dimanche, mai 9

canada book week

in honor of canada book week, history television has posted a timeline of great books. how many have you read? i've put a little (y) beside the ones that i've finished. mind you, my education is in english lit, so honestly i'd be fairly ashamed to say that i haven't read most of these. i'm curious to see if anyone has any they'd like to add? comment me the title, a brief synopsis, and why you think it belongs on the list.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (y)
c. 2000 BC, Mesopotamia, Anonymous
A work of about 3000 lines written on 12 stone tablets and found at the ruins of Nineveh. The stories revolve around Gilgamesh, a powerful king of Uruk, and his friend Enkidu.

The Iliad / The Odyssey (y)
c.700 BC, Homer, Greece
These two epic poems attributed to Homer became the models for all forthcoming Western epic poetry.

The Aeneid (y)
c.70-19 BC, Virgil, Italy
With the epic poem chronicling the adventures of Aeneas, Virgil took up his place as the greatest of all the Latin poets.

The Bible (y)
Since about the 4th century, the Bible is the term used to describe the Christian Scriptures. It is a well-known fact that the Bible is the top-selling book throughout history.

Beowulf (y)
c. 8th century, unknown, England
The oldest existing epic poem written in English tells the story of Beowulf, a warrior, who slays both Grendel (a water monster) and his mother. In the second part of the poem, Beowulf fights a dragon, wins, and then dies a glorious, celebrated death.

The Divine Comedy (y)
c.1300, Dante Alighieri, Italy
Divided into three parts, the vernacular poem recounts the poet's journey through Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.

The Canterbury Tales (y)
Begun 1386, Geoffrey Chaucer, England
From the brilliant and bawdy Wife of Bath to the idolized hero of "The Knight's Tale," Chaucer's work illustrates the stories of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. It represents life in 14th century England.

The Faerie Queen (y)
1590, books 1-3, 1596, books 1-6, Edmund Spenser, b. England, lived in Ireland after 1580.
Written by the "poet's poet" Edmund Spenser, "The Faerie Queen" influenced English poetry for centuries. One part romantic epic, one part 'courtesy book,' one part allegory, the poem tells the story of the Faerie Queen and her subjects in Faeryland, the Faeries or Elves.

Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth (y)
c.1595-1608, William Shakespeare, England
Many believe Shakespeare the greatest writer ever to have lived. With a canon that includes 37 plays, 154 sonnets and two long poems, it's hard to choose the best, but you can't really go wrong with the great tragedies—encompassing some of the most beautiful language, structure, character and theme written in English. (**as an aside, bard on the beach is doing macbeth this year....)

Don Quixote
1605, Miguel de Cervantes, Spain
A hugely successful book often considered one of the first modern novels, Don Quixote's self-involved title character sets off adventures influenced by his own obsession with chivalric romance.

Paradise Lost (y)
1667, first edition, John Milton, England
The greatest epic poem ever written in English, "Paradise Lost" tells the story of Satan's fall from heaven, and Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Robinson Crusoe (Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe) (y)
1719, Daniel Defoe, England
With the extraordinary tale of Robinson Crusoe's survival on a deserted island, Dafoe wrote what many critics consider to be the first novel in English.

1740, Samuel Richardson, England
The story of a young maidservant who successfully defends her virtue by fighting off the advances of her lecherous employer, Pamela is the first novel to be written in epistolary form.

Tom Jones (y)
1749, Henry Fielding, England
Fielding's masterpiece brings middle-class English existence to life in fiction.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy
1760, Laurence Sterne, England
Expanding the conception of a novel that's simply a reflection of outside events, Sterne writes himself into the story while recording thoughts, ideas and imaginings.

"Kubla Khan" (y)
1797-1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The closest thing to stream of consciousness the Romantic period can claim, Coleridge wrote this poetic fragment just as it had appeared to him in a dream hours earlier.

Pride and Prejudice (y)
1813, Jane Austen, England
One of the greatest female writers of the 19th century, Austen also wrote Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Waverley (y)
1814, Sir Walter Scott, Scotland
The first example of the historical novel, Scott dramatizes the events surrounding the Jacobite uprising in Scotland in 1745.

Frankenstein (y)
1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, England
With the gothic tale of Dr. Frankenstein, who creates a monster that inevitably destroys him, Shelley created the horror genre.

"Don Juan" (y)
1819-1824, Lord Byron, England
The quintessential Romantic poet writing the quintessential Romantic poem, Byron was one of the most popular poets of his day, and Don Juan is his obvious masterpiece.

The Last of the Mohicans (y)
1826, James Fenimore Cooper, United States
A part of the Leatherstocking series, the novel, as with the others in the series, examines the conflict between wilderness and civilization.

"In Memoriam A.H.H." (y)
1833, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, England
The sudden death of his friend, Arthur Hallum, inspired Tennyson to write this glorious tribute to male friendship.

Jane Eyre (y)
1847, Charlotte Brontë, England
Mr. Rochester employs Jane Eyre, who falls passionately in love with him; only to find out he's married to the 'madwoman in the attic.'

