I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Caged BirdI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 289
Source: Wasatch County Library
First things first: this is not your ordinary autobiography. In fact, the term “autobiography” doesn’t even cross your mind as you’re reading. You won’t find any dates, quotes, or pictures. Rather, you’ll read superlatively written accounts of notable scenes from Angelou’s childhood.
If I had to pick an adjective to describe this piece, I’d say reflective. Which makes me think about an essay I read in a college creative writing class. This mature writer argued that young people didn’t have the experience, or rather the distance from experiences, to convincingly write reflectively. I’ve always wondered about the validity of that argument. What do you think?
Summary in a Sentence

Maya Angelou shares defining experiences, lessons learnt, and relationships from her childhood spent in Stamps, Arkansas with her grandmother (“Momma”) and beloved brother Bailey and later in St. Louis and California with her biological parents.

Just So You Know

Angelou isn’t shy about difficult topics such as rape, profanity, crime, sexual orientation, racial prejudice, promiscuity, or alcohol but her method of presenting them is rather tame. I feel like a mature teen could read this book.

A few examples . . . The most disturbing scene depicts young Maya being raped by her mother’s boyfriend; the main focus of the passage is the girl’s pain and confusion. Also, as a coming of age story this book addresses Angelou’s curiosity about her changing body.

What a Writer can learn

Angelou is a talented story-teller who writes about a life (which is at times mundane) in a way that’s worth reading. It makes me wonder what she could do with my life. Reading this can help aspiring writers see that any story could become a masterpiece with the proper skills and creativity. As always, Angelou’s language is beautiful, poetic, profound, and fresh.

Also, she wins at least honorable mention, if not top 3, for one of the most intriguing, lovely titles I’ve encountered.

Read This If. . .

If you’re interested in African-American culture and more specifically African-American women writers like I am then you’ll love this one! As she tells about her upbringing in the South, Angelou reveals many underlying values of her culture and what life is like as a teenage African-American girl. She’s aware of how she’s perceived and how she (and others) defines “her people,” for instance. Similar books include Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mama Day, The Women of Brewster Place, and Paradise (all the above are favorites of mine).

A Few More Thoughts

I applaud the spot where Angelou choose to end her story; her childhood ended when she became a mother. However, I think the writing in the last chapter was the poorest section of the book. It felt like she was out of time or energy and just rushed to finish it by a deadline.

The bulk of the book contains stimulating writing. There are so many striking phrases and ideas but here are some of the most memorable:

“I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God’s will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.”

“Their remarks and responses were like a Ping-Pong game with each volley clearing the net and flying back to the opposition. The sense of what they were saying became lost, and only the exercise remained.”

“[San Francisco] became for me the ideal of what I wanted to be as a grownup. Friendly but never gushing, cool but not frigid or distant, distinguished without the awful stiffness.”

Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Publisher: Scribner

Pages: 316

Source: Wasatch County Library

I loved the tender moments in this book, and while there were only a few they were very moving.  One man confronts another and says, after much discomfort, “It was my son that killed your son.”   What a scene!  Another shows a young man clinging to his previously estranged father’s legs after he’s been sentenced to death.  But the compassion and forgiveness demonstrated after all this sorrow is absolutely unforgettable and inspiring.

Mostly, I appreciated the justice here.  Nothing irks me more than when a story is leading up to a terrible (but not unpredictable because all the actions have led up to it) situation for the likable main character and then at the last-minute some bizarre change of events saves them from what should be inevitable.  Do you know I mean?  Life just doesn’t happen like that.  Consequences have to come after stupid decisions.  In Paton’s book, a judge discusses this idea before issuing a sentence and as a reader I thought he was going to be merciful but he ended up being loyal to justice.

Also, I was happy to have real characters, characters with good intentions but flaws.  For instance, everyone admired Kumalo for doing the right thing by taking care of his family despite physical and financial strain but he wasn’t presented as infallible – he intentionally hurt the feelings of his brother and daughter in law.

Summary in a Sentence

Stephen Kumalo, a native pastor, learns that his sister who has been missing after leaving their small, quiet home for Johannesburg has been found;  he gathers all of his savings to go find her (and hopefully his lost son also in Johannesburg) and bring them home but finds this is a difficult, heartbreaking task.

Just so you know

Several characters engage in unsavory activities when they move to Johannesburg.  Whether it’s through prostitution, liquor, robbery, or violence, these characters are morally destroyed.

