Hot Best Seller

Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now

Availability: Ready to download

In an age of uncertainty over our literary heritage, Andrew Delbanco reconsiders our greatest writers and how they enlarged our sense of American possibilities and the expressive range of our Language. Whether he writes of Herman Melville or Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Richard Wright, Delbanco's understanding of their imaginative force is deep and apprecia In an age of uncertainty over our literary heritage, Andrew Delbanco reconsiders our greatest writers and how they enlarged our sense of American possibilities and the expressive range of our Language. Whether he writes of Herman Melville or Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Richard Wright, Delbanco's understanding of their imaginative force is deep and appreciative. "I have no doubt that the world is better for these books having been written, and I believe it is the responsibility of the critic to incite others to read them", he says.


Compare

In an age of uncertainty over our literary heritage, Andrew Delbanco reconsiders our greatest writers and how they enlarged our sense of American possibilities and the expressive range of our Language. Whether he writes of Herman Melville or Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Richard Wright, Delbanco's understanding of their imaginative force is deep and apprecia In an age of uncertainty over our literary heritage, Andrew Delbanco reconsiders our greatest writers and how they enlarged our sense of American possibilities and the expressive range of our Language. Whether he writes of Herman Melville or Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Richard Wright, Delbanco's understanding of their imaginative force is deep and appreciative. "I have no doubt that the world is better for these books having been written, and I believe it is the responsibility of the critic to incite others to read them", he says.

30 review for Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now

  1. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    After years of lying about it, I finally finished Moby Dick - a feat that left me wanting to know more about the enigmatic Mr. Melville. Turns out, Delbanco's biography is an excellent, accessible place to start. Mr. Delbanco is a fine critic; he not only understands the stylistic concerns of the books he discusses, he is also attuned to the historical events that shape his subjects. "Required Reading" will remind you of all the amazing thinks you used to be exposed to in college English classes After years of lying about it, I finally finished Moby Dick - a feat that left me wanting to know more about the enigmatic Mr. Melville. Turns out, Delbanco's biography is an excellent, accessible place to start. Mr. Delbanco is a fine critic; he not only understands the stylistic concerns of the books he discusses, he is also attuned to the historical events that shape his subjects. "Required Reading" will remind you of all the amazing thinks you used to be exposed to in college English classes -- some of us have probably not touched many of these authors since then. That's a shame because Delbanco shows how timely these writers are. I especially appreciated his smart, nuanced discussion of Kate Chopin's slim bombshell, "The Awakening". Americans tend to distrust critics. Apparently, we don't like being told what to read or why. By disregarding 'professional' readers, we deprive ourselves of an opportunity to see a good mind unpack a good book - something that should always be a pleasure.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    In reading this book I must admit that I have mixed to adverse feelings about a lot of the books that were included as classics.  All of that, of course, suggests that considering something as a classic is far from a straightforward task and that there are some problematic elements to what is viewed as a classic.  Yet the author is right that such books deserve to be read closely and critically, not least because our literature speaks to our own cultural corruption and to some of the repeated pr In reading this book I must admit that I have mixed to adverse feelings about a lot of the books that were included as classics.  All of that, of course, suggests that considering something as a classic is far from a straightforward task and that there are some problematic elements to what is viewed as a classic.  Yet the author is right that such books deserve to be read closely and critically, not least because our literature speaks to our own cultural corruption and to some of the repeated problems dealt with by Americans with regards to our culture and literature.  Admittedly this book is by no means a complete look at American classics, and not all of the books included here are ones that I would think highly of, although it must be said that I have read most of them, being a classicist in my own tastes.  In a way, therefore, I agree with the author that the books the author praises are required reading, but I don't think that they are required reading in a straightforward sense of approval, but rather that we read about the struggles of America through appreciating its classic literature. This short book of about 200 pages is divided into twelve short chapters.  The author begins with a preface and then begins his discussion of American classics by looking at the writings of Melville (1), whose work I consider highly overrated, and Thoreau (2), which I also find overrated.  After that the author spends a chapter talking about Uncle Tom's Cabin (3) and its influence and the two Lincolns (4), the one of history and the one of myth, and their similarities and differences.  The author then talks about Henry Adams (5) and his reflections on the end of a world, as well as the short and unhappy life of Stephen Crane (6), best known for "The Red Badge Of Courage."  The author queries whether Kate Chopin was a feminist (7) and discusses Dreiser's melodramatic fare (8).  After that the author ponders the question of what Edith Wharton would think (9) given her unconventional life but fondness for tact, after which he discusses Ellison's Native Son (10) and the political incorrectness of Zora Neale Hurston (11).  Finally, the author closes the discussion with a praise of reading for pleasure (12), after which the author closes this book with the customary acknowledgements and index section for this short volume. There are undoubtedly some great books here.  Yet just as obvious as the presence of books that deal with problems of sexuality and race, which seem to be characteristically American problems, are the absence of a great many books that are equally obvious American classics.  There is, for example, a distinct absence of poetry (no Whitman or Dickenson, for example), a limited amount of history (no Tuchman or Bailyn), no American drama, and even the novels and short stories included fail to include Hawthorne or anyone after the 1930's.  It is unclear whether the books here form the author's view of the canon of great American literature, or whether these books are merely chosen as examples of the characteristic concerns of American culture throughout our history that are discussed in these books.  If America's classic literature is something that is often neglected in discussions of the repertory, this book is deeply incomplete and was short enough that it could have been lengthened to be more inclusive without any difficulty whatsoever.  If we should take classic literature, even the classic literature of our own nation, with a high degree of seriousness, we should have a good idea of the full scope of what aspects of America's literary culture are in fact great and are, in fact, required reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tom Bantle

