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Topic: Classic English literature?
Message: Posted by: MorrisCH (May 4, 2015 07:07AM)
I have a library full of magic books, and I have no troble reading them

Since English is not my first language,
Magic books have helped me greatly in learning English.

Recently I have moved to English spoken country and I want to start reading some classic English literature.

My question is what are the best known classic literature for someone who just starting out,and can be a great conversation starter.

Any suggestions will help, Thanks
Message: Posted by: Theodore Lawton (May 4, 2015 07:45AM)
Oh fun! Where are you from Morris?

Here are some authors worth looking into:

Jane Austen who wrote Pride and Prejudice, among others.

Charles Dickens- wrote David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol and more...

Daniel Defoe- Robinson Crusoe

John Keats- a famous poet, if you like poetry

Rudyard Kipling- wrote The Jungle Book, The Man Who Would Be King, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and Kim among many others. Kim is one of my favorite old movies, btw.

Shakespeare- he authored a couple of famous things. :P

Mary Shelley- Frankenstein

Robert Louis Stevenson- Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and more

J.R.R. Tolkien- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and others

And C.S.Lewis, he was Irish, but wrote the Chronicles of Narnia and many others

Tolkien and Lewis may not be considered "classic" literature, but they are good writers and fun reads.

H.G. Wells- The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and others

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- he was Scottish, but the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes had a pretty big impact on society and are fun and worth reading.

the poem- Beowulf

Geoffrey Chaucer- The Canterbury Tales

John Milton- poem Paradise Lost

Other authors: Thomas Hardy, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson

Have fun and keep a dictionary handy!

:readingbook:
Message: Posted by: ClintonMagus (May 4, 2015 07:48AM)
Are you looking for "English literature" or literature in English?
Message: Posted by: MorrisCH (May 4, 2015 04:41PM)
Wow, What a comprehensive list, Thank you very much Theodore
I love the works by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, I enjoyed reading their books in translated version, but time to read them in English :D
This list will surely keeps me busy for awhile

ClintonMagus:
Opps, I I guess I am after literature in English, I didn't know there was different between two.
Message: Posted by: tommy (May 4, 2015 05:02PM)
Http://bigthink.com/floating-university/watch-strange-beauty-how-reading-the-classics-will-change-you
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (May 4, 2015 07:08PM)
Some of my favourites, that might get you started.
Charles Dickens - Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby
William Thackeray - Vanity Fair
Sir Walter Scott - Ivanhoe, The Talisman
Thomas Hardy - Tess, Far from the Madding Crowd
Jane Austin - Pride and Prejudice
F Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden
Joseph Conrad - Lord Jim
EM Forster - A Passage to India
Ernest Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea (the only one of his works worth reading!)
I would also include Moby Dick, one of my absolute favourites, but it is an acquired taste.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (May 4, 2015 07:45PM)
Hmm. I'm trying to think of examples that are noteworthy as literature, but are direct in their use of English. Many authors play with the language, which is wonderful, but probably not what you need right now.

Joseph Conrad--Heart of Darkness
Vladimir Nabokov--Lolita
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (May 5, 2015 12:29AM)
Mark Twain.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (May 5, 2015 12:33AM)
[quote]On May 4, 2015, TonyB2009 wrote:
Some of my favourites, that might get you started.
Charles Dickens - Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby
William Thackeray - Vanity Fair
Sir Walter Scott - Ivanhoe, The Talisman
Thomas Hardy - Tess, Far from the Madding Crowd
Jane Austin - Pride and Prejudice
F Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden
Joseph Conrad - Lord Jim
EM Forster - A Passage to India
Ernest Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea (the only one of his works worth reading!)
I would also include Moby Dick, one of my absolute favourites, but it is an acquired taste. [/quote]

Nice list, though I strongly disagree with your Hemingway parenthetical.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (May 5, 2015 12:45AM)
Since my day job is teaching English as a foreign language, I am biased toward clear, simple, beautiful English. I often talk about the "Hemingway Revolution", because he changed the way English is written. Gotta agree with Lobo. Anything by Hemingway is good for the OP.

But Melville? No.

Tony has good taste, but little sense for the non-native speaker of English.

