27 July 2016 Susannah

Great works on your ‘to read’ list

Dante image

In David Lodge’s delightful novel Changing Places a group of English Literature academics play a game called ‘Humiliation’. Contestants have to name a famous and important work of literature they have NOT read. In the novel the game is won by the professor of literature who admits to never having read Hamlet.

What great works are still on your ‘to read’ list? My sister is currently reading War and Peace, feeling that she should not go through life without experiencing that great book. Have you read Ulysses, Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (I know of 3 book groups that are currently making their way through the many volumes of that masterpiece), Moby-Dick, Don Quixote or The Canterbury Tales?

I knew that one gaping hole in my own reading was Dante, and in preparation for my forthcoming Italian literary tour, I tackled Clive James’ acclaimed translation of The Divine Comedy. I really loved it, and am so pleased that I am now familiar with this famous classic which has influenced so many people. I wish I could read it in Italian (Dorothy L. Sayers learned Italian just so she could read Dante in the original), but the translation still got me hooked. It was not an easy read, but a wonderfully worthwhile one.

Why don’t you encourage your book group to tackle some classic you’ve always meant to read, or make a list of books you really do want to read before you die, and get started on one of them?

Which classics have generated the most lively discussions at your book club? Which ones have you read, or not been able to finish? I’d love to hear your comments, please click below.

For further reading:

  Susannah Fullerton’s Around the World in 30 Classics

  Susannah Fullerton’s Controversial Classics

   Goodreads: William Shakespeare Hamlet
   LibriVox: William Shakespeare Hamlet

   Goodreads: Leo Tolstoy War and Peace
   Project Gutenberg: Leo Tolstoy War and Peace

   Goodreads: James Joyce Ulysses
   Open Culture: James Joyce Ulysses

   Goodreads: Marcel Proust In Search of Lost Time (Swan’s Way)
   LibriVox: Marcel Proust In Search of Lost Time (Swan’s Way)

   Goodreads: Herman Melville Moby-Dick
   Project Gutenberg: Herman Melville Moby-Dick

   Project Gutenberg: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Don Quixote
   Loyal Books: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Don Quixote

   Project Gutenberg: Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales
   Loyal Books: Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales

   Goodreads: Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy
   LibriVox: Dante Alighieri The Divine Comedy


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Featured image credit- Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino’s fresco. By Domenico di Michelino – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26807
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Comments (4)

  1. Patricia

    I have read Ulysses – I have my aunt’s 1937 edition which was banned in Australia in 1941.I am working my way through Clive James’s superb translation of the Divine Comedy and Proust is on the list.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t the Clive James translation fabulous! You will get much more from Proust having been to the town of Illiers Cambray and seen Tante Leonie’s house.

  2. suzanne

    We have a long standing book club and while we mostly read current releases, over the years we have set aside a month for a ‘classic’. This year after Susannah’s article about Emma celebrating 200 years I chose it for our book club and it was a big success. One fascinating aspect was that some people had taught the work, some were rereading it and some were coming to it for the first time. Their responses were naturally quite different and it made for interesting discussion.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Suzanne, you have just made my day! I am so thrilled that my comments persuaded you all to read Emma, but most of all I’m delighted that you all enjoyed it. Can I suggest Persuasion for your classic in 2018, as it will be 200 years old that year.

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