What a Writer Can Learn from this

It’s inevitable to notice a different feel when reading a book from a different part of the world.  For instance, you might be reading along and stumble on a phrase and think, that’s a strange way to say that – I would have said it this way.  I love it when that happens because clichés shatter and I’m forced to look at an idea from a new light.

The oration style in Cry, the Beloved Country differed than most books I’ve read (with the exception of Achebe’s Things Falls Apart).  It was more descriptive and full of adages.  Here are some examples:

“they walked down Lily Street, and turned off into Hyacinth Street, for the names there are very beautiful.”

In the middle of dialogue the narrator breaks in with: “Have no doubt it is fear in her eyes.  Have no doubt it is fear now in his eyes also.  It is fear, here in this house.”

“But at the first fork you go to the side of the hand that you eat with”

“embraces her in the European fashion” . . . “kisses him after the European fashion” . . . “takes her in her arms after the European fashion”

So a book like Paton’s can alert a writer to their own unique sayings, styles of speech, and culture that they might not usually think twice about.  Perhaps if you’re conscious of them you’ll use them intentionally, or omit them when they really don’t fit, thus making your writing more poignant.

Read This If

. . . you have the patience to get through slow, dense sections of text.  I have to admit I almost gave up on this because I didn’t really care about the characters or the plot for the first ¾ of the book.  (This was surprising to me because I’ve always been sympathetic to the apartheid in South Africa – loved The Power of One and Sarafina, for instance.) But if you can stick with it you will be moved by the beauty and forgiveness of the human soul exhibited by several characters.

A Few More Thoughts

Although I loved the end, looking at the book overall it was too political for me.  I felt like book’s intention was to make a political statement about conditions in South Africa.  Which is certainly a worthy cause but I prefer such ideas implied and not stated (I’ve said this before – see my Animal Farm post).  Many speeches and essays lobbying for change were included and I suggest Paton would have been a better essayist than novelist.  Here’s the whole problem summed up in one of Paton’s sentences: “It is not permissible to watch [a tribal system’s] destruction, and to replace it by nothing, or by so little, that a whole people deteriorates, physically and morally.”

The whole idea of the tribal system in South Africa collapsing reminded me of a NY Times article I read about synagogue leaders who offered incentives for young Jewish families to move to their area and worship with them.  They offered monthly cash payments, “partial down payments on homes, discounted yeshiva tuition, repayment of student loans and even free memberships to the Jewish dating Web site JDate.” In Cry, the Beloved Country Kumalo and other tribal leaders are very concerned about the future of their community because all the youth leave to Johannesburg leaving an aging, dying tribe.  Like the Jewish groups, Kumalo’s tribe strive to make their way of life more appealing to the rising generation.

Some final excerpts from the book that touched me:

“Aye, but the hand that had murdered had once pressed the mother’s breast into the thirsting mouth, had stolen into the father’s hand when they went out into the dark.  Aye, but the murderer afraid of death had once been a child afraid of the night.”

“For our Lord suffered.  And I come to believe that he suffered, not to save us from suffering, but to teach us how to bear suffering.  For he knew that there is no life without suffering.”

About the author: Jessica Christensen

Reader’s Digest Shout Out to the Classics

So I’m officially dragging my feet with Cry, the Beloved Country.  I am still reading it though. 

November’s issue of the Reader’s Digest has a quiz in their Culture Digest section titled: “What 8 Classics Were Almost Called.”  It invites you to guess the original titles of several celebrated books.  Check it out here and see how you do!  (I’ve searched their website for this quiz but can’t find it!  I wanted to put a link to it.  Sorry!)

Just try to match the title the author decided on with the title they were almost called.  Some are easier than others!

  1. Atlas Shrugged                         A. The High-Bouncing Lover
  2. The Great Gatsby                     B. The Last Man in Europe
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird                C. The Strike
  4. 1984                                        D. Mistress Mary
  5. The Sun Also Rises                 E. Fiesta
  6. Pride and Prejudice                  F. Catch-11
  7. Catch-22                                  G. Atticus
  8. The Secret Garden                  H. First Impressions

I’ll post the answers a week from today.  If anyone gets at least 7 correct they can pick the next classic book I read!

