The Classics


Top 10 Books

The Classics

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Best Screenplays


Big-Budget Trash

Foreign Film

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  1. The Odyssey by Homer
  2. The History of Alexander the Great by Curtis Quintius Rufus
  3. The History by Herodotus
  4. The Secret History by Procopius
  5. The Satyricon by Petronius
  6. The Education of Cyrus by Xenophon
  7. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  8. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  9. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
  10. Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

Getting this list down to 10 wasn't easy; as a matter of fact, it's downright silly, especially when you take into consideration the eclectic nature (or perhaps peripatetic would be the correct word) of my auto didactic perusal of the classics. It's interesting to me, anyway, that my favorite book in high school didn't make it on the list, Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce, because I've subsequently dismissed it as a sophomoric blot on the escutcheon of world literature. Which is what Samuel Johnson would have said of Tristram Shandy ("Nothing odd will ever last." he remarked to Boswell about Tristram Shandy), which I think is an anthem to the freedom of the novel that represents at once a freedom of innocence and cynicism, at once the result of its primitive state as one of the first books ever written as its relentlessly self-referential post-modernity as a text that deconstructs itself as it goes along.

I placed the oldest books I've ever read first among the classics, and only one poem, The Odyssey, because I've only read it as prose and love and know it best as a novel. The oldest books I've ever read are some of the best I've ever read, though Gilgamesh, probably the oldest book I've ever read, didn't make it, because I didn't find it as good a read as any of the others.

I guess I should probably do the classics by epoch rather than as one tiny list of 10, but these are still 10 great books, each one personally guaranteed by me as very fun and interesting to read. And that's the point of this list: If you haven't read one of the books above, go out and try to find the newest translation or edition of any one of them that strikes your fancy and then e-mail me to tell me if you liked it or not!

I mean, it's not like I get so swamped with e-mail that I don't still sit up nights reading and rereading every message over and over until I go to sleep, my last thoughts as I gently slip into sleep "Somebody out there noticed me! They actually wrote me an e-mail!"