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In 1998 I was an eighth grader at the local middle school, and my English teacher handed each of us a list with 56 classic books.  We were to choose one of those books, read it, research it, and be ready to write a final paper in class.  I got permission to read a book that wasn’t on the list and made Dracula by Bram Stoker my project.  When the time came to write the final paper, I stared at the first question in dismay.  We were supposed to write information about the author, and in my research on the book I neglected to collect that crucial information.  I quickly made up some facts:  I wrote that Stoker had been born and raised in Transylvania, and that the gothic folk tales and stories of his childhood influenced his writing.  I found out later that he was born in Ireland, and I don’t think he ever actually set foot in Romania.  I didn’t actually find out that Transylvania was even IN Romania until I went there for a mission trip eight years later.  (That’s another story:  we drove five hours to see Dracula’s castle and it was closed.)

I’ve kept the list all these years, and even though I wasn’t actively or exclusively reading the classics listed there, I still crossed them off as I finished them.  The plan all along was that I would mail the list to Mrs. Harshbarger when I had completed them all.  I finished about 35 of them from 1998 to 2013, and I made it my New Year’s Resolution for 2013 to finish the list once and for all.  I almost succeeded:  2014 rolled around as I was in the final book, Mutiny on the Bounty by Nordhoff and Hall.

A couple of the books have made my Top Ten list, many of them I enjoyed immensely but they didn’t quite earn a Top status, and some of them I had to force myself to keep reading. Each book has received a personal rating out of four stars, and the + indicates a Top Ten book.  No matter the novel, I was glad to expand my literary horizons.  Mrs. Harshbarger:  thank you for the education.

Meg reading

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas  ****

The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas

How Green was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn ***

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier ****+

Giant, by Edna Ferber **

So Big, by Edna Ferber *

Ice Palace, by Edna Ferber **

The Deerslayer, by James Fenimore Cooper

The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper

Green Mansions, by William Henry Hudson **

Quo Vadis, by Henryk Sienkiewicz **

Ben Hur, by Lew Wallace **

Trinity, by Leon Uris ***

Mila 18, by Leon Uris **

Exodus, by Leon Uris***

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo ****

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien ***

The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien ***

The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

The Pearl, by John Steinbeck *

The Grapes of Wrath,  by John Steinbeck ***

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck**

The Way West, by A.B. Guthrie **

The Big Sky, by A.B. Guthrie **

The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk ***

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betth Smith ****

Mutiny on the Bounty, by Nordhoff and Hall

Little Women, by Louisa M. Alcott*

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte****+

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte****

The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck****

My Antonia, by Willa Cather

Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel DeFoe

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens**

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens****

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by A. C. Doyle****

The Scarlett Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell****

Animal Farm, by George Orwell***

1984, by George Orwell****

The Yearling, by M.K. Rawlings

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich M Remarque

Giants in the Earth, by Ole E. Rolvaag**

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly**

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson***

Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne

War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells*

The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells***

The Swiss Family Robinson, by Jonathan Wyss