A GOOD READ: Classic novels offer classic reads
Books that have stood the test of time and are still relevant and enjoyable to read are considered classics. Here are a few to consider:
“If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.”
– Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
War and Peace may not be a good choice for those with commitment issues — it is not a quick read - but, like any good relationship, it is well worth the effort. The cast of characters is vast but you will soon get to know the main ones such as Pierre, Natasha and Prince Andrei. Tolstoy’s philosophy of war and peace is fascinating, as is the description of the Russian struggle with Napoleon.
“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequence of an unnatural beginning.”
– Jane Austen, Persuasion
Pride and Prejudice is the usual recommendation of Jane Austen’s work but I would like to propose Persuasion as well. It is a thoughtful, romantic story with Austen’s usual humour — this is satire, after all. The only danger to reading Austen is that her use of language is so exquisite that she ruins you for other authors.
“His designs were strictly honourable, as the phrase is; that is, to rob a lady of her fortune by way of marriage.”
– Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
The original title of the book is The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Tom Jones is another longish book but it is also worth the time put into it. When it was written, Tom Jones was one of the first books to be referred to by the new term “novel.” The book was radical for its time because of its raciness but it is also full of humour. The character of Tom Jones is extremely likeable in spite of his faults because he has such a good heart and he learns from his mistakes.
“There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel.”
– Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers
This book and the rest of the Barchester novels are essentially about the ambitions and schemes of various characters in an English cathedral town. There are misunderstandings, power struggles and plenty of plotting amongst the characters (Mr. Slope is particularly memorable), all of which contribute to the comic irony of the story.
“Some folk want their luck buttered.”
– Thomas Hardy, The Life and Death of the Mayor of Casterbridge: A Story of a Man of Character
Known more simply as The Mayor of Casterbridge, this book tells the tragic story of a man who sells his wife and baby daughter to the highest bidder after he drinks too much rum at a country fair. He vows to give up alcohol for 20 years and works his way up to becoming the mayor of the town of Casterbridge. When his wife and daughter find him 18 years later, his life starts to unravel. The various decisions he makes and consequences of his actions make up the rest of the story.
“Music and woman I cannot but give way to, whatever my business is.”
– Samuel Pepys, Diary
The diary of Samuel Pepys is a record of several years of one busy man’s life in 17th century London, and is a fascinating glimpse into the past. Although Pepys is far from perfect, it’s hard not to be impressed by the energy and intelligence of the man. As well as his personal life, he writes of events he was a witness to, such as the Black Death and the London fire of 1666.
Lists of classics can be found online. One popular source of recommendations is Oprah; several of the books she recommends are classics, such as those by Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck and Leo Tolstoy. As well, be sure to check with your local library staff for even more great classics.