Calling all classic literature lovers!


I have to choose a research topic for my literature class, unfortunately, I am completely stumped as to what books to read (classic literature is not my forte). Can ya give me a hand? I need a list of books that are considered of "literary merit" (whatever that means).

I'd really appriciate it if these books weren't boring as dirt, and didn't have much swearing in them (do such books exist?). And I can't do Jane Austen.



  1. Okay *stetches fingers* You've just walked into my ball court.

    It's not my forte by any means, but I do like traversing this field quite a bit and I have come accross several gems.

    If you want an easy out - The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells. It's like 110 pages long, and there is TONS of literary junk to pull from it. No swearing either, I believe.

    Fahrenheit 451 - This is a great read. I've reread it several times. Not only is it a subject near and dear to my heart (books), but there are so many freaky parallels that you can draw to our society today. When you read about "seashells" in their ears, don't think shells, think ipod, bluetooth, and cell phones. And the "Wall screen" tvs? Think plasma screen and you've got it. And this was written 50 years ago. Plenty of literary topics to pull a paper from. Just remember - this isn't a book about censoring. Everyone says it is. It's not. People stopped reading the books, and that's why they burned them (talk about a research topic).
    I can't remember if there is swearing in here. I think there might be, but it didn't really bother me (as you can see), and I'm usually a stickler for that. It's an important book to read.

    The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury. Same author, but short stories. You might have to push for this one for "literary merit" Bah.

    The Once and Future King - T. S. Elliot. King Arthur. How could you not like it? But it is longer than the other three. But this is the only version where I didn't hate Lancelot's guts. Only medieval swearing, if any. :)

    Oooh! If you can swing modern literature - Gilead by Marilynn (?) Robinson. Amazingly beautiful writing. It won the Pulitzer for heaven's sake.

    Tell me if you need more! Hope this helps girl.

  2. I will second The Once and Future King. Awesome and 100% engaging. If you are looking for something even more classic than the modern classics then this is what I have to say.

    Counte of Monte Cristo is long but amazing. Pirates. Revenge. It's like Princess Bride with a crazier plot and less laughs.

    Jane Eyre is underrated and kind spooky in a thrilling way. Not as long either.

    Rebecca by Du Maurier is fan.tas.tic. Just try it out. Written Jane Austen style without being Jane Austen stuffy.

    I hope those helped!

  3. A fun research topic would be mistaken (or disguised) identity in classic literature. You could read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy Emmuska. I don't know where it fits on the "literary merit" scale, but it certainly appears on many lists of "literary classics." It is the original superhero/secret-identity story. Not a bit boring.

    How many books do you need to read to cover your research topic? Others on the theme include:

    Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. No reason to read this one; just watch the play. After all, it was meant to be seen, not read. Or you could choose another of Shakespeare's comedies; most use mistaken identity as a literary device.

    The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. It's a play, but it counts as literature.

    The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. Good story. Wordy, though.

    There are many other "mistaken identity" classics, of course, but these jump to my mind.

  4. My teach wants a list so that she can critique my choices. I think I'm only going to have to read one, but I want as many options as I can.

    (I was suppposed to have my topic AGES ago, but I couldn't think of anything. You guys are saving my skin. THANK YOU!)

  5. What counts as "classic" these days? (Meaning, how "old" do you have to go?)

    I really loved "The Caine Mutiny," "1984" (I was a senior in high school in 1984, so it made for wacky good reading), and "Rebecca," while not super classic is EASILY one of my favorite books of all time.

    I know you hate Steinbeck (sigh; where did I go wrong?) but "East of Eden" is awesome, but lengthy. If you can handle a longer read, then Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" or "David Copperfield" are winners. And I LOVE "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. It's covered in tons of literature classics and it's REALLY short... although the protagonist does commit suicide in the end, drat. Unfortunately, most "classics" don't have very happy endings--that's why we have Jane Austen!

  6. I will second most anything by Dickens.

    I know you're not into history, but I really enjoyed Uncle Tom's Cabin -- the book that was given credit for starting the Civil War! The Grapes of Wrath is another great historical novel. I know -- Steinbeck...

    Is To Kill A Mockingbird considered a classic? Loved it.

  7. I would DEFINATLY reccomend Jane Eyer. It is really mysterious , and has great symbolism...and is one of my all time favorite books. Then there is always to kill a mocking bird. that one is an amazing nore modern classic. then (once again, i am a freak for anything civil war era back)prince and the pauper is great too

  8. To Kill a Mockingbird is lovely.

    Crime and Punishment is delusional and hard to read, but I liked it by the time I finished it.

    Huckleberry Finn has archaic swearing in it, but it's a great book and not too difficult to read, either.

    The Great Gatsby rocks.

    The Kite Runner has seriously mature themes and swearing, but I love that book with all my heart and you could easily write a paper on it.

  9. Oooh, let's see... I don't remember how old you are, so your teacher may not approve some of these. (I'm assuming you need approval?)

    Traditional classics:

    Jane Eyre (a favorite gothic romance)

    Tess of the D'Urbervilles

    Return of the Native (I haven't read it, but it's been highly recommended)


    Cat's Cradle

    Lolita by Nabokov

    Native Son

    Black Boy

    My husband recommends Lilith (a heavier read) OR The Light Princess or The Princess and Curdie (they're two different princesses) by George MacDonald (who was a friend, possibly mentor, of CS Lewis).

    Or he says you might want to read CS Lewis's Perlandra trilogy, but he feels strongly that you'd have to read all three--I don't know; these are on my wishlist, but I haven't read them. (Neil Gaiman, to name one modern author, has read and influenced by both MacDonald and Lewis, I believe.)

    You know what? If I were you, I'd go with one of my husband's recommendations, if only because I'm pretty sure no one else would be doing any of them. Out of the Silent Planet gave my husband disturbing dreams and Iron Maiden did a song called "Out of the Silent Planet" as a tip of the hat to Lewis...

    What kind of research are you going to have to do?

  10. Really, I have no idea what I'm going to research. I was just assigned to make a list of books.

    And I've never mentioned my age, but I'm old enough that my teacher doesn't think there is any book too inappropriate or dense.


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