This weekend’s Literary Blog Hop: Great Works I Haven’t Read

This week’s question over at the Blue Bookcase is “What one work of literature must you read before you die?”  Kind of a grim question, I think, but I’ll take it as “what work of literature do I still need to read at some point in my life?”  That led me to look at some “best literature” lists and really think about what books I should read that I haven’t.  I’m pretty well-read when it comes to classics — with a lit degree, four years working in a bookstore, and no kids, I pretty much read the books I want to read.  But there are definitely a few holes.

The book that came immediately to mind is War and Peace by Tolstoy.  I’ve never been so good with the Russians — Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamazov were books I struggled with and largely Cliffs-noted in school.  But this seems like one of those BIG WORKS that you ought to read to consider yourself well-read.  What I want to know is, is it a book people LOVE, or one they just ought to read?  Should I read Anna Karenina instead?

The second might be Les Miserables by Hugo.  I know the story and have seen the musical, but never read the book.  Truth is, I’m not so much better on the French writers than I am on the Russian writers. I tried reading The Count of Monte Cristo this year but just didn’t stick with it.  I also always meant to read The Red and the Black by Stendahl.

Third is Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  I never read it in school, so it just passed me by.  The story is so infused into our culture I almost FEEL I’ve read it, but I haven’t.  Clearly a work of great importance.

My last few: Gulliver’s Travels by Swift (another one where the story has worked its way into popular culture); Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (a favorite of a friend of mine, and one I’ve always meant to read).

So now I have books to add to my TBR list.  Have you read any of these and would you recommend them?  What’s on your list?

Last year I knocked a few books off my “must read” list — Middlemarch, Sherlock Holmes, Fahrenheit 451, The Woman in White, and Slaughterhouse Five.  I would highly recommend all of these, in case you’re putting together your own “must read before I die” lists.

19 Responses to “This weekend’s Literary Blog Hop: Great Works I Haven’t Read”

  1. Suzanne

    I’m lucky in that my local library started a classics reading group 18 months ago and many books that I was intimidated to read on my own (War&Peace, Crime&Punishment) were on the list for discussion.

    Despite the size, W&P is a very readable book and I enjoyed it.

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. parrish

    Love both crime & punishment & the brothers Karamazov, also read W&P a few years ago, love catch22,, Hugo etc. If you prefer French writers, have you tried Anatole France (my favourite- Revolt of the Angels) or if you fancy a modern Russian, how Olga Grushin’s book, The Dream Life of Sukhanov.

    • curlygeek04

      I haven’t read Anatole France or Olga Grushin. I’ll give War and Peace a try and see how it goes. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Leeswammes

    I haven’t read any of your list. If you read one a year, that would be something.

    I did read Slaughterhouse 5 and The Woman in White last year, too. They were good reads, I agree. I have Fahrenheit on my list.

  4. llevinso

    Just stopping over on the blog hop. I’ve just never had the want to even try and read War & Peace. Don’t know why. Doesn’t interest me I guess. On my blog one of my answers (I did it both ways) was The Woman in White!

  5. Emily

    Just hopping by to repay the visit. Looks like a lot of us mentioned one or more of the Russian greats to read before we do.

    I did read Les Miserables (in English translation) back in college when I took French for the first time and loved it. It may in fact be the *best* book I’ve read, though I wouldn’t say it was among my favorites.

  6. Kath


    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier and casting your vote for which one should be The Book. I’m so glad to see someone else made a list too 🙂 For your list, I read and loved Huck Finn when I was younger – lots of fun. The others I haven’t read as yet…

  7. Jillian

    I’m reading War and Peace right now. It’s excellent; nothing like I expected.

    I’ve never read the others, but I intend to. 🙂

  8. Em

    I have only read Le Rouge et le noir from this list (although I might have read an abridged version of Les Miserables), but would like to read Catch 22 and Huckleberry Finn.

  9. Loni

    You should definitely read Mark Twain. Reading Huck Finn connects you with the way it has been infused into our culture. It was the same when I read 1984 and finally understood where “Big Brother” came from.

  10. tony

    Les Miserables is a great read with two unforgettable characters in Valjean and Javert. Huck Finn is a must read as well…just not as much as Les Mis in my opinion. Haven’t read the others.

  11. Alley

    I’ve read Les Mis which is good but so long. I loved Catch 22 though. Definitely a must read!!

  12. Karoline

    oh gosh.. I have Les Mis on my list. I got a whole bunch of “chunky” books to read…they’re just so big it’s intimidating to pick up. One day though.

    I’d go for War and Peace. I have that one too 🙂


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