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The Bathing Women: A Novel by Tie Ning b ook

We’ve all heard of China’s Cultural Revolution but what were its effects on young people of the time? Sure, the insight into communism and politics is invaluable. But it is the novel’s exploration of love, loss and friendship through the eyes of four Chinese women that makes this one a winner.

AND IN MARCH (March 21)

we decided to talk about books from a region – started talking about China but that expanded to Asia – big territory – lots of options.

And since we are speaking geographically, any category of books will do – history, mystery, travel, cookbooks, fiction, science fiction – and books set in the US by Asian authors also qualify.

READERS: start your engines


So today was a look at the classics starting with what exactly is a classic – probably didn’t come up with an agreement but it has to have lasted for at least one generation and it has to deal with some universal issues.  If an author has one classic,  does that mean all their books are classics – we got that one – NO.    And what current authors do we think might make the classic category in generations to come.  In the process we talked about way more books than I can list here.  (and sometimes I get so interested in the discussion I forget to write the titles down)

But a few – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith – immigrant experience.  Because most of us read it when we were young, it may have a nostalgia value beyond its intrinsic one.

Of Human Bondage – W. Somerset Maugham – beautifully written but LONG.  Cakes and Ale and the Razors Edge were recommended as less difficult ways into his books.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri and Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – lots and lots of kids books are classics.  Always a new audience

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – a heart warming (eventually after all the trials) romantic classic which was reprised by Margot Livesey in her book The Flight of Gemma Hardy – we thought being the source of references for other books was another characteristic of classics.

In a German Pension – short stories by Katherine Mansfield (also led to mention of Enchanted April) – if you like short stories, hers are highly recommended.

Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (and his plays)

Bel-Ami- Guy De Maupassant – A french classic which wasn’t as much enjoyed as the reader expected – has been made into several films – the most recent in 2012.  We also commented on the number of films that have books – many of them classics – as their basis.

The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois – historically interesting but felt dated.

The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse – because classics don’t have to be serious

The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas – one of the books that reminded us that you may know a book very well even if you haven’t read it

Mentioned quickly in passing:  Henry Beston – The Outermost House; Silent Spring- Rachel Carson; A Child’s Garden of Verses – Robert Louis Stevenson; Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert; Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier; Pat Barker’s WW1 Trilogy;  West with the Night – Beryl Markham; Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy; A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens; Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw; and Shakespeare –

In the category of authors that might make it to classic status in the future:

John Boyne      Andre Dubus III     Tracy Kidder     Isabel Allende      Barbara Kingsolver

John Irving   Lois McMaster Bujold     Margaret Atwood     Michael Ondaatje

Nathaniel Philbrick (book we couldn’t remember was In the Heart of the Sea)


CLASSICS TOMORROW – what should we do in March?

Hope you’ll be joining us at 11 tomorrow to talk about classics – perhaps in contrast to the recent reads we talked about in January.

BUT – we haven’t selected a topic or subject for March.  I have a few suggestions but I am hoping you have something you’d really like to do.


Things I have been thinking about: 

Books set in a location – since yesterday was Chinese New Year’s I was thinking about China.

A book from a genre/category you never read – (which, of course, would vary for each of us) – Science fiction, YA titles, Romance books, History, Philosophy, graphic novels, mystery/thriller – the list is nearly endless.

Books on a specific subject you are especially interested in: – health (I just read Being Mortal which I think everyone should read);  environmental issues;  politics with the presidential race heating up way too soon to suit me;


Found this list of terrible things that can happen to a reader…and a surprisingly large number have happened to me.  But hope that your books are intact and you are planning to join us next Saturday – Feb 21 at 11 at the library to chat about classics – so what does it matter if the pages are a little stained?