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Those Name-Dropped Book Classics But You Have No Idea What They’re About Part 2

We’re back with another list of Name-Dropped Classics for you to feel smart about when someone tries to one-up you ;) 

And of course, I recommend checking these out for their insightful themes, not just for feeling smart!

Previous lists:

Installment 1

The Epic of Gilgamesh (2100-1200 BCE)

Summary: Gilgamesh, a two-thirds godman, fosters his kingdom of Uruk, befriends Enkidu, the wildman sent by the gods to kill him, and searches for the secret of eternal death upon his friend’s death. 

The oldest Classic of this installment, Gilgamesh’s story, comes from a series of Mesopotamia tablets that were later woven into one connective tale. His reckless actions grant him much, but it isn’t until later that he discovers the cost.

Extra Note: Influential on Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey; also has many counterparts to the Bible.

Ovid – Metamorphoses (8 AD)

Summary: Roman mythology compiled into one comprehensive epic-poem. The stories told here are as lyrical as they are varied, from the birth of the gods, the tales of humans, and the spite of any being, mortal or not. 

The heft of all 15 books is quite a whopper (~900 pages) but achievable through a story or two whenever you have time.

Extra Note: this was the shiz back in 8 AD (like, imagine the Hunger Games and 50 Shades of Grey put together because yes there is a bunch of battles and sex) and is now one of the most influential sources of inspiration in our current age.

William Shakespeare – Hamlet (1603)

Summary: Prince Hamlet plots revenge against the man who murdered his father for the throne and intends to marry his mother, his own Uncle Claudius. 

Disney’s Lion King was inspired by this tragedy play, but there’s more to the story than fights for the throne. Hamlet orchestrates but laments at the end he seems to foresee, Claudius borders between guilt for murder and fear for his own life, and Ophelia goes mad with the petty play of patriarchal politics. 

Extra Note: This is where the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy comes from!

Extra Extra Note: One of my favorite quotes comes from this play: “There is nothing that is good or bad, only thinking makes it so.”

Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart (1958)

Summary: Okonkwo seeks to escape his father’s shameful shadow by making his own wealth, ‘proving his masculinity,’ and becoming the leader-warrior his father wasn’t, but everything changes when the Christianity missionaries arrive. 

This book offers an objective view of the African tribes, specifically the Igbo people, and the changes to their traditions as foreigners impose their beliefs onto them. It’s hard to find a ‘bad guy’ in this book because both the Igbo and the colonizers are acting on the morals and principles that they’ve been taught as a people, and of course, people are inconsistent. Look for the contrasts between and within.

Extra Note: Yes, that was an Avatar: The Last Airbender reference. Couldn’t resist Xp

Audre Lorde – The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (1997)

Summary: poems from a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” as she once described herself. 

Any collection of her poems work, but this book is the big collection of everything she wrote. Her poems range from sexual desires, civil rights, feminism, being black and queer, classism, capitalism, and the injustices oppressing people for simply being people. Her words capture emotion in a painful, joyful, and resonating way for all no matter their identity.

Stay safe and cozy!

Having graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with English Honors, Keesilla loves writing. From character development to rhetorical analyses to the pure vibrancy of words, every part must be savored like a warm pastry, which are one of the things Keesilla enjoys to bake when not reading, writing, or staring off into space. Insta: @luckandkees (yes, the pf is a picture of apples)
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