2019 is almost halfway over, and I’m still scrambling to catch up with my Goodreads reading goal for this year. For the first six months of this year, I definitely haven’t read as many books as I’d hoped to, but, that said, there are still some awesome classics I’ve dusted off since January 1, so I’ll share some of the best of them here today.
Instead of ranking them, I’ll just list my favorites of 2019 so far in chronological order. Also, this is all obviously just my opinion, so if none of these titles meet your definition of “great classic” . . . let’s agree to disagree. What are some classics you’ve dusted off this year? Which ones disappointed you? Which ones did you love?
–The 42nd Parallel (1930)
The first book in John Dos Passos’ critically acclaimed U.S.A. trilogy, The 42nd Parallel caught my attention in early January for its famed “newsreel” style, where snippets of American history are presented in newspaper headlines, song lyrics, and stream-of-conscious narratives. This is coupled with a head-hopping of various characters inhabiting a whirlwind America exiting the Gilded Age and entering the modern era. Socialism, communism, and a good deal of unexpected pregnancies pop up A LOT in the lives of these figures, who seem both fleshed-out and realistic but also symbolic of the epic changes going on in their nation at this time in its history.
Read what others have to say about The 42nd Parallel here on Goodreads.
-Brave New World (1932)
Okay, I’m not actually sure if I love this novel by Aldous Huxley–I did give it just three stars on Goodreads, after all–but in the three months since I’ve read it, Brave New World‘s sky-high weirdness quotient has grown on me. A defining dystopian narrative, Huxley’s novel shows a society that has taken human reproduction to odd and unsettling lengths. The inhabitants of this World State are constantly popping “soma,” a fictional pill that apparently produces a heck of a lot of dopamine. To top it off, there’s Shakespearean references or mentions galore.
I’ll admit Huxley’s characters are pretty flat, but the dark story he crafts here makes up for it with a richly-developed world (a must-have for sci-fi, in my opinion) and a chilling message on how technology can harm us just as often as it comes to our aid.
Read what others have to say about Brave New World here on Goodreads.
–The Color Purple (1982)
I’ve already written about this novel by Alice Walker in a previous post, but I don’t mind reiterating a lot of my points in this post. The epistolary nature of The Color Purple intrigued me back in March. I wondered how an author could pull off an entire narrative just by using letters between two people. Walker succeeds by making the letters exchanged by Celie, a young woman living in the South in the early 20th Century, and her missionary sister Nettie in Africa, don’t just show what’s going on in their difficult, often miserable, lives, but, more importantly, the letters reveal their thoughts, personalities, and reflections. This makes these two characters some of the most vivid that I’ve read in 2019.
Read what others have to say about The Color Purple here on Goodreads.
-Cat’s Cradle (1963)
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is probably the zaniest writer, in terms of style and plot, that I’ve ever read. Cat’s Cradle starts out as one man’s attempt to find out about the inventors of the atomic bomb. But then it shifts toward a bizarre Caribbean island, San Lorenzo, whose history Vonnegut devotes many pages to, and the plot also dives into the fictional religion of Bokononism, whose practitioners live (where else?) on this San Lorenzo island. All this in less than 300 pages! It shouldn’t work, and I doubt it would in a longer work, but Vonnegut’s deceptively simple style lends these events a hilarity, while also giving them a biting comment on a society obsessed with nuclear warfare.
Read what others have to say about Cat’s Cradle here on Goodreads.