    The book's title doesn't really match the book's content. It is really a collection of essays on specific books or authors. Yes, after reading all of them you may have thoughts that go to the question of "Why Our American Classics Matter Now." But there is not a cohesive, satisfying analysis of that question.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lobug

    I was hoping to find out why I should encourage my kids to read classics. While it wasn't what I was looking for- in a reverse sort of way, I guess I found what I wanted. Rather than learning why to have my kids read certain classics, I learned just what authors I want my kids to stay away from- at least until they are adults. Delbanco seems to prefer authors that like to write books with precisely the opposite of my worldview; and the racier the better, as far as I can tell. I skimmed whole cha I was hoping to find out why I should encourage my kids to read classics. While it wasn't what I was looking for- in a reverse sort of way, I guess I found what I wanted. Rather than learning why to have my kids read certain classics, I learned just what authors I want my kids to stay away from- at least until they are adults. Delbanco seems to prefer authors that like to write books with precisely the opposite of my worldview; and the racier the better, as far as I can tell. I skimmed whole chapters rather than reading them after halfway through the book, just because I figured I didn't need to read about all that garbage. It was depressing, but eye-opening; and I am glad I "read" it and now know what to avoid in future!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    In this short book, Andrew Delbanco writes highly perceptive essays about eleven American authors, which he follows with a chapter entitled, "Reading for Pleasure." He rejects the modern critical view that literary works are all about content and that language is merely a trap that one must overcome. He similarly rejects the view that the purpose of all literature is simply to express or address social ills. He says that modern ciritics have taken the "pleasure" out of reading and that one of th In this short book, Andrew Delbanco writes highly perceptive essays about eleven American authors, which he follows with a chapter entitled, "Reading for Pleasure." He rejects the modern critical view that literary works are all about content and that language is merely a trap that one must overcome. He similarly rejects the view that the purpose of all literature is simply to express or address social ills. He says that modern ciritics have taken the "pleasure" out of reading and that one of the components of that pleasure is style or the words themselves.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Pierre Lauzon

    The book is a collection of essays on significant authors and their books as seen by the author. It was on my "books to read" list for many years and I finally got to it. Among the less expected authors he highlights are Harriet Beecher Stowe, Stephen Crane, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Dreiser - and Delbanco puts each in a new light with insightful essays. He also covers authors I would have expected such as Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Delbanco is a very clea The book is a collection of essays on significant authors and their books as seen by the author. It was on my "books to read" list for many years and I finally got to it. Among the less expected authors he highlights are Harriet Beecher Stowe, Stephen Crane, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Dreiser - and Delbanco puts each in a new light with insightful essays. He also covers authors I would have expected such as Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Delbanco is a very clear writer and the book is easy to read and follow.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    A fine collection of essays that respects American literature and made me want to read Melville, Thoreau, Lincoln, and Adams again. He finds Melville's style sacramental and examines Thoreau and death. I find his delight in language infectious and the final essay on reading made me want to read much more than Alan Jacobs tiresome book on reading I read earlier in the year.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim Suddeth

    Interesting introductions to great classical writers. Interesting why he picked these.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rob

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tree

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Patterson

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura Lorek

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cat.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Larson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sem

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Houston

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott Ryalls

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pat

  22. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephany Villanueva

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carl Holmes

  26. 4 out of 5

    Donna

  27. 5 out of 5

    A. Bickham

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Paul

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bill

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sheikh Tajamul

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.