The time has come for the fifth and final segment of the discussion on favorite books. I have really enjoyed writing these posts and hearing back about some of your favorites. We have looked at favorite YA books and favorite fictional series as well as personal favorite books of the Old Testament and New Testament. Finally, I’d like to finish out the discussion today by talking about my favorite works in classic literature. I apologize in advance if this blog post is not up to my usual standards; I’m still afflicted with the same cold I mentioned in last week’s blog post, so I’ve been pretty wiped out this week (which is also my excuse for posting so late today). That said, this post is free of spoilers, so let’s take a look at some classics!
Pride and Prejudice
The classic masterpiece of Jane Austen tells the story of the Bennet family (focusing on Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter) as they interact with various families and suitors that pursue the daughters in the world of wealthy Victorian England, a world often rife with subterfuge and ulterior motives. Granted, I think it does not sound like an appealing book. It sounds positively boring. But I was proven wrong.
A little background: in ninth grade I was forced to read Sense and Sensibility by Austen for my British literature class. The book was unspeakably dreadful. Though it had a relatively interesting plot, the plot was so diluted in hundreds of pages of endless boredom that it made my math textbook look appealing. After slaving through the near four hundred pages of agony and limping out of the experience barely breathing, I swore never to read Austen again if I could help it.
And then eleventh grade came. And for my English class, I was required to read Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s most famous work. As I picked up the book for the first time I felt worse than a convict being led to the gallows. I opened the book… read the first sentence… and laughed. Laughed because it was funny. Austen wrote with such brilliant satirical wit that I was instantly hooked. Immersed in the story, immersed in the lives of the characters, and instantly drawn into the intricacies of the Bennets’ world.
Through the entirety of the book I remained absolutely fascinated; the writing was undeniably brilliant. And if it isn’t obvious, this book is a favorite for two reasons. One, it’s actually a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Two, it taught me an invaluable life lesson: don’t judge an author by their first book. Austen had never written a novel before Sense and Sensibility, and she made many, many mistakes with that book that she corrected in Pride and Prejudice. I have gone on to read another of her novels, Persuasion, and while it isn’t as good as P&P she certainly improved her game after S&S.
If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, I will say that it’s written in Victorian English and that can be hard to get through. Chances are you’re at least familiar with the basic plot, but if you haven’t read or seen it I would at least recommend watching a film adaptation of it. Pride and Prejudice really does shine as an excellent work of literature despite having a potentially sleepy premise. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and definitely recommend giving it a read.
Earlier this year, I posted a review of Dracula by Bram Stoker. If you want a more complete analysis of the book, then check out my previous post, but I’ll paraphrase and copy some of the highlights of this horror novel.
Considering that the novel was written in 1897, I was expecting a slow-paced and dense novel. Bram Stoker lived in the era of Austen and Dickens, and as I alluded in my summary of Pride and Prejudice, 1800s novels have a reputation of being quite slow to plow through. Not so with Dracula. My apprehensive expectation of a slow and dense book was shattered from the first chapter. Stoker has an excellent sense of pacing and voice, and his writing kept me on the edge of my seat more times than not.
The novel is formatted as a series of letters and diary entries. I really enjoyed this unique approach to writing, and the choice of style comes with no sacrifice to narration: each of the characters keeps a detailed journal in some form, so there are no holes in narration. The voice of the narrator changes at almost every chapter, allowing the reader different perspectives on the same events, which just makes the story that much more engaging. Stoker excellently implements this unique style of writing.
I think one way to tell a good book from a great book is if you have an emotional reaction. Reading Dracula, there were times when I actually laughed and times when I legitimately cried. Stoker knew how to write compelling emotional scenes. Every time a character dies (yes, not everyone survives), and many times that Jonathan and Mina (husband and wife) have their conversations saturated with raw emotion, I felt the book resonating with me. I could feel the pain the characters felt, and I was deeply rewarded by the rich writing in this text.
Overall the style and pacing of the book is excellent, and the characters are strong. Holistically, it is a well-written and thoroughly enjoyable book and I would highly recommend.
Lord of the Rings
You knew it was coming. How could I possibly do a series on my favorite books and not discuss the Lord of the Rings series by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien? This series is my favorite for many reasons, predominantly for its historic significance in the fantasy genre. While strictly speaking, Tolkien did not invent the fantasy genre as we know it today, he indisputably popularized it and helped it into mainstream society. Without the Lord of the Rings and a hobbit named Frodo, many popular franchises would not have come into being. Game of Thrones would not be the television sensation that it has become. The worlds of Narnia, the Wheel of Time, and yes, even Harry Potter all have Tolkien to thank: without his efforts, his vision, these stories would not be.
Of course, my own world of Ethra draws roots to Tolkien’s visionary work as well, and for that I must thank him. Without Tolkien, my entire livelihood would likely not even exist. So how can I talk about favorite books or series without mentioning Lord of the Rings? I saved the last only for the best: the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and the Hobbit, of course) will never be surpassed in their sheer weight of presence.
Most of you are probably very familiar with the storyline of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. For those of you who haven’t read it, read it. Start with The Hobbit. It’s short and fun and easy to get through. Lord of the Rings can be daunting and a bit dusty, but I would argue that it truly is one of the most foundational works of fiction of all time. If you don’t have the time or energy to read the books, at least watch the Lord of the Rings movies that Peter Jackson breathed to life so successfully. Watch The Hobbit movies if you want, but they really aren’t true to the book. The Lord of the Rings movies remain true to the books and are remarkably well done. No matter how many fantasy books are written – by myself or anyone else – Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings will always remain first in my book.
Well, that’s the end of the series! Thank you for reading! What are your opinions on these classical works? What are your favorite works of classic literature? Comment below and let me know!