Some books are like a light meal. Memoirs of a Geisha, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Joy Luck Club all come to mind. They are pleasant, enjoyable to read, and just filling enough to take off the edge. Other books are like a healthy snack — tasty, good while it lasts, but not at all filling, like many young adult novels, and nearly anything by Stephen King. Of course, there is also book candy — those delicious, melt-in-your mouth reads that are thrilling every now and then, but eat too much, and you get a stomach ache. Twilight, anyone? Better yet, how about 50 Shades of Gray? (Did I actually read this? I plead the fifth!).
But I am an avid reader with a voracious appetite. For readers such as I, only one thing can feed our never-ending hunger: Great Books. What are Great Books, you ask? Well, Wikipedia’s article has a very simple definition: “The great books are those books that are believed to constitute an essential foundation in the literature of Western culture.” Philosopher Mortimer Adler goes on to define great books by these three fundamental criteria:
- the book has contemporary significance; that is, it has relevance to the problems and issues of our times;
- the book is inexhaustible; it can be read again and again with benefit
- the book is relevant to a large number of the great ideas and great issues that have occupied the minds of thinking individuals for the last 25 centuries.
These definitions are all true, but I also believe that great books and great works of literature are the books that nourish our minds and raise within us the questions which we never dared to ask ourselves, the moral dilemmas that are common to all of humankind. Great books examine human nature, tear it open, and resurrect it in a believable and honest way. They reach beyond the superficial surface and grab our spirits until we are left shaken and stirred and inspired.
Too much? Sorry, I got a little carried away. I have been very busy lately devouring great books, both in English and Spanish. Here is a list of a few great books which I have read (or re-read) fairly recently. This is not necessarily a list of favorites, for it is very difficult to create such a list…it is far too long. But here are a few which are very much worth reading. Haven’t tried these books yet? Then grab one, and curl up in your favorite reading spot. Already read the entire list? Well then, that’s just…great.
10 Great Great Books
1. Brave New World — Aldous Huxley
3. A Tale of Two Cities — Charles Dickens
4. Animal Farm — George Orwell
5. The Odyssey — Homer
6. Mansfield Park — Jane Austen
7. Twelfth Night — Williams Shakespeare
8. Moby Dick — Herman Melville
9. Atlas Shrugged — Ayn Rand
10. Cien Años de Soledad — Gabriel Garcia Marquez