What a great list of recommendations! Many of them I had never even heard of before, and only a handful of them are books I've read. I am going to list everything here*, if only so that I have it to reference back to later this year. I'll keep track of my progress on one of my sidebars. If you are interested in what I'm reading, just scroll down a bit. I've been invited to Goodreads by several of you, thank you very much, and I'm just not sure I'm ready to make the jump to one more social networking site.
Poisonwood Bible, Gilead, Into the Wild, East of Eden, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner, Princess Academy and Housekeeping have been taken off the list, as they are the few selections I've already read. The two books selected according the BCS formula of ranking, and with full consideration to my one year plus one quarter of calculus, are the following:
The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment that Transformed Their Lives (suggested by Genjunky and written by Cheryl Jarvis)
I have very high hopes for this one. Before the very bright and wonderful Genjunky decided to stay home and raise her three boys, she taught AP English.
A Short History of Nearly Everything (suggested by Desmama and written by Bill Bryson)
I also have great expectations here. Desmama is a book editor by profession, and continues to work part time while raising her three lovely daughters.
It is interesting to note that in a list made up of mostly fiction, my two selections are not. It is good, however, as I really need a trusted recommendation to pick up anything non-fiction. I like to think that I don't read merely for escape, but my typical reading list says otherwise. To claim your ten dollar Amazon prizes, ladies, just fire me off an e-mail with your addresses. I know, I know, it isn't free cupcakes or a pedicure or a fabulous dress from the Shabby Apple a la Seriously So Blessed, but you also didn't have to compete against 1500 desperate housewives in order to win.
Now for the part where you get to comment.
Janssen e-mailed recently to say that she wanted to read more classics. (Though when that lovely lass will get MORE time to read is beyond me. I'm already convinced that she doesn't sleep.) To that end, she wanted recommendations. I fired her off my list divided by both modern American and older American classics, and then a third list with everything else on it. For my highly non-academic divisions, I explained myself as follows:
"My definition of a classic is something that is lasting, or has potential to be. This doesn't necessarily eliminate any book that makes reference to the culture of the time, but thematically it has to be enduring, universal. Old classics are such because their authors are dead or the historical period is before modernist lit, modern classics have living authors or situations still very relevant to us currently--maybe post-depression issues? Unfortunately the cannon, because it often takes time to see which books will survive and which will not, is full of dead white males. There is much argument in academia regarding broadening the definition of classic. Many secondary English teachers have already done this on their own--they just want the kids to get connected to the literature, regardless of what it is.
In some cases, the academic establishment catches up to the popular movements. For example, in the last few years, a whole group of legitimate professors have come forward with extensive research and writing on the Harry Potter series, publishing papers, etc. and connecting Rowling's masterworks to the Gothic tradition. Fascinating stuff."
The question becomes, is the cannon what people actually read and the literature that is used to shape our time, or is it the literature that people should read? Should it be both to truly be classic? I am not going to provide the list here, because I want you to add your own ideas to our definition as well as make suggestions for what should be on that list. If this goes well, perhaps we can make our own list about what the "classics" are without regard to dead white men.
*Non-winning though still wonderful suggestions for 2010--Possesson: A Romance; The Historian; The Fortune Cookie Chronicles; the Fablehaven series; These is My Words; The Geography of Bliss; Caramelo; Death Comes for the Archbishop; The Hunger Games; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society; Outliers; Cutting for Stone; Brothers K; Headlong; A Confederacy of Dunces; A String in the Harp; The Book Thief; The Wednesday Wars; The Help; Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell; The City and the City; I'm a Stranger Here Myself; The Hidden Christ; The Help