Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Classics often get a bad rap for being boring and hard to follow. What you need is a smooth transition from reading Harlequinn romance novels or sci-fi to Shakespeare. Here are a few suggestions I have. They're all masterpieces of American literature that are engaging and easy to get into. None of them are like Moby Dick: 1200 pages and dense. Want something that's enjoyable but still top-quality? Give these a try:

The rating system is based on how difficult a book is to read, not how good it is. All the books at Hansisgreat come highly recommended.

* <-----------> ** <-----------> *** <-----------> **** <----------> *****
Easy - - Pretty Easy - - Moderate - - Pretty Challenging - - Challenging

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, by Carson McCullers
$7.95 at Bn.com ISBN: 0618565868
*** (moderate)
A weird and touching story about a love triangle in a small town. The story opens as Miss Amelia, a manly spinster who's the richest lady in town, falls in love with her homosexual, hunchback cousin. How could anything possibly go wrong? The setting is lonely and desolate, comes alive as the love blossoms, and then quickly flickers out as the romance winds up on the rocks. There's a great violent confrontation or two, and the amusement-starved townspeople make a fun backdrop. Anyone who's had a bad experience with love will relate to this one. As the title suggests, it's a sad story, but love stories often are.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
$11.65 at Bn.com ISBN: 0743273567
*** (moderate)
What's the difference between having money and having class? Old money and new money? This is a good question for those of us who drive luxury SUVs and walk around the grocery store having obnoxious conversations on our cell-phones. Gatsby has been in love with the wealthy and vivacious Daisy since he was a poor boy carrying her golf clubs. When he grows up to become a wealthy man of means, he seems destined to capture the heart of his dream girl. How it all plays out is both tragic and comical. Daisy and her pals at the yacht club are like so many people we all know: with lots of money and no class. This was required reading when I was in high school: for once America's educators got it right.
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
$12.80 at Bn.com ISBN: 0142000655
*** (moderate)
Love, rivalry, and betrayal are all themes in this great American novel. Two sons reenact the story of Cain and Abel, fighting for their father's love under the shadow of a mother who never loved them. The father, Adam Trask, whose story takes up the first part of the book, is a kind and generous man who makes some serious mistakes out of misguided affection and occassional carelessness: a perfect anti-hero anyone can relate to. Steinbeck is a beautiful writer, and the story is a bit long but has enough going on to keep it moving. A great coming-of-age story.

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