This book is the greatest hits of literature, arranged in a chronological order so that we can “feel” the literaly evolution and innovations alongside the social, economics and political environment of their time.
The literature works that are chosen in this book are not necessarily the ultimate must-read ones. But it was chosen due to their influence on society and other subsequent literary works. The fact that this book provides a list of 200+ more books for further reading in the appendix is a testament to this. Nevertheless, you can still find the “greatest hits” list of all the best of the best literatures from across the globe, from many different generations.
The additional context for these body of works are also very insightful, such as the inspirations for their stories, when then use satire, how they use paradox, what type of narration they are using, or the way they organise their chapters, not to mention the main point summaries of some of the biggest stories by legendary authors.
The book also analyses the writing style used by many different era, region, and type of society, which is so interesting to learn about the many different local touches. Perhaps it is like listening to many different types of music, from Baroque classical, to Reggae, to Jazz, in order to understand the many different influences in sound from around the world. Once you understand them all, you could easily spot, for example, an Arabic tune influence in a rock band, the same with different types of historical influences that made up a modern work of literature.
This interestingly shows the common psyche of the era, where the books represent the epitome of what the values and principles that the society adhere to, or conversely for some books they became the main source for the way people think in their respective eras. Moreover, this can also placed literatures in the context of their time, that we can easily predict the era that they came from, for example, from the dark tone of the narrative or the extravagance in the characters.
Indeed, the best literature are the ones who can capture the very essence of their respective era, complete with all the prevailing values, the injustice that people felt, the poverty, the tragedies, or the political uprising. Some emerge as a respond to a new social or political changes, filling the void that people are yearning for. And some even deliberately written as a social and political commentary towards the status quo.
It’s such a pleasant read, especially for me who is just learning to learn to read fiction and literature.