Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #21

Happy Sunday! I thought I would talk a little this week about classics. Do you read classics? Why or why not? Do you have any expectations when it comes to classics? Have you ever been surprised by a classic?

This month I've read The Scarlet Letter (didn't love but found engaging), North and South (loved very much, become a new obsession). I've also started two other classics. Pamela by Samuel Richardson. And Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope.

I have found Pamela to be surprising. I had no real idea what to expect. I had not read Samuel Richardson before. And it was written in 1740. How interesting could it be? How accessible could it be? It wasn't a question (for me) of whether it would be boring--it was a question of degree--just how boring would it be. BUT. I have found it to be anything but boring! Yes, it is melodramatic in places. With the heroine falling to her knees or falling on her face every now and then. But. It is exciting. I found myself caring from the start. Now I've still got a couple of hundred pages to go. And I have no idea where the story is going (I haven't read any spoilers), but so far I am liking it.

Doctor Thorne has not surprised me all that much. I expected to love it. Anthony Trollope makes me giddy. I don't know what it is about Trollope, but I just love, love, love his voice. His writing is amusing, charming, and oh-so-engaging. I just love spending time with him. I love meeting his characters. I love laughing with them. I love laughing at them. I just find myself so connected, so engaged with what I'm reading that I'm absolutely hooked. He's one of the rare writers whose works--no matter how long--and Doctor Thorne is over six hundred pages I believe--feels too short. I always want more. Always.

What I've realized this month is that in some ways reading classics is more rewarding than reading more contemporary fiction. Let me explain. I think North and South is worth thousands of books like Twilight. I do think there are some super amazing authors writing today. (Patrick Ness comes to mind as just one example.) But I think readers should brave the classics now and then. Because not all classics are intimidating. And you might just be surprised...

Have you read North and South? Would you be interested in reading it this summer? I'm thinking about having a group read. But I'm still in the thinking stage. I'm wanting to know if there would be any interest in this...

Have you read any books lately that you think are worthy of being future-classics? Any books out there that are so amazing you think they'll be timeless?

If there is anyone interested in reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, you should definitely consider joining Nymeth's upcoming project. I read that one last summer with the Fill in the Gaps group. (And it's definitely too soon for me to do a reread. But. I think it would be great fun, so I'm encouraging you to join!)

What I've Reviewed This Week:

Fever Crumb. Philip Reeve. 2010. April 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.
Living Hell. Catherine Jinks. 2010. April 2010. Harcourt. 256 pages.
Ship Breaker. Paolo Bacigalupi. 2010. May 2010. Little Brown. 326 pages.
Once by Morris Gleitzman. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 176 pages.
Crispin: The End of Time. Avi. 2010. June 2010. HarperCollins. 240 pages.
Maisy's Book of Things That Go. Lucy Cousins. 2010. May 2010. Candlewick Press. 16 pages.
What About Bear? Suzanne Bloom. 2010. February 2010. Boyds Mill Press. 32 pages.
Sleepy ABC. By Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated By Karen Katz. Text, 1953. Illustrations, 2010. HarperCollins. 40 pages.
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. 2004. Hyperion. 40 pages.
Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After A Fatal Choice. Kristen Jane Anderson. Tricia Goyer. 2010. May 2010. Multnomah. 224 pages.
Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America's Farmland. Arthur Geisert. 2010. May 2010. 64 pages.
Christian Encounters: Jane Austen. Peter Leithart. 2010. March 2010. Thomas Nelson. 175 pages.
Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie. Jeannine Atkins. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 224 pages.

Currently Reading:


Fire Will Fall. Carol Plum-Ucci. 2010. May 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 485 pages.


Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia. Brandon Sanderson. 2009. October 2009. Scholastic. 336 pages.



Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter. R.J. Anderson. 2009. April 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages.


Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)


Pamela. Samuel Richardson. 1740/1801. (Penguin) 540 pages.

What I Hope To Begin/Finish Soon:


The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 432 pages.



Hester. Paula Reed. 2010. February 2010. St. Martin's Press. 308 pages.


Sisters Red. Jackson Pearce. 2010. June 2010. Little, Brown. 328 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

3 comments:

Julie P 12:35 AM  

I have not read any of the classics. I guess they intimidate me a little bit!

Annette Laing 5:00 AM  

I take my hat off to you for reading Samuel Richardson. I'm a historian of the 18th century and so, after seeing a BBC dramatization of his novel Clarissa, I felt duty bound to read it...until I saw the size of the wretched thing. It was the thickest Penguin paperback I have ever seen. So I wimped out. Becky, if there were a reading Olympics, you would be a gold medallist. :-)

Annette 9:36 AM  

Hello Becky,
I couple of years ago I read the classics voraciously. I have not been able to find room in my reading piles to get back in to reading them again.
The Scarlet Letter is one of my top 5 favorite books. It is funny in that I disliked reading it in high school, but read it again in my 30's and fell in love with it.
Reading classic literature requires work in reading them, your brain cannot go on auto pilot and zone out to be entertained. It is thinking literature.

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I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

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