Wild Things: YA Grown-Up discussion


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message 1: by Jesi (last edited Jul 11, 2010 05:28AM) (new)

Jesi (pwnedkitten) | 198 comments Okay, I'm putting this here, mostly because this group (WT) is one of my favorites, and, so far, everyone seems to have pretty good taste about books.

So, a bit of back story: I'm fairly intelligent and I've also always had a fairly good concept of books/reading/so on. In fact, my reading level was so much beyond my classmates in high school, that most of my English teachers asked me not to participate in the discussions, because of the frequency my participation confused the other kids by going "above their level." Really. Needless to say, that made me lose a lot of interest in my English classes. So, when there was a book they introduced that I wasn't interested in, I simply didn't read it. I passed on a lot of the classics that way.

Now, because I've been interacting in The Big Bad World, and The Classics are something that are referenced quite a bit, I'm feeling a bit like I should try to read them. So far, the ones that I have, I still hate.

So, I'm looking for suggestions - what classics would you suggest (and it doesn't have to be YA, although a lot of them are being classified as YA, anymore) to someone who so far, hasn't found classics she enjoys? I'd like to be able to read one classic every month - at least, that's my "reading goal" - next year, and I figured that I'd start taking suggestions now.

message 2: by Amy (new)

Amy | 1947 comments My favorites are:

Catcher in the Rye
Of Mice and Men
Farenheit 451
The Scarlet Letter

I didn't read a lot of classics in high school b/c I had electives, so we read more of Shakespeare and mostly gothic literature.

message 3: by Fiona (new)

Fiona (bookcoop) What classics have you hated? Just cos a book's a classic doesn't mean it's good or you're going to enjoy it.

How about some modern classics?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith written in 1949 is a lovely novel - YA/adult fiction.

Brighton Rock or The Quiet American by Graham Greene (30's onwards) Both of these are very short.

YA classics: The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett something The Railway Children by Nesbitt. (early 1900's)

Uhm... earlier classics:

North and South or Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Charles Dickens: Many people seem not to like Great Expectations (often taught in school) but I loved it. I also really enjoyed Bleak House which is a fatty and maybe not the best to start off with hmm. Personally I love Great Expectations the only other of his I've read though is A Christmas Carol.

You've probably heard of all of the above. It depends what you like really.

Jane Eyre is a fantastic, and you probably know the story already. I only read it last year and was surprised at how much I did love it and also, how easy it was to read.

Then of course there's the Austens... I prefer Gaskell to be honest, but the Austen books I think are a bit shorter and Gaskell can be a bit wordy. Pride and Prejudice you may already know the story to, but if you're unfamiliar with classics that might be a good thing perhaps.

The Three Musketeers or The Counte of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Both brickish. The Three Musketeers is swashbuckling good fun, really easy to read. The Count is a bigass brick and more psychological but Dumas is really easy to read. Make sure though that you get a decent translation - so get a Penguin book or something because their translations are the best usually.

message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy | 1947 comments Oh I loved North and South!

My fourth graders read The Secret Garden. Some of them loved it, other hated it. I'm assuming b/c the language is tricky.

Treasure Island is another great one.

message 5: by Jesi (new)

Jesi (pwnedkitten) | 198 comments Amy wrote: "My favorites are:

Catcher in the Rye
Of Mice and Men
Farenheit 451
The Scarlet Letter

I didn't read a lot of classics in high school b/c I had electives, so we read more of Shakespea..."

I really enjoy/ed Shakespeare and some of the gothic literature we were introduced to. :) If I could have stayed with that, I'd have been a happy girl.

message 6: by Jesi (new)

Jesi (pwnedkitten) | 198 comments Fiona wrote: "What classics have you hated? Just cos a book's a classic doesn't mean it's good or you're going to enjoy it.

How about some modern classics?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith written in 1949 i..."

