Ten Classics I’m Thankful For

Alice…one of the toughest and bravest “strong heroines” nobody talks about.  She’s only seven-and-a-half exactly.

A day late, but better late than never, right?  This week’s Top Ten Tuesday focuses on books that have “touched your heart and left you feeling SO thankful that it was written.”  Narrowing this down to ten classic fictional books has been even more difficult than it should probably be…but here goes!

1.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
For as long as I can remember, Alice is a character I’ve identified with, in her search for home and logic in a place of strangeness and illusion.  Carroll’s witty silliness has forever influenced my own sense of humor and indirectly helped me become the “literary techie” I am.  Let’s not forget Tenniel, either, whose illustrations bring it all to (sur)reality!

2. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
When I was a little kid, my mom bought a bunch of Wordsworth Classics that were on sale at the mall.  She read some of them to me, including The Secret Garden which was one of her personal favorites.  I’m so happy my mom helped me understand those stories and bridge the difficulty level with her enthusiasm; it definitely changed my life.

Jules Verne is the reason I have a mad passion for wood engravings.

3.  Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
One of my most distinct reading experiences happened when I was a child, waiting at the ballet studio during my sister’s class.  A friend saw me reading it and couldn’t believe I was reading it for fun.  “At school, you’d get an award for reading that!”  Classics were already my favorite reading material, and I couldn’t understand not wanting to read them for fun.  It made me appreciate being homeschooled, so that going around the world (or the center of the earth) with Jules Verne was cool at my school.  To this day, Jules Verne is my”safe place” of old-timey, scientific discovery and pure escapism.

Qualities of a good detective, #1: able to break down locked doors.

4.  The Sherlock Holmes series, by Arthur Conan Doyle
As I grew older and more enamored of logic, Sherlock Holmes became a natural hero.  A little ironically, my first memory of being deeply moved by fiction was reading “The Final Problem” and believing (at the sweet age of nine or ten) that it was truly final.  It cemented Holmes as my favorite fictional character, someone whose actions were even bolder than his talk.  The Sherlock Holmes series introduced me to so many grown-up concepts – deductive reasoning, phil/misanthropy, blackmail, social hierarchies, and diplomacy, to name a few.  Holmes’s calm self-confidence and unconventionality also helped me come out of my shy shell, and I’ll always be thankful for that.

5.  The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells
Along with Doyle and Verne, Wells is chiefly responsible for my teenage writing, which was pseudo-Victorian, melodramatic, and delightfully embarrassing. The wide-eyed simplicity of old science fiction has helped me find a kind of poetry in technology, even today with all its complexity.  (And of course, time travel is always appealing.)

6.  The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
There’s little for me to add to what I’ve talked about recently, or what has been said so well by many others.  The Lord of the Rings came in my mid-teens when I was in a fictional rut and needed something to wake me up.  Tolkien also showed me the value of poetry, which encouraged me to read more of it and actually write my own.

Lts. Kennedy and Hornblower demonstrating the importance of friendship to a reluctant Lt. Bush.

7.  Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C. S. Forester
This book is the odd one on the list, because I actually found it to be very boring.  What makes me grateful for it is that it inspired one of my favorite TV dramas, Hornblower, starring Ioan Gruffudd as the title character.  Like Sherlock Holmes, Hornblower illustrated a lot of real-world concepts, such as ethics vs. realpolitik, loyalty vs. duty, and (in contrast/complement to Holmes) the importance of teamwork.  Not only that, but the plot encompasses almost every sea-story scenario, while following the hero’s coming-of-age journey.  Hornblower was my go-to show while everyone else was watching Pirates of the Caribbean.  😉 

Heart of Darkness is in many ways more fact than fiction.

8.  Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad was a pivotal author for me.  It was about the time of reading Heart of Darkness that I saw fiction could be so much more than plot + characters and that a surrealist, subtle narrative could be quite powerful for relaying a strong, moral message.  Conrad reintroduced me to the blurry area between fiction and reality, which became so important during my college years. 

9.  Dracula, by Bram Stoker
I have fond memories of reading this over a cup of green tea, and later bemoaning Quincey Morris with my sister – who also enjoyed the book! – and finally, the two of us giggling together over dramatic scenes from the Bela Lugosi production.  It’s an epic, inspiring classic that brings friends together, and those are some of the best.  I’ve only read it once but I intend to make that twice, soon.

10. Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
If Dracula is a tale to bring friends together over drama, Three Men in a Boat is the comedy version of that.  My brother and I had so much fun reading it together, and by natural consequence, it’s led us, plus my sister and mom, to enjoy the Jeeves and Wooster TV series, British humor in a similar style.  People often associate “classics” with grave, heavy topics, which is often true, but classic comedy is of the very best.  Fun and innocent humor is something I always appreciate.

Whew!  If you made it through this detour down memory lane, I’m thankful for that, too.  ^_^

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  1. Carol Avatar

    Loved your commentary on these books. Goodness! I don't think I could narrow down ten – that's probably more to do with my memory than anything else.


  2. cleopatra Avatar

    Great choices! I've read them all except for #7. If you like Three Men in a Boat, you might enjoy The Diary of a Nobody, if you haven't read it already. Those are my two most favourite British comedies.


  3. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    It was definitely a challenge for me, too! Honestly, I am grateful for every book I've read, even (in a sense) the ones I disliked. 🙂


  4. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Thanks for the rec – I'll check that one out! My brother and I are always on the lookout for a good British laugh.


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