is really funny if you've read the original books and you share Nagan's sense of humour. I was in hysterics, but that happens a lot...
Jul 25, 2011 Amber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic
This book is absolutely fantastic. Even if you haven’t read the original classics the book uses, the stories are hilarious.
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“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. It was the future, and everything sucked.” 11 likes
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