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This is probably going to be my most hastily written weekly meme post ever, I say as I begin to write this on 3:57 pm on Tuesday afternoon. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this topic, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of it, so here we go:
August 29: Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre: Pick a genre and share with us some books that have gone under the radar in that genre!
I’m going to go with classics! It’s such a broad genre, and obviously a book doesn’t get to be considered a classic without quite a bit of acclaim, so these may not be as ‘hidden’ as if I had chosen another genre… but here are some classics that I consider to be frequently overlooked for their much more oft read peers (To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, etc).
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I only read this recently (review here), but I absolutely loved it. This is one of those books that seems to be on everyone’s TBR list, but very few people have actually read it. So if you’re waiting for some kind of sign to motivate you, here it is. Read this book! It’s unsettling and fascinating, and it becomes easier to read than you’d think possible as you struggle wrapping your head around the first chapter.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. It’s one of her more famous novels, admittedly, but often gets eclipsed by And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. As good as both of those novels are, Roger Ackroyd is one of the most unique mystery novels I’ve ever read. If you’re able to guess who murdered Roger Ackroyd, I’d like to buy you a drink.
White Noise by Don Delillo. It was published in 1985, so it’s a more recent classic, but a classic nonetheless. White Noise is a bizarre post-modernist literary exercise in coming to terms with one’s own mortality. It’s funny and unsettling and weird. It took me longer to read than it should have, because there was something I found rather draining about thinking about mortality at the end of a long day, but I ultimately found this very fascinating and satisfying.
Maurice by E.M. Forster. This novel is flawed, especially stylistically as it was published posthumously and didn’t undergo the kind of rigorous editing that it needed, but that doesn’t stop me from singing its praises. Maurice is Forster’s gay romance that he wrote in 1913, so it’s really remarkable that this is a novel we have access to. I haven’t read any other Forster, so I can’t comment on how it compares to some of his better known novels, but it’s a delightful book that everyone should read.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I love Fahrenheit 451 as much as the next person, but it’s a shame to not read any Bradbury beyond that. The Martian Chronicles is a series of vignettes that are loosely linked together, about the future colonization of Mars. It’s a very odd and disturbing book, and while some of the stories make a stronger impression than others, this whole collection is a relevant allegory on imperialism that’s not to be missed.
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. I adore everything I’ve read by Somerset Maugham, none more than Of Human Bondage, but an oft-overlooked brilliant novel by him is The Razor’s Edge, about a group of friends in postwar London and Paris. Not a whole lot happens in this book, but at the same time, it covers so much. Somerset Maugham’s writing is absolutely stunning, and if you haven’t read anything by him you should amend that immediately.
Poetics by Aristotle. I think Plato’s Republic is really fascinating, but Aristotle’s Poetics is perhaps more accessible and interesting reading, for those looking for a good introduction to Greek philosophy. It’s basically a short analysis of Greek tragedy and how plot and language come together to elicit certain reactions from the viewers – how we basically use theatre as a form of catharsis in seeing such dramatic emotions portrayed on stage. As a fan of theatre and philosophy, I found this fascinating.
Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault. Renault’s epic Alexander the Great trilogy isn’t to be missed by historical fiction fans who like a heavy emphasis on the historical. There isn’t much of a fast-moving plot, here, but Renault’s writing is gorgeous and the sheer amount of research she put into these novels is admirable. This isn’t the kind of book you can read in a quick weekend, but if you’re interested at all in Alexander the Great, it is an amazing novel to devote several weeks or months to.
A View From The Bridge by Arthur Miller. People usually think they can call it a day with Miller after reading The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, but A View From The Bridge I think is one of his masterpieces. It’s a play about a Brooklyn family who take in two Italian cousins who are looking to find work in America so they can send money home to their starving families. Like The Crucible, A View From The Bridge deals with themes of perception and honor, just on a more intimate scale.
The Betrothed/I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. Since it’s usually assigned high school reading, most Italians I know hate this book. I didn’t. Okay, granted, it’s a bit long, but it’s also an epic whirlwind romantic adventure of a novel, and I can’t help but to love this story a lot. Sorry, my Italian lit degree is completely useless if I can’t recommend an obscure 700 page long Italian classic on my blog every now and then.
How many of these classics have you read? Comment and let me know!