Back in May, I graduated with my Master's of Education in Library Media and Information. For that degree I had a YA/Children's Literature course that required me to read lots and lots of YA titles. And I read some great YA books and found some great authors that I will continue to read.
However, after I read a lot of YA books, I start to feel like I should be reading more challenging material. I guess that is the English teacher in me coming out. I have always told my students that they should always challenge themselves in their reading choices. So, I guess when I read a lot of YA books, I feel like I'm not practicing what I preach. Now, don't get me wrong. I love YA literature and I think that there are tons of great YA books and YA authors, but I also feel, that as a reader, I need to push myself to read other things as well.
Although, when I was in grad school working on my MA in English I was required to read so many "classic" titles that I think I wore myself out on challenging material. So, I think that may have been why I began dive into YA books so eagerly. At that point, that were a little bit of a brain break for me.
I assume I'm normal in that my reading habits seem to go in cycles. And, apparently, now my brain is starting to crave a challenge. So, for 2013 I am making a goal to include a few "classics" (both modern and historical) into my reading list.
Here are a few that I want to start with:
Goodreads synopsis: In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
Goodreads synopsis: After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
Goodreads synopsis: In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean--a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert--Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.
Goodreads synopsis: In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.
Goodreads synopsis: Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.
Goodreads synopsis: A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?" This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."
Goodreads synopsis: Not just revolutionary because it was groundbreaking, the Lord of the Rings is timeless because it's the product of a truly top-shelf mind. Tolkien was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages, with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature. His epic, 10 years in the making, recounts the Great War of the Ring and the closing of Middle-Earth's Third Age, a time when magic begins to fade from the world and men rise to dominance. Tolkien carefully details this transition with tremendous skill and love, creating in the Lord of the Rings a universal and all-embracing tale, a justly celebrated classic.
Goodreads synopsis: On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.
Goodreads synopsis: When 1st published in its entirety in 1958, T.H. White's masterly, incomparable, entertaining epic novel about King Arthur & his round table was hailed by critics as an instant classic. So it became; widely acknowledged as one of the definitive works of the fantasy genre, The Once & Future King is a retelling of the Arthurian legend that is at once both comic & political, enchanting & educational. While it works on one level as a highly entertaining saga of knights, battles, magic & heroes, the novel also presents a conscientiously researched historical interpretation of the round table as a civilizing force that brought England out of the Dark Ages thru the notion of chivalry. Divided into four books originally published separately which detail Arthur's boyhood, the building of his empire, his doomed friendship with Lancelot & his undoing thru the boy Mordred, White's novel reimagines several of these well-known characters in unconventional ways, painting Arthur as sweet & in many ways simple, Lancelot as a complex & deeply troubled man with an ugly face, & several older knights of the table as sympathetic or even comic Good Old Boys, blundering amiably around in creaky armor as they support their young king without entirely understanding him.
Goodreads synopsis: "Catch-22" is like no other novel. It is one of the funniest books ever written, a keystone work in American literature, and even added a new term to the dictionary. At the heart of "Catch-22" resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war. His efforts are perfectly understandable because as he furiously scrambles, thousands of people he hasn't even met are trying to kill him. His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, he is trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
So, have you read any of these books? I would love to hear any thoughts or comments. Also, if you have any other suggestions...please, suggest away!
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