Look ma, my books report are done #letsblogoff

big pile of books

There is no one best book, so I’m not even going to try. In fact, the best books aren’t even the best books, but only contain best parts of books. But I’m sure if you put all the best parts together, it would make one really crappy book.

So, at the risk of writing one really crappy blog post, I am going to put some of the best parts of my favorite books together below and tell you why. However, I warn you that for you to understand why all these parts matter, you will have to read the books in their entirety.

You have the rest of the summer. Labor Day is this coming Monday.

I’d get crackin’

Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 3 — John Steinbeck
For illustrating the greatest human attribute is tenacity and by writing a skillfully metaphoric narrative about the indomitability of the human spirit.

The Awakening, Chapter 28 — Kate Chopin
The medium is the message. Chopin’s chapter illustrates how the desire once attained is almost always anti-climactic to the anticipation and thrill of the chase. Stay thirsty, my friends.*

The Secret Sharer, Chapter 1 — Joseph Conrad
For teaching me the importance of dotting the i and crossing the t. Because small details like typos can sink a ship, they matter immensely.

The Scarlet Letter, all of it — Nathaniel Hawthorne
For showing me that even in the most austere conditions, the human spirit seeks out the aesthetic. Read the book again (because you haven’t since high school) and pay attention to Hawthorne’s use of color. Genius.

Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 8 — Mark Twain
Steer the boat that is your life with what you know in your heart, not what you see with your eyes. Most things seen in the present are merely illusions or the product of wishful thinking.

I was going to dig into some contemporary books I read recently, but maybe those will be more complete book reports. The classics above is enough reading material for you get through before Labor Day.

*I borrowed that from Dox Equis beer commercials and the most interesting man in the world. Seemed appropriate.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What’s the best book you’ve ever read? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

9 Replies to “Look ma, my books report are done #letsblogoff”

  1. The story is only about 50 pages, but there is so much there, you will be reading and re-reading Conrad the rest of your life. And The Heart of Darkness is a good book too, but it is looooonnnnggggg 🙂

  2. Homework? Before school even starts? Looks like I know what I’ll be doing this holiday weekend! Thanks for a trip down memory lane. I read 3/5 of this list, but a long time ago…

  3. Most people read these because they are forced to in high school and end up hating them. No teenager could possibly understand Scarlet Letter or The Awakening as they deal with mature human sexuality.

    Start with Conrad.. the book is only 50 pages long 🙂

  4. Fascinating subject today. I have read something in the neighborhood of a thousand books, but the only one on this list that I’ve read is “The Grapes of Wrath!” I knew at once, though, that the chapter you suggested is about the turtle crossing the road. I recently read it again some forty years after the first reading, so it’s very fresh in my mind. There was a lot to recommend throughout, but that chapter probably is my favorite.

    For some strange reason I missed most of the “must-reads” when I went through high school, and I have always been glad that I did. I read “The Grapes of Wrath” as an adult, not a high school student, so it made a much bigger impact that it would have, had I been forced to read it as a 17-year-old and write a book report.

  5. May I also recommend strongly The Secret Sharer? It is only 50 pages long. I too missed most of the “must-reads” because I went to a Catholic high school and most of the “must reads” deal with immorality.. so many of these were discovered in college and re-read when I got a bit older. No 17 year-old has the life experience to understand any of this. Not really.

    My kids were forced to read Grapes as well… by me. so far, nobody has called “child services” on me for that. The “turtle chapter” has become our shorthand for “what is this book/article/painting/artwork REALLY about.. really, really about. The “turtle chapter” is Steinbeck’s way of saying “understand this chapter and you’ll understand the whole book.” Every work has a “turtle chapter” if you look hard enough for it.. Most people miss it and it speaks volumes that you knew what is was immediately.

  6. Conrad is heavy and dense… like Heart of Darkness… really dense.. but The Secret Sharer is only 50 pages… and because it is a short story, the points come across quickly…. but it is something you can read 50 times and find something new every time…

  7. I’ve read a number of novels by Joseph Conrad and have enjoyed them. He is a little difficult at times. One of the tougher ones to get into was “The Secret Agent,” which I read because I’d heard it was one of his best. It was tough sledding in the beginning. Quite frankly, I found myself wondering why some consider this novel to be one of Conrad’s finest, but there were enough of Conrad’s marvelous sentences to keep me in the book. Then I got to the part where Winnie learned of her brother Stevie’s fate, and Mr. Verloc’s role in it, Verloc being Winnie’s husband. From then to the end of the book it was a ride in a rocket! Conrad’s depiction of Winnie’s feelings, culminating in her own ghastly actions, must surely rank among the very finest scenes in literature. It was just astounding, especially when one considers that Conrad wrote at a time when women’s thoughts and feelings were considered trivial, if they were thought of at all. But those passages that revolved around Winnie’s reaction to Stevie’s death could have been written yesterday, in the sense of getting down to how a woman in her place would feel. As for the sentences… well, only the masters wrote at that level, and Joseph Conrad was certainly one of those.

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