Tolkien writes very clean, clear, almost Strunk and White English, for example. Maybe one of us should recommend his books.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (May 5, 2015 12:51AM)
Theodore beat you to Tolkien.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (May 5, 2015 12:52AM)
[quote]On May 5, 2015, LobowolfXXX wrote:
Theodore beat you to Tolkien. [/quote]

Indeed.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (May 5, 2015 01:21AM)
What's your favorite Hemingway, Stone?
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (May 5, 2015 04:10AM)
Favorite?

Forget the books, and look at the prose.

I just grabbed the nearest book. It happens to be "Farewell to Arms." I just opened the book randomly, and got this:

[quote]
"You have no right to do that. I was here two hours before you came."
"What do you want?"
"The seat."
"So do I."
[/quote]

Again: random.

Hemingway's plots are much less interesting to me than his prose, which is...perfect.

If the OP wants to improve his/her English through reading, Hemingway is not a bad choice.
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (May 5, 2015 05:41AM)
[quote]On May 5, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:
Since my day job is teaching English as a foreign language, I am biased toward clear, simple, beautiful English. I often talk about the "Hemingway Revolution", because he changed the way English is written. Gotta agree with Lobo. Anything by Hemingway is good for the OP.

But Melville? No.

Tony has good taste, but little sense for the non-native speaker of English.

Tolkien writes very clean, clear, almost Strunk and White English, for example. Maybe one of us should recommend his books. [/quote]
I did include a caveat about Moby Dick - I would recommend it to anyone, but not to someone learning English.

As for Hemingway, I will concede that The Snows of Kilimanjaro is also worth reading. But as a whole he leaves me underwhelmed.

The rest of my recommendations were, I believe, plain prose. As a non-native speaker I would steer clear of poetry, because it plays too much with the words and could end up confusing. Same with Shakespeare. He is for later. And innovative writers like Anthony Burgess.

Finally I will add that I find this sort of topic far more engaging that what people are listening to on their Ipod. So I am looking forward to maybe spotting some things I should add to my reading list.
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (May 5, 2015 05:50AM)
Talking of perfect prose from an American, you could try Raymond Chandler. One line from Playback always stood out for me. Marlow gets a pre-dawn phone call, and groggily says to the caller: "I'm old, tired, and full of no coffee."

That is wonderful prose.

I would recommend any of his books to someone new to English literature. Good reads, good prose, great fun. Try The Long Goodbye. Or The Simple Art of Murder, an essay every writer should read and reread.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (May 5, 2015 08:02AM)
Which brings us back to Conrad and Nabokov. IMO, one of the reasons that their prose is so beautiful is that they were both writing in their second languages. Both Heart of Darkness are stylistic masterpieces, with simple and elegant vocabulary.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (May 5, 2015 10:01AM)
English wasn't Conrad's second language. ;)
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (May 5, 2015 10:34AM)
Conrad was operating about two languages removed from his native language!

Personally I find Lord Jim a far more satisfying book, but he is definitely one not to be missed out.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (May 5, 2015 10:46AM)
[quote]On May 5, 2015, TonyB2009 wrote:
...Raymond Chandler....[/quote]

You have my hearty agreement. Chandler was indeed a master of English prose.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (May 5, 2015 10:53AM)
Speaking of Raymond C's...Carver.
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (May 5, 2015 10:56AM)
[quote]On May 4, 2015, MorrisCH wrote:
Wow, What a comprehensive list, Thank you very much Theodore
I love the works by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, I enjoyed reading their books in translated version, but time to read them in English :D
This list will surely keeps me busy for awhile

ClintonMagus:
Opps, I I guess I am after literature in English, I didn't know there was different between two. [/quote]

"English literature" would be classic books FROM England; Dickens, Austen, etc.
"Literature in English" would include people from America like Twain, Jack London, H.P. Lovecraft if you want to get creepy.
Message: Posted by: tommy (May 5, 2015 10:58AM)
What happens when scientists working for me gain control of your food supply?

