Book Matters: Read a classic ... and like it

Book Matters: Read a classic ... and like it

By Teri Harman, Contributor | Posted - Aug. 24, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Prepare yourself, because I'm about to commit literary blasphemy: Many classics are snoozers. I know, I know.

Pray the literary gods don't strike me down. That being said, the fact that classic novels tend to be dry and laborious to read does not in any way detract from their value. Each and every one is an important step in literary history and should be read.

However, if you'd like to read a classic and not end up nodding off or needing a year to force yourself to get through it, then I suggest picking up these books, some of my favorite modern classics, only a few of the many great choices out there:

1. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was one of the most prolific and gifted writers in history. His clean yet vividly descriptive prose is mesmerizing and unforgettable. This is my favorite Hemingway novel.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is the story of Robert Jordan, a young American soldier in the International Brigades. Jordan's anti-fascist guerrilla unit is sent to the mountains of Spain to help fight a civil war. Here, Jordan must face the depths of his loyalty and courage and wade through the overwhelming emotions of love and defeat. Hemingway's story is so deeply human and so beautifully written that it is nearly impossible to put down or to forget. (Good for guys)

2. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre's quiet patience, endless perseverance and sharp mind catch the eye of her handsome and arrogant master, Mr. Rochester, after she is employed as governess to his ward. Despite the fact that Rochester is far above her station, Jane falls irrevocably in love with him and soon discovers that he may share her passion. But tragedy and old secrets arise to stand in the way of Jane's happiness.

Deep sigh. Few love stories are as affecting or as tragically romantic as "Jane Eyre." First published in 1847, Bronte's quiet but stalwart heroine broke the mold of standard class conceptions and is one of the most endearing female characters of all time.

3. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

Truly one of the greatest books ever written, this classic is a must-read for everyone. Harper Lee adeptly dives into the heart and soul of humanity in this Pulitzer Prize winner. Set in the deep South during the Depression, the story follows the experiences of a small family trying their best to do the right thing. The father, Atticus Finch, and his daughter, Scout, are two of the most memorable, moral and sincere characters in literature. The rich themes of love, honesty, racial equality and standing up for what you believe are important in any time and for any person. (Good for guys)

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4. "The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Emmuska Orczy

Turmoil and tragedy abound during the French Revolution, but there is one man who hopes to stop the all too eager slice of Madam Guillotine. This man, Percy Blakeney, known in the social circles as a pompous, silly aristocrat, hides behind this false reputation and secretly risks everything to expertly plan and carry out rescues of those unfairly sentenced to death. Not even his own wife, the famous actress Marguerite St. Just, knows the true identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

My sweet, quiet Grandma Larsen, who passed away two years ago, recommended this book to me. In fact, not only did she recommend it, she put it in my hands and said I must read it. And I am so glad that she did. After the first 50 pages, which are a bit slow, I could hardly put it down. This classic is everything you want in a good book: intrigue, romance, daring rescues, unseen twists and a surprise ending. (Good for guys)

5. "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Life in seventeenth century Puritan Boston is difficult, to say the least, especially for a woman who has been involved in an adulterous relationship and given birth to an illegitimate baby. Hester Prynne, referred to as the first true heroine of American literature, must draw on her inner strength and independent spirit to survive the ostracizing of her neighbors. Her lover, the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, is a man divided and struggles to maintain his pious reputation while suppressing his love for Hester.

This classic is an intense exploration of the best and worst of human nature and action. Author Nathaniel Hawthorne expertly exposes the struggle between public and private self, something everyone can relate to. Emotional and bursting with truth. (Good for guys)

6. "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

Despite its hefty length, this classic is captivating and very readable. At its heart, this story is about family, an always current tale about how different choices can determine happiness. Anna Karenina, searching for passion and joy, rejects her loveless marriage and turns to an affair with a dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tolstoy, a literary visionary, beautifully explores the psychology of human action — why we do what we do — set against the background of nineteenth century Russia. All seven of the main characters, especially Anna and her count, are vivid, flawed and memorable.

Next week: Back-to-school reading advice

About the Author: Teri Harman -----------------------------

Teri Harman writes and reads from home amid the chaos of three young children.
For more book reviews and book fun, visit her blog at You can also follow Teri on Facebook (Book Matters) or Twitter (@bookmattersblog)


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