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As a native Spanish speaker growing up in Honduras, my list of required reading classics included some names you may be familiar with, like “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, or Homer’s “The Iliad.” Of course, “Don Quixote de la Mancha” is a given. Beyond that, the list comprised some local writers, like Ramón Amaya Amador’s “The Wizards of Ilamatepeque “or “Green Prison.” 

When I started reading English books, I fell in love with thrillers from the works of Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, Robert Ludlum, Frederic Forsyth, and Tom Clancy. Later on, as I cultivated likely-minded friends, e.g. other aspiring writers, they mentioned books that I either never heard of, much less read. Several times I had found myself at a loss when people made references to “The Great Gatsby” and its green light, or almighty spying-on-its-people governments like in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Soon I realized that what most people understand for modern classics could vary from one country to another, or one culture to another, even in countries with shared heritage like in Latin America. For example, it’s a tradition in Mexico to present the play “Don Juan Tenorio” around Day of Dead every November, yet I only read it during a brief stint as an aspiring theater actor—I wanted to play the antagonist Luis Mejía.

Feeling like an ignorant despite all the books that I had read was a new feeling for me, so I studied, and pretty much like Santa Claus I made a list of naughty and nice. Except I named books rather than children. During my quest I received a lot of input from the local library, along with the opportunity to burrow a copy instead of having to buy all of them.

Like me, many people who started to read late are afraid to take a classic. I’ve known people scared of James Joyce’s Ulysses for both its content and hefty volume. The same with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. My own personal whale was not about length but writing. Several times I tried reading Huckleberry Finn but its delicious phonetic dialogues made it unreadable to me. I have Elijah Wood and his audio reading of the book for allowing me to finish it. 

After a few years I still haven’t gone around to read all of the classics, how could I with all of the new books coming out every year? Still, the effort has paid off and I’ve read so far: “Gone with the Wind,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Steppenwolf,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “A Confederacy of Dunces,” among others.  

I firmly believe it’s important to read classics, and libraries and bookstores play an instrumental role for the new generations to discover wonderful stories that still have an impact in today’s world—Bram Stocker’s Dracula for example. 

A suggestion would be to tailor a list according to genre and his or her particular tastes, to entice the reader, one book at a time, until the person has acquired the taste. Had I read “Pride and Prejudice” when I first started off, I would have certainly thrown that book across the living-room. 

 

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist; however, he ironically prefers to write fiction. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he enjoys to throw in a twist of romance on occasion. He has published three acclaimed novels and is a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild, and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine The Big Thrill.