Read my book.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (May 5, 2015 11:55AM)
Come to think of it, Charlotte's Web by EB White would be a great choice. Gorgeous prose.
Message: Posted by: ringmaster (May 5, 2015 12:22PM)
Literature in English would include the vast grouping of American Lit. You can get a great sampling of contemporary English and American buy reading a few issues of "The New Yorker" or even American "Playboy". These give a sampling of of the best in modern Fiction and critical writing, and they will inform and intertain you at the same time.
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (May 5, 2015 05:37PM)
Another American whom I love, and who writes with beautiful simplicity, is Jay McInerney. I have just finished rereading Bright Lights Big City, and I can highly recommend that.
Message: Posted by: motown (May 5, 2015 11:39PM)
-Fahrenheit 451

-The Outsiders

-Shane
Message: Posted by: motown (May 5, 2015 11:40PM)
Elmore Leonard
Message: Posted by: arthur stead (May 6, 2015 12:21AM)
Here's a very useful tip for you guys. Go to www.thriftbooks.com

In the search area, type in "classics." You'll find page after page of classic books for only 3 or 4 bucks each. They're used, but in my experience most are in good condition.
Message: Posted by: gypsyfish (May 6, 2015 06:02AM)
Hemingway's short stories are mostly great - especially the Nick Adams stories and I loved For Whom the Bell Toils.

Chandler and Leonard are wonderful and I'd throw in Hammett.

And I think Pat Conroy writes transcendently.
Message: Posted by: 0pus (May 6, 2015 09:36AM)
I love Mark Twain, and I think that he has written the great American novel and it is "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

That said, Twain can be darn hard to read. I remember as a child trying to struggle through the dialogs written in dialect. They might as well have been written in a different language. It wasn't until my mother explained to me what he was trying to do, and even then I had my difficulties. It wasn't until I finally started reading those passages out loud while listening to the sounds of my own voice that I finally "got it."

That said, I would recommend Steinbeck as a good author to read for his straightforward, non-intrusive prose. I also enjoy the poetic quality of Henry James's writing, but I find his plots unexciting.
Message: Posted by: ringmaster (May 7, 2015 10:05AM)
[quote]On May 6, 2015, arthur stead wrote:
Here's a very useful tip for you guys. Go to www.thriftbooks.com

In the search area, type in "classics." You'll find page after page of classic books for only 3 or 4 bucks each. They're used, but in my experience most are in good condition. [/quote]
here is another
www.gutenberg.org
Message: Posted by: tommy (May 7, 2015 10:49AM)
There are audio books, which one might listen to while playing poker and so on.
Message: Posted by: imgic (May 7, 2015 11:20AM)
I'd suggest short stories. They might be a bit easier to digest, and, depending on what you get, might be more current on language and slang.

I just finished 2014 Best Short Story Mystery compilation. Also, I've always enjoyed Stephen King's short stories/novellas more than his full length works.
Message: Posted by: arthur stead (May 7, 2015 11:26AM)
Ray Bradbury's Golden Apples of the Sun has some great short stories, too.
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (May 10, 2015 04:26AM)
Ray is of course a genius. Speaking of Stephen, I just finished "Doctor Sleep" which is a sequel to "The Shining." You honestly don't have to have read "The Shining" to follow "Doctor Sleep," all the significant points are brought up in the story.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (May 10, 2015 05:36AM)
[quote]On May 6, 2015, 0pus wrote:

That said, Twain can be darn hard to read. I remember as a child trying to struggle through the dialogs written in dialect. They might as well have been written in a different language.[/quote]

That's a good point. I wouldn't recommend Huckleberry Finn to children or non-native speakers. But Tom Sawyer is a different story. (Ha!)

I think his travel writings are some of the funniest books ever written by anyone in any language. Innocents Abroad is both brilliant and funny, and the English is more accessible than in Huck Finn.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (May 10, 2015 09:10AM)
[quote]On May 10, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:
[quote]On May 6, 2015, 0pus wrote:

That said, Twain can be darn hard to read. I remember as a child trying to struggle through the dialogs written in dialect. They might as well have been written in a different language.[/quote]

That's a good point. I wouldn't recommend Huckleberry Finn to children or non-native speakers. But Tom Sawyer is a different story. (Ha!)

