May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA Discussion: Classics

The first genre discussion of Armchair BEA 2013 revolves around classics. I chose to discuss some American (U.S.) classics I've read and loved, and list some that I intend to read soon.

Before I get to my choices, I wanted to mention my inspiration for this topic. The other night my family watched the 2011 Woody Allen film Midnight In Paris. It tells the story of an aspiring American novelist visiting Paris who, at midnight, finds himself magically transported back to the Paris of the 1920s. There he befriends some of the greatest American writers: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, among others. Throughout the movie there's a sense of nostalgia for the past; even more than that, there's the creeping fear that whatever we accomplish in the present will never live up to the great accomplishments of the past. While I don't believe that, it made for an interesting discussion. 

I generally prefer to read British classics, but after seeing this film I wanted to take time to recognize five great American novels that I've read, and six I would like to read.

My Top American (U.S.) Classics:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — Lee's only work focuses on race relations in the South as seen through the eyes of a young white girl whose father is one of the only people to stand up for the accused black man. It's not a difficult read, but it is one that really resonates.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell —While this may be best known for its epic love story between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, Mitchell's novel is much bigger than that. This is the chronicle of the challenges Scarlett faces as a woman living in the South during the Civil War, and her determination to better her life.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — Plath is much better known for her poems, and that seems to be truly where her talent lies; it is through the writing of aspiring writer Esther's descent into madness one summer in New York City that the story really shines.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain — Twain may be better known for Tom Sawyer, but I enjoyed Huck Finn's tale far more. Alternately humorous and reflective, it chronicles Huck's journey down the Mississippi River with Jim, a runaway slave.
Native Son by Richard Wright — Wright tackles the pervasive racial tensions in America through the story of Biggar Thomas, a young African-American man who lashes out against the system of oppression. Here's my five-star review.

My Top American (U.S.) Classics To Read:
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
On the Road by Jack Kerouac 
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Are there any works of American writers that you think I should add to my massive list? Let me know! And please link me to your discussions on classics!
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I really like that whole 1920's in Paris literary scene. A Moveable Feast by Hemingway is one of my favorites. And I just read Z, a novel about Zelda Fitzgerald which was really great.

    Have a great ArmchairBEA!

    1. I'll have to look into those books. That movie definitely made me want to learn more about Zelda Fitzgerald!
      And thank you! You too!

  2. I've never seen Midnight in Paris but now I want to! Great list.

    1. Oh you really should! It's so well done. And thank you!

  3. The first three on your top books to read are some of my favorite American classics, especially Catch-22! And you can never go wrong with Fitzgerald in my opinion!

    1. Yay glad to hear you think so! Hopefully I'll be able to get to them relatively soon.

  4. To Kill a Mockingbird is still one of my very favorite books! Good picks!

    1. I think it's about time for me to re-read it. :) Thanks!


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