Reading Really Famous Books & Stories No One Reads Anymore
I've been on a quest for several years now to read old fiction books, particularly (but not exclusively) American and British novels, that have been around for so long and are so famous that no one reads them anymore, because they've been made into movies or TV mini-series (often many times over), or because they've entered into our pop culture references so frequently that people *think* they know them without having to actually read them. They don't have to be great novels -- just really, really famous ones. In fact, the books that are of interest to me per this particular quest are the ones that aren't on high school reading lists, haven't one the Pulitzer, etc. But in their day, they were what everyone was reading.
This quest has provided some real treasures, including a few that have been added to my favorite books of all time. Not everything I've read in this quest has been terrific, but nothing has felt like a waste of time. All in all, it's been one of the best ideas I've ever had... outside of having dogs and making a commitment to travel regularly.
One thing it's done is to make me very proud of my country's literary tradition. Some people feel national pride seeing a flag wave; I feel it when I read a great American writer. Therefore, once I read everything on my list of books so famous that no one reads them any more, I'll probably switch to books that have won the Pulitzer that I haven't read yet.
Here's another advantage of reading these books: they are really easy to find in used book stores and the informal book-sharing libraries of cafes.
I'm sharing this list to encourage others to read these books, and to solicit other's thoughts about them.
I expect that completing my to-read list of books no one reads anymore will take another 10 years (because I keep adding to it).
Since 1996, when I started this quest, I've read the following; if the book is linked, it means I've written a full review about the novel:
I already read Dracula, back in high school. I remember that it was quite gruesome, and hard to understand (I was too young to read it, I think), but I still remember a lot of it.
- Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Elmer Gantry
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlett, and Sign of the Four
- Tarzan of the Apes
- Seven novels by Jules Verne: Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Underthe Sea, Fantastic Island, From Earth to the Moon, Around the Moon, Five Weeks in a Balloon and, ofcourse, Around the World in Eighty Days
- The Day of the Triffids
- War of the Worlds
(still absolutely terrifying; wish someone would make a faithful screen version of it)
- The Three Musketeers
(Such RICH charcters and an ever-moving story. The oh-so-dark ending though was quite a surprise)
- All Quiet on the Western Front
(never more relevant than now)
- Treasure Island
(fabulous, quick read, full of action and fun, perfect for kids and adults alike)
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(dated and not nearly as engaging as I'd hoped for -- I like the various film adaptions of the story better)
- The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders
(zowie! very sexy and irreverant, and not just for a book published in 1722)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass
(definitely liked the first one better than the second)
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(should be REQUIRED reading in all USA high schools)
(most interesting part for me was that some the story takes place along the Rhein in Germany, where I live; overall, not as scary as I thought it would be).
On my to-read list of books that are really famous but no one reads them anymore:
I'm open to your suggestions. Remember the criteria: books that have been around for many, many years -- definitely more than 50 -- and have made into movies so many times, or have been referred to so many times, that no one reads the books anymore. They do NOT have to be great literature! In fact, these are often books that are NOT on any high school reading lists.
- The second book in the "Oz" series
- The second book in the "Tarzan" series
- Little House on the Prairie
- Peyton Place
- The Time Machine
If you are interested in what I read outside of this quest: I keep a very detailed list of books I've read (with ratings), and a list of books I intend to read, at GoodReads.com.
Also see My Amazon Wish List, which includes books I'd like to own as well as read.
If you are looking for great fiction books to read in English, I recommend using these resources to find such:
about me | contact me
The art work on this page was created and is copyrighted
by Jayne Cravens, 2007, all rights reserved
The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.