The Great American Read discussion

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The list, other books, movies > Which books are most ESSENTIAL?

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message 1: by NancyJ, Moderator (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Which books on the list do you think are the most essential? Either because they're exquisitely good, very popular, are tied into cultural knowledge, are often quoted, or expose you to great ideas or great writing? Or some other reason!


message 2: by NancyJ, Moderator (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
1984 is a stand out for me. I didn't enjoy it as much with this recent reading, but it definitely makes an impact. It's one that I think everyone should read at some point in their lives.


message 3: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) To me, if I had to pick the most essential:

Frankenstein - Everyone should read this. Not just science fiction. Not just horror. It's a cautionary tale.

The Grapes of Wrath - Every person with money/privilege should read this. Maybe they'll learn something.

The Handmaid's Tale - Every MAN should read this. Hopefully, they'll realize that women are not just a secondary species.

Heart of Darkness - Shines a necessary light on colonialism and corporate invasions of the wilderness.

Jane Eyre - I can't say enough about this book!


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments Kirsten wrote: "To me, if I had to pick the most essential:

Frankenstein - Everyone should read this. Not just science fiction. Not just horror. It's a cautionary tale.

The Grapes of Wrath - Every person with mo..."


I stand in awe of your faith in your fellow man's ability/desire to feel compassion for the Other. Wouldn't the world be an awesome place, if we could just cure sociopathy and narcissism by prescribing a book!? I want to believe.......:)


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments I'm not sure, I think that this is where your generation comes into play. I could be relativist and say that any book that gets people reading is good. But I'm a snob, and I'd still advocate for a book that has longevity and persists because it speaks to some aspect of the human condition, and not a book that's wildly popular just because someone was savvy about marketing, recognzied a niche audience, and popped one out in a few weeks.
But even narrowing it down, lots of people would say different things, according to what's most important to them: racism, greed, the environment, avoiding war and conflict, women's rights, etc.


message 6: by NancyJ, Moderator (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Linda Abhors the New GR Design wrote: "Wouldn't the world be an awesome place, if we could just cure sociopathy and narcissism by prescribing a book!"

Well, there IS evidence that reading fiction can impact empathy and compassion. When you mention sociopathy and narcissism are you thinking of anyone in particular? Those two personality characteristics are more stubborn, especially after a certain age.

Right now there is one politician I wish would read something substantive to help him make better decisions - perhaps about economic systems, and the chaos that can be created from a seemingly simple change in tariffs. (Sorry for getting political. I was just on twitter, and it made me mad.)


I showed a clip from Grapes of Wrath to a management class and I think it helped (we talked about company towns and better alternatives). (Though the dust bowl was a bigger factor there.) I think college can really expand someone's world view. Catch them when they're young.


message 7: by NancyJ, Moderator (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Kirsten wrote: "To me, if I had to pick the most essential:
.."


I think I agree with these, though I didn't read Heart of Darkness.

Jane Eyre really broke my heart. The way she was treated in the orphanage first of all made me angry. Later when she was looking for work and got pushed out of town. She had to sleep in a field. I don't know if the world has gotten much better at helping people get out of poverty, but I think (hope) most nations are much more generous and compassionate in their treatment of poor children. Though recent treatment of refugees in many countries certainly falls short.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments NancyJ wrote: "Linda Abhors the New GR Design wrote: "Wouldn't the world be an awesome place, if we could just cure sociopathy and narcissism by prescribing a book!"

Well, there IS evidence that reading fiction..."


"more stubborn after a certain age".......no kidding!
I work with a couple of doozies....when people at work complain about 45, I say "you've been living under 45 for 1 year. I've been dealing with that for 5 years now."
Too late for either of them, and one has focused on "representations of" in TV, so that he won't have to read much of anything beyond comics. The other supposedly likes literature, but finds it great entertainment to pit people against each other and watch them fight. Sick.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 915 comments NancyJ wrote: "Kirsten wrote: "To me, if I had to pick the most essential:
.."

I think I agree with these, though I didn't read Heart of Darkness.

Jane Eyre really broke my heart. The way she was treated in the..."

I honestly think that the government has no way of coming out winning there. If they separate the children from their parents, they're monsters. If they detain the children along with the parents, in places that aren't set up for children, they're still monsters. Short of sending everyone back immediately, or just opening the doors to everyone, I don't know what else they can do.


message 10: by J., Your Obedient Servant (last edited Aug 05, 2018 06:50PM) (new)

J. (jammons42) | 510 comments Mod
I don't even know how to begin to answer this! Everyone has different aspects and ideas about what is important/most important.

I think there are a lot of cautionary tales on the list. And you hope people would read them and get a better understanding about the what humanity is capable of, good and bad.

If I am answering this question on a personal level the answer is the books I grew up reading as a child, teenager, and young adult. Those were essential. The books that grew my love of reading and taught me about the kind of person you want to be. The books on this list that fall into that category for me are: the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.


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