Or, for short, books I more or less dislike, but which have merit regardless. [All of which, in retrospect, I was forced to read for school - two for sophomore English in High School, one junior English, and the remainder in college.]
51. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand:
This is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world—and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies, but against those who needed him most, and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world’s motor—and the motive power of every man? You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the characters in this story. Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life—from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy—to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction—to the philosopher who becomes a pirate—to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph—to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad—to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels. You must be prepared, when you read this novel, to check every premise at the root of your convictions. This is a mystery story, not about the murder—and rebirth—of man’s spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events, a ruthlessly brilliant plot structure and an irresistible suspense. Do you say this is impossible? Well, that is the first of your premises to check.
Why you should read it: Okay, to start with, I find this book annoying. Ayn Rand has this way of giving three examples for every single idea in her books that makes for a long and tedious read at the best of times. Granted, there is merit to some of her ideas, but they are completely undermined by the pedestal upon which she places the idea of material wealth. Yes, money is good, but when you make it your morality.... In short, Atlas Shrugged should be read because it should be read - a simple case of, the idea is worth hearing about, even if the follow-through is annoying. In fact, if you go to the end and excise Galt's 73 page speach (yes, it is 73 pages of uninterupted monologue, I kid you not), you could probably get the gist of the book without having to bother with the rest of it. Which is probably the best course of action.
“For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors - between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.”
52. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri:
The Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321, is widely considered the central epic poem of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem's imaginative and allegorical vision of the Christian afterlife is a culmination of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church.
Why you should read it: The absolutely only reason to read this book is because it is the world-class standard for allusions. Dante pulls on every source in heaven and earth to create a guide, if you will, to the afterlife - and it is one of the most wondeful places to pull quotes and allusions of your own from. And there's this song by Lorenna McKennit called "Dante's Prayer" based off this that I just love, but... In fact, Inferno is the only real part of the story I actually enjoy. Purgatorio and Paradiso just bore me - particuarly when he starts going on about his beloved Beatrice. Again. But anyway, it's worth a read, even if it will probably bore you to tears. [I know I promised you more on this, popkin16, but this turns out to be all I actually have.]
"O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?"
53. The Iliad by Homer:
The Iliad is one of the two great epics of Homer, and is typically described as one of the greatest war stories of all time, but to say the Iliad is a war story does not begin to describe the emotional sweep of its action and characters: Achilles, Helen, Hector, and other heroes of Greek myth and history in the tenth and final year of the Greek siege of Troy.
Why you should read it: This, like The Divine Comedy, needs to be read soley so you can understand when other people are making reference to it. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm actually rather a fan of The Oddessy, but The Iliad is just this long, tired, and annoying war story that's nothing but a list of people killing other people in grisly manners without further depth or exploration.
"Let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.”
54. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald:
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
Why you should read it: If I had my way, no one would read this book. It is actually #3 on my list of worst books ever written. But the fact remains that, for some unknown reason, it remains a pillar of high school english classes, and ergo it will continue to be read. There is little to no plot in this book, but - and this is it's only redeeming quality - it's beautifully written. Seriously, it's like Fitzgerald took a whole bunch of lovely quotes and stiched them together into a book for the hell of it. The last two pages of this novel are beautifully done and almost worth all the pain and suffering it's taken to make it to them - and beautifully echoed at the end of The Hotel New Hampshire. Plus, Tom and Daisy remind me uncomfortably of my grandparents. So... yeah. Bad book, good quotes, great last line.
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
“…Something within her was crying for a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately – and the decision must be made by some force – of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality – that was close at hand.”
55. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne:
The Scarlet Letter is Nathaniel Hawthorne’ s classic tale of love, adversity, and community morals in Puritan New England. Forced to wear the scarlet “ A” after committing adultery and bearing a child, Hester Prynne lives on the outskirts of society; visited by the Reverend Dimmesdale and watched over by Roger Chillingworth, she is both at the mercy and defiant of the values that shape her fate and that of her child.
Why you should read this: As a fresh change of pace, I don't absolutely hate this book. The beginning is good. The end is good. It's the tedious bits in the middle that make this novel a painful read. It's too much of a morality story for my tastes, though, and I'd not include it except, well, it really does deserve to be read and this list is 125 books everyone should read in his or her life and not 125 books aadarshinah thinks are really cool.
“…Persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society.”