I have been of late teaching my eight year old daughter some Shakespeare, a dash of Dickens, a sprinkling of Austen, and bit of Bunyon. I fear I cannot resist bringing to light for a moment my passion for literature and reading and would beg my gentle reader's permission to discuss briefly some books that I have loved and would quickly recommend to anyone looking for a good read. I find it a good idea anyway, as we presently find ourselves approaching summer and people often look for a good summertime read.
Short Reads - As I know most people haven't the interest I do in literature, some of my favorite classic works that are also under 100 pages are as follows: Billy Budd by Melville, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, any of the short Sherlock Homes stories, and for the brave and religious, Paradise Regained by Milton. Milton writes in poetry so even though it is a short read it isn't necessarily an easy one. Billy Budd is my personal favorite short read because it touches the heart, makes you think, and encourages us all to be better, more thoughtful, loving people. It is incredibly written and astonishingly beautiful, and fit even for a high school age student. Another tremendously short but powerful read is Arms and the Man, a play by the immortal Bernard Shaw. It's hilarious, intriguing, and illustrates how useless pretended social airs really are. If my gentle reader is truly daring I might mention the title of The Devil's Disciple by Shaw as well, which is incredibly powerful but ought to be handled with a bit of care. Truly, though, one of the worst parts of it is the title itself. It's an exquisite piece, leads a person toward God in an unusual way and is extremely compelling.
Medium Length - Persuasion by Jane Austen is often overlooked in the general favor toward Pride and Prejudice but I prefer it not because it is shorter but because in so many ways it is more down to earth and deals with more intense emotion and passionate loyalty. The Marble Faun by Nathaniel Hawthorne is also gut wrenching, beautiful, passionate, and an art lover's dream come true, set in a romantic Roman summer and treats upon the ideas of goodness, murder, secrecy and beauty. Adam Bede by George Elliot begins slowly but becomes a breathless knockout punch that no reader will likely forget. Anyone who has not yet read C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters...repent and read it!! That's all I have to say. Walden by Thoreau is also an exquisite read as his is his short essay Civil Disobedience. An adventurer might also like Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World, which is the true story of Mr. Slocum, the first person to single handedly circumnavigate the globe.
The. Good. Stuff. - Okay, so the short reads are awesome and a book doesn't have to be long to be incredible but this is often where the best fun begins in my opinion. Forgive me - I quite adore the literature of Charles Dickens, have read all his novels and would recommend them all but for the moment I'll mention Barnaby Rudge, which is one of his most beautifully written books and which illustrates how we all need to love each other regardless of belief system or religion and that kindness is the ultimate religion. The Minister's Wooing and Oldtown Folks by Harriet Beecher Stowe are both exquisite and give some added dynamics to the woman who wrote the immortal Uncle Tom's Cabin. Although I love Tolstoy I will skip him over today and move straight into Milton's Paradise Lost. My son knows I expect him to read that book by the time he graduates high school, as it is a priceless work and one of the most beautiful texts I've read. And for someone who wishes to do something quite overarching I might suggest Moby Dick by Melville (go ahead if you haven't read it yet - it's great!). And finally we might alight on the mother of Gothic literature, Ann Radcliffe with the novel which started it all, The Mysteries of Udolpho. Be warned, however, one may need an extra dose of patience because you will not solve the mystery until the very tail end of the book. It simply won't happen.
(In case you were wondering, my read for the moment is an 800 page darling called Daniel Deronda by the sweet and illustrious George Elliot.) Happy reading!!!!!