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by Emma Bilsborough, Sales & Marketing Coordinator


One of my favourite activities is rearranging my bookshelves at home. I do it quite regularly, to my partner's frustration, and find new ways to organise my little collection. I've got a lot of Children's books, so they generally end up using two units of shelving just by themselves, and the same with my fiction. This time, I decided to get all of my classic literature together in pride of place on the top shelves. I found that despite having loved literature for such a long time, studied it and worked with it, I am rather short on the classics. I thought the best thing to do would be to create a list of classic authors that I not only need more of on my shelves, but also that I need to read at all.

I figure it best to share the authors I've yet to read much of with you, and see whether you can suggest a few extras to add, or help me to decide which titles to start with. I don't mind a long reading list, I'm permanently behind on my reading due to always buying new books (thanks, bookbarn), so have at it with your recommendations.


Here's what I've got so far.

Novelists:

Ernest Hemingway

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Hemingway titles here)

Ernest Disapproval

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

First I'm getting started with Ernest Hemingway, who comes well-recommended, and I'm diving headfirst into A Farewell to Arms.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Fitzgerald titles here)

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“It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.” 

Everybody's read Great Gatsby, but I personally haven't gone any further with Fitzgerald, so I'll be reading Tender is the Night as soon as I'm done with Hemingway.

George Orwell

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Orwell titles here)

George Orwell at a typewriter

"In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

Reading George Orwell is likely to give me an existential crisis, but it will also recharge my activism, I'm sure, which I'm all for.

George Eliot

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Eliot titles here)

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"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

This quote alone has convinced me to read her works, because I also think my soul is wedded to Autumn. I am especially desperate for it after this ridiculously hot week.

Oscar Wilde

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"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being."

Reading Wilde surely is a right of passage in your twenties, and having paid his Dublin statue a visit last year I feel I ought to get to it.

Virginia Woolf

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Woolf titles here)

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“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” 

We've got a brilliant Virginia Woolf quote up on our wall at Bookbarn, about the magic of secondhand books. Every time I look at it I tell myself "Emma, get on and read some Virginia Woolf already".

Playwrights: 

Shakespeare

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William-Shakespeare

"We know what we are, but know not what we may be."

- Hamlet, Act 4 Scene 5

Don't worry, this is not to say that I've never read a single line of Shakespeare - anyone who's completed any study in English literature in the UK has at least read one of his plays - but I feel my shelves are woefully inadequate when it comes to my Shakespeare collection. My current favourite is Midsummer Night's Dream, but I'm intending to branch out a little, and have just purchased Troilus and Cressida from Bookbarn.

Marlowe

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“You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute,And now and then stab, when occasion serves.”

I studied Doctor Faustus in my first year of university, and found it incredible. However, I can't remember anything about it now so I think it's about time for a reread.

Tennessee Williams

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“What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains.” 

As above, except replace Doctor Faustus with Streetcar and university with college.

Poets:

Emily Dickinson

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"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all."
I struggle with poetry, sometimes I just can't connect with the words, can't figure out what they mean to me. But sometimes there are poets who slip through, who I enjoy, and I'm really hoping Emily Dickinson will be one of them.

Lord Byron

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Byron titles here)

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"Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray."

When learning about Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, naturally I came across their connection with Lord Byron. Anyone who has a part in leading Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein deserves a read, in my opinion.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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"You were made perfectly to be loved - and surely I have loved you, in the idea of you, my whole life long."
I see a lot of collections of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry coming into our Darwin room, tiny little everyman's editions, and I think it's about time I open one up and see what I find.

E.E. Cummings

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“Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star...” 

I have a book of E.E. Cummings' poetry on my classics shelf, which has yet to be looked at anymore than finding the page holding I carry your heart, one of the only poems I've ever really, really loved (the majority of the others were written by my sister). I know that if I loved that one as much as I did, I'm sure to love the rest.

Christina Rossetti

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"For there is no friend like a sisterIn calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, To fetch one if one goes astray,To lift one if one totters down, To strengthen whilst one stands"

Another poet who Bookbarn introduced me to; one of my fellow booksellers was a big lover of her work and recommended it to me. I'm hoping to love it the way that she did.

Sylvia Plath

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Plath titles here)

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“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” 

I absolutely love this quote, it is one of those which connects with you right away, without needing its context. However, I'd be a fool not to read it within its story, so I plan to do exactly that, and read her poetry too.

T.S. Eliot

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of T.S. Eliot titles here)

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“We shall not cease from explorationAnd the end of all our exploringWill be to arrive where we startedAnd know the place for the first time.”

I like the adventure of all of the quotes I've read of T. S. Eliot's, so I'm definitely tempted to dive into the work itself.

Sappho

(Shop Bookbarn's collection of Sappho titles here)

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“You may forget butlet me tell youthis: someone insome future timewill think of us” 

The final poet, and final bit of classic lit on my list, is of course Sappho, absolute icon that she was, we also recommended her work in our LGBT History Month Must Reads.

So, that's the list at present, and I'm aware it's already plenty long enough, but I love having books to look forward to, so please do recommend your favourite classic authors.

I love knowing that there are so many books out there in the world that I have left to experience. It might be bittersweet, knowing I can't possibly read every single one of them, no matter how much I'd love to do so, but what a lucky position to be in, too many wonderful books to choose from.


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