I had the good fortune this week of delivering a talk at the Muhlenberg College Board of Associates Meeting on the topic of Great Books. I spoke with the audience for about 20-25 minutes about what I consider to be great books and why they matter. The main argument I made about the importance of books is that they connect us as people. I am an unreserved humanist; I believe that human beings have the power to improve themselves, that education is crucial to develop of an informed society, and that books allow readers to experience the worlds of others.
The audience was one of professionals from many fields but very few English Literature majors; however, their interest in reading and books was heartening for me. They wanted to hear suggestions about what books I would recommend.
In my classes, I sometimes do something I call — Chuck’s recommended readings. I ask the students to write the title and author and then tell them that what they do with that information is entirely up to them. Since several of the attendees of this talk asked for further suggestions, I decided to put together a list, very abbreviated I admit, of books I would recommend. Some of them I consider among the best and most important books ever written, and some I simply found to be wonderful and entertaining.
Now, the list:
Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings
Agee, James and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451.
Brown, Larry. Fay.
Cervantes, Miguel De. Don Quixote.
Delaney, Frank. Ireland.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.
Doyle, Roddy. A Star Called Henry.
Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose.
Gaiman, Neil. American Gods.
Grass, Günter. The Tin Drum.
Helprin, Mark. A Soldier of the Great War.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Pacific and Other Stories.
Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom The Bell Tolls.
Homer. The Iliad.
. . . . . . . The Odyssey.
King, Stephen. Hearts In Atlantis.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Stand.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Complete Works.
Rice, Anne. Interview With the Vampire.
Rowling, J. K. The entire Harry Potter series.
Shakespeare, William. The Collected Works.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Shadow of the Wind.
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief.
I am certain there are many books I have forgotten to mention. This is neither intended to be all-inclusive, nor is it meant to be authoritarian. I hope that someone may find a book or books from this list, read them, and enjoy them.