Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Personal Canon of Books

This idea was brought to me by Jillian, who encouraged me to make a list.  It has just taken me awhile.

Every avid reader has a particular and unique way of composing a personal canon.  The list is characteristic of who you are.  It says, "These are my books."

Some of these books have affected my worldview, some shook me to my core, some left an imprint on my heart, and others changed my life forever.  These books matter to me.  If I constructed my self-portrait using books, this is what it would look like; if I was marooned on an island, these are the books I would desire for my companion.  Over all, I measured my books based on how I responded to them, which makes them obviously personal.

Since every reader is distinct and every reading experience is personal, I can not stand by each one and promise that another reader would have the same encounter.  You may have a completely different result.  We may agree that a work is good because it meets certain qualifications or standards, but beyond that, it may end.  And that is ok, too.

This is my personal canon - an ever growing and evolving list that may forever be part of me.  I broke it up between fiction and non-fiction (the latter including biographies, histories, and miscellaneous).


Alcott, Louisa MayLittle Women

Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid's Tale

Austen, JanePride and Prejudice
                        Sense and Sensibility 

Brittain, VeraTestament of Youth

Bronte, CharlotteJane Eyre

Burnett, Frances HodgsonThe Secret Garden

Bunyan, JohnPilgrim's Progress

Cather, WillaO Pioneers!
                         My Antonia

CervantesDon Quixote

Crane, StephenThe Red Badge of Courage

Defoe, DanielRobinson Crusoe

Dickens, CharlesA Christmas Carol
                               A Tale of Two Cities
                               Oliver Twist

Dostoevsky, FyodorCrime and Punishment
                                    The Brothers Karamazov

Ellison, RalphInvisible Man

Fitzgerald, F. ScottThe Great Gatsby

Flaubert, GustaveMadame Bovary

Forster, E.MHowards End

Golding, WilliamLord of the Flies

Grahame, KennethWind in the Willows

                             Jude the Obscure
                             The Mayor of Casterbridge
                             Return of the Native
                             Tess of D'Urbervilles

Hawthorne, NathanielThe Scarlet Letter

Hosseini, KhalidA Thousand Splendid Suns

Hurston, Zora NealeTheir Eyes Were Watching God

Lee, HarperTo Kill a Mockingbird

Melville, HermanMoby-Dick

Miller, ArthurThe Crucible

Mitchell, MargaretGone with the Wind

Orwell, George1984

Pasternak, BorisDoctor Zhivago

Remarque, Erich MariaAll Quiet on the Western Front

Stowe, Harriet BeecherUncle Tom's Cabin

                         The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tolstoy, LeoWar and Peace
                       Anna Karenina

Wharton, EdithThe Age of Innocence
                             The House of Mirth

Wilder, Laura IngallsLittle House in the Big Woods
                                   Little House on the Prairie
                                   Farmer Boy
                                   On the Banks of Plum Creek
                                   By the Shores of Silver Lake
                                   The Long Winter
                                   Little Town on the Prairie
                                   These Happy Golden Years
                                   The First Four Years

Zola, ÉmileGerminal


The Bible


Bauer, Susan WiseThe Well-Trained Mind 
                                  The Well-Educated Mind 

Beamer, LisaLet's Roll

Boom, Corrie TenThe Hiding Place

Capote, TrumanIn Cold Blood

Conway, Jill KerThe Road from Coorain

DeMille, OliverThomas Jefferson Education

Douglass, FrederickThe Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Frank, AnneThe Diary of a Young Girl

Gibbon, EdwardThe History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Abridged

Hillman, LauraI Will Plant You a Lilac Tree

Hillenbrand, LauraUnbroken

Jacobs, HarrietIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Johnson, PaulA History of the American People

Lewis, C.S.Mere Christianity

Lewis, Meriwether & Clark, WilliamThe Journals of Lewis and Clark

Metaxas, EricBonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery

Nafisi, AzarReading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

Sarton, MayJournal of a Solitude

Schaeffer, FrancisHow Should We Then Live?

Stewart, Elinore PruittLetters of a Woman Homesteader

Thomas, ClarenceMy Grandfather's Son

Thoreau, Henry DavidWalden

Washington, Booker T.Up From Slavery

Wiesel, ElieNight

Woolf, VirginiaA Room of One's Own

So . . . what is your personal canon?


Jillian said...

I'm SO EXCITED you did this, and so so so glad to see that Woolf made your list! AND THOREAU!! I want to read the Booker T. Washington title, & still have the May Sarton on my list at your suggestion. I'm also very interested in the Bradford and Columbus titles: I remember your entries on those. I either love or need to read every single one of your fiction titles. GONE WITH THE WIND. I'm SO HAPPY you loved that one soo much! xx

Thanks for doing this. Wasn't it lovely to think it through and put together your list? :)

Jean said...

Wow, you really went to town! I'm meaning to do this. I will. But it might take me a little while...

Jean said...

Also, wow. You put Moby Dick on your list. And I would wonder what was wrong if I hadn't seen the Little House books!

Gently Mad said...

This is so interesting. I have never considered making a personal canon of books. It's given me something to think about.

