Most Entertaining Classics

In another thread someone was quoted as saying that classics are the books that everyone should read but no one wants to (or words to that effect.) It seems to me that while this describes, say, The Mayor of Casterbridge, there are plenty of classics that are worth reading not (or not just) because they make observations about the human condition, but because they’re genuinely entertaining. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Time Machine, and a number of other novels come to mind (in fact, pretty much all the good stuff by Twain and Wells.) I could also add Dracula and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Do you have any other examples of classics that are fun to read?


The original Frankenstein…I loved it!

The Three Musketeers
This is the third time in a about a week that I’ve mentioned this book on the SDMB … it is a little difficult to get past the very flowery language and meandering style of the novel, but once the action starts, this book is a real page turner. Even if you’ve seen the movies, there are tons of plot points in the book that never made it to film, so there are still surprises (plus many of the movie versions change elements of the book). Some of the dialogue between the musketeers is laugh-out-loud funny, especially when three of them gang up on a fourth.

Candide by Voltaire, and Dante’s Inferno.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

It caused quite a stir in it’s time and it is a very good book today.

Gilgamesh by unknown
Beowulf by unknown
The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Paradise Lost by Milton
The Inferno and the Paradiso by Dante
While none of these are vital to a rich and full life, many cultural references are taken from these works (as well as Shakespeare and the Bible), so it is helpful to be familiar with them.

Please read the OP. I’m asking for entertaining classics, not dry-as-dust-but-critical-to-our-culture ones.


I totally agree on Beowulf…


Crime and Punishment
Lord of the Flies (does that count yet?)

Another vote for Candide.

Dickens maybe? I certainly enjoyed Oliver Twist

As to the Greek classics, I mostly plead ignorance, but I seem to recall that the plays of Aristophanes can make a modern audience laugh. I just re-read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and while it’s not as easy to read as a mass-market paperback, of course, I found it mostly accessible and I enjoyed it. It has the added bonus of not being that long.

I loved Great Expectations – but only on second reading.

I also find most of Shakespeare great to see performed (if not read). The smae thing with Cyrano de Bergerac.

I actually loved reading The Odyssey, so I’m sticking it back on the list.
Three Musketeers & Count of Monte Cristo are great.
Jane Austen.
Crime and Punishment
I’ve heard excellent things about Anna Karenina, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Moliere, Shakespeare, and the greek classics on the “should be seen, and are fun” list (but only if done well. Otherwise, they’re exercises in torture.)

Don’t know if these really count as classics but I’ll try anyway:
The Trial by Kafka
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I didn’t mean to imply these works were boring, just useful to know. I found them all interesting. Forget about my line about “vital to a rich and full life,” I just meant to imply that they were interesting and useful, but that a school child is probably too young to really understand the some of the sutble ideas contained therein. I used to have a professor that would also state when presenting some classic hat it would enrich your life, etc. So please take my submissions seriously.

Moby Dick. When my English teacher forced me to read it in high school, I thought it was the most boring book on earth. A few years later, I decided to re-read it, and I loved it.

I would like to second Dante’s Inferno. I prefer John Ciardi’s translation.

Also The Three Musketeers. And just about anything else by Alexandre Dumas senior.

War and Peace is actually two books. Tolstoy spends a couple of chapters preaching a sermon on the meaning of life. Then he spends a couple of chapters telling a soap opera about Boris, Natasha, Andre, etc. Then a couple more sermons, then back to the soap opera, etc. If you can force yourself through the lecture-chapters, the story-chapters are a lot of fun.

when it comes to the odyssey, make sure you read the lattimore translation. its much better. theres not enough room for my big list, so ill just give my number one. heart of darkness, read it again, people.

Macbeth and Hamlet
Dante’s Inferno
The Sherlock Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle
Machiavelli’s The Prince is good for anyone interested in the time period, but certainly not for everyone. (Also, it’s an essay, not a novel.)
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Oedipux Rex by Sophocles
The Bacchae by Euripedes
I’ve started Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and it’s been interesting so far.

Forgot one - Coriolanus, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, is also great.

A lot of my favorites are already listed. When I saw the thread title I was going to start with “A Connecticut Yankee…”, but it was already in the OP. I Love epics, too, so Iliad and Odyssey and Beowulf fit in there. I also like Moby Dick and War and Peace.

Here are a couple of others:

A Christmas Carol by Dickens

The works of Lucian. Roman satririst with a Shavian wit. Much of it is still relevant today.

The works of George Bernard Shaw. Don’t just see the plays – you have to read the plays as printed. Shaw’s “prefaces” to his plays are frequently longer than the plays, and filled with provocative stuff. “Pygmalion”, “Androcles and the Lion”, “Man and Superman”, “The Devil’s Disciple”, “Major Barbara” – all good stuff.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift killed me as a kid, and I’ve read it countless times since.

The Works of Jules Verne – as I’ve remarked before, most of Verne’s works are unjustly neglected or overlooked. Even the common ones – “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, “A Journey to the Center of the Earth”, “Around the World in 80 Days” – were for a long time only available in very bad translations that clipped out up to 1/3 of the book! Get Walter James Miller’s annotated versions, if you can.

Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” – my favorite of his plays.

I’ll throw two more out that I’ve read several times and still enjoy:

A Tale of Two Cities - Dickens (the movie version with Ronald Coleman is worth seeing if you get the chance).
Treasure Island - Stevenson (the movie with Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beerey is worth a look, too).