Monday, July 9, 2012

A Call Back to the Classics

I remember one day when I was in sixth grade, I was reading one of those stereotypical "teen girl books" while our substitute teacher read a book that looked older than anyone in the room.

I asked her about it, and she said, “I’m trying to read all of the classics.”

Her comment confused me for a long time. I wondered what made certain books classic, and who decides what books get this title. It seemed odd that she would take a task upon herself that had such inherent ambiguity.

Only recently has it occurred to me that the label classic isn’t as important as the fact that if people are still reading a piece decades, or in some cases centuries, after its first publishing, then it might be worth reading.

Labels are often deceiving. This label, however, is nearly always well-deserved.

This summer, I decided to read the novels that have sparked intellectual repartee for years. I’ve found these critically acclaimed pieces to be entertaining, thought-provoking and beautifully crafted.

If you find yourself in search of something to add to your reading list, here my top picks:

1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Humans are innately terrified of the unknown, and the biggest unknown is the future. Holden Caulfield’s future is up in the air. He has virtually nothing going for him, and when an opportunity presents itself, he throws it away with his cynicism. While he isn’t the most likeable narrator, he represents the insecurities and worries that we all possess, making Catcher a novel to which nearly everyone can relate.

2. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

This apocalyptic sci-fi novel satirizes the lunacy of human nature, and the illogical actions of man. Vonnegut spins his tale through concise chapters with quirky headings like, “A Tentative Tangling of Tendrils,” “Vice-president in Charge of Volcanoes” and “Bicycles of Afghanistan.” With Vonnegut’s imagination conjuring mysteries like Bokononism, Ice-Nine, and the island republic San Lorenzo, it’s best to go into this one with an open mind.

3. 1984 by George Orwell

1984 was written thirty-five years prior to its title year as a representation of what Orwell believed the world could be like in 1984. Now that we’re twenty-eight years beyond that point, many disregard Orwell’s warnings, and even mock his inaccuracies. George Orwell is not a fortune-teller; whether the novel takes place in the year 1984, 2012, or five million doesn't matter. What’s important for the reader to realize is that while 1984 is very entertaining, it was written not just for the reader’s enjoyment, but also to stop a treacherous fate that humanity could potentially be hurdling towards.

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