5 Lessons You Can Learn From Classic Novels

I’m still plugging away on “Cry, the Beloved Country” but wanted to share a neat article from Real Simple’s September issue my mom recently let me borrow.  By the way, I love printed literature!  Its almost a novelty since so much time is spent online now.  But if you want to read this magazine online, go here http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/life-strategies/inspiration-motivation/classic-novels-00100000085587/page2.html Better yet, go buy the magazine because its a great one. 

Noted authors share the life-changing wisdom they discovered inside their favorite timeless reads.

In eighth grade, I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. At the time, most of it sailed right over my head. But that last 25 percent was potent enough to knock me over. I had never read a book so deeply engaged with social injustice, and the abuses it depicted—by religious figures, civic authorities, and the mob—shocked me to the core. I wondered, How could such things be allowed to go on? It made me want to be a warrior against corrupt power and to give voice to the stories of outcasts and outsiders. It also made me appreciate how deep the human desire for connection is; Quasimodo’s yearning to love and be loved speaks for us all. The end left me weeping, but even more important, it left me thinking, and forever changed.
-Madeline Miller is the author of The Song of Achilles, which won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction.

I’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so many times through the years. The narrator is sharp and observant: No one crosses her field of vision without being assessed, and sometimes skewered. Yet the story shows the danger of snap judgments. After their first meeting, Elizabeth and Darcy seem such an unlikely match, but their eventual marriage is based on real romance. I think that I’m a kind person, but on occasion I quickly write people off. Part of the reason I return to this book is that it reminds me to take a second look. In books and in life, you need to read several pages before someone’s true character is revealed.
-Gail Carson Levine is the author of 20 children’s books and young-adult novels, including Ella Enchanted winner of the Newbery Honor Award.

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Publisher: Mass Market Paperback

Pages: 224

Source: Wasatch County Library

Catcher in the Rye is at times light-hearted but at other times quite disparaging and depressing.  Holden has a hilarious sense of humor and the text is very sarcastic at some points.  I honestly laughed out loud several times, the first being when I read this line:  “It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pency didn’t win.”

This is really about a boy’s concern over what he perceives as humanity’s “phoniness” (he uses that word often).  An old teacher and friend understands his struggle and tells him: “You’ll find you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. “

Summary in a Sentence

Young considerate but cynical Holden Caulfield, who has just been kicked out of his 3rd prep school, spends a few days killing time (and his parent’s money) and reflecting before he must go home and face his parents.

Just so you know

Holden and his friends are very curious about sex.  They talk about girls, think about sex often, and a few of them do engage in sexual activities.  One of the first things a sensitive reader will notice is the frequent profanities.  Several young women scold Holden for his language.  The “f-word” is used a few times towards the end but not by Holden; he is outraged when he sees “F— you” written at his little sister’s school.  Furthermore, Holden smokes and drinks alcohol constantly!  The content and the audience don’t align; it contains adult language and behaviors but the main character and his setting are directed at young adults.

What a Writer Can Learn from this

Lighten up!  You don’t always need to be concerned about sounding sophisticated.  This book made it all these decades and it is full of humor and is overall a bit off-beat.

Read This If

You want a quality fast read.  This classic may give you the most “bang for your buck” – it’s an easy, quick, and enjoyable read that’s also skillfully written and legendary.

A Few More Thoughts

Holden is a literary soul and discusses books he’s read and loved as well as books he’s read and hated (one of which was a recent book I read, A Farewell to Arms).  I like it when characters do that, especially when I recognize the titles but even more when I don’t because then it gives me more books to add to my list of classics to read.

About the author: Jessica Christensen

Death Be Not Proud

Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther

Publisher: Harper and Row

Pages: 231

Source: Wasatch County Library

Death Be Not Proud was another great read!  I generally say that I enjoyed the book I’m reviewing and I generally do.  That may make me seem like an easily pleased reader but that is not the case.  I’m just reading the best of the best as far as books go.  This is why I love reading classics; you’re almost guaranteed to read quality literature.

The presentation of the events in this book was a bit peculiar and although presented mostly chronologically readers knew how it would end at the beginning.  This makes me think it is about the process of getting to the end.  It reminded me of watching sitcom episodes out-of-order; sometimes you know what’s going to happen down the road but you watch an old episode you haven’t seen before to help you understand the character or the story better.

Summary in a Sentence

A father compiles an eclectic tribute to his bright, loving 17-year-old son who died after battling a brain tumor for 15 months.

