The Longest, Hardest, and Most Influential Books I Have Read at Ross
Of all the books I have read throughout my 15 years at Ross, Mansfield Park, Heart of Darkness, and Machiavelli’s The Prince are the three novels I have found to be the longest, most challenging, and most influential, respectively. If you are a new student, a lifelong learner, an alumni, or a senior about to graduate, this review could be helpful in giving you insight into some of the books you will read or make you look at the books you have read in a different light.
Mansfield Park: Longest
Mansfield Park is both a brutally long and strangely enlightening novel that put me to sleep at times and sparked my attention at others. Jane Austen is known for her long-winded novels, yet I believe that without lasting for hundreds of pages, her books would lose their charm. Mansfield Park plays out like an unedited movie. Not every moment is important, but every little moment influences the events that come later. In most books I have read, every action and interaction between characters symbolizes something. In Mansfield Park, each chapter plays out just like life. Some take 100 pages to simply discuss an in-depth and dry conversation about tea, and other chapters take five to describe a dramatic family conflict. Jane Austen makes you fish through the 500 pages of this book to find the meaningful moments, hiding them within meaningless interactions. Novels that feature constant drama, like the Twilight series, for example, diminish the significance of important moments. Spreading the drama out across 500 pages makes readers all the more excited to read what the future has in store for the characters.
Heart of Darkness: Most Challenging
Heart of Darkness is one of the shortest and hardest books I have ever read. It is so challenging partly because it is written in the vernacular of another era, but mostly because the characters are so complex and hard to understand, and the symbolism is so obscure and ambiguous. Heart of Darkness felt like an even longer read than Mansfield Park simply because it is so rich with material. Even simple sentences mean more than they appear to, and even the most mundane often reveal something crucial about the characters. I think the author decided to make this book so challenging because he wanted us to feel the pain the characters were enduring. The title itself, Heart of Darkness, is cryptic. The book is mysterious because it is confusing. If Conrad wrote in a straightforward way, the writing style wouldn’t match the plot or the themes. He draws you in and captures your attention by forcing you to cling onto every word just to understand the premise. While the characters in the book are in a constant state of confusion, the reader is as well. I guess one could view this method as a way of helping the reader to connect to the characters by giving them the same challenges in different forms.
Machiavelli’s The Prince: Most Influential
Machiavelli’s The Prince is one of my favorite books. Not particularly poetic, the writing style is very concise and to the point. While I have read many other books that are well known for their smooth or creative style, this book definitely influenced my writing the most. As a writer, I struggle with being concise and straightforward. Most of the time when I make an argument, I continue to write my thoughts on the same argument for 12 pages, or I repeat the same thoughts over and over. When I try to be concise, I can sometimes be too ambiguous and make a claim and not thoroughly substantiate or explain it. This book is very black-and-white and left very little room for ambiguity.
Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers also helped to shape my writing style. Hemingway is another writer known for his succinct approach to writing. He can make the simplest topics or plots interesting because of his different word choices. The plot of The Killers isn’t groundbreaking, but Hemingway phrases each sentence in a way that makes the short story a classic. Both Machiavelli and Hemingway are able to take simple topics and make them more complex—or vice versa. Since I struggle with taking complex concepts and turning them into simple English, both of these authors helped me learn how to get to the point without taking any of my content away.
Posted by India Galesi-Grant