Allan Quatermain

H. Rider Haggard wrote many stories, mostly about Africa. The Allan Quatermain stories are the ones I enjoy the most. They are pure escape adventures in east Africa. I like older novels because there is none of the gratuitous sex and graphic violence in modern novels.

The one downside of his work is the obvious view of other ethnicities as being second class. Blacks and Arabs are fundamentally assumed to be wicked and/of lazy and unteachable. It is interesting, however, that despite this second class view the protagonist repeatedly finds respect and capability in those same people. Haggard is almost mocking the prejudices of his day by repeatedly having his hero surprised by unexpected qualities and abilities in black people. It feels a little bit like Mark Twain. “They” are not supposed to be as good as experience regularly shows us “they” are.

David Copperfield

Author: Charles Dickens

Personal Rating 5/5

“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”

Thus begins my favorite Dickens book. I cannot really tell you why I like it so much. Maybe it is relating to little Davy, though my own life is very much unlike his. I think it is the underlying theme of the shear goodness found in otherwise ordinary, quirky people. I just feel good living in David’s world, even through his trials and dark days. All those great characters: Agnes, Uriah Heep, Steerforth, Dora, the Peggottys, Traddles and Aunt Betsy.

Cry the Beloved Country

Author: Alan Paton

Personal Rating 4.5/5

A good, black man living in South Africa tries to deal the the pressures of poverty and race. He works so hard to save his son from the death penalty but in the end is unsuccessful.

In many ways this the a companion book for To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Harper Lee’s book, this is not an angry or protesting book. It is the sharing of the sorrows of people trying to live good lives against a background of unthinking, casual bigotry.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Personal Rating: 5/5

This is one of my personal all time favorite books. I grew up in the 1960’s and I remember the unrest at the time. I remember when blacks had separate drinking fountains and I remember when Martin Luther King was killed. These things did not happen in my little part of Central California, but they were on the news.

What I love about this book is that it reaches into the heart of a very difficult time of race relations. This is not an angry book. It is not a shouted protest. It is the view of a child watching a very good man try to do a very good thing and in the end he both lost and won. It shares a tone and theme with Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country.

I have read this many times and enjoy it every time. The movie with Gregory Peck is equally powerful. In my mind he is always Atticus Finch.