A Classics Reading List

Back in 2006 I started a book club at my local library because I wanted to read classic literature (whatever that is), and thought it would be more interesting, and much more informative for me if I got others to read with me, and to discuss what we had chosen.  Well, I was right.  The group is still together, and we have gone through an impressive list of books.  Here’s the list of what we have read:

  • All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  • Othello by William Shakespeare
  • Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone by Sophocles
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Histories by Herodotus
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Orestia by Aeschylus
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Dubois
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Utopia by Thomas More
  • Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
  • Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington
  • Candide by Voltaire
  • The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe
  • The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  • The Awakening (and the short story “Desirées’ Baby”) by Kate Chopin
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • The Aeneid by Virgil
  • The Prince by Nicolò Machiavelli
  • The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
  • Selected Essays by Michel de Montaigne
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka
  • The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O’Neill
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello
  • The Federalist Papers (selections)/Common Sense by Various Authors
  • The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

And here are the books we will read through the end of 2013:

  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Faust (Part 1 only) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I lead most of the discussions, and I used a modification of the “shared inquiry” method recommended by the Great Books Foundation (I’ll do a post on the Foundation in the near future.).  There are a few things that make my group a bit different than other book clubs I know of:

  1. It is a bit more formal.  I have a list of prepared questions that I use, though I try to act as a facilitator more than a discussion leader.  I ask questions, but I (usually) don’t answer them, because I’m not the teacher.  My opinion is not important.  If the discussion moves along without my intervention, I sit back and let it go.
  2. The members state their opinions when it comes to matters of interpretation (in the case of everything other than facts such as where something took place, etc.), and no one is allowed to say, “you’re wrong about what that means.”  They can say, “I disagree,” or “I have a different idea about that.”
  3. Though we have read works that are 2,500 years old, I like to try discuss why old works are still relevant today – and they are since human nature has not changed in that amount of time.

If you would like to set up a group like this, let me know, and I will be glad to help you.  E-mail me directly at geraldlively@cox.net.

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