Writing Prompt #250: “50 Masterpieces You Have to Read Before You Die, Volume 1” (Introduction Post)

Image Credit: Amazon

I’ve partnered with a friend, Kimberly, from a great Facebook group called The Book Drunkard, to read through Volumes 1 and 2!

The goal is to explore as many books as possible – I’m excited!


Here’s the list of the first 50 books:

Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice

Austen, Jane: Emma

Balzac, Honoré de: Father Goriot

Barbusse, Henri: The Inferno

Brontë, Anne: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre

Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights

Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Tarzan of the Apes

Butler, Samuel: The Way of All Flesh

Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Cather, Willa: My Ántonia

Cervantes, Miguel de: Don Quixote

Chopin, Kate: The Awakening

Cleland, John: Fanny Hill

Collins, Wilkie: The Moonstone

Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness

Conrad, Joseph: Nostromo

Cooper, James Fenimore: The Last of the Mohicans

Crane, Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage

Cummings, E. E.: The Enormous Room

Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe

Defoe, Daniel: Moll Flanders

Dickens, Charles: Bleak House

Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: The Idiot

Doyle, Arthur Conan: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie

Dumas, Alexandre: The Three Musketeers

Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo

Eliot, George: Middlemarch

Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones

Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary

Flaubert, Gustave: Sentimental Education

Ford, Ford Madox: The Good Soldier

Forster, E. M.: A Room With a View

Forster, E. M.: Howards End

Gaskell, Elizabeth: North and South

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: The Sorrows of Young Werther

Gogol, Nikolai: Dead Souls

Gorky, Maxim: The Mother

Haggard, H. Rider: King Solomon’s Mines

Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter

Homer: The Odyssey

Hugo, Victor: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables

Huxley, Aldous: Crome Yellow

James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady

Keep an eye out for new Writing Prompt posts as I read through these books!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

10 thoughts on “Writing Prompt #250: “50 Masterpieces You Have to Read Before You Die, Volume 1” (Introduction Post)

  1. Wow, I feel illiterate. Forty-six of those I’ve never read. One of them I’ve read once, one I’ve read twice, one I started and couldn’t get into so didn’t finish, and I’ve read an abridged version of one of them. All of them were required for school, except the one I didn’t finish, and the one I reread I did so on my own the second time.

    • I recognize a lot of these either from school, or from Wishbone.

      • I’ve heard of quite a few of them… just haven’t read them.

        (For the record: Scarlet Letter once, Heart of Darkness once in school and once as an adult, The Odyssey abridged, Jane Eyre didn’t finish)

        Did I tell you my story about Heart of Darkness and the AP English test?

      • I read Scarlet Letter, Heart of Darkness, and The Odyssey in high school. I don’t think I finished Jane Eyre, either. I don’t think you told me that story 🙂

      • So basically, in high school I was the type who felt I had to challenge myself as much as possible, because school was the one thing I was good at. I had always had an inferiority complex, feeling like I was very close to being the top student in my class but not actually being the top student. (I was ranked 7th in a graduating class of 270, but my school had a policy of not giving extra weight to honors and AP classes when calculating class rank. Still, though, even if they did I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t have been valedictorian, although I probably would have leapfrogged over a few people. And the fact that I remember these details 27 years later just goes to show how much this affected me.)

        When I signed up to take AP English, Calculus, Government, and Biology (the only AP science my high school offered) as a senior, my counselor told me that they do not recommend people take more than three AP classes, so as not to be too stressed out senior year. That made me angry… like, excuse me, it’s your job to push students to do the best they can, why are you discouraging me? And you think I can’t do this? That’s rude. Then, to further complicate the situation, my teacher for Spanish 2 told me that she thought I was good enough to skip straight to AP Spanish, so of course I took that opportunity, and now I have five AP classes for senior year… And when I got my AP test scores back, seeing that I passed all five, three of them with 5s, I wanted to go wave that report card in the faces of everyone who said I couldn’t do it. (I didn’t, though.)

        And about halfway through that story, I realized that it has nothing to do with Heart of Darkness… I told the wrong story, but that was all good background information. I felt English was my worst academic subject, because I just wasn’t good at writing essays to analyze what we read. I didn’t always see things the way the author and teacher intended. That, and the way my English teacher in 10th grade taught and graded didn’t work for my learning style. So that was the one I was most worried about.

        I don’t know if you’re familiar with the actual AP English test, or if it has changed since 1994, but there is a multiple choice section, and then three essay questions. Two of them you write about a selection it gives you to read, and the third question you are supposed to answer with a literary work of merit that you are already familiar with. It gives you a list of suggested works to write about, but you are allowed to write about something not on the list if it fits the topic. The AP English teacher in 12th grade told us to study Candide, The Stranger, and Heart of Darkness most closely. He would always ask his classes to remember that final question, the one where you have to write about something you’re familiar with, so he could use it to practice with future classes. In 13 years of teaching that class, every essay question that he had ever seen could be applied to one of those three works. Furthermore, he said, 12 of the 13 questions he had seen could be applied to Heart of Darkness alone, so study that one the most. He gave us the previous years’ questions, and to me, some of them seemed a bit of a stretch to connect to Heart of Darkness, so I went into the test basically thinking that my entire fate depended on how well the question that these test writers came up with would line up with Heart of Darkness. I got to the last page of the test and began reading…

        Test: Sometimes, a major character in a story only appears briefly, or not at all.
        My mind: IT’S KURTZ!!! WRITE ABOUT KURTZ!!! YOU GOT THIS!!!
        Test: Discuss a character who appears only briefly in a novel, but has a major impact on the plot. Include examples [blah blah blah…] You may write about a work from this list, or a work of merit you are familiar with…
        My mind: HOLY CRAP, HEART OF DARKNESS IS ACTUALLY ON THE LIST!!! I’M SO PREPARED FOR THIS QUESTION!!!

        And when I got my grades back, I really think I was more proud of the 4 I got in English than I was of the 5s in calculus, biology, or Spanish, because that was the test I was the most worried about, and I worked so hard for it.

      • Wow, that’s awesome! I was in the International Baccalaureate program in high school, so I completely get where you’re coming from about the AP classes. I read Heart of Darkness for senior year English, I think.

  2. I appreciate the alphabetical order, lol

  3. Great idea for a series of posts. Interesting list, too. Wish there were more women on it.

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