My recent struggles with great literature
Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I became an avid reader while in junior high. My main fare being fantasy novels. Over the years my tastes have matured somewhat but I still enjoy a good epic fantasy. Give me some sword & sorcery and I'm usually a happy camper. A few years ago I picked up a leatherbound copy of "Lord of the Rings" from the SFBC. This instantly ignited a passion for leatherbound books. As luck would have it I received a mailing from Easton Press who just happen to produce such books at fairly reasonable prices. Needless to say I jumped at their "100 greatest novels" offer. Even better I would only have to select the ones I wanted upon signing up. I checked off 29 out of the 100 selections confident in my choices. Here's where my trouble began.

The first book I received was "Moby Dick". I had the perception that the story focused on Ahab's obsession with hunting the white whale. To my dismay it turns out that 90% of the book details the minutia of whaling and operating a ship. This being of no interest to me I had a very hard time getting through the book, something I haven't experienced in a long time.

If that had been the only such occurrence things would have been fine. To date I have finished 8 books with about half not living up to my expectations. Even more frustrating is that I remember enjoying some of these works having read them earlier in my life. I can't quite figure this out. Either these books are terribly overrated, I'm not as bright as I'd like to think, or my years of reading lighter stories has damaged my palate with regards to the finer works of literature.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007 3:58 PM


You're not alone, singate...I know I have tried to tackle a number of widely-praised literature and just found it cold and impenetrable to the average reader.


Thursday, July 5, 2007 8:04 AM


It's ironic that two of you have discounted "Treasure Island" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" because so far those have been my two favorites out of the books I have received.

Jerrod, I actually have considered what you suggest. The good thing about the 100 greatest package is that the books are a little less expensive than in the smaller sets. Also, a lot of those subsets include many books I have no interest in. I have tried the E-bay route but the price always ends up around the same or higher than I would have paid anyway.

Thanks for the input everyone.

Thursday, July 5, 2007 4:25 AM


Moby Dick is possible one of the most boring books of all time ( and I say this as an English teacher) Also I suggest you skip Treasure Island:)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 5:56 PM


I had about half of the 100 Greatest Books series from Easton Press before dropping it. They keep coming out with better editions of several books as well as not enjoying every one of them.

With them, and when I can afford it, here's what I do:

Browse through their catalog and look for specific books you enjoy that are put together in their own special editions instead of lumped up with others. Get their LOTR set, as well as the maps and such. Then move on to the Narnia set or Wrinkle in Time. I ALMOST bought into the 13 Horror book set, when they came out with an exact edition of Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, printed just as it was when it was first released and with all the original illustrations. The only difference is it's Easton Press quality.
I'm soo glad I didn't get the edition that was lumped in with the 13 Horrors.

In the 100 Greatest, they have one book of Arabian Nights. If you know you love it, why not get their complete, uncut set of them all?

Anyway, that's what I'd suggest. Forget the 100 Greatest. They sell on eBay for less than you pay for them brand new anyway. They just don't hold the same value as their others. Buy the better editions of the ones you love. It'll be money well spent with a lot less regrets.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 6:34 AM


If ya haven't read it, find Robert Heinlein's Glory Road. Sword and sorcery by the greatest sci-fi author ever, sex and serious themes all mixed. It may not be great literature, and probably won't be available in hardback, but it's way worth reading.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 4:01 AM


Actually, getting paid by the word is still standard.

You have to realize that a lot of "Classics" are only classic 'cause they're old and still extant. something like 70% of books from any given historical period are simply lost to us. The remaining 30% is considered sacrosanct Classics simply because we know of it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 8:45 PM


Might wanna try reading "In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathanial Philbrick -- it's about the event that Melville based "Moby Dick" on -- the sinking of a whaling ship by an enraged sperm whale in the South Pacific. Also, many 18th and 19th century writers got paid by the word or worse, the column inch if it was serialized, so writing way too much minutia became kinda S.O.P.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 6:11 PM


Okay, *Some* is great, and Under the *Sea*

And some of my faves author-wise are Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Alexander Dumas

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 6:08 PM


Like you, I am a huge fan of fantasy and such but I also love a lot of "classic literature". Spme is great and some just leaves me cold. Never tried Moby Dick myself but I've heards much the same as you've said from several others. My big disapointments so far are 20,000 Leagues Under the Sean and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I love the written word but these are just a bit too wordy for me. I can never get past the first chapter of Hunchback and 20,000 Leagues has too much science ans not enough story.


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