One of my New Year resolutions is to keep this blog updated. Well, I'm a day or two ahead of schedule, but I thought it would be good to start out with an easy (at least in scope) list of five books everyone who loves reading should put on their list of 2012 goals. There are many other choices, but I think this is a good start toward literary literacy. I admit that some of the list is more about my favorites than about absolute must reads, but...well, it's my blog. So there. Here are five, in no particular order, though I think Adler's book provides a foundation for the rest.
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren
Mortimer Adler was the brilliant mind behind the Great Books series from Encyclopedia Britannica. If you're not familiar with the series, you should go online and take a look. You can get a set from an auction site online for only a few hundred dollars and it will include nearly every significant book in the Western literary cannon from the ancients to the modern. (In this case, the modern is early 1900s.) This is the book Adler wrote to explain how to read the great classics. It's fabulous.
This is the foundation work of all of Plato's philosophy. Read it. Almost all of the study of logic and philosophy is predicated on Plato, and this work specifically. It's remarkable to consider current trends in thought and concept in relation to this book and to realize how little of it is new despite throngs of half-wits mooning over current gurus as though they offered something original.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
This is the lightest read on the list, at least in terms of reading difficulty. It's themes, though, make it one of the hardest. There may be no better exploration of the darkness in the collective heart of humanity. A number of children thrown by accident onto an island where the strong end up preying on the week. It's brilliant and terrifying, and it's worth your time.
Okay, I'm cheating a little bit, but there are a dramatic (pun intended) number of choices here. I don't care which one of his plays you read, but read one. Almost every film, TV show, play, or...well nearly any visual entertainment finds its origins in the Bard. Let's not forget that he also helped codify the English language. You can find Shakespeare on Amazon or your library or just about anywhere. Choose a play and you're likely to be amazed at how many movies are just cheap imitations of Shakespeare's work.
Mark Twain's Short Stories
You've probably already read his novels, and they're brilliant. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often described as the greatest American novel of all time. His short stories, however, have a remarkable satirical flavor that reveals the brilliance of this author. Read "The Man Who Corrupted Haddlyburg" and you'll be laughing for days.
Happy New Year to everyone. As I said, this isn't the definitive list, but it's a great start for great literature. If you know me, you know that I love reading all books, not just the classics. Still, reading for enjoyment doesn't preclude reading for enrichment. Make it a point to spend some time this year with quality works.