Just cos a book's a classic doesn't mean it's good or you're going to enjoy it. And, that's the thing about them that drives me up a wall - if they're classics, shouldn't they be good? Or, at least, well written and something that's going to be relevant to society, no matter when they're being read? Or, is that too much to ask? **end rant**

So, to try to whittle down books (because I'm sure just saying "give me classics to read!" isn't that helpful,) I'll put down the ones that I've already read. :)

I've read: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, a great deal of John Steinbeck, Lord of the Flies (about five times, because of English classes - I enjoyed it the first time, but now would rather boil my eyes in acid than read it again,) a few Charles Dickens (who I find distressingly depressing.) Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy (first one was good, but then the subsequent ones just read like a history book instead of a story.) Frankenstein I thought was too boring to get into.

I've enjoyed every Bradbury that I've come across (at least, his short stories - I'm working around to reading his novels - except for Farenheit 451, which I've read.) J.R.R. Tolkien was decent, but I liked the movies more - the books made Gandolf and co. look like clowns, I thought. I ADORE Peter Pan and Lewis Carroll.

I didn't think about The Secret Garden until you mentioned it. Absolute love. "Of course" I've heard of Jane Eyre, but I hadn't actually read it - I'll mark that down. I hadn't heard of Elizabeth Gaskell. I've read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and have watched several 3 Musketeer movies - does that count? :)

message 7: by Krista (last edited Jul 11, 2010 11:00AM) (new)

Krista (kacey14) Hi Jesi:

Have you read anything by Jane Austen yet? I recently read Pride and Prejudice and found it to be delightful.

I'm including a link to a list of Western Canon books. They make spark your interest in authors you haven't heard of before.


Have you read much Russian literature? (Anna Karenina for example) What I like about this list is that it takes a world view. It seems like many of the 'classics' lists are centered on British authors.

I'd second the recommendation for Dodie Smith's, I Capture the Castle. I've also recently given 5 stars to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I'm in the midst of listening to Wilkie Collins msterpiece The Woman in White.

Good for you for pushing your reading boundaries. I went to a church school and NONE of the classics were taught there. College courses helped fill in some of the gaps. But I've searched quite a few of them out on my own and really enjoyed most of them!
Happy Reading!! -Krista

message 8: by Paula (new)

Paula (pauldajo) | 322 comments So many good books, A Wrinkle in Time comes to mind. I enjoyed this book when I was young. I believe it's part of a series which I've been meaning to read.

And of course, The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The first couple of books are focused on very young readers.

message 9: by Laura (last edited Jul 11, 2010 10:09AM) (new)

Laura (apenandzen) Tree in Brooklyn and Woman in White are awesome! I also recommend Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, both by the same author, if you like gothic stuff. Creepy and can't put it down is how I find du Maurier.

Also along that vein, have you read Shirley Jackson? We Have Always Lived in the Castle was great, and shortish too. I'd recommend anything by her.

Gatsby and Flies were both pretty much crap IMO. Ok to crap, along that scale. Steinbeck is brilliant, but avoid sharp objects while reading - although I loved Cannery Row and it's sequel Sweet Thursday of his.

Bleak House

message 10: by Laura (last edited Jul 11, 2010 10:16AM) (new)

Laura (apenandzen) Sorry my phones acting up. Bleak I'm reading now, and love doesn't describe it. I adore this book. Very heavy with satire, tongue-in-cheek stuff. He can be depressing, his books always seem to touch on poverty due to his background, but Bleak is far more humor and suspense and creepy, gothic feeling. I love gothic stuff and am loving it.

message 11: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new)

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
I'm working on reading classics this summer, too. There's a lot out there that I've never read. I joined the 1001 Books you Should Read Before You Die group here on goodreads.

I'd recommend Count of Monte Cristo, even though I have yet to finish it myself. I read about half of it before I had to return it, but it was so engaging.

For YA, I'd suggest The Wizard of OZ series, they're good and different from the movies. Also, Winnie the Pooh, Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte's Web are some other older YA books. Let us know which ones you try and like!

message 12: by Krista (new)

Krista (kacey14) There's always the Anne of Green Gables series too. My mom and I read these outloud to each other when I was in my late twenties.