I think his travel writings are some of the funniest books ever written by anyone in any language. Innocents Abroad is both brilliant and funny, and the English is more accessible than in Huck Finn. [/quote]

Reminds me of the first time I read any of Robert Burns's prose. I was shocked to discover that it was English!
Message: Posted by: balducci (May 10, 2015 09:45AM)
[quote]On May 4, 2015, Magnus Eisengrim wrote:

Hmm. I'm trying to think of examples that are noteworthy as literature, but are direct in their use of English. Many authors play with the language, which is wonderful, but probably not what you need right now.

Joseph Conrad--Heart of Darkness
Vladimir Nabokov--Lolita [/quote]
You think Nabokov is direct and does not play with the English language in Lolita? I don't know about that, I read it a few months ago for the first time and I think I would have missed so much had I not read an annotated version. To quote wikipedia (!) "It exhibits the love of intricate word play and synesthetic detail that characterised all his works." Not to mention the popular culture references and slang of the day he uses.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (May 10, 2015 10:27AM)
[quote]On May 10, 2015, balducci wrote:
[quote]On May 4, 2015, Magnus Eisengrim wrote:

Hmm. I'm trying to think of examples that are noteworthy as literature, but are direct in their use of English. Many authors play with the language, which is wonderful, but probably not what you need right now.

Joseph Conrad--Heart of Darkness
Vladimir Nabokov--Lolita [/quote]
You think Nabokov is direct and does not play with the English language in Lolita? I don't know about that, I read it a few months ago for the first time and I think I would have missed so much had I not read an annotated version. To quote wikipedia (!) "It exhibits the love of intricate word play and synesthetic detail that characterised all his works." Not to mention the popular culture references and slang of the day he uses. [/quote]

Good excuse to reread it :)

Perhaps I was projecting from memory.
Message: Posted by: Lewis Marks (May 10, 2015 11:55AM)
When I was very young I remember an enormous bookcase at my grandparents. I learned later it included the Harvard Classics, which was considered one of the most important collections a family could have. Expensive too I'll guess. I was about eight years old when my widowed mother bought my sister and me the Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction and, a few years later, another collection of paperbacks. There were at least a dozen but I can only remember now that it had Black Beauty and Treasure Island.

I don't know what happened to them, lost forever I suppose. But I recently found the Harvard Classics complete online, and for free. Of course the others are always available too.

My grandfather had very early (first, maybe) editions of Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which were his father's. I still have the Tom Sawyer and my sister has the Huckleberry Finn. My grandchildren love to have Grandpa read stories to them.
Message: Posted by: MorrisCH (May 11, 2015 05:04AM)
Thanks for all the comments here, I didn't expect to get that much response out of this sort of question.

Currently I am reading 1984, I highly doubt that this is the type of book people consider as classic literature (maybe I am wrong), but so far is a fun read

I will take all comment into consideration
at the mean time, keep the idea coming :D

BTW, member ClintonMagus here has asked me earlier whether I am looking for English literature or literature in English
with the clarification from member Ed Rhodes, I guess I am leaning toward "Classic Literature" such as Dickens and Austen
but no harm reading other works from other authors :D
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (May 11, 2015 06:59AM)
I'm not really sure if it fits this thread, but my absolute, no one-even-comes-close favorite writer of English prose is Norman Maclean.

But for the OP: anything you read is good. It's all good. Mastering a foreign language isn't all that important. Enjoying your reading is.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (May 11, 2015 09:17AM)
[quote]On May 11, 2015, stoneunhinged wrote:
I'm not really sure if it fits this thread, but my absolute, no one-even-comes-close favorite writer of English prose is Norman Maclean.

But for the OP: anything you read is good. It's all good. Mastering a foreign language isn't all that important. Enjoying your reading is. [/quote]


If you like Maclean, I can't recommend Norman Sage's short stories highly enough. I first came across his writing in the [i]Iowa Review[/i] (which should be enough of an endorsement by itself). I looked him up after reading them, and I spoke with him by telephone for quite a while. Nice guy. Great weiter.

http://www.amazon.com/Waiting-Fireworks-Selected-Norman-Sage/dp/1570030642
Message: Posted by: Gregor Von G. (May 29, 2015 04:40AM)
MR James: Ghost Story Of An Antiquary is a masterpiece

J.G. Ballard - I love almost everything

Not English but American:
Philip Dick - One of my favourite at all, master of science fiction.