Top Five Friday: American Classics

Today, I finished reading a really interesting adaptation of a classic novel. I don’t want to say any more about it now (I’ll save it for my review!), but it got me thinking about my favorite classics. This is such a wide category that I thought for today, we’d narrow it down to classics in American literature. I don’t think it’s the English major in me that makes me love these stories. Some of the books I had to read in high school, I absolutely loathed and swore never to teach when my time came (I’m looking at you, Huckleberry Finn). I think I loved these particular books because they stuck with me, demanded that I think and feel something, and made me go back to them over and over. Sometimes, I read books that make hardly any impression on me at all, but each of these books left its mark in some way. So for today’s Top Five Friday, here is my list of favorite American classics.


 mockingbird 1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s strange to me that I love this one the way that I do. Even I have to admit that not a whole lot “happens” for the first third of the book. But by the time Lee introduces Tom Robinson, I’m always hooked. Sometimes, I pull it off the shelf and just read the trial scene. Do I hate Mayella Ewell? Do I feel sorry for her? It’s a different story every time I read it. And I can’t, absolutely CANNOT, ever stop reading until the end once I get to chapter 27. I cry every time. I love Atticus and Dill and Boo Radley and the whole crew, and there is something really magical about Lee’s writing style.
 OM&M 2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I think that somehow, of all the book characters I’ve met in my entire life, Lennie might be the one who touches my heart the most. That’s saying something, isn’t it? There must be hundreds of thousands of book characters rattling around in my head, but Lennie inspires the most compassion of any of them. I’ve given up trying to convince Brad to read this – he knew the minute that Lennie got a puppy that things were headed somewhere he didn’t want to go. I know I’ll never get Brad to see it my way, but I think this has to be one of the most beautiful stories I know.
 little women 2 3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This is a comfort read for me. I used to imagine that this book must be exactly what it’s like to have sisters. I love the episode of Friends where Joey reads this and has to put it in the freezer, and I especially love the Broadway musical original cast with Sutton Foster as Jo.
 streetcar 4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Can I include this one, even though it’s a play? There is just so much going on in this play that, every time you read it, something different jumps out at you to focus on. Blanche is really fascinating to me. I always hope it will end differently, and I can’t help being sad when it doesn’t.
daisy miller 5. Daisy Miller by Henry James. I always think it’s interesting to watch the way Americans behave abroad. Beth and I were talking not too long ago about how so many people seem to want to experience other cultures and countries, but when they get there, they spend their entire trip wishing for things to be just like home. It’s especially interesting to get perspective on this from an American author who spent most of his life living in Great Britain.


What are your favorite American classics?

Have a wonderful weekend.

Top Five Friday: Great Illustrated Classics

Did anybody else have a set of Great Illustrated Classics growing up? I’ve realized that there are lots of classic stories I’ve never actually read, but I know the plots because I read the abridged version as a kid. My brother and I had a big box of Great Illustrated Classics, and they were our first exposure to stories like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Huckleberry Finn. I remember that, for a few years, it seemed to matter whose bookshelf each of these books got to live on. Some of the books were free to travel back and forth between my brother’s room and mine, but we both had our favorites that stayed in our rooms on a permanent basis. This week’s list is my Top Five Great Illustrated Classics!

little women 1. Little Women. I can still close my eyes and see the illustrations from this book. Jo had the most amazing hair. I loved Beth, got annoyed with Amy, and never quite understood why Jo and Laurie couldn’t make it work. I read the unabridged in middle or high school, along with a few others by Louisa May Alcott, but I’ve never tried any of the others that she wrote about the March sisters.
 robin hood 2. The Merry Adventure of Robin Hood. I’ve always liked Robin Hood stories. This story is a little different, because there is no Maid Marian. But all the other great stuff is still there – Friar Tuck, Little John, and the Sherriff of Nottingham. Again, I loved the pictures throughout, and I feel like the costume designers must have been looking at this when they designed Cary Elwes’ look for “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
 oz 3. The Wizard of Oz. I read this version so many times and seen the movie, but I’ve never read the unabridged version. I remember liking the idea of Dorothy’s sparkly shoes and the idea of the Emerald City.
 eighty 4. Around the World in 80 Days. I think what I liked so much about this book was the racing element, and the idea of switching back and forth between boats and trains. I realize now that it seems like something the guys on Top Gear would do for a Christmas special. I think I might actually enjoy reading the “real” version now.
 three musketeers 5. The Three Musketeers. I loved all the sword fighting and scheming from this book. I remember being fascinated by Milady de Winter and her fleur-de-lis tattoo. I also remember being really confused as to why the book wasn’t called “The Four Musketeers” if it was a story about d’Artagnan and his three friends.


Happy Friday!