Tearful Reunion With Some Classics

the cover [and edition] of the first Toni Morrison book I ever read:  SULA  (photo by Leslie Reese)
the cover [and edition] of the first Toni Morrison book I ever read: SULA (photo by Leslie Reese)

How is your summer going?

I also mean: goodness gracious but I hope you have had some fun and/or a vacation and things like that….!

….found myself in a tearful reunion with some classics I own and had not been in physical contact with for a while; so I was smelling and feeling pages, viewing cover art and copyright pages and etc and feeling…well, SURPRISED and awestruck by the passage of time….!

…feeling so behind on considering ideas & thoughts; writing about them, etc…as well as rest, relaxation; gut-busting laughs; some real-time hugs and kisses…and allowing life to take me by happy surprise! CAN YOU UNDERSTAND ME???

….today I had to go through some boxed-up things and found these classics…..

"old" editions of some classics in my personal library (photo by Leslie Reese)
“old” editions of some classics in my personal library (photo by Leslie Reese)

….but, here is the thing: when you are a younger person, you don’t think about living to become old enough to look back on identifiers of your developmental years [as] things that will become vintage and classic.

Using a 20+…say 25-plus-year marker, what might qualify as being some of your personal reading classics and why?


  1. Okay, Claire, thanks for bringing in the point about where we are in our lives when we encounter certain works and how that makes them (our) personal classics! Despite your generosity in terms of passing books on to others, your memory seems to be humming along perfectly. The concept of allowing myself only two shelves of books to read at any given time is worth some consideration. Any books you’ve had difficulty letting go? Thanks for sharing your trip down memory lane, as well as some titles worth checking into:)

  2. What a fabulous cover Leslie! Beautiful and a great book too. I loved Sula.

    I tend to pass books on, and only allow myself 2 shelves, so it can be difficult to remember books from 20 years ago, though I do recall that that would have been the period when I was travelling around Asia (in my mid 20’s), so I know I was reading Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War and Dương Thu Hương’s Paradise of the Blind while spending a month in Vietnam, and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (in 3 volumes) before arriving in India. I didn’t want to read of the British colonial experience or the American war experience, I was looking for voices that came from within those countries I visited, and I guess I still am!

    In Thailand there was a lot of book swapping happening and the “have you read??” and “you have to read this” kind of recommendations, we were reading books like Jostein Gaarder’s philosophical exploration mystery, Sophie’s World and James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy, The Tenth Insight etc. Probably my favourite of that genre, the one that resonated with me most strongly at the time was Ben Okri’s Astonishing the Gods. I was pushing that volume on to others.

    I guess these popular spiritual and philosophical works resonated with travellers and those who had set out on adventures into very different world’s than their own, we are ripe for a particular kind of reflection, opening our minds as we encounter new experiences, people and situations alone, and from the conversations with travellers the world over.

    One of my favourite reads from this trip was A.S. Byatt’s Possession, which I read on the 18 hour bus ride from the Indian border up to Kathmandu, I’d been saving it and recall it well as I carried it with me for months in my backpack, until finally posting it from Delhi and wondering when I met back up with it a couple of months later (it belonged to a freind so I couldn’t swap it), how it happened to be punctured in the middle, as if stabbed with a knife.

    I also remember that my reading was influenced a lot by my Aunt living in London at the time, I spent hours looking at her bookshelves and gorging myself on her books, her mother always bought her big hardbacks, such a luxury for me, Doris Lessing’s African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe, Robin Davidson’s Tracks, lots of books on art, design, herbs, flower remedies and an introduction to reading Celtic Runes.

    I remember in that era, seeking out books like Mary S Lovell’s A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby, a woman who scandalised society through her divorce, the first time such news replaced the notices on the front page of the Times, who found true love with a Bedouin nobleman, Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab a man twenty years her junior. She travelled overland by camel and knew Damascus and parts of the world, women just didn’t travel to. Parts of the world I wanted to know more about too.

  3. Hmm….my personal reading classics. I’m in my mid-20s so since I grew up in the Harry Potter era, I’ve always assumed that in a few years (25, maybe) the Harry Potter books would be considered classics. Why? Because of all the uproar about them and how they brought attention to children’s books causing bestseller lists to include a separate one for children/YA books. Also that fantasy world is fascinating and but I wonder if kids in the future will marvel at it as I did.
    Another personal classic is Their Eyes Were Watching God, of course, my favorite classic, just for its beautiful prose and Janie.

