10 Classic Books to Reconsider

In high school and college, I read so many wonderful books, especially classics, that I loved but didn't give much thought to once necessary papers and assignments were turned in. These days I read, and by read I mean listen to, mostly mommy porn books, like the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Midnight Breed, and Fifty Shades of Grey series. While I still can't say no to a book with vampires, bondage, and a little bit of romance, this year I'm making a concentrated effort to revisit the classics I once enjoyed. In my opinion, texts from bygone eras are better equipped to remove cultural biases from our metaphorical lenses and ultimately provide a deeper space for self reflection. Classic books force the reader to view the world as it was seen by another culture in another time, pulling the thoughtful reader away from the constructs of the current era. It is this separation from the modern viewpoint that aids the reader in creating their own unique views that rely on neither the past or the present. What arises from these moments of self reflection varies based on the reader, the reader's age, and what is going on in the reader's life. For some of these books, it has been a decade or more since I have read them. Needless to say I expect that what I derive out of some of these books will be much different now than when I was a preteen. Here are the top ten classic books I'll be rereading this year. 

A man trades his soul with a portrait of himself. When life's inevitable misfortunes and mistakes occur, the portrait ages, but the man himself remains unphased with the appearance of youthfulness and happiness remaining in tact. I feel like we all have a touch of Dorian Gray in us now. However in real life, our Facebook pages and social media accounts create the illusion of limitless beauty and joy, while our bodies and faces betray the lie unless locked away in a room behind a computer screen. 

When I first read this book as a child, I thought it was a nice story about a prince meeting some animals. Only much later did I see the "true" meaning of the story. I'm interested in seeing what insights I'll get both into the book and myself when reading it now. 

It has only been a few years since I read this book, but I finished it feeling so profoundly effected, I am looking forward to reading it again. At the plot level, the book is about a journey through the desert. What happens between the lines and the life lessons it provides are priceless. 

This was my favorite book growing up. I even named a pet fish Heathcliff and still thinks it's a great name, should I be lucky enough to have a son someday. In hindsight, it's probably not a great book/romantic hero for a child to obsess over, but hey, I never said I was normal ;)

6. An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser

These two books have always been intertwined in my mind, partially because I read them at the same time and partially because the basic premise of the stories are similar. Both feature male leads that find themselves on the bottom of life and have nearly insatiable desires for wealth, power, and prestige. One ultimately gives up on the rat race and settles for an unremarkable married life and the other becomes a criminal. I won't tell you which one is which. 

At the most basic level, this book is similar to the two above because it focuses on the tension between the life one leads and the life one desires. In contrast however it features a married female lead character with children, who has done everything right according to society's rules. She has the so-called prized life and realizes it's not the life she wants. It's often hailed as a feminist anthem and I found it perhaps a bit too feminist when I read it in high school. This time, I don't know what I'll find. 

Sarcastic literature at its finest. I even have a quote from it in my About Me section. Candide starts out as a happy, contented boy living a sheltered life with Dr. Pangloss, a hopeless optimist. The hardships of life test Candide's ingrained optimism and well, I'll let you read how that turns out. In high school, I felt satisfied by the book as a triumph for those not living the charmed life where happiness reigns. I'm looking forward to seeing how adult me perceives the book.

At face value, this is just another book about a girl trying to sleep her way to the top set in Germany prior to the Second World War. The way the lead character narrates is like someone holding up a compact mirror. There are moments of head on self reflection and then the mirror shifts to show the self reflected in the context of the external world. This leads to periods of deep self reflection both for the main character and for the reader. 

10. Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) - Franz Kafka 

Think life is making you into a shitty person? So shitty, you're turning into a cockroach? Well it happens to the lead character in this book too. This book always gets my wheels turning. 

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