Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are these the top 10 novels?

 I read almost all of these. I'm not sure I agree that they sharpen the mind particularly, especially as they tend toward the best known works of these authors. 

What do you think of this list of 10 books?10 Novels That Will Sharpen Your Mind [Interactive]: Scientific American


I read most of them.  I'm not sure I agree that they sharpen the mind particularly. To that end, one of the works of Camus should have been included.  It's possible to argue for a place for Thackery's Vanity Fair, also, if only because it challenges the notion that a novel must include characters one can admire or sympathize with.  As for the novels selected, they tend toward the best known works of the featured authors.  


For instance, If anyone reads only one book by Jane Austen, it usually is Pride and Prejudice. But the author herself, fond as she was of it, considered it nor so deep: "The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story: an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonapart√©, or anything that would form a contrast and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and general epigrammatism of the general style." 
Persuasion is less "light, and bright, and sparkling." It was the one novel from Jane Austen selected for my comprehensive exams in grad school.

As for George Eliot's Middlemarch, I agree that there is much depth there in the stories of these characters and the long term effects of the choices that they make, though Daniel Deronda has much of that, as well, along with the question of identity, background, and belonging.

I would have liked for Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre to be included. It does deserve recognition -- if only for depicting a plain woman as a fascinating and strong heroine who will not let her sense of right and self be swallowed up by another -- a sort of inverse of the heroine of  Madame Bovary,  a book that make the list.

related post: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2012/01/utility-of-fiction.html



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