Ten Must Read Books

I am an avid reader.  I have about 14 books on my Kindle and another five or so hardcovers waiting to be read.  I will get through all of them well before spring, most likely.  Most of what I read are murder mysteries although I occasionally vary from them when I find something that looks and sounds appealing.  But here are ten books I consider must read classics, in no particular order.

1.  Silas Marner by George Eliot — In the early 19th century women were not generally accepted as serious novelists.  Mary Anne Evans changed her name to George Eliot to circumvent that problem.  Eliot is known for many novels.  Her best, I think, is Silas Marner.  This is the story about the love of a reclusive and poor man who adopts an orphaned young girl.  How does an unmarried hermit raise a young girl is beyond comprehension of the locals but that is only part of the story.  Set in 19th Century England the story takes on the lives of farmers and their local aristocracy.  This book is an absolute page turner and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

2.  Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett — Vladamir and Estragon are two men waiting along side a road outside the city.  They are waiting for a man named Godot to come to them and save them from their problems.  This play has the two men discussing if they should continue waiting, how long they should continue waiting, and what will happen once Godot comes.  To say anything more gives away too much of this remarkable play.  It is short, easy to read, and fun.  But it is also somewhat philosophical but not in a heavy-handed way.  Read this play.  You will not be disappointed.

3.  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton — Ethan Frome is a man living in a small New England town  He is renting a room from a man and his wife.  The story, written in 1911 but set many years earlier, and deals with the relationship between the three of them.  Wharton’s book is something of a breakthrough for its day in dealing with marriage, infidelity, and love.

4.  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway — This is a story of a man who is making one last fishing trip to get that big catch.  Can he get the biggest fish he has ever caught and what will he do with it once he catches it.  Seldom is a story written with a single character that rises to the level of a classic but this is definitely one.  It is a study of the human will and the human mind.

5.  Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger — This book is one that is not easily nailed down as to its intent.  It is a coming of age book.  It is a book about the character of a young man.  It is a book about social mores.  Although it is not a difficult read, most people find themselves reading it at least twice to get a better perspective.  When first printed in 1951 the Roman Catholic Church put it on its banned book list which, of course, made it an instant best seller.  It would have done well regardless.  It is a classic that holds your interest.

6.  The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne — This is one of Hawthorne’s great books.  The book is set in 19th century Salem at a real house you can visit today.  People have surmised that Hawthorne wrote the book, in part, because of his family’s part in the Salem witch trials of 1692.  Hawthorne starts the story by telling of a curse placed on the house and events that followed.  The book gives wonderful insight into everyday life in mid-18th Century America.

7.  An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce — Bierce was noted for his commentary on 19th Century politics and life.  This story is set at the time of the Civil War and a man who is about to be hung.  Through his eyes we see all that is dear to him but with a twist.  It is the twist that makes this story an absolute classic, and it would not surprise me if Alfred Hitchcock had read it and used it in his stellar career.

8.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald — Fitzgerald wrote this book about the excesses of the rich played against the problems of the poor and the interactions between the two groups.  Even though it is set in the 1920s, it could easily happen in any other decade as the characters in the book have certain timeless qualities about them.

9.  Ghettostadt by Gordon Horwitz — This book, written in 2008, is about the life of the Jews in the Polish city of Lodz (pronounced Woo – je).  The Warsaw Ghetto starting in 1940 is one of the most written about however it was not the only city such atrocities were visited upon.  Lodz Jews suffered the same experience.  This book gives the stunning and stark details of the lives of the Jews in the Lodz ghetto.  We are told what they did, what they thought, how they survived, and what happened in the end.  It is very well written and not so academic as to be dry.

10.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn — This book was first published in 1962.  It is the story of one man in a Soviet gulag prison.  Solzhenitsyn himself was a prisoner in such a camp and the story is doubtless an account of what he encountered.  While Solzhenitsyn, like many Russian authors, is known for his long novels, this book is fairly short.  But the details of prison life he relates sound more like a Hollywood movie fiction than fact, but fact it is.  The depressing and hopelessness of daily life in the prison is related in stark detail.


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