What is your favorite (or first favorite) classic?

Posted July 19, 2020 by Lory in discussions / 22 Comments

The Classics Club has revived their monthly meme, with a “rebooted” question for summer 2020: “What is your favorite classic?” So I’ve co-opted it for this month’s discussion challenge.

It’s too hard to designate one favorite classic book, but I well remember the first time I read a “classic” and actually enjoyed it, showing me that having a “favorite classic book” was even a possibility. It was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and I devoured it during a Puget Sound ferry ride for some class trip or other when I was about 13 or 14 years old.

Previous encounters with classics that I thought I should read, like Pride and Prejudice, or books schoolteachers thought teenagers should read, like A Separate Peace, had left me confused, bored, and discouraged. But Steinbeck’s brief tale pulled me right in — it was simply written enough for me to understand and emotionally involving enough that I didn’t want to stop. The ending left me in tears but knowing that I had had a new and wonderful reading experience: I had loved reading a classic. There would be many more to come.

Do you remember the first time you enjoyed reading a classic? Or what is your favorite of all time?

Linked in the 2020 Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight

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22 responses to “What is your favorite (or first favorite) classic?

  1. I never met a classic I didn’t like. It seems like lots of people didn’t like having to read books that were assigned, but I have always loved it when someone else suggests something I should read.
    In graduate school I had a “comprehensive” reading list for a big oral exam. I read everything on it, but it took me a couple of tries to get into Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Then I took the book to the pool one afternoon, found my way into it, and loved it.

    • Unlike you, I often have serious difficulties with assigned reading. Sometimes my opinion changes with time (really, I think I was just too young for many books.) I read To the Lighthouse in college, then tried it again a few years ago and still didn’t get on with it. Next time I try I will make sure it’s by the water, that is probably the appropriate setting.

  2. Cheryl

    War & Peace, they did a BBC TV adaptation of it when I was about 12 and that was it, I was hooked. Antony Hopkins was wonderful as Pierre who stole my heart before Mr Darcy could get a look-in.

  3. I remember really enjoying Of Mice and Men too, but my class studied it in high school and went over and over every line so much it kind of took the sheen off it (I think school always does such a bad job of getting people to enjoy the classics!). It’s definitely a beautifully written book though, and that ending has impact!
    The first classic I remember falling in love with though was Wuthering Heights, and it’s still one of my favourites to this day! The characters are so horrible and unlikeable, but I think it just has such a strong, unforgettable atmosphere. Plus it encouraged me to read books by Anne and Charlotte Bronte too, and I loved them too!

    • Jane Eyre was my Bronte fave but I encountered it later, in college. It took me longer to appreciate Wuthering Heights but I know for lots of people it was a gateway book.

  4. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

    ‘Wuthering Heights’ is my favourite, and has been for over 50 years. I liked ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘Black Beauty’ and The Water Babies’ as well, but they never gripped my heart the way ‘Wuthering Heights’ has.

  5. I think the first one I fell in love with was Antigone (Sophocles) which we read in 9th grade. I never liked the classics one reads early like Huck Finn but I always liked Shakespeare.

    • Interesting, why was it so compelling for you? We read it also in high school and even did a production in drama club … so somber.

  6. Of Mice and Men isn’t a favourite of mine because I studied it at school after the teacher abruptly changed to it from To Kill a Mockingbird, but I can understand why people enjoy it. I think the first classic that I enjoyed is either 1984 by George Orwell or Dracula by Bram Stoker, but I can’t really remember because I read them back to back.

  7. Oooft! What a TOUGH question! And it raises way too many questions about what “counts” as a classic in my head 😅 I think 1984 falls into the “modern classic” category, but that’s the first one I remember really loving. The first classic-classic I remember loving was probably Dickens’ David Copperfield. But since those, there have been simply too many to narrow it down!

    • Modern classics count! They don’t have to be old. Just those kinds of books people are usually telling you you ought to read and you don’t think you will like. Now there’s no stopping you, it’s clear. 🙂

  8. I suppose it depends on your definition of “classic.” I’ve been reading children’s classics, both old and more modern, since I was able to read chapter books: Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Little Women, Eight Cousins, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables, At the Back of the North Wind, The Princess and the Goblins, The Princess and Curdie, Swallows and Amazons, Little House in the Big Woods, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… I could choose maybe 5 favorites among them all, but only with difficulty.

    I have a more ambivalent relationship with adult classics. There are a few authors I love (Shakespeare!), but aside from those few, I feel embarrassed and perhaps even a bit ashamed by how few of the widely-accepted canon of classics I have actually read.

    Incidentally, somehow I got confused about your new venture and though you were closing down The Emerald City Book Review. I’m delight to discover I was wrong!

    • It’s more of a merger than a shutting down. It may be a little confusing for a while but things will sort themselves out in time.

      I should have specified here “classics that People Who Think They Know say are for adults.” Like you I always loved the children’s classics, and still do. I don’t think there should be any upper age range for those. As for not finding many so-called “adult” classics that you enjoy, I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed about. It’s an enormous reading world out there and some parts of it appeal to us more than others. I think it’s important to just keep an open mind, and not cut out any individual book because of the label someone else has put on it. Classic or not, what matters is your response.

  9. Mine was Wuthering Heights at the age of 16. It was a shortened version I believe, but I loved the story, although it’s quite heavy for a girl so young. But I still love gothic stories so I guess it was a perfect fit at the moment.

    • I find it interesting that Wuthering Heights seems to have been a “first favorite” for many.

  10. I think my favorites have changed over the years. Two that stick out though are The Scarlet Pimpernel which I had to read in high school, but loved, and Daddy Long-Legs which I picked up on my own after it was mentioned in a book I was reading!