Classics confusion: Have you read the original?
This is a guest post by Kristen Thorp, who, among many things, manages the library’s Good Reads collection. She earned her MLIS this past June. Hooray!
Normally I have a book with me wherever I go. (Why have down time when you can have reading time?)
However, recently I was stranded in a waiting room without of book of my own:
It was tough.
Since I am not a magazine reader I picked up the only book on the table, 1001 Books to Read before You Die. This self-explanatory book is just what the title suggests: a giant book list. Because I love bragging rights, I wanted to use my wait to see how many of these 1001 books I have actually read in order to flaunt my superiority amongst my friends.
Flip to #897 on the list: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Knowing a book without having read it
I made a mental check-mark in the “have read” column and was ready to flip the page. Then I thought, Wait! Have I read this book? I knew the story really well; a woman accused of adultery is forced to wear a red A on her dress. I have seen Easy A and I’m sure that every teen show that I am embarrassed to admit I watch, has done some version of this story, but have I actually read Hawthorne’s original?
The more I flipped through the book, the more I realized that my knowledge of these classics is minimal. (Yes, I only know The Odyssey ’cause I loved Oh Brother Where Art Thou and The Percy Jackson series.) Classics become so interwoven into our collective pop culture consciousness, that even when we know the story it doesn’t necessarily mean we know the story.
Read the original books that inspired the modern stories
In the hopes to rectify this possible gap in everyone’s knowledge, we are adding new editions of classics to our Good Reads collection. If you’re like me and your high school English teachers have failed you (just kidding Coach Welsh, you rocked!), now is the time to dive into some familiar yet possibly unknown territory.
Here are the classics we’ve added to Good Reads for this year, that you can check out now:
- Things fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
- Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
- Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- The Odyssey by Homer
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- The World According to Garp by John Irving
- Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- 1984 by George Orwell
- The Republic by Plato
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
- Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
What are your favorite classics?
Are there any classics you hope to read or revisit? Tell us here or join us on goodreads.com/kennedylibrary.