I found your list interesting too. I know it would be a lot of work but I would love to know how each book made it to your canon.

On a side note. I am kinda sorta certain that the man in Let's Roll stayed at my parent's house. They hosted a couple of young me who were performing in the Wheaton College choir at their church. The years are right and the guy in the book was in the Wheaton Choir. The problem is I don't remember his name but based on the photos he looks like the same person. I guess I'll never know for sure but I'll always wonder.

James said...

Truly a great list of books. Many would be on my own "Canon". Perhaps I will follow your lead.

Ruth said...

Well, let me know when you get a list together.

Ruth said...

I wanted to add a short blurb about why I added each one to my list, and I may do that over the summer; but for now I had to put the list together and share it. It will take me a while to articulate in the shortest way possible my feelings. The best evidence is in my posts.

P.S. I hope you decide to do a canon. I want to see what you choose. : )

The man from Let's Roll is Todd Beamer. He and his wife, Lisa, attended Wheaton. He was an athlete, but for some reason I cannot remember if Lisa mentioned the choir. She may have. I wouldn't be surprised b/c he was a faithful believer. You should ask your parents if they remember him. And I think you would love his and Lisa's story very much (assuming you have not read Let's Roll, yet).

Ruth said...

I know, I'm crazy. I added Moby Dick mostly b/c I loved the reading experience up to the very end, especially forming my argument about Melville. It was like decoding his thoughts.

Anyway, I would love to read your canon; it does take a while to put together, especially if you want to add the reason why you chose your books.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jillian. Yes, It was so good to put together the list. I wanted to add why I chose each one, but I'll have to add those words later b/c it will take a longer time to think about it. I probably need to revisit my posts to come up with the right explanation b/c my reading responses are truly why these books are here.

Thanks, again.

Fanda Kutubuku said...

Ruth, we have so many titles in common!
I'm so glad Germinal has made it here.
Moby Dick & The Scarlet Letter are a bit surprise, though. I didn't think you enjoyed them that much.
I still haven't time to read The Walden, Willa Cather, and Pilgrim's Progress. Maybe after this moving house business is over, I would be able to spend more time reading.

Ruth said...

Yes,, The Scarlet Letter made me mad - well, Hawthorne's motives made me mad, but it was an effective read nonetheless. Even if a book makes me mad, like Malcolm X, it may still be important. If a book elicits negative emotion, it may be for good reason. I want to read both MD and SL again; that means they are worthy.

Nancy Burns said...

Wonderful selection, you have created a great list.
I still remember 2 books that left a lasting impressions on me: 'Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books' (A.Nafisi) and Invisible Man (R. Ellison)
Congratulations on a great personal canon.

Carol said...

I've already commented on this post but it hasn't shown up?? Anyhow, great idea, Ruth. Must have a think about this...

o said...

"If I constructed my self-portrait using books, this is what it would look like" - I love that! Such a good way of putting it :)

I see you have Cather on your list - I've STILL not read Carther. Can't explain why. Must try and get one of these two books you've listed.

I'm planning on reading Augustine's Confessions quite soon - looking forward to it.

Interesting you picked Voyage Out by Woolf - I know quite a few Woolf fans who think that's the weakest. I like it though; I do prefer the 1920s Woolf, but that doesn't make Voyage Out less good. I personally don't think it's weak, far from it.

Stephen Crane's another one who has passed me by - will have to look out for him too :)

Great list!

Joseph said...

A magnificent list. I was supposed to do this to, but Jillian's "gone dark" and I've lost some of the motivation. I've ready many of yours, and concur with most, so I'll comment on only one. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I've actually been to the hiding place, The Corrie Ten Boom museum above the jewelers (no long Ten Boom Jewelers). I was stationed some years ago in The Netherland (land of my forefathers), and we made sure to visit Haarlem and the CTB house/museum. The part I mentioned as sad, was that we asked Dutch folks in Haarlem where the Ten Boom house was, and most did not know, nor did they know what it was. It is sad to me, that the Diary of Anne Frank is so well known, and The Hiding Place is not. BTW - it is possibly the only "tourist attraction" I've ever visited where I heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. It was a thrill nonetheless. Again...nice list.

Ruth said...

Oh, no, Carol. I didn't see it. Something must have happened. Sorry. Anyway, it is something to think about after years of reading. It's a lot of fun to put together, too.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Nancy. Yes, Reading Lolita and Invisible Man are excellent.

Ruth said...

Thanks, o.

I know Voyage Out is one of Woolf's more conventional stories, but that is probably why I enjoyed it more than her stream of conscious works.

Yes, I saw that you are planning to read Augustine, and I was going to tell you good luck. It's an impressive read. I thought my head would explode, but in a good way. : )

Ruth said...

Thanks, Joseph. I know Jillian's blog is temporarily out of commission, but you can still do this. You'd have an amazing list, I suspect.

The Netherlands is changing drastically, so I am not surprised by your story. True, Anne Frank gets more recognition, but those of us who know Corrie Ten Boom's story are equally blessed. She represents those who risked their lives to save others; it is not a coincidence that her story was preserved.