Wuthering Heights (y)
1847, Emily Brontë, England
The passionate, troubled relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff has become archetypal, and Brontë's undeniably gifted prose essentially proves Wuthering Heights will remain a remarkable example of the novel.

David Copperfield (y)
1850, Charles Dickens, England
Of Dickens incredibly successful novels, David Copperfield remained his favourite, partially because of its slightly autobiographical nature. Other great novels include Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol.

Scarlet Letter (y)
1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne, United States
A portrait of Puritan society in Massachusetts, the Scarlet Letter tells Hester Prynne's tale of immorality and societal pressure towards love, relationships and the human consciousness.

Moby-Dick (y)
1851, Herman Melville, United States
The central characters from Melville's best-known work have become permanent figures in American mythology. Moby-Dick tells the story Ahab and his quest to find the great white whale.

Madame Bovary (y)
1856, Gustave Flaubert, France
A masterful example of realism, Madame Bovary tells the story of a young woman caught in an unhappy marriage.

War and Peace (y)
1862-1869, Leo Tolstoy, Russia
One of the world's greatest writers, writing what is considered by some to be the world's greatest novel, set during the Napoleonic invasion of 1812, the book exemplifies Tolstoy's own views on history—that is works inevitably for its own ends, and not for the betterment of humankind.

Crime and Punishment (y)
1866, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russia
Emerging as a major talent from the 19th century, Dostoyevsky's masterpiece tells the story of Raskolnikov's crime and his subsequent self-imposed exile to Siberia.

Middlemarch (y)
1870-1871, George Eliot, England
While Middlemarch is considered Eliot's masterpiece, another of her novels, The Mill on the Floss should also be recognized as a magnificent example of the Victorian novel.

The Portrait of a Lady (y)
1881, Henry James, United States
James perfects his ability as an unabashed spectator of the upper classes, often bringing to light the conflicts between American and European societies in The Portrait of a Lady. Other notable books include: The Wings of the Dove (1902) and the Golden Bowl (1904).

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (y)
1884, Mark Twain, United States
Twain's classic coming-of-age tale that sees Huckleberry Finn traveling down the Mississippi on a raft portrayed American life during the 19th century.

Jude the Obscure (y)
1896, Thomas Hardy, England
Hardy's last novel—after the controversy Jude the Obscure inspired, he abandoned fiction altogether. It's a shame because the bittersweet tale of Jude and Susanna, their love, their tragedies, their convictions, truly makes for great fiction.

"The Awakening" (y)
1899, Kate Chopin, United States
The 'bird in the cage' metaphor that runs through Chopin's novel reflects the early feminist roots of this American novel.

Heart of Darkness (y)
1902, Joseph Conrad, b. Ukraine, England
Marlow's journey deep into Africa in search of Kurtz remains one of the greatest modern novels ever written.

Sons and Lovers (y)
1913, D.H. Lawrence, England
Along with The Rainbow and Women in Love, Lawrence's freedom in terms of sexual expression revolutionized the ideal of love within fiction.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man / Ulysses (y)
1916, 1922, James Joyce, Ireland
Joyce's monumental Ulysses reinvented fiction with its publication. His earlier work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, remains a fascinating example of the bildingsroman, or coming of age tale.

The Age of Innocence (y)
1920, Edith Wharton, United States
Wharton won a Pulitzer Prize for this exceptional novel that examines the lives of men and women ensconced, for better or for worse, in the upper classes of New York Society.

Remembrance of Things Past (y)
1922-1932, Marcel Proust, France
Proust's cyclical novel series represents his monumental dedication to storytelling.

"The Waste Land" (y)
1922, T.S. Eliot, England / United States
Eliot's "The Waste Land," by reflecting the bareness of modern life, remains one of the greatest studies of the human condition ever written.

A Passage to India
1924, E.M. Forster, England
The novel reflects the situation in colonial India, both from the perspective of the colonists, and their relationship to the local population.

The Great Gatsby (y)
1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald, United States
As the quintessential voice of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald's masterpiece tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a man destroyed by the very thing he craves—the American dream.

The Trial (y)
1925, Franz Kafka, Czech Republic
Along with The Castle and "Metamorphosis," Kafka's stories reflect the stark reality of the alienation found within human existence. As an interesting aside, most of his fiction was published posthumously.

Mrs. Dalloway / To the Lighthouse (y)
1925, 1927, Virginia Woolf, England
Woolf's most poignant books, both express her dedication to the new, developing form of the modern novel.

The Sun Also Rises (y)
1926, Ernest Hemingway, United States
A group of expatriates live in Paris during the difficult post-war era, disillusioned and desperate to find happiness. Hemingway became the voice of the "lost generation" with his often-simplistic prose style oddly capable of reflecting the complex psychological problems of his characters.

The Sound and the Fury
1929, William Faulkner, United States
Recipient of the Noble Prize in literature, Faulkner remains one of the greatest American writers of all times. His dedication to form, as seen in his near-perfect use of stream of consciousness both in this novel and in As I Lay Dying, is equaled only by his ability to characterize the gothic nature of the American south.

Brave New World (y)
1932, Aldous Huxley, England
The novel takes place in the 25th century, and it tells the story of a frightening yet utterly compelling utopian society.