Just so you know

None of the material could be considered offensive but readers must face a child’s death and his long, painful journey getting there.

What a Writer Can Learn from this

Experiment with genres!  I remember taking a creative writing course in college where I played with memoirs, fiction, and poetry among other forms of literature.  Like I said, Gunther’s memoir is eclectic containing equations, letters, diary excerpts, and explanations of medical terms.  I love the Time description on the back cover: “Without fuss, in simple almost conversational style, [John Gunter] express the love and comradeship he felt for his son, gives a step-by-step account of cancer’s inexorable victory.”  That’s why memoirs are fun to write – its a great way to be creative and casual.

Read This If

You (or a loved one) have ever had health problems or felt sorry for yourself because of medical problems.  Or just read it to be inspired.

A Few More Thoughts

I read this book during my 11 month old daughter’s recent hospital stay.  So this was a very personal read for me.  I could relate to many parts of the book, especially this line: “That building! – it became the citadel of all our hopes and fears for more than a year, the prison of all our dreams.”  To us that building is Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, UT.  I’ve mentioned that my daughter has a few medical conditions.  She was born with hydrocephalus and other brain anomalies, scoliosis and other vertebral anomalies, fused ectoptic kidneys, malrotated intestines, and an imperforate anus.  This last trip was to close up the colostomy she’d had since birth (woo hoo!) and repair her intestines.  She’s recovered well and we’re all happy to be back home!

Despite how close this book was to me, tears didn’t come until I read the last few pages which were written by Johnny’s mother.  I’ll never forget how she talked about God’s role in their struggles: (forgive me for the long quotation but it was very meaningful to me)

“I did not for one thing feel that God has personally singled out either him or us for any special act, either of animosity or generosity.  In a way I did not feel that God was personally involved at all.  I have all my life had a spontaneous, instinctive sense of the reality of God, in faith, beyond ordinary belief.  I have always prayed to God and talked things over with Him, in church and out of church, when perplexed, or very sad, or also very happy.  During Johnny’s long illness, I prayed continually to God, naturally.  God was always there.  He sat beside us during the doctors’ consultations, as we waited the long vigils outside the operating room, as we rejoiced in the miracle of a brief recovery, as we agonized when hope ebbed away, and the doctors confessed there was no longer anything they could do.  They were helpless, and we were helpless, and in His way, God, standing by us in our hour of need, God in His infinite wisdom and mercy and loving kindness, God in all His omnipotence, was helpless too.”





About the author: Jessica Christensen

A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Earnest Hemingway

Publisher: Scribner Paperback Fiction

Pages: 332

Source: Wasatch County Library

Enjoyed this read!  Partly because the setting was completely different from my quiet, domestic situation; we just celebrated our 4th anniversary (!) and our first child will have her first birthday soon so most of my romantic adventures come in books like this.

On the topic of romance, as I was finishing this book we watched the National Republican Convention so Ann Romney’s comments about her marriage with Mitt were on my mind.  She said they didn’t have a storybook marriage but a real marriage.  Part of me says, Catherine and Tenente’s pretend “marriage” is storybook-ish because you never read about any arguments or even any tension between them.  In fact, I would say the relationship is a bit too blissful but then I realize their entire relationship couldn’t have lasted for more than 2 years max so they’re still in the giddy, newlywed stage.  But after finishing the book I’ve decided I can call it a real marriage because of their chapters of separation, legitimate danger, and hospital stays.  The book is worth reading because of their happy chapters and their challenging chapters – I enjoyed both equally.

Summary in a Sentence

An American officer in the Italian army, affectionately called “Tenente,” meets and quickly becomes passionately in love with Catherine, a beautiful English nurse also on the Italian front, and the two create a very happy life together despite the horrible war.

Just so you know

I’m not sure if there is more sex or more alcohol in this book.  There’s talk of prostitutes, masturbation, and lust.  But let me just say that I found it very tasteful and not crude or offensive at all.  (Note that I have a bit of a low tolerance for steamy literature and I had no problem with this book)  And perhaps its the culture, but Tenente is a bit of a drunk, constantly drinking wine, beer, champagne, brandy, and so forth.  For these reasons, I’d consider this an adult book.

What a Writer Can Learn from this

This is a very readable text.  When I say that I mean that it sounds nice when read out loud.  This is partly because of the alliteration.  An example:

“There were many iron shrapnel balls in the rubble of the houses and on the road beside the broken house where the post was, but they did not shell near the post that afternoon.”

