The term ‘cultured’ is a little vague but its something that a lot of people talk about and aim to be, without really knowing what it is. It aludes to what sounds like a lot of reading which in face can be true but its really a more broad term, normally being cultured involves a far wider knowledge than just books but rather means art as a blanket term; so fine art, literature, film, music, fashion, the lot really. It may seem a little daunting to try to become cultured or even try to appear so but actually expanding your knowledge of the arts need not be a terrifying experience, here is a 5 step guide to culturalism. Step 1: Books.

An Old Classic

It goes without saying that reading classics is a must. They’re classic for a reason, right? The stories are timeless in most cases and whilst yes they may seem to be a bore but I promise you’ll be flipping through them like they’re your twitter feed in no time. Here’s my recommendations:

  1. Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
  2. Macbeth by Shakespeare
  3. The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas
  4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  5. The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy

A Feminist Novel

With now the third wave of feminist literary criticism coming around, it can be important to see where feminist fiction has come from. The first wave focused on the recognition of female writers as females given that at time of writing the likes of the Bronte sisters had to use male pen names. The second wave was about liberating women from the ‘cute but essentially helpless’ trope that they were presented as by the majority of men. Third wave is about equal representation of all women regardless of race, sexuality or social class and third wave is taking place today. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1st wave)
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (2nd wave)
  3. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (2nd wave)
  4. Ariel by Sylvia Plath (2nd wave)
  5. Affinity by Sarah Waters (3rd wave)

A Culture/Race Novel

In such turbulent times there have been a lot of authors writing about racism in America, the western lifestyle and struggle and inequality within a country. Whilst often the outlook of novels tackling racial and cultural strife can be disheartening, these stories are important in creating a whole picture of how we see places and people that potentially we’d only ever see on the news otherwise. My recommendations are:

  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  2. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

A Social Class Novel

Whilst social class no longer commands the attention that it used to in fiction, it does not mean that reading these novels or learning about the effects of social class is less important or not important at all. A wide variety of writers have been heavily influenced by the social class they grew up in and ended up in later on in life which has in turn offers a range of perspectives on society. My recommendations are:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  4. Pygalion by George Bernard Shaw
  5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A Wildcard

The last book can be entirely of your own choosing, the ways I would recommend to choose would probably be a book that is subversive perhaps covering a taboo subject, or a book that has been nominated for the most recent Man Booker Prize, a book with a current topic of interest or even a book that is critically acclaimed in general. This is a chance to indulge in your own interests or to go for something to link together the other books you’ve read from the list. My recommendations are:

  1. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  2. All My Sons by Arthur Miller
  3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  5. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  7. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  8. The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  10. The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I hope this list puts you in good steads to help move you toward some new novels and expand the spheres of influence in your reading. Feel free to research the areas of literature to find things more appropriate to your taste and get back to me on some novels with your opinions and questions.

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