The Grapes of Wrath (y - although i do prefer steinbeck's "little" books)
1939, John Steinbeck, United States
Steinbeck won a Pulitzer Prize for this incredibly sad story of the Joad family, whose westward journey in search of a better life only serves to reflect the desperate struggles of the American farmer.

The Stranger (y - in french, even)
1946, Albert Camus, France
This existential work of art solidifies Camus' place as one of the 20th century's greatest thinkers.

The Heart of the Matter
1948, Graham Greene, England
Greene's straightforward prose comes to its height with this novel about the experiences of a police officer serving in West Africa.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (y)
1949, George Orwell, England
Orwell's futuristic novel exploring the dehumanization of society—the creation of 'Big Brother' resonates to this day.

The Catcher in the Rye (y)
1951, J.D. Salinger, United States
Holden Caufield is the archetypal cynical teenager, immortalized forever in Salinger's most famous work.

Invisible Man (y)
1952, Ralph Ellison, United States
Ellison's nameless protagonist struggles to find acceptance as an African-American man living in America.

Lord of the Flies (y)
1954, William Golding, England
The bone-chilling story of a group of boys trapped on an island as their community quickly descends into savagery.

The Lord of the Rings (y)
1954-1955, J.R.R. Tolkien, England
Tolkien's masterful trilogy about the adventures of Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring have thrilled children and adults for decades.

On the Road (y)
1957, Jack Kerouac, United States
The beat movement's most poignant voice, Kerouac's greatest novel was written in one sitting: a focused, adventurous testament to the power of creativity.

Doctor Zhivago
1958 (tr. English), Boris Pasternak, Russia
Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 for this novel about life in communist Russia.

Things Fall Apart (y)
1958, Chinua Achebe, Nigeria
Known as the father of African literature, Achebe's seminal work explores the affects of colonialism on Africa.

A House for Mr. Biswas
1961, V.S. Naipul, b. Trinidad, England
Naipul's poignant work about the anti-hero, Mr. Biswas, reflects the world of post-colonial Trinidad.

Rabbit Run
1961, John Updike, United States
Faced with the passing of his golden days as a star athlete, Harry Angstrom, Updike's protagonist, runs away from his wife and child in search of satisfaction outside suburban America.

A Clockwork Orange (y)
1962, Anthony Burgess, England
Imaginative and stylized, complete with it's own vocabulary, Burgess' masterpiece remains one of the most enigmatic works of fiction ever published.

Wide Sargasso Sea (y)
1966, Jean Rhys, b. Dominica, England
With her re-telling of Jane Eyre from the perspective of the 'madwoman in the attic,' Rhys re-invented the earlier novel, bringing the Caribbean to life.

One Hundred Years of Solitude (y)
1967, Gabriel García Márquez, Columbia
Márquez brought the world of magical realism to the world of fiction with all of his novels, the most successful of which is the one selected here.

Catch-22 (y)
1969, Joseph Heller, United States
Set during the Second World War, Heller's post-modern look at the conflict drips with humour and irony.

Slaughterhouse-Five (y)
1969, Kurt Vonnegut, United States
A fascinating social critic, Vonnegut plays with the genre in his most popular novel.

Gravity's Rainbow (y)
1979, Thomas Pynchon, United States
This novel is the post-modern writer's best-known work.

The Diviners (y)
1974, Margaret Laurence, Canada
The story of Morag Gunn resonates as one of the greatest novels ever to be published in Canada.

Midnight's Children (y)
1981, Salman Rushdie, b. Bombay, India, England
While Rushdie's Satanic Verses remains his most controversial novel, the glorious, engaging and delightful Midnight's Children better reflects the depth of his talent for fiction.

The Handmaid's Tale (y - i think oryx and crake will surpass this one)
1986, Margaret Atwood, Canada
Atwood has emerged as one of the world's most popular novelists. Her most-interesting work, The Handmaid's Tale, is a futuristic story about religious extremists.

In the Skin of the Lion (y - i don't enjoy ondaatje's fiction, but his poetry is superlative)
1987, Michael Ondaatje, b. Sri Lanka, Canada
While The English Patient is his most commercially successful novel, In the Skin of the Lion describes the experiences of immigrants in Canada, and therefore resonates for its honest portrayal of Canadian life.

all in all, i was glad to see a nice representation of women writers. however, i think that this list is pretty rooted in the western canon. more world books should be here for sure. now that i'm thinking about it, my mind is pretty much blank for additions, but off the top of my head i'd have to say:
  • trainspotting by irvine welsh - his work with dialect, and his representations of thatcherite britain are evocative and moving. as well, he does an amazing job of writing the drug culture.
  • the maltese falcon by dashiell hammet - that's the mystery junkie in me
  • the women's room by marilyn french - that's the feminist fiction junkie in me
  • harry potter and the philosopher's stone by jk rowling - got a generation of children (and not a few adults) to read again and to believe in magic
  • famous last words by timothy findley - i was reminded by answering to maktaaq's comment. i think this is his finest work.

i'm sure there are more. actually i'm thinking of making it my summer project to read don quixote. that, of all the books on the list that i haven't read yet, is the one i'm ashamed to admit.