Readers' classics

On Sept. 14, we invited readers to nominate their own "Harvard Classics" to add to Charles W. Eliot's famous "five foot shelf" of books. (See "My decades-long journey of five feet," by Roderick Nordell, page 22.)

Mr. Eliot, then president of Harvard University, said nearly a century ago that "a five-foot shelf would hold books enough to give in the course of years a good substitute for a liberal education." The first of the 50-volume "Harvard Classics" appeared in 1909.

But surely, by now, a one-foot extension shelf is in order? Many of our readers thought so. Here are their suggestions, in no particular order. (A fine Monitor pen will go to everyone whose suggestion is printed here.)

Our sincere thanks to all who submitted nominations.

The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson (1951)

[Ms. Carson] wrote about the entire world environment and its beauty and fragility long before it was the politically correct thing to do. The poetic sense in her scientific writing is such an unusual mix.... Martha F. Barkley, Charleston, S.C.

Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America (originally 'La Relacion'), by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (1542)

The first work of American Southwest literature, written by the first European to cross the North American continent, this 1500s odyssey of struggle and personal transformation is one of the great true epics of history. Mark Amparan, via e-mail

ULYSSES, by James Joyce (1922)

It abounds in examples of a rich new prose and it stretches the imagination of innovators yet to come. Barbara T. McDonough, Lexington, Mich.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee (1960)

The characters are so believable - Scout is absolutely priceless. To me it is a perfectly written book. Harriet Davies, Milford, Del.

THE GATHERING STORM, by Winston Churchill (1948)

It is a bit verbose at times, but paints a matchless portrait of the drift toward calamity, which is the central event of the 20th century. It also has moments that are literary, as in its closing passages where Churchill himself acquires leadership and feels as though he is 'walking with destiny.' Alan Earls, Franklin, Mass.

A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC, by Aldo Leopold (1949)

My arguments for this book will be needless for any who have read, enjoyed, and used this book. Aldo Leopold was to environmental awareness what Albert Einstein was to physics. His ideals were generations ahead of his time.... Jay Gordon, Elma, Wash. (Julie Ward of Bellingham, Wash., also nominated this book.)

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

Not only does 'Gatsby' contain lyrical prose, it has as its theme the conflict between appearance and reality. Though set in the Fitzgerald-coined 'Jazz Age,' it rises to the status of classic by being about all time. Nan Fritzsche, Malver, Pa.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: THE WAR YEARS, by Carl Sandburg (1939)

Carl Sandburg's 'Abraham Lincoln' should be a requisite for every undergraduate degree program in America. I had read about and even been lectured on Mr. Sandburg's awesome accomplishment, but to read it and experience Mr. Lincoln as a person affected me tremendously.... Michael D. Holloway, Waycross, Ga.

The works of Rudyard Kipling

Untaught in 'PC' schools for two generations at least, Kipling makes the language sing. When I read him, I am there in the barracks or on the march. The eternal ideals of bravery and courage are sometimes honored by the flawed common men of his poetry. George William Davey, Middleborough, Mass.

The works of 'Dr. Seuss' (Theodore Seuss Geisel)

His books have transformed the world of beginning readers by providing fun and fantasy with just a few simple words. A book-loving child may become a well-read adult. Lorna Scherff, Santa Ana, Calif.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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