What’s this, what’s this, Emma is completely and shamelessly jumping on a bandwagon? Yes, hello, I’ll make myself comfortable and explain. Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and Bookish (two descriptors could not be more apt), and it is a weekly meme in which you create lists (because who doesn’t love a good list) of ten books that fit the given theme. This week’s theme is Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Haven’t/Want To Read From X Genre
Sidenote: I hate the term ‘classics’ and ‘literary fiction’ and some of these fit into that and some are perhaps ‘modern classics’ but let’s not have my rant on the whole issue of prestige and the literary canon and let’s just get started with my list…
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
This is more of a ‘I can’t believe I put it down and never picked it back up’ pick. I bought this on a whim because I saw it second-hand in an Oxfam bookshop and I can never resist reasonably-priced tomes in charity bookshops. And I was loving it, adoring the narrative style, the characters, their voices, and yet I just put it down in favour of quicker gratification to be had by devouring YA novels over summer. So I hope to pick it back up soon.
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I’m so easily swayed by Booktubers. My previous experience of this novel was the film Matilda, which remains one of my favourite films from my childhood, when the eponymous character takes down a copy of the novel and starts reading ‘Call me Ishmael-‘. So those immortal opening words have always somewhat haunted me, and yet I never felt compelled to pick up the book itself (‘American Lit eww’ said my extremely prejudiced mind), until I saw both Ron Lit and Baz Pierce rave about it. I need to read this book, I really do.
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
I believe it’s a widespread opinion that Charlotte Bronte was actually kind of a (whisper it) bitch. By far the most famous of the Bronte sisters because of Jane Eyre which is a book that… I thought was okay, good even, but I didn’t quite understand the undying love a lot of people have for it. I can drum up an enthusiastic approval for reading this book if you’ve never read any 19th century fiction before but otherwise I kind of think ‘yeah it was good.’ end of discussion. Wuthering Heights, similarly, I enjoyed for the purpose of using it to discuss various themes, tropes, imagery so on and so forth but I had a lot of problems with it. Enter Anne. The fantastic Kate Beaton leads me to believe that Anne did not write the brooding dashing heroes her sisters favoured (Heathcliff and Rochester are, at best, ‘problematic favourites’, come on) and so I should really read her stuff. I’ve also heard that this is considered one of the first feminist novels so, yes please, I need to be on that.
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I think I started reading this but I can never be quite sure because the spine of my copy of it is alarmingly well-kept if I did indeed read a bit of it at some point. I also watched some of the TV adaptation starring Gemma Arterton, to the point I can’t entirely be sure if I’m just remembering that. The point is, I need to read some Hardy. I’m approximately 70% sure I won’t like it and will find the extended descriptions of hills and skies absolutely tedious but I should give it a shot. Other Hardy novels can equally be substituted here, particularly The Mayor of Casterbridge which sounds so good.
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I think I actually started this previously and, much like Anna Karenina, I was enjoying it but put it down. I need to pick it back up, if nothing else then Emma Bovary, it’s a requirement for me to read a literary namesake right? (Looking at you Emma Woodhouse)
- Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
All I know about this is it’s a Gothic novella published in the late 19th century that is one of the earlier examples of vampire fiction. Possibly (/definitely) an influence on the later Dracula, the protagonist Laura wishes for a female friend, enter Carmilla, a seductive figure who turns out to be a vampire, obviously. Maybe possibly (/definitely) lesbian undertones – that’s it, that’s all I know, but I definitely need to get round to this because I adored Dracula and am intrigued to see earlier vampire fiction (see also: John Polidori’s The Vampyre).
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
I haven’t read a single bit of Chaucer, not even the smallest extract, and I feel very ashamed of this fact. Obviously, this is in Middle English and whilst translations are widely available, if I’m going to spend time reading it, I’d like to really take my time and have a crack at the Middle English version. The stuff I work with at university is Early Modern, so slightly later, but I’ve stumbled across a few Middle English ballads when I took a class on Robin Hood so hopefully I can put those skills to use and read some earlier stuff in the case of Chaucer.
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Everyone knows the basic gist of this novel so I won’t go into it but basically I’m intrigued primarily because I’ve heard the writing is just beautiful. I’ve read snippets of Nabokov’s poetry and they inspired largely nonsensical reactions like ‘just, how, how do you do the thing with the words???’ so clearly I need to stop delaying and actually read this.
- The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
Insert pretty much any Atwood novel here in lieu of the title arbitrarily chosen. I read The Handmaid’s Tale a good five or six years or so ago and I adored it. It was my first real brush with dystopian and/or speculative fiction. It intrigued me, it terrified me, it made me angry, all good feelings for a book to stir up, and yet despite this I never ventured elsewhere in Atwood’s ouevre which is shameful. I should correct that.
- Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Oh Virginia, Virginia, Virginia, I was forced (I mean required) to read Jacob’s Room and I hated every second of it to the point where I boldly proclaimed Virginia Woolf was not for me. I also wrote off pretty much all modernist texts after brief brushes with them around this time at university. However, I need to stop being uppity and try again, be patient, and actually give this a go. I’ve heard it’s wonderful and so many people love Virginia Woolf’s stuff and I feel ashamed to admit that I hastily decided I hated her work based on one bad experience. So we’ll see, hopefully at some point soon.
And that was my Top Ten Tuesday – did I do okay? Was that acceptable? Hopefully yes!
Have you read any of these books, if so what did you think, if not would you consider also picking them up in the foreseeable future?