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LesPierreCustom's avatar

What to read?

Asked by LesPierreCustom (83points) October 3rd, 2007

I need to pick a book written prior to 1900 for my AP Lit class to read. Due to time restraints, less than 500 pages (or not much more than that) would be preferable. I was looking at the Chinese folk tale called “Monkey” or maybe Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” but I’d like to hear some opinions. I’m pretty much up for anything worth reading, for intellectual enrichment or just because it’s freakin’ awesome.

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14 Answers

hossman's avatar

Jane Eyre or anything by Jane Austen. Anything by Marcus Aurelius. Le Mort D’Arthur. Candide.

carlosp's avatar

I’d go with Candide. When I read it (class requirement) I was prepared for droll, ancient-style humor, but surprisingly found myself laughing out loud through much of the book. It really turned around my notions of the 18th Century. You’d be surprised how relevant this story still is today.

sdeutsch's avatar

I’m a huge Oscar Wilde fan, so I’d go with “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. It’s a pretty dark, Faust-ian sort of book, but the story and the writing are really incredible.

sharl's avatar

Cervantes’ Don Quixote? Dante’s The Divine Comedy? De Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom? All challenging, difficult reads, but very important.

christybird's avatar

If you haven’t read “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, that book is fantastic, fun to read, and remains a cultural icon.
I second “Candide” as a fun, quirky little book, but it is very much of its time – you’d have to do a bit of background reading to understand sometimes exactly what Voltaire is making fun of in any given passage.
If you want to do Twain, I liked “Pudden’head Wilson” very much too.
“Madame Bovary”, by Flaubert, is also great, and often cited as one of the best books ever written.

gailcalled's avatar

My vote is for “Pride and Prejudice” (Mme Bovary is wonderful but better read in the original French, if possible.) Henry James’ WASHINGTON SQUARE, which is short and written just before the turn of the century, allows you to brag that you have read James. His other novels I find turgid and unreadable. THE SCARLET LETTER?

carlosp's avatar

I have to disagree with christybird’s take on Candide. I found its humor rather timeless, though I will concede that being familiar with the earthquake/tidal wave that struck Lisbon, Portugal in 1755 does provide some historical context that amplifies the theme of the book. So just check out this account, and you’re all set, LesPierreCustom. Oh, and a bit about the Seven Years War, too. Both events were central to Voltaire’s motivation in writing Candide.

christybird's avatar

Carlosp, you prove my point exactly! ;-) You don’t have to read about the Seven Years War or a tidal wave in Lisbon in 1755 to get everything from a book like Pride & Prejudice.

Although I do think that everybody should read Candide at some point. It is a great book and very funny.

gailcalled's avatar

<cough>; CANDIDE best read in French, if possible. I guess you could say the same about the languages of Cervantes, Dante and Marcus Aurelius. So we are stuck w. the translations, I guess.

hossman's avatar

While Candide is fun on a surface level, it is much more funny when you know the historical details. As an example, Voltaire uses various euphemisms to insult his on and off patrons. And there are many references which you wouldn’t pick up on unless you knew that in France during his time priod, certain words innocuous today, like “Bulgarian,” were slang references to homosexuality. I find it amazing how he got away with slandering specific, powerful historical figures. For instance, he had a public dispute with a minister and philosopher in Austria over philosophy. Years later, he uses euphemisms that clearly label an “unnamed” character as that old grudge, and makes the character a pedophile. Voltaire strikes me as a bad guy to get teed off at you.

joli's avatar

I LOVED the Mark Twain book you mentioned. I re-read it I enjoyed it so much. It is funny funny funny. Don Quixote is another thoroughly enjoyable task. Next The Iliad of Homer and Robert Louis Stevenson’s, Travels with a Donkey and an Inland Voyage..

Ironic story; years ago, new to the internet, I happened at the time to be reading the Donkey travel story, when one late evening online a stranger instant-messaged me on AOL asking what would be the name of a saddle-pack carried on a Donkey. I knew the answer due to the book. Now I need to look it up again..(!)

gailcalled's avatar

I am in the midst of reading Anthony Trollop’s BARCHESTER TOWERS; published in the late 1850’s, I think. Mannered, like Austin, but funnier and with more bite. Recommended. I don’t know the exact pagination since I am (if truth be told) listening to it on CDs, but it is not a short book.

JesiR's avatar

Pride and Prejudice is GREAT; however, I prefer Northanger Abbey (also by Jane Austen). Don Quixote is really hard to get through—I read as a habit (a book can be completely boring, but I’ll still read it) and I could only get through a third of that book. It’s really hard. The books by Jules Verne are really good, and I’m pretty sure they were written before 1900. That Twain book is fantastic. Um, there are a lot of things really. Oh yes! and Le Morte d’Arthur is really long and hard to get through, in my opinion.

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