Also, for entire pages at a time there are single lines of dialogue back and forth.  The characterization was so effective that I could usually distinguish between the voices without needing to be told.

Read This If

This is a good book for a lazy summer day because of the lolling, mellow tone which was actually what made me want to pick it up to read some more.  Also, it’s just a great story!

A Few More Thoughts

Here we have a very stoic narrator and I kind of loved it.  He’s the kind of guy who gives mostly facts, not many emotions.  I’ve known people like this (mostly men) and I’m sure you have as well.  When they tell a story I’m just dying for some kind of sentiment, to know how the events affected them.  Here’s an example:

“I looked back.  Aymo lay in the mud with the angle of the embankment.  He was quite small and his arms were by his side, his puttee-wrapped legs and muddy boots together, his cap over his face.  He looked very dead.  It was raining.  I had liked him as well as any one I ever knew.  I had his papers in my pocket and would write to his family.  Ahead across the field . . .”

Just an interesting note, Hemingway’s main characters in Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea are both interested in baseball and fishing.  I couldn’t help but comparing the two because I really love The Old Man (see my blog on it).  I noticed subtle signs that Hemingway loved women and romance in The Old Man and this book confirmed that idea.  But I’m more impressed with Hemingway after reading this because it is a whole different kind of book than The Old Man and also quite good.

About the author: Jessica Christensen

The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Publisher: Vintage Books

Pages: 371

Source: Library

Wow what a masterpiece!  I always say the best actors are ones who can play various roles convincingly (like Johnny Depp) and I likewise think the best writers are those who can present various characters convincingly.  I’m just amazed at the different sections from Benjy, Quentin, and Jason – very different people and each section brilliantly presented.  I’m just so impressed with this book’s construction.  I’d like to read it again.  I almost stopped half way through (in the middle of Quentin’s section) because I just wasn’t getting it but I’m so glad I finished!  Thanks to Jillian for encouraging me to push through!

Summary in a Sentence

The Compson family remembers, reflects on, and reacts to their sister Caddie whose premarital pregnancy resulted in her divorce and separation from her child, a lost chance at a good job for her bitter brother Jason, the suicide of her Harvard brother Quentin, and a deep sense of sadness for her severally mentally handicapped brother Benjy.

Parental Guidance

Characters address adult topics such as castration, virginity, and promiscuity.  There is some derogatory language when referring to the black servants and Jews.  I’d rate it PG13.

What a Writer Can Learn

Be poetic and creative with your prose.  In traditional Faulkner style, this book regularly abandoned punctuation and other forms of grammar.  The spacing between words and quotation marks was also unique.  Towards the end of the book the image of an eye in the middle of the text startled me!  Italics indicated when the narrative moves to the past (it took me a minute to catch onto this).

Read This If

You’re up to a challenging, stimulating read!

A Few More Thoughts

I don’t know if I can think of a crueller more contemptible character than Jason Compson.  After this read I could never name a child of mine Jason.  His section reminded me of Shakespeare’s Richard III where the protagonist is a villain.  Jason’s cruelty upset me – just to be mean he burns show tickets in front of young Luster who desperately wants to go, steals money from his family for over a decade, and denies his sister a chance to see her daughter.  But the name Dilsey is pleasant to me and just because Dilsey, the family’s black, maternal servant, was incredible.  She worked so hard (I think of her trudging up and down the stairs: “She turned slowly and descended, lowering her body from step to step, as a small child does, her hand against the wall”) to keep the family running with little to no recognition or reward, in fact she was often berated by Jason.  I’d like to be like that – not needing praise to help others out.

I read a plot summary afterwards and learned that I only caught half of what was going on in Benjy’s section.  I was glad I read this summary because I missed some pretty major parts of the story.  But reading the summary for the other 3 sections confirmed my understanding of the plot.  I read As I Lay Dying a few years ago and was proud of myself for getting more out of this one than that one – maybe I’ve progressed as a reader a bit!Even though The Sound and the Fury was a difficult read, it was much more powerful and impressive than the plot summary.  So it’s worth struggling through because of Faulkner’s skill in creating scenes, feelings, and characters.

Words I Learned: Sibilant (making or characterized by a hissing sound), Coruscate (flash or sparkle), Abnegate (renounce or reject)

About the author: Jessica Christensen

The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Publisher: Vintage International

Pages: 287

Source: Yard Sale!

