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7 'Classics' to Take Off Your Reading List

And what to read instead
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2018 2:54 PM CDT
Updated Apr 28, 2018 10:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you've ever found yourself struggling through a so-called "classic" book only to find yourself thinking, "How racist/sexist/boring," you're not alone. The editors of GQ, along with some current authors, have put together a list of 21 such books (technically 20, because one of them got two votes) that are simply outdated and should be struck from the "Great Books" canon. The list got itself mentioned on Fox & Friends last weekend, and not in a good way—it includes the Bible, which Jesse Ball calls "repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned," leading Fox News religion contributor Father Jonathan Morris to push back by calling its inclusion on the list "foolish," USA Today reports. Lots of social media users also decried the choice, and evangelist Franklin Graham said the editors "couldn't be more wrong." As for what else made the list, here's a sampling—along with the books the editors and the authors they spoke to think you should read instead:

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: This is the book that got two votes. "Mark Twain was a racist. ... He was a man of his time, so let's leave him there," writes Tommy Orange. Instead, he suggests reading The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by Alvaro Mutis; Caity Weaver suggests Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

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  1. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger: André Aciman calls Salinger's novel "totally silly" and "without any literary merit whatsoever." Instead, try Olivia: A Novel by Dorothy Strachey.
  2. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: "Hemingway's novels—with their masculine bluster and clipped sentences—sometimes feel almost parodic to me," writes Rumaan Alam, who suggests instead The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard.
  3. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien: While the books are "influential as exercises in world building, as novels they are barely readable," writes Manuel Gonzales. Instead, try Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series.
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: While Heller's novel "fails to capture the absurdities and impossible conflicts of war," Emily Robbins writes that Inaam Kachachi's The American Granddaughter does just that.
  5. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: "The few women in Slaughterhouse-Five die early, are porn stars, or are 'bitchy flibbertigibbets,'" writes Nadja Spiegelman, who suggests Veronica by Mary Gaitskill instead.
  6. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: "I'm convinced that the cowboy mythos, with its rigid masculine emotional landscape, glorification of guns and destruction, and misogynistic gender roles, is a major factor in the degradation of America," writes Lauren Groff. "The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford ... acts in many ways as a strong rebuttal to all the old toxic western stereotypes we all need to explode."
Click for the complete list, which includes another Hemingway and another Salinger. (Read more literature stories.)

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