Top Eleven Favorite Books of Classics Customers 2019

If you want to read what Classics customers say are their favorite books, here they are!


  • Another Country by James Baldwin
  • The Bible
  • Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Soulja
  • Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson


  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Bookshop on Lafayette Street: stories and poems
  • Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Marquez
  • Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Barbara Keogh’s Reading Wishlist

Artist and Classics co-op member Barbara Keogh covers the store Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12 noon to 2 pm.  Here is her list of books and DVD’s she would like to read and watch.

1. 32 Candles by Ernessa Carter

2. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

3. At Canaan’s Edge by Taylor Branch

4. An Easy Burden by Andrew Young

5. White Collar Factory by Jack Washington

6, 7 and 8. Be Cool, Maximum Bob and Pagan Babies by the recently deceased Elmore Leonard

9 Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman

10. Devil’s Corner by Lisa Scottoline

11. Barchester Towers and The Warden by Anthony Trollope

12. Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot

13. Marguerite de Valois by Alexander Dumas

14/15 Complete Works of O’Henry in 2 volumes

16. DVD: The Devil Wears Prada

17. DVD: Walk Hard

18. DVD: Nothing But The Truth

19. DVD: Bulgarian Lovers

20. DVD: Last King of Scotland

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Staff Picks: Bruce Bentzman

Bruce Bentzman, blogger at the British poetry webzine Snakeskin and author of Selected Suburban Solliquies (available at Classics), mans Classics every Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 noon to 2 pm.

Recently, he went on a mission to find 20 books currently on the shelves at Classics he would recommend.  He would love it if you dropped by and talked to him about his list.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

2. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

4. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

5. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

6. Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse

7. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

9. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

10. The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

11. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

12. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

13. Black Spring by Henry Miller

14. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

15. Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

16. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

17. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

19. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

20. Pudd’nhead Wilson  by Mark Twain



Favorite Endings in Literature

A lot is made of great first lines in literature. 

Call me Ishmael.   Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. 

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. 

I am an invisible man.

Not a lot is said, however, of the often overlooked, but equally important closing paragraph.  Where the opening paragraph has to capture your interest and propel you down the page like Alice down the rabbit hole, the closing paragraph has to strike the right chord to both sum up some essential bit of the story and resonate with you long after you’ve closed the book.

Here are four of my favorite.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

                    “The Dead.”  James Joyce

“Nothing new.  They’ll go on being Mimi and Dorothy and Gilbert just as you and I will go on being us and the Quinns will go on being the Quinns.  Murder doesn’t round out anybody’s life except the murdered’s and sometimes the murderer’s.”

‘That may be,” Nora said, “but it’s all pretty unsatisfactory.’”

                  The Thin Man.  Dashiell Hammett.

The seventh reader interrupts you: “Do you believe that every story must have a beginning and an end?  In ancient times a story could end only in two ways: having passed all the tests, the hero and the heroine married, or else they died.  The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.”

You stop for a moment to reflect on these words.  Then, in a flash, you decide you want to marry Ludmilla.

Now you are man and wife.  Reader and Reader.  A great double bed receives your parallel readings.

Ludmilla closes her book, turns off her light, puts her head back against the pillow, and says, “Turn off your light, too.  Aren’t you tired of reading?”

And you say, “Just a moment, I’ve almost finished If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino.”

            If on a winter’s night a traveler.  Italo Calvino.

“There is no instrument left that I can play,” Gwilan thought, and the thought hung in her mind for a while like a long chord, till she knew the notes that made it.  “I thought my harp was myself.  But it was not.  It was destroyed, I was not.  I thought Torm’s wife was myself, but she was not.  He is dead, I am not.  I have nothing left at all now but myself.  The wind blows from the valley, and there’s a voice on the wind, a bit of a tune.  Then the wind falls, or changes.  The work has to be done, and we did the work.  It’s their turn for that, the children.  There’s nothing left for me to do but sing.  I never could sing.  But you play the instrument you have.”  So she stood by the cold hearth and sang the melody of Orioth’s Lament.  The people of the household wakened in their beds and heard her singing, all but Torm; but he knew that tune already.  The unturned strings of the harps hung on the wall wakened and answered softly, voice to voice, like eyes that shine among the leaves when the wind is blowing.”

            “Gwilan’s Harp.”  Ursula Le Guin.


We are continuing our feature on prize-winning novels, with commentary by Classics customers–

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

Commentary from Classics customers: 

John Calu: “Challenging from the initial premise to the way he maneuvers between different eras without a warning… incredible writing.

Garry R Feltus: “Having been raised in the Great Lakes region, I really enjoy and have a bias toward the ‘coming of age’ component in Eugenides’ writing. His description of and his reaction to the tension of the 60’s in middle America is almost profound. In fact, I see storyline as more a metaphor for old world/new world, adolescent struggle with sexuality and a storytelling bridge than as a study of gender identity and hermaphroditism. It is, nonetheless, a wonderfully told story with a profound respect for family history, response to societal norms and self discovery.

Jan Wigginton: “I think Eugenides is an immensely talented writer and there are many reasons to like this book. Personally, I am a big fan of an “attention grabber” opening and in my book, Middlesex ranks right up there :

“I was born twice: first, as a …baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan in August of 1974. “

With an opener like this you almost have to keep reading (I know I did). I also think his account of Greek family life is absolutely hysterical, and I love how he weaves so much of the history of Detroit into the story of the Stephanides family. Definitely read this if you get a chance — I’m sure you’ll find your own reasons for loving this book as much as I did!

The Known World

This website is starting a prize winners page, with commentary by Classics customers–

The Known World by Edward Jones won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. 

Commentary from Classics customers: 

Elizabeth Lindsey: “One of the best books I’ve ever read.  Fantastic.”

Najah Masudi: “Definitely a good book!”

Carolyn Stetson: “Highly recommended.  Beautifully written; while reading it, I dreamed in the cadences of the prose.”

Monica Williams: “A multilayered, smart and compelling book that features characters–and a part of U.S. history–not often explored in literature.  Insightful.”

An American Saga





My dad’s latest book is out! 

A multi-generational tale following two families and a number of golden plaques.  The French and Indian War, the Great Awakening, lumber booms, the Great Depression, murder, romance and tragedy roll through Port Huron, Michigan and the lives of the Monroes and the Stuarts.


The Blind Assassin

This website is starting a prize winners page, with commentary by Classics customers–

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood won the Booker Prize in 2000 and is included in Time’s list of the 100 best English language novels since 1923.

Commentary from Classics customers: 

Elizabeth Lindsey:  “I just finished reading it a couple days ago.  It was pretty good – definitely not my favorite book.  I found it to be pretty slow, but not in a good way.  I actually skipped some parts.”

Sarah Ohls:  “I read it, and remember enjoying it (and everything else she’s written).”

Classics customer Monica Williams reviewed Blind Assassin for the Boston Globe.  Here is the link to her review.

A Death in the Family

We are (slowly) starting a prize winners page, with commentary by Classics customers.

The first is Pulitzer Prize Winner Death in the Family by James Agee, that won the Pultizer Prize in 1958 and made the Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels  written since 1923.

Carolyn Stetson: “It was a very powerful work about family, belief and loss….I would recommend it.”

Marcia Wood: “I would say that there are a few books I have read which I had to begin again immediately after finishing the last page. This was one. It is a powerful, autobiographical story about family and grief, but I read it a second time not because I thought I had missed something in the plot but to find out “How did he do that?” How did he find that voice and that language? No wonder it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, as was the play that was later based on the book. Sadly, author James Agee died in poverty before the book was even published, and never knew how influential it would be.”