Time to Read a Great Book!


This week, October 2nd – 8th, is the National Book Foundation’s Great Books Week. Perfect timing – in honor of last month’s Banned Books Week, I decided to read a few classics that have been either banned, challenged, or both, classics that I somehow missed until now. [I’m still going – next up is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey. Check out my bookshelf for short reviews of the classics read so far, and many more.]

I’ve just finished one of the best books I’ve ever read – Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Conner. Of course I already knew it would be a great book because…well, it’s Flannery O’Conner, how could it not be great? Yes, she is one of my idols. Oh, to write such deep-but-hilarious-at-once-prose! And to bring such corny characters to life! The woman was simply an outstanding writer. In Wise Blood, Hazel Motes returns from the army and wrestles with the fact that his family home has been abandoned, and the decision of what to do with himself. It doesn’t help that his grandfather was a tent revival preacher, and Hazel hates preachers, yet every screwy character he meets tells him he looks like a preacher. Just listen at how well-crafted this story is:

“…his face had a fragile look, as if it might have been broken and stuck together again, or like a gun no one knows is loaded.” 

“He had the feeling that everything he saw was a broken-off piece of some great black thing that he had forgotten had happened to him.”

That right there is what you call excellent literature. Another aspect Flannery O’Conner perfected is dialect, something that any writer can tell you is most challenging to say the least. If you read nothing else this year, read Wise Blood.

So what are some other great books I’ve read this year? Definitely them, and We Were The Mulvaneys, both by Joyce Carol Oates, as well as several of her anthologies, and other novels (see my bookshelf). I also loved Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane, one of the best psychological thrillers you’ll ever read (though I read it last year). And, let’s see, what else…The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. Probably best of all (read this year) was the many and various anthologies. If you enjoy classic short stories, you must have – not borrow, but own – The Creative Collection of American Short Stories – talk about a terrific treasure! This gem of a coffee-table-like book has everything from Joyce Carol Oates’s infamous Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? to Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and so much more! Not only does this book have fabulous shorts, it is also giftedly illustrated by Yan Nascimbene, one of the most talented illustrators of all time.

Whew, I’ve spouted a lot of great books here! What are some of your favorites?

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4 thoughts on “Time to Read a Great Book!

  1. I like your review- makes me want to read Wise Blood.
    I usually read Sci-fi Star War series ” The New Jedi Order” books by various Authors, trying to fill in the ones I missed in the sequence. I really liked Balance Point by Kathy Tyers- a NY Times Bestseller, following Leia Organo Solo, Han, n their Jedi son Jacon, a Ryn named Droma, in their adventures on Duro, a Planet restoration project being sabotaged by the Yuuzhan Vong who are invaders taking over the galaxy. They are Force-blind to the Jedi with a philosophy difficult to grasp as are the Muslim extremist terror agents we now face in reality.

    I haven’t read a classic since Black Beauty, I think. I used to read horse books alot.
    My adult daughter got me started on Micheal Connelly books recently- Still on Lincoln Lawyer. I’d like more time to read, but work n work prep in free time often interfere.

    You are fortunate to get to read so many books!

  2. Deanna, I think it’s awesome that you read so many novels. I fall asleep after the forth or fifth page in a novel no matter who wrote it. At present I am reading a collection of short stories by Jeffrey Archer, And Thereby Hangs a Tale. The first couple of stories were good, but the further I got into them the more disappointed I became. I am also trying to get through Keith RIchards autobiography, Life. He spends too many chapters on his childhood and youth which I’m not really interested in. I really thought I’d fly through that book, but no.

    I’m also reading two new poetry book. One on Haiku and the other, Favorite Poems Old And New. I love that this one has some of the poetry from the bible in it.

    The last classics I read were read while I was still in school :)

  3. Thank you all so much for “liking” this post, and for stopping in – so great to hear from you Snaggle Tooth! That book – Balance Point – sounds like a fascinating read. I don’t usually like sci-fi but I have been surprised at some (especially by Ray Bradbury) that had me enthralled.

    Elizabeth, although I do read a lot of novels, I probably read even more shorts. Every time I go to the library, as long as I don’t overdo it with my list, I pick up one of the New Stories From the South anthologies (one published each year). It’s through these books that I’ve discovered some of our greatest writers – James Lee Burke, Nanci Kincaid, Peter Taylor, and many more. I tend to like shorts better because most of the time they hold my attention easier (since they pretty much have to get right to the action). However, some of the older, classic, novels can be described today as more of a novella than a novel, and I would consider Wise Blood to belong to that category, it’s pretty short, as well as most of Carson McCullers’s work. If you haven’t read it, you have got to read The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, by Carson McCullers (it’s a short). I just know you’d love it.

    Happy reading everyone!

  4. Pingback: On Being a Writer, and Top Reads of 2011 « Deanna's Blog, The Life of a Working Writer Mommy

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