    1. Hi Zezee – yes I agree that the Harry Potter books are on their way to becoming bonafide classics. It is beautiful that Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were watching God is now wonderfully recognized, despite the hardships Hurston suffered as a writer while she was alive. I also love the book I Love Myself When I Am Laughing and Then Again When I am Looking Mean and Impressive – an anthology of some of Hurston’s seminal folklore; autobiographical and prose writings.
      Thanks for adding to the chat!

  4. Leslie, thank you for the call to the reunion! I’m here! I recently looked at a list I keep — books finished, 2015 — and there is nothing there for August yet. Ugh! I’m fighting to learn to deal with an arthritic knee, and nothing seems to be appealing for more than a day or two. Still, I’ve rediscovered my “slow writing” notebook, thank you, and I’m going back to an exercise which is (slowly, of course) helping my own writing, thanks to a favorite detective story by Laurie R. King. As for the all-out classics, you know I go back to Sherlock Holmes at regular intervals; beyond that, I’ve found authors from Ian Fleming to A.A. Milne to be worth returning to. (James Bond goes through much worse in Fleming’s books than he ever does in the movies, yet they are written well.) As for Milne, he came up with what I call the classics, Sustaining Books — Pooh asking “Could you read a Sustaining Book to Help and Comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?”

    1. About time you showed-up, Margaret!—I saved you a hanky. I am sorry about your knee but thank you for joining the discussion. I’ve never read any of the James Bond books and now I am intrigued. The A. A. Milne/Winnie the Pooh quote about Sustaining Books is worth framing.

      1. Thanks, Leslie, for the hanky and the empathy. Sorry to keep you waiting while I try not to limp. Glad to exchange intriguing titles… you’ve added to what I want to look for in the library.

  5. Awesome shot of books! Vintage indeed!! I like that Sula cover art. Summer has been relaxing. Interesting question you pose above… 25 years ago, I was just a 1 year old hahaaa. But my early literature faves are definitely Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” , J.D Salinger’s “The Catcher In The Rye” , Charles Dicken’s “David Cooperfield” , the American Girl Doll: Meet Addy series written by Connie Porter and John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”
    Great post, Leslie 🙂

    1. Darkowaa—I should have known you would appreciate this one: whenever you post photos of *your mother’s* books I always sigh with nostalgic recognition! Thank you for sharing your early literary faves: more goodies! Hugs!

  6. Leslie, gimme those books! ha! I love that they are worn which, in book-talk, means they are loved. And I have no idea why *I’m* feeling all nostalgic like they’re my books! That’s the first time I’ve seen that Sula cover and it must go on my Cover Lovin Page.

    It’s a great question that you pose. But I hadn’t discovered my love for literature 20-25 years ago.

    1. What a way to make me feel old, Shannon!
      Your [covetous] response made me crack-up laughing. I love that *my* stack of oldies-but-goodies made YOU feel nostalgic, though! Face it: you’re a reader and book collector; and 20 years from now you’re going to look around and find yourself ensconced in today’s favorites and realize they’ve become personal classics. Thank you for sharing your Cover Lovin page. Book cover art can be so satisfying, tantalizing, thought-provoking….yes?

  7. HI Leslie, great post.

    What classics to return to? Great question. The ‘classics’ we were taught in school, and still get taught in school, – “to kill a mockingbird”, “diary of anne frank” were pretty boring to me then, and remain so. hard to finish them once – not again. the bronte sisters – so many people loved them then, and still do – alas, not me. tolkien – sure – loved reading lord of the rings and the hobbit in high school – now with all the high tech movies, dont want to re-read. simply too long for a second read.

    so whats left? well…. there is one classic author i never get sick of. believe it or not, its Willian Shakespeare. his prose, his poetry, his wicked sense of humour, and simply his great ways with words never cease to please. a couple of years back i introduced my then 9 year old daughter to the bard – i had somehow stumbled upon a sight of Shakespeare’s insults – and she asked me why i was laughing out loud. We had great fun pretending to insult each other with such choice phrases as
    “A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality.”


    “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”

    Great stuff 🙂

    1. Hi Debbie –

      Yes your response makes me think of how we (readers) conceive of our own “classics” based on a rich and varied criteria; how our faves may or may not line up with the classics according to the “western canon, etc.” And even since posting I’ve been remembering totally different stacks of personal favorite books to gather for different reasons. William Shakespeare the bard for whom generations never cease to draw inspiration! Thank you for sharing the game played by you and your daughter—Methought ’twas inspiration most trumpetously sounded! lol!

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