Then we had to take a trip to Prince Edward Island. What precious memories!

message 13: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) msg 6 - Some classics make the lists because they're groundbreaking or influential. That is, they were the first of a new genre, or style, or treatment of characters.

For example: Because of Jules Verne we have a lot of amazing science fiction nowadays - so Verne's books are classics, but not necessarily worth reading if you have to make choices about what you want to struggle through.

E Nesbit is great, but don't start with the Railway Children.

All classics are still loved by some people. But most of us need help from teachers or goodreads friends to fully appreciate some of them. I'd advise seeking such help. Choose a book or an author from any of the lists that you think you'd be interested in, then start a thread about it, asking for participation from goodreads members who have loved it.

I might just start a thread for the Anne series and ask Krista to help me out with them, as I've tried them once years ago, didn't appreciate them, and want to read them again. (It'll have to be next month at the earliest though.)

I know there are lots of lists out there - thanks Krista and Jennifer W. for examples of resources. If anyone wants to add their resource or list here I'd appreciate it!

message 14: by vicki_girl (new)

vicki_girl | 157 comments One list I like is the following...


I like this one because it's chronological. This is important to me b/c some of the later classics (i.e., Prometheus Unbound & Frankenstein) reference earlier works (i.e., Prometheus Bound). I'm trying to work my way through the list, but haven't gotten far yet...

If someone is looking for help appreciating the classics, I found How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines very helpful. I am very left-brained, and had trouble with symbolism etc. beacuse I read things too literally. This book laid things out plainly and has really changed my reading experiences. There is a similar book, How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form, that I been meaning to read as well.

As to recommendations, I would second the following:
Jane Eyre
Treasure Island
The Three Musketeers

I would also add:
Animal Farm
Pretty much anything by Edgar Allan Poe
Robert Frost
Just So Stories (specifically The Elephant's Child)
Walt Disney's Uncle Remus Stories (specifically The Tar Baby)
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Phantom of the Opera

message 16: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) Wow, love that editoreric link Vicki!

message 17: by Jessika (new)

Jessika (jessilouwho22) Hi Jesi!

I know that a bunch of people mentioned it so far, but Pride and Prejudice is definitely one to check out. But like Fiona mentioned, it's all according to what your taste is.

I also particularly enjoy anything by John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.

message 18: by Angela Sunshine (new)

Angela Sunshine (AngelaSunshine) I just finished Daddy Long Legs, written in 1912. It's a cute book! It's funny and witty and the main character, Jerusha, reminds me a bit of Anne from Anne of Green Gables.

It's a quick read, all written in letters from Jerusha to her secret benefactor. The ending is a bit predictable, but that doesn't make it any less fun.

message 19: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (Affie) | 468 comments I love Daddy Long Legs!

message 20: by Charlizechat (new)

Charlizechat | 30 comments By "gothic"s, as referenced several times above, did we mean like Bronte/De Maurier-style books, or something Medieval (but I'm assuming Bronte!).

Well, I think "classics" has become kindof a catch-all term: originally it's the Greek and Roman authors, now it's anything taught in HS.

I think "To Kill a Mockingbird" and others are very lovely books, but I'm not convinced they deserve to be quite on the same top shelf w/, say, "Anna Karenina" or the Iliad.

I'm not personally on easy terms with the 19th Century doorstoppers like War and Peace or Bleak House, but I hope everyone will tackle at least a couple of them at some point.

I'd also say any serious fling with Great Books ought to cover at least some of the old-fashioned "epics": at least one of Homer's, and Virgil or Dante or Goethe.

That said, my automatic recourse is always to Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

In contemporary YA I don't know: I think Enthusiasm is wonderful, and some of Francesca Lia Block, and I could imagine teaching these in a classroom, but calling them "classics" may be a real stretch!

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Books mentioned in this topic

Foundation (other topics)
Peter Pan (other topics)
The Secret Garden (other topics)
To Kill a Mockingbird (other topics)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Charles Dickens (other topics)
Lewis Carroll (other topics)
J.R.R. Tolkien (other topics)
Isaac Asimov (other topics)
John Steinbeck (other topics)