Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Old Books That Don’t Suck

 

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Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This week’s topic is older books that are still worth reading. Readers (including me) have a habit of focusing on new releases. We want to read the newest, trendiest, greatest thing, which leads us to overlook older books. I’m here to make a case for the oldies! Many of them are beautifully written, packed with memorable characters, and have lessons that are still relevant in the modern world. For the sake of this post, I’m defining “old” as “published before 1990.” I know 1990 isn’t old for a human, but if a book is still in print and earning money after 30+ years, that’s impressive.



 

Old Books That Don’t Suck

 

 

 

 

Adult Books

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

 

Paranormal Fiction

First Published in 1843



With A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens created a modern fairy tale and shaped our ideas of Christmas. The tale of the solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of the season by a series of ghostly visitors and given a second chance, was conjured up by Dickens during one of his London night walks, who "wept and laughed" as he composed it. Taken to readers' hearts for its humor, compassion and message of redemption, it remains his best-loved book.

 

Why you should read it: If you’re looking for a place to start with Charles Dickens, start here, especially if you love Christmas and spooky stuff. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this novella. Many, many times. I love it. Usually, I’m not a Dickens fan because I can tell he got paid by the word and stuffed as many words into his books as possible, but A Christmas Carol is pretty succinct. It has a timeless moral: Don’t be a jerk. Some things are more important than money. This story will give you hope that the difficult people in your life can change and become better humans.

 

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The Lottery And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

 

Short Story Collection

First Published in 1949



“The Lottery,” one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. “Power and haunting,” and “nights of unrest” were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites “The Lottery” with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range—from the hilarious to the truly horrible—and power as a storyteller.

 

Why you should read it: “The Lottery” is one of my favorite short stories of all time. It had a massive influence on the horror genre, and you can still see its echoes in books like The Hunger Games. “Unusual” is a good way to describe Shirley Jackson’s short stories. There isn’t much violence on the page, but it lurks in the background of every sentence. Many of the characters seem mentally ill. There’s a sense that the careful social disguises people wear in public could slip, and something could go horribly wrong at any moment. In Jackson’s world, the “monsters” are racism, greed, superiority, suppression, lies, and alienation. These stories are subtle, yet impressive.

 

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Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

 

Nonfiction / Journalism

First Published in 1961



In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity—that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

 

Why you should read it: This is the real-life diary of a journalist who decided to conduct a social experiment about segregation in the American South. What he discovered helped change the way many Americans viewed race. His diary deepened my understanding of segregation because it includes a lot of information that I don’t remember learning in school. This book is utterly fascinating. And utterly depressing. It shows how far we’ve come with racial issues and how far we still have to go. The book caused a scandal when it was published. The author was called a “race traitor” and had to move his family to Mexico to avoid angry white supremacists.

 

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Different Seasons by Stephen King

 

Horror Novella Collection

First Published in 1982



Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: The most satisfying tale of unjust imprisonment and offbeat escape since The Count of Monte Cristo.

Apt Pupil: A golden California schoolboy and an old man whose hideous past he uncovers enter into a fateful and chilling mutual parasitism.

The Body: Four rambunctious young boys venture into the Maine woods and in sunlight and thunder find life, death, and intimations of their own mortality.

The Breathing Method: A tale told in a strange club about a woman determined to give birth no matter what.

 

Why you should read it: Of course I had to put a Stephen King book on the list! His work has infiltrated American culture. Even if you don’t read or watch horror, you’re probably familiar with his twisted tales. I chose this book because it contains four well-loved novellas. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was adapted into the movie The Shawshank Redemption. The Body became the movie Stand By Me. I love these novellas because they show that horror doesn’t have to be gory. Sometimes the author just slowly cranks up the tension until you can’t take it anymore, and you feel your heart pounding, and pounding . . . .

 

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

 

Science Fiction / Dystopia

First Published in 1985



Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now . . .

