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1. What books do you think are important for everyone to read, in order to have a good, solid western literary background?

2. What books do you plan on reading to/introducing to your children? If you already have kids, then of course answer anyway.

3. What are some of your favorite post-apocalyptic books? Please don't say the Left Behind series... I don't mean that sort of apocalypse!
More along the lines of The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, Galax Arena, World War Z... I have I Am Legend but have not read it yet.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 8th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
1. Some of the books would be the Odyssey (more exciting than the Iliad IMO, or I'd say the Iliad too), probably some Dickens and Jane Austen even though I'm not really a fan of either, and Shakespeare. I'm also tempted to say Gulliver's Travels, but I'm not sure that one's really necessary. I just like it.

3. I liked I Am Legend even though it's really not my normal kind of book. I also really remember liking World War Z and A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Feb. 9th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
Yeah, the Odyssey was more interesting in my opinion also. Shakespeare..I need to start reading some of that--and Gulliver's Travels too! >_>
Feb. 9th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC)
Odyssey (more exciting than the Iliad IMO, or I'd say the Iliad too)
There's also The Aeneid by Virgil from the Roman perspective. I think all three are rather drab, but I also had to translate The Aeneid from Latin wherein Aeneas is a right prat, so I may be slightly biased.
Feb. 8th, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC)
1. William Shakespeare. Jane Austen.

2. Sandra Boyton's But Not the Hippotamus

3. A Canticle for Leibowitz. In fact I would say it was the classic of that genre.
Feb. 9th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
Shout out to a fellow fan of Leibowitz.

Have you read/thought of reading Neal Stephenson's latest, Anathem? It reminds me of Leibowitz, somewhat. It's not post-apocalyptic exactly, but the different society and the monastic focus give them a similar feel.
Feb. 9th, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
Solid? the usual names - Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, Bronte (any i guess).

2. I was thinking the other day that when i have kids it'll be so cool to give them the books i loved as a kid - famous 5, secret 7, etc. And that i will definitely read them the hobbit and the harry potters - leave them to discover LotR when they're a bit older :)
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 9th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
^I agree with your children's books, and I'll add Tamora Pierce and Phillip Pullman.
Feb. 9th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
Crime and Punishment is a must read, Steinbeck, The Illiad. The Jungle by Uptopn Sinclair, The Jungle Books of Rudyard Kipling, Joyce, Wilde, Hesse.

Oh wait, solid Western literary background?? Eek, not a clue.

Post-apocalyptic, in addition to the two Atwood novels mentioned, is Swan Song by Robert McCammon and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Did I mention The Road?
Feb. 9th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
Everyone's opinions about must-reads will be different, and the whole idea of what makes up a "canon" is of course really controversial. I would say, though, that if you pick up a few used copies of the Norton Anthologies of British and American Lit and look through their tables of contents it gives you a good idea of what the common consensus of "THE LIST" might be for those two countries, problematic though people find it.

Feb. 9th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
1. The Odyessey, Jane Eyre, Price and Prejuduice, Wuthering Heights (even though personally I hate it), Northanger Abbey, The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffanys, too, probably, but I haven't read it), Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Lord of the Rings by Tolkein, Lord of the Flies by Golding, The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, Animal Farm by Orwell, a few Raymond Chandler books, Native Son by Wright, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston, Gone With the Wind by Mitchell, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, War of the Worlds and The Time Machine by Wells, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde, The Scarlett Letter by Hawthorne, various Dickens, Frankenstein by Shelley, Dracula by Stoker, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (poetry but it really changes how I think about the world)

^these are only the books I've read that I feel others should read. There are plenty of others I think people should read too, like books by Henry James, but I haven't read them yet so I don't really know.

2. I answered this one above. I'll add on again by saying The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Twain, Treasure Island by Stevenson, Little Women by Alcott.

3. Post-apocalyptic: The Stand, Spares by Michael Marshall Smith. I prefer dystopian: like Handmaid's Tale, 1984, Brave New World, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Feb. 9th, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
Feb. 9th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
I'm doing some studying and my brain won't really let me answer the questions properly right now, but I felt I should throw in that one of my professor's is insistent that every one should have read and re-read Twain.

I also think Faulkner is incredibly important but often dismissed pretty whimsically. He's amazing. And Vonnegut.
Feb. 9th, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
Hah, Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors.
Feb. 9th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)
1. I don't know that I buy into the idea that having a solid background in something as vague as "western lit" is valid, but for argument's sake, let's call it One or more of Homer's epics, and the Aeneid. Chaucer (Doesn't have to be in Middle English, but at least get a facing-page version to remind you of the original), any one Elizabethan playwright (Shakespeare would be the obvious, Thomas Middleton would be my favorite), some popular AND well respected novels from the English Renaissance, Regency, and Restoration, and two Victorian things (because getting the weird cultural makeup of Victorian England takes a book or so). Some Mark Twain, and The Great Gatsby. That would scratch some basic itches; but, again, I'm not sure that the basic idea of reading X books and being "well read" actually works that way.

2. My father read me Mark Twain and Moby Dick; I'll probably repeat the first, but not the second. Ella Enchanted is something that I've read relatively recently, and would definitely make available.

