Have You Read These? You Should Have
By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director
Everybody has an opinion on the best books to read. There are hundreds of lists online of the 10 best books to read, or the 25 books everyone should read, or the 100 books you need to read before you die. But if you’re looking for a dozen great novels, look no further than the list of the Greatest Books Ever Written on the website of the “Encyclopedia Britannica.”
“Anna Karenina,” by Leo Tolstoy is the tragic story of Anna Karenina, a married noblewoman and socialite, and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. Called by Dostoyevsky “flawless as a work of art,” the novel explores several topics, including politics, religion, morality, gender and social class.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. Small town lawyer, Atticus Finch, takes on the task of defending a black man accused of raping a white woman in Depression era south. Despite the serious topics of rape and racial inequality, Lee diffuses her storytelling with warmth and humor.
“The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story of the young, mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his obsession with the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. The novel explores the idealism, social upheaval, and excess of the Jazz Age. It is a cautionary tale of the American Dream.
“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The story of seven generations of the Buendía Family in the fictional town of Macondo, and the inevitable and inescapable repetition of history. The characters in the novel are controlled by their pasts and the complexity of time.
“A Passage to India,” by E.M. Forster. The novel centers on the alleged assault of a young Englishwoman and an Indian doctor in 1920s India. It explores both the chasm between races, and between individuals struggling to make sense of their humanity.
“Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison. This tells the story of an unnamed African American man whose color makes him invisible. It addresses the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century, including Black Nationalism, and issues of individuality and personal identity.
“Don Quixote,” by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The story follows the adventures of a nobleman who sets out with his squire to revive chivalry and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. Don Quixote does not see the world for what it is, but prefers to imagine that he is living out a knightly story.
“Beloved,” by Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War, it tells the story of Sethe born a slave and escaped to Ohio, who eighteen years later is still not free. She is haunted by the memories of Sweet Home, the farm where she was enslaved, and where many hideous things occurred.
“Mrs. Dalloway,” by Virginia Woolf. The novel chronicles a June day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party she will host that evening. The story moves forwards and backwards in time, and in and out of the characters’ minds to construct both an image of Clarissa’s life and English society during the years between the world wars.
“Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe. The novel tells the tale of Africa’s encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy Igbo warrior in the late 1800s, it explores one man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his traditions by British political and religious forces.
“Jane Eyre,” by Charlotte Bronte. The novel follows the emotions and experiences of Jane Eyre, including her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, master of Thornfield Hall. The novel contains elements of social criticism, and explores classism, sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism.
“The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker. This is the story of the life of African-American women in the Southern United States in the 1930s. An eloquent portrayal of black women’s lives supported by faith, love, and trust in the face of brutality, poverty, and racism.
The choice of what you read is up to you, but have you read these books? They are all available in multiple formats at your library. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but every one of the books on this list have been recreated on film.