Saturday 14 December 2013

The Classics Club December Meme

In your status line, list author and title of ten books that have "stayed with you."

Don't think too much or spend too much time. Tag ten friends including me so I can see your list. 

This little book list challenge is doing the rounds on facebook with my friends.

When I first saw it, I thought it linked in nicely with this month's Classic Club meme: 

What is your favorite classic book? If you already answered this question in August 2012, great! 

Tell us what you picked then, and if your answer has changed in the last year and a half. 

If you are new since that meme, what is your favorite classic as of today? 

(Yes, you can of course list multiple books.)

I don't want to be confined by whether something is a classic or not. So here's my list quickly - off the top of head - with no thought of classic status:

1. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

2. Persuasion by Jane Austen

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

4. A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

5. The Histories by Herodotus

6. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny

7. Midnight's Children by Salmon Rushdie

8. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster

9. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

10. Little Women by L. M. Alcott

Even as I get to the end of this list, I can think of another 5, 10, 20 books that could be just as list-worthy as the above - To Kill A Mockingbird, Cloudstreet, The Stand, Reading the Holocaust, Anne Frank's Diary, Romeo and Juliet....

But these were the first 10 books that came to my mind immediately, without any hesitation, today.

A Suitable Boy was published in 1993, which means it still falls short by 5 years of my self-imposed timeline for what is a modern classic. I got around to reading it in 2004, but I still think about the characters, particularly Lata, on a regular basis. I wonder what she is up to & how things are panning out for her. And I wish that Seth would finish A Suitable Girl sooner rather than later!

I loved this book with a passion and felt connected to the characters and the place in a way that surprised me at the time. Whether this story holds up to a re-read or continues to speak to readers in the future is still unknown.

I first heard about Patrick Leigh Fermor thanks to a newspaper article about 10 years ago highlighting the best in travel writing. PLF won hands down in the reviewers mind and his description of A Time of Gifts left me desperate to track down the book.

PLF walked across Europe when he was 18. The time was Dec 1933 and Hitler had just come to power in Germany. His 2 year walk took him through a Europe on the verge of great change. He slept in barns, monasteries and castles. He met gypsies and landed gentry.

It's an extraordinary adventure, not always easy to read or believe sometimes! But PLF takes you along with him all the way. You feel like you're walking alongside him; you see what he sees as he gives you glimpses into his incredible mind.

I studied Ancient History for my HSC many, many years ago. Herodotus was one of our texts. We only needed to read a few sections relevant to our course, but I was so enthralled by my first experience with ancient writing that I read the entire book through. At the end of the year I couldn't bear the idea of parting with it, so I bought my own copy...and read it again!

Herodotus not only opened up a whole new world of literature and study for me, but it was also my first attempt at grappling with revisionism, the unreliability of historical sources and the search for truth & accuracy.

Albert Speer was recommended to me by a friend who knew I had an obsession with trying to understand the Holocaust. As it turns out, Sereny's interviews with Speer also played into my search for truth & historical accuracy. Her gentle, insistent probing into what Speer actually knew and was involved in during the war was like watching water drip onto a stone. She slowly, slowly wore away at Speer. Question by question.

It was an incredible build up of tension and trust. A psychological drama that delved into the heart of good and evil, responsibility, truth and integrity.

I went through an E.M. Forster phase in my late teens/early twenties. I adored A Room With a View for its proper English mannerisms, its romance with Italy and for Lucy's struggle with what society and family expect her to do and be against what she actually wants to do and be. The perfect book, in fact, to read when you are 19 & trying to be true to your own ideals!

An Age of Innocence was my first foray into Wharton territory. The writing made me swoon; the time & place fascinated me and I was once again caught up in a story searching for personal truth, integrity and ideals.

As for Little Women, I'm not sure what I could say that would be new, fresh or different from everyone else's responses to this classic tale about childhood and family. It's certainly one of my childhood favourites. It's still a comfort read for me today.

I was also one of four girls. I wanted to be like Jo (but was probably more like Meg!) However, Jo did give me her love of travelling, reading, writing and teaching. Little Women also inspired me to be a better person every time I read it.

The main thing this exercise has highlighted is that my core set of favourites has remained fairly stable over the years. The order may ebb and flow depending on my mood on the day, but my search for truth, integrity & authenticity is obviously a life-long obsession!


  1. What a wonderful list! You've picked some of my favorites.

  2. I love the fact that you chose to do a list, Brona. I have A Suitable Boy on my shelf just waiting, and I am itching to read Herodotus. Thanks for the great reviews!

    1. It's lovely to be in company with another Greekophile :-)

  3. Anonymous14/12/13

    I have not read many classics but my all-time favorite is Jane Eyre :) Some of the books you mentioned are in my TBR list though :)

    1. Ahhh Jane Eyre!! There's another one that so easily have been on this list too.

  4. I love your list! I'd never heard of A Time of Gifts--it's on my wishlist now.

    1. I highly recommend it and it's sequel 'Between the Woods and the Water'.

  5. Brilliant list, you picked some of my favourites too (Persuasion!)

  6. Anonymous19/12/13

    I'm reading Little Women right now while I'm sick and the cold winter has arrived. Comfort is the perfect word for describing this book. But I also love the characters and just the simplicity of the story.


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