3. I Am Legend is a good start... My personal favorites include The Absolute at Large and The War With the Newts by Karel Capek (There is an accent mark on the first letter of his last name that I cannot reproduce in HTML). A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. On the Beach by Neil Shute. And, if you like zombies, special mention to the comic book series The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.
Feb. 9th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
Re: Hmmmm....
I wasn't precisely saying that certain books meant that you were well-read - I just wondered what books you guys considered classics or books that are windows into our society. That's the only reason I specified Western.
Feb. 9th, 2009 06:01 am (UTC)
You may want to try searching around some college websites and looking at the syllabi for various Western Lit courses and programs and use that to help develop a list because there is going to be so much variation. For example, in my advanced English classes, we read a completely different set of books than the other two classes. Yet, the only reason for the difference that I could see was that our list was more obscure. All that does for me now is that I've read books most people have never heard of, but not a lot of the classics.
Feb. 9th, 2009 11:30 am (UTC)
I was more interested in personal opinions rather than college lists or such, but it's okay :)
Feb. 9th, 2009 07:28 am (UTC)
1. Well, I'd have to say The Bible - so much of Western literature is based on it (read it not as a religious text, but as a window into culture). And Shakespeare - ditto. Read The Bible and Shakespeare and you've got a pretty good basis for all the themes/ideas that are covered in pretty much all of Western lit.

2. Great question! Here's my list (these are all books for somewhat older kids, though):
Little Women - it was the first real novel that I can remember reading, and it's still one of my favorite books
The Little House books - Little House in the Big Woods was probably the second novel I can remember reading
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - best fantasy books ever written, hands down
To Kill a Mockingbird - such a beautiful story
Anne of Green Gables - actually, everything by L. M. Montgomery

3. I can't say that I've read any post-apocalyptic novels...at least not any that I can remember that haven't already been mentioned. I've got A Canticle for Liebowitz in the stack of books yet to read, though...

Feb. 9th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
I'm not religious but I have to agree, actually.
Feb. 9th, 2009 08:36 am (UTC)
For #3

The 'Magic Time' series by Marc Zicree and others.
The 'Monster' series by David Wellington.
Each series is only three books long, so it is not too expensive or too drawn out.
Feb. 9th, 2009 11:29 am (UTC)
I love your icon.
Feb. 9th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
1. I don't think that "western" literature equals English literature. Quite frankly I didn't find Dickens and Austen brilliant, just melodramatic. ~Solid literary background? It depends on how solid you want it to be. Regardless, must-reads would be- Antic Greek tragedies, the Odyssey & Iliad, Petrarca's sonnets, Shakespeare, don Quixote, Gargantua & Pantagruel, One Thousand and One Nights, the Decameron, Goethe's Faust, Les Miserables, The Red and the Black, some of La Comedie Humaine, Proust, etc. I'm sure I'm just boring you with so many titles. Just try to read outside the English-speaking world, great -western- literature was also written in French, German, Spanish or Italian.

2. Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, The Wizard of Oz & other Oz books, The Little Prince, Never-Ending Story, The Book of One Thousand and One Nights and fairy-tales I think -as a kid my mom read to me traditional fairy-tales from exotic places like China or India, I loved bedtime. Also recently I read a book of fairy-tales by Hesse that were also fun to read.
Feb. 9th, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
3. Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien
Feb. 9th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
"Alas, Babylon", by Pat Frank, is a classic post-apocalyptic story and one of my favorites. If you can bear the absolute nihilism of it, "On the Beach", by Nevil Shute, is also a classic post-apocalyptic story and the most relentlessly depressing book I ever read. But it's that way for a reason. "A Canticle for Leibowitz", by Walter M. Miller, Jr., which I'm rereading right now, is also very good and actually kinda funny.

And finally, a guilty little pleasure of mine is "Vampire Winter", by Lois Tilton. A vampire wakes up one evening to discover that humanity has just nuked the bejeebers out of itself. This vampire is old, dangerous, and enjoys the experience of killing the people upon whom he feeds. But as nuclear winter settles in, and isolated groups of humans struggle to survive the radioactive fallout, the vampire has to change his very nature in order to ensure his own survival over the long term. The book is out of print, but you might be able to find a used copy somewhere.
Feb. 10th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
to ans qn 2 and 3.

2) little women, to kill a mockingbird, the happy prince, red sky in the morning. Truly beautiful.

3) not a post-apocalyptic book but you somewhat related. i strongly recommend 'the road' by Cormac McCarthy (:
Feb. 10th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
2. I don't have kids, but am busy introducing my nieces and nephews to old and new favorites. All of the Jay Williams written, Friso Henstra illustrated kids books (includes Practical Princess, Forgetful Fred), any of the classically illustrated Mercer Mayer ones (includes Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks like, also written by Jay Williams), Leo Lionni, Judith Viorst, Maurice Sendak, William Steig. My favorite recent young kids books are And Tango Makes Three and Diary of a Wombat. Older kids books: Borrowers Series by Mary Norton, any Edward Eager, any Richard Peck, Oz of course, E.L. Konigsburg, any E.B. White. My favorite newer author for young teens is Joan Bauer.

3. My hands down favorite post-apocalyptic is The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy. Also a third nomination for A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Feb. 15th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
2. I'd have to first go with all the books I was read as a child (The Hobbit, Harry Potter series, Dr Suess, everything by Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton) because my fondest memories are of being read to, especially those from when my dad read The Hobbit to me. I'd also read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Narnia books and Peter Pan to my children because I feel slightly outraged that I didn't read them or have them read to me as a child.
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