Book Recommendation: A Bookshelf of Our Own by Deborah G. Felder

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Description from Goodreads

Fifty fiction and non-fiction classics that have defined and shaped our literary history–from the Middle Ages to the present day, spanning from Jane Eyre to Scarlett O’Hara, Hester Prynne to Lily Bart, Anne Frank to Maxine Hong Kingston. Part reference book, part popular culture guide, A Bookshelf of Our Own provides thoughtful analysis of each book, placing it within its historical context and tracing the life and influences of its author; and comprises an invaluable resource for libraries and reading groups, an essential primer for any literary enthusiast, and a provocative look at our past and present.

The list includes:

  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bonte
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthonre
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  •  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Bridget Jone’s Diary by Helen Fielding

I was working in the Non-Fiction section at work when I came across this book. It quickly caught my attention and I wanted to know why out of the six Jane Austen novels, Emma was the one chosen for this collection.  I want to share with you the opening lines and closing lines of this essay.

Opening lines:

Emma is not Jane Austen’s most popular and endearing novel – that distinction belongs to her 1813 work,  Pride and Prejudice, with its winning heroine and noble hero, and the satisfying resolution of their romantic dilemma.  Emma features a noble hero (with a name to make his character – Mr. Knightley) and a gratifying romantic resolution, but it also possesses a more complex – and flawed- heroine in the title character, as well as more intricate situations that showcase the fullness of Austen’s maturity as a novelist.  (pg 24)

 Closing line:

Emma, like the reader, is schooled in the complicated matters of life and love, in which wisdom and clarity replace self-deception and confusion. (pg 29)

First let me say, I never made that connection with Mr. Knightley’s name and his character. Second, I agree with this conclusion, we do learn a lesson along with Emma.

I can’t wait to read a few more of these to see what work that has changed lives I’ve missed!

-Amelia

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