Archive for December, 2010

Why should I read “Anna Karenina”?

Tolstoy unflinchingly touches on the big questions in life. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is the right social system for a country? What is the right way to model romantic relationships in society?

If you’ve had these questions in your head from time to time, you might resonate with his treatment of them. He doesn’t necessarily try to answer them directly. Instead, he shows what might be the consequences of taking certain stances on the issues. Some of the characters consciously pick over these questions. Others haplessly encounter the results without realizing that there was even a question or a stance to be taken.

The philosophical merit aside, this moving story is still worth a read. It takes you through the lives of people you probably know or will meet. You will learn something about them if not about yourself.

I had some difficulty wading through some of the pages toward the middle of the book but toward the end, I couldn’t put it down. It was well worth the time.


Why should I read “The Count of Monte Cristo”?

If the word, “epic,” wasn’t careworn and haggard from its recent binge of overindulgence across the interwebs and beyond, I would readily apply it to this tale of revenge. Dumas paints an enormous mural, each section breathtaking.

I’m not a vengeful person so I don’t readily relate to the motivating force behind the arc of the plot but Dumas draws me in anyhow with the beautiful imagery, the deep characters and the fantastic circumstances. He brings you along a journey where only you, he and the count are the ones who really know what’s going on.

I had a hard time keeping track of who was who through most of the beginning of the book. Luckily, Dumas doesn’t introduce too numerous a cast of characters. If you get confused or frustrated by not knowing who is who in the beginning, soldier on anyhow.

Why should I read the classics?

It is not the fault of my many excellent English teachers that my exposure to the classics in high school and college was lean. In high school, I filled my electives with extra math and science. It wasn’t until college that I really started to love literature in all its forms. I made time in my engineering curriculum to read a bit of poetry and some fiction. I even seriously considered changing my major to English but that is another story.

Fast forward to real life. I didn’t remember my love of literature until relatively recently. I dusted off my library card and took a list of recommendations from a friend to my local library and recommenced my education.

This is the first of a series on specific classics of literature. It represents my taking a stand against the obvious trend cheekily intimated by Twitterature that contemporary society’s patience for meandering through beautiful prose or getting goosebumps over a great work of poetry is waning. I will attempt to explain why I think each work is worthwhile. If you don’t already, may this series inspire you to fall in love with the classics.