Monthly Meme: What Kinds of Classic Books Do You Prefer?

Last month’s discussion about what a classic book was very interesting and provoked a lot of response, I thought, so I figured I would suggest another topic, this one much more subjective.

When you read classic literature, what’s your preference, or will you read anything? Do you prefer the “literary” authors, like Dickens, Hugo, Austen, Eliot, or Thackeray, or do you like swashbuckling adventures, historical fiction , science fiction, mysteries, children’s literature? Or do you prefer nonfiction? Are you interested in reading books from many different parts of the world, or are you more interested in books from a particular area of the world?

And who are your favorite authors in those genres?

What types of classic books do you prefer, and who are your favorite authors?

If you want to participate in the discussion, please leave a response on your blog any time in May, and post a link here—or simply add your response to the comments.

40 thoughts on “Monthly Meme: What Kinds of Classic Books Do You Prefer?

  1. What a fun discussion question! I’m happy to read any type of classic from Sappho to Thomas De Quincey to Daphne du Maurier and everyone/everything in between.

    Although I will read anything, I do actively try to read more classics written by women. Especially lesser-known works and books that are currently out of print. I just find it fascinating that some texts had such an impact on their own time or they influenced a genre that we still read today and yet they’re not well-read nowadays.

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    1. Same! I’m really enjoying Persephone and Furrowed Middlebrow reprints. I’m getting more and more interested in forgotten works, especially by women, and in translation. NYRB Classics have some good ones, too.

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  2. What a lovely discussion! My answer is that I’m always eager to try something new, so I’ll give anything a chance at least once if it sounds interesting. My favourite classic works tend to be non-English literature. My favourites are the Russian writers (obviously!), from both the 19th and 20th centuries, and also Latin American and European Spanish and Portuguese literature. Another main area of interest is Ancient literature, especially the epics and the Greek tragedies.

    And for English literature, the Renaissance is my favourite era for classics (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Sidney, Donne, etc), as it’s what I chose to specialize in at university.

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  3. I will have a go at most things, but I do love a sweeping multi-generational story. The Russians and Zola and Dickens do this so well. In recent years I have focused on classics in translation and Australian classics. Having spent my younger years reading many of the more well-known classics, I’m keen to now spread my wings and try anything from any genre if it sounds promising.

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  4. I will try, and have tried, anything and everything. But perhaps I need to let everyone knows what most of you do, I enjoy the non anglo classics, European writers, I love Cancer Ward, for example, and I have great admiration for the Spanish writers from Spain, specially Galdos, and Latinoamérica writers, and the French like Moliere, and Voltaire, also I have a predilection for some XX century classics, just a few, because XX century is ugly in general, dystopian lit, and the forgotten classic.

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    1. Hey, Silvia, Good to see you back. I missed your great insight and input!!! Hope all is well with you and your family.

      I’m surprised you didn’t mention Cervantes, though I know you appreciate him very much.

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        1. Well, glad to see you again. It’s been a trying two months for me (too) and kind of long story. I hope to be back soon in a few weeks to write about what I’ve gone through.

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  5. Being from the south, I tend to enjoy Twain more than any other. I find his style rather comforting and I reckon my writing style mimics his. I admit to a secret love of Hemingway, not only do I enjoy his works but his life intrigues me to no end. I fear I shall upset more than a few when I utter these words, I just don’t care for Melville at all.

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  6. When I began reading intentionally, I tried anything and everything, and still do. Since then I have learned that Ancients are my least favorite, though some have stood out and remained important to me; however, my absolute favorite kind of classic is one that imbues nature through words. Favorite authors in this category are Thomas Hardy, Edith Wharton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Henry David Thoreau.

    An extremely close second would be biographies/memoirs: Letters of a Woman Homesteader, by Stewart, Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, Confessions, by Augustine, and many others.

    Also, I prefer classics with beautiful writing and a captivating story about people, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Hurston, Gone With the Wind, by Mitchell, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Stowe. Or I prefer classics that make me think like 1984, by Orwell, A Room of One’s Own, by Woolf, and Up From Slavery, by Washington.

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  7. That’s a tough question to answer…..my preference is for the nineteenth century because it shows the novel changing form as writers experiment. so you begin with realism and end with modernism. I do like to read books from around the world, so count Zola as one of my favourites.

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  8. I seek out classic authors of the literary canon, yet the pedantic prose of the masters (who received payment for word not story, necessarily) do not enthrall. Without mentioning names *Dickens*—sorry, dropped my bookmark, I do enjoy a sound plot with dynamic characters: Hi Jane. I am thinking of traveling through classic children’s lit this summer. Looking for suggestions to fill in the ones I missed growing up.

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  9. What classic books do I prefer? Nearly everything. From the 19th century literary authors you mention, to the ancient greek epics of Homer, and all the philosophy, theology, plays, and novels in between. I say nearly everything, I’m still not really into poetry, but that is probably because I don’t get it. Ihave a plan to read more poetry.

    My favourite authors are again varied across all genres, but they would be Homer, Plato, Thomas å Kempis, Shakespeare, Emile Zola, Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov.

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    1. Me, too. I’ll TRY everything.

      As for poetry, I believe it is like everything else in life. You must keep feeding it to yourself, and after a while, it will become familiar; you may even find that you like something about it…even just a little bit.

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      1. Thanks Ruth. I completely agree with your sentiments about having to keep feeding yourself, it is the only to get better at these things. I say the same to people about reading Shakespeare. Forget about all the guides and tips, the best way to understand Shakespeare better, is to keep reading Shakespeare. Reading one play in isolation does not help anyone to become well acquainted with the language and style of Shakespeare.

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        1. Yes, even if you have to read a story version and better understand the plot and characters and themes…then read the original and read it again later, etc. It really does work.

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