The Road made such a big splash when it came out so I consider it a contemporary classic.  This piece met every one of my requirements for a good book: compelling plot (but also well-constructed and developed) and thoughtful writing.  It’s hard to find both in a book sometimes. 

This reminded me of The Iliad because horrible cruelty and inhumanity juxtaposed the most tender, adoring love. I’ll never forget the scene of the people in the cellar with one on the mattress half eaten alive and I’ll never forget the scene of the man carefully, lovingly cleaning his son. 

Summary in a Sentence

A father and his young son travel through a destroyed Northern America, desperately trying to evade people who all seem to be evil and just as desperately trying to find food to stay alive, hoping to find something better on the West coast. 

Parental Guidance

I would not suggest this book for young readers.  The whole feel of the book is dark and the extent of the fall of humanity is very disturbing.  There are several violent and intense scenes that would not be appropriate for kids. 

What a Writer Can Learn from this

I thought McCarthy was an expert at characterization.  Both the boy and the man were so believable that I could accept their goodness in a destroyed world.  They were complex, not at all flat or cliché.  You could even see the boy mature throughout the book.  It seems like sometimes authors leave characters at the same level at the end of the book as they were at the beginning and assume the events alone attest to the characters growth.  I also have to make a note on McCarthy’s skill at portraying the setting.  His work required brilliance but it wasn’t ostentatious or anything. 

Read This If

You can read and can handle being unsettled a bit.  Whether you love reading good writing or you love reading a good story you’ll enjoy this one. 

A Few More Thoughts

SPOILER ALERT!  DON’T READ ON IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS!  My thoughts on the ending: the last paragraph talks about trout and then says, “In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”  It was often hard to follow who “him” or “they” were so I’d have to back track.  I wonder if this “they” is the boy and his new companions.  If so, it sounds like they found a place to live and got off the road.  The title of the book reinforces this idea for me; since it’s called “The Road” I wonder if the boy’s journey on the road ended with the last page of the book. 

Some of my favorite lines:

  • “Then they set out along the blacktop in the gun-mental light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.”
  • “You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
  • “How does the never to be differ from what never was?”
  • “If they saw different worlds what they knew was the same.”
  • “Ten thousand dreams ensepulchred within their crozzled hearts.”

I haven’t posted in a while because we’ve been enjoying ourselves on a couple of vacations.  But don’t worry, you’ll hear from me again next week!

The Classics Club

I’m very excited to join The Classics Club.  I’m more interested in the classic readers community than I am in reading so many books in a certain amount of time.  But here is my list of 50 classics I plan to read by the 4th of July 2014:

  1. A Good Man is Hard to Find
  2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  3. Animal Farm
  4. Death Be Not Proud
  5. Dracula
  6. Dubliners
  7. Enders Game
  8. Germinal
  9. Gone with the Wind
  10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  11. Ironweed
  12. Jane Eyre
  13. Joy Luck Club
  14. Kim
  15. Leaves of Grass
  16. Les Miserables
  17. Lolita
  18. Middlemarch
  19. Moby Dick
  20. Of Mice and Men
  21. Old Man and the Sea
  22. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  23. Pamela
  24. Pride and Prejudice
  25. Pygmalion
  26. Robinson Crusoe
  27. Roots
  28. Roxana: the Fortunate Mistress
  29. Secret Garden
  30. Taming of the Shrew
  31. The Adventures of Sherlock Home
  32. The Awakening
  33. The Call of the Wild
  34. The Catcher and the Rye
  35. The Count of Monte Cristo
  36. The Grapes of Wrath
  37. The Jungle
  38. The Last of the Mohicans
  39. The Mill on the Floss
  40. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  41. The Scarlet Letter
  42. The Scarlet Pimpernel
  43. The Secret Garden
  44. The Sound and the Fury
  45. The Three Musketeers
  46. Things Fall Apart
  47. To Kill a Mockingbird
  48. Treasure Island
  49. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  50. Wuthering Heights

This is, of course, an organic list that may grow, morph, or shrink depending on whats on the shelf at the library or what I’m feeling like.  I’m working on Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and working is the most accurate verb for this process!  I love the depth of Faulkner’s writing and am getting a lot out of it.  If any of my readers have read it before I’d love to hear their thoughts.