 

Why you should read it: Have you ever loved a book so much that you can’t talk about it? You just scream incoherently and hope everybody understands? That’s me with this book. I read it for the first time when I was in my late teens or early twenties, and it blew my mind. It’s intricately structured and beautifully written. It’s both insightful satire and horrifying dystopia. It was written 30+ years ago, but it feels timeless because it’s still eerily relevant. It’s about environmental damage, religious extremism, dictatorships, and women’s rights. Those are all issues you encounter on news sites every day. If you don’t want to read the original version of this novel, there’s a brilliant graphic novel adaptation.

 

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Young Adult & Middlegrade Books

 

 

 

 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

 

Realistic Fiction

First Published in 1967



According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers—until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

 

Why you should read it: This is one of the few books I was assigned to read in middle school and actually enjoyed. Normally, I was bored out of my mind by assigned reading. It’s about a kid who learns to see the world complexly. Humans are more complicated than “good” and “bad.” Being a human is challenging for everyone. The book also has a really good plot! It’s harrowing. The characters are gritty and far from perfect. They have to rely on their intelligence, strength, and friendships to survive. If you’re interested in young adult books, this is a must-read. It’s one of the foundation stones of modern YA.

 

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Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. By Judy Blume

 

Realistic Fiction

First Published in 1970



Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

 

Why you should read it: Margaret is the friend I needed when I was a kid. She’s funny, relatable, and honest about puberty and other uncomfortable subjects. I wish I had read this book when I was in elementary school. I had a few experiences that were similar to Margaret’s, and her story may have helped me feel less . . . chronically stressed out. If you have a young person in your life, please give them this novel! Especially if they’re going through puberty or questioning their religion. They may need candid preteen characters more than you realize.

 

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Summer Of The Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

 

Historical Fiction

First Published in 1976




The last thing a fourteen-year-old boy expects to find along an old Ozark river bottom is a tree full of monkeys. Jay Berry Lee's grandpa had an explanation, of course—as he did for most things. The monkeys had escaped from a traveling circus, and there was a handsome reward in store for anyone who could catch them. Grandpa said there wasn't any animal that couldn't be caught somehow, and Jay Berry started out believing him . . .

But by the end of the "summer of the monkeys," Jay Berry Lee had learned a lot more than he ever bargained for—and not just about monkeys. He learned about faith, and wishes coming true, and knowing what it is you really want.

 

Why you should read it: It’s a sweet, funny, and atmospheric story about a determined kid who devotes his entire summer to capturing escaped circus monkeys and collecting the reward money. I read this book in elementary school, and parts of it are still stuck in my mind. The hardworking characters and the rural Oklahoma setting are vivid. It has a timeless lesson for kids: Sometimes what you think you want isn’t actually what you want. Goals and dreams and priorities can change.

 

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Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Patterson

 

Realistic Fiction

First Published in 1977



Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.

 

Why you should read it: Here’s a not-interesting fact: I wrote an essay about this book that got me accepted to graduate school, even though I failed the GRE. So, there’s hope for bad test-takers everywhere! I’ve probably reread this novel more times than I’ve reread any other book. It’s my favorite Newbery winner. Like many young readers, it provided my first experience with bookish grief. The characters are so realistic and loveable that it’s devastating when bad things happen to them. I adored this book as a kid because the characters have real problems that aren’t neatly solved at the end of the story. I guess I was a cynical child. I wanted realism. I couldn’t stand books with perfect endings. This is the first children’s book I read that felt “grown up” and relevant to my life.

 

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The Wave by Morton Rhue (AKA Todd Strasser)

 

Historical Fiction

First Published in 1981



The Wave is based on a true incident that occurred in a high school history class in Palo Alto, California in 1969.

The powerful forces of group pressure that pervaded many historic movements such as Nazism are recreated in the classroom when history teacher Burt Ross introduces a “new” system to his students. And before long The Wave, with its rules of “strength through discipline, community, and action,” sweeps from the classroom through the entire school. And as most of the students join the movement, Laurie Saunders and David Collins recognize the frightening momentum of The Wave and realize they must stop it before it's too late.

