Christina (Boupie)'s Reviews > Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits

Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan
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's review
Apr 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: books-i-own, kindle, non-fiction, mythology, 2012-books
Recommended for: anyone who wants to get excited about reading the classics
Read from April 16 to 22, 2012 , read count: 1

This is a very entertaining book (if you can look past his some what biases choice of classics). He did what he set out to do and entertained along the way. Like all good literature professors his aim is to get you to want to read the classics, to get excited about them, and ultimately take something away from them. His choice of classics I will relate at the bottom (more for me than for your benefit) and not all of them seemed like classics to me, but all of them sounded interesting enough I might be willing to try them (especially if I can get them free on the Kindle, no real commitment there). Note here: he only picked classics from America and Europe. More on this below.

Murnighan did an excellent job giving little bits of history on the author and the book (sometimes even the time period it takes place or was written in). It gave the books some more flavor and gave him a chance to gush (almost like a school-girl crush on some of these books, which helped me to want to read them). His sections on the buzz generally provided good come backs to snots who think they can make you feel inadequate, what people should know was insightful but not the best, loads of good lines (sometimes enough I am not sure I need to go read the novel), loads of sex (he has at least two other books reviewing sex in the classics, theme much sir?), and quirky facts could be fun but some were just not needed. Lastly, and most importantly, what to skip sounded realistic and really made many of the books more approachable, especially when you can drop them as soon as they get boring, which was his claim with many of them.

If you want a book that will get you excited about reading the classics and might even get you to actually read some of them. Plus the tips on reading good books is good for any book, so get to reading!

That said I do want a book like this but for the classics from more than America and Europe. I know he only has a background in Western literature but there has to be more than just dead white people to read (one black)... maybe an Eastern set of classics as I want to know what to read in the classics that make up the rest of the world.

***SPOILER ALERT*** If like me you wanted to be surprised by each book as he presented them, than read no further. Beyond I have a list of books he recommends, mostly for myself since they would not all fit in the personal notes and because I thought it might be nice to know. Enjoy!

In no particular order (okay so the order I remembered them, sorry) they are:

The Iliad & The Odyssey, Holy Bible: King James Version, The Aeneid, Metamorphoses, Beowulf, Dante's Inferno, The Divine Comedy: PARADISO, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, The Faerie Queene, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Moby-Dick, Don Quixote, Hamlet: By William Shakespeare, King Lear, Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice, Eugene Onegin, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Paradise Lost, Faust, Père Goriot, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, The Wings of the Dove, Remembrance of Things Past: Volume I - Swann's Way & Within a Budding Grove (all of the parts not just part 1), Ulysses, The Magic Mountain, The Sound and the Fury, Tropic of Cancer, Lolita, Blood Meridian, Beloved, A Farewell to Arms, To the Lighthouse, Native Son, The Trial, The Man Without Qualities, Giovanni's Room, Gravity's Rainbow, One Hundred Years of Solitude

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Reading Progress

15.0% "Really enjoying this... to the point I am driving DH crazy with the constant reading of quotes but it is making me remember why I liked some of the classics and does make me want to jump into reading them again this summer, when I will have time to 'slow read' them all! I hope it stays this fun!!"
34.0% "So Murnighan is really into sex, or he thinks that is the only way to get people to read these books... or maybe these books just have so much sex you have to talk about it. I am still enjoying this, though nothing will convince me Hamlet is worth another read, yes it is excellent, no, I don't care. Hamlet is just so bleeh himself that I can not get into it again."
42.0% "A little worried about the man-crush on Milton lasting the rest of the book but we have moved on. Still laughing out-loud at parts and annoying DH with reading many parts to him."
56.0% "This is starting to slow down for me as we move into the more modern books. I do not know if I will be able to finish it since I know what is coming up."
82.0% "Not sure if I will give all of these books a try but he is still very entertaining. Amazingly so, in fact."

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