 

Why you should read it: Fascism has been a much-discussed topic lately. The Wave is a fictionalization of a real-life experiment that took place in a California high school in the 1960s. A history teacher wanted to help his students understand why the Germans went along with Hitler’s plan during WWII. Why didn’t more people resist Hitler? The teacher invented a “game” that he called The Wave. (In real life, it was called The Third Wave.) The game involved students working together to accomplish tasks—such as answering questions or getting to their seats on time—as quickly and precisely as possible. The game became so popular that most of the school started playing. The kids who played the game began bullying the ones who refused to play. The bullying grew so vicious that the experiment had to be stopped after 5 days. (Or 8 days, if you read reports about the real-life experiment.) This book is a short, captivating look at how quickly an innocent-seeming movement can spin out of control.

 

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Which old book do you think is still worth reading?








23 comments:

  1. Black Like Me was a very good read.

    My post.

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  2. I've read Where the Red Fern Grows a thousand times, but I've never read Summer of the Monkeys.

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  3. I have fond memories of reading both Are You There God It's Me Margaret and The Outsider as a kid in the 70's. I read both of those multiple times. I had a friend in 7th grade who loved Summer of the Monkeys and kept trying to get me to read it but I never did. :)

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  4. I loved Different Seasons. The Lottery sounds interesting, I should probably read some Shirley Jackson - I really like short stories, but I never think to pick them up for some reason.

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  5. I haven't read The Wave, but I do love other books by Todd Strasser. I love The Outsiders. Such a classic. I also liked her book That Was Then, This is Now. Bridge to Terabithia is a favorite of mine. I didn't realize it was published so long ago!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  6. Some great selections here. I've been meaning to read Bridge to Terabithia for what seems like forever!

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  7. I read The Lottery in collage. I need to find a copy of The Outsiders and reread it. I read it in like 8th grade but I loved it! Here is my post-https://paigesofbook.blogspot.com/2021/02/ten-tuesday-books-series-i-would.html.

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  8. The Handmaid's Tale, A Christmas Carol, Shirley Jackson--totally agree with all of those! I still would like to get around to reading The Outsiders and Bridge to Terabithia. The Wave also sounds really good, I don't think I've heard of it before.

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  9. I really want to read Bridge to Terabithia so I'm glad to hear you loved it so much (and wrote an essay about it!) I didn't know there was a graphic novel of The Handmaid's Tale, will need to check that one out!

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  10. Classics dominated my list because I am old, but Margaret made my list too. I was determined to not just have my required reading on the list. I almost included The Outsiders too.

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  11. Haha, love your title. There's so many on here I still need to read. Bridge to Terabithia is a must read.. although the movie made me cry so much. haha

    My Top Ten

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  12. Bridge to Terabithia made my list, too! Looks like The Handmaid's Tale was published the year after I was born!

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  13. Oooh! I really need to read the Christmas Carol! Great list!

    Here’s my TTT!

    Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog

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  14. You have great books on your list and I like that they are ones I haven't seen appearing on lists made by other bloggers. The Wave and Judy Blume books in particular are excellent.

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  15. I really enjoyed Bridge to Terabithia. I wish I had more time to read or re-read older books.

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  16. I have loved The Outsiders for a long time, but have not read it in a while. I will have to, and see if it still holds up for me as well. Great list!

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  17. I've read A Christmas carol last year, The handmaid's tale, I've heard a lot about the Judy Blume and (finally) decided to add it to my TBR :)

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  18. I've read four of these books and heard of several others of them... There's something about reading books that have passed the test of time.

    Btw, I'd never thought of the Christmas Carol as a paranormal, but I see your point. I think I mentioned before Les Standiford's "The Man Who Invented Christmas" which is a history of this Dicken's classic.

    https://fromarockyhillside.com

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  19. A Christmas Carol is the only Dickens I read and I did actually like it but never picked up anything else. I really enjoyed reading Judy Blume. Loved Margaret, Blubber and Deenie.

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  20. The Outsiders is a fantastic book! I read it in middle school and loved it.

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  21. I agree with you on A Christmas Carol! I haven't read most of the others, but we'll have to disagree about The Outsiders. I had to read it in junior high, and I hated it. I know I'm in the minority on that, but it was definitely the wrong book at the wrong time for me.

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