In his masterpiece Matilda, Roald Dahl recommends must read books for any child and all ex-children. I've read some, but I haven't read many. Perhaps when I finish them, it will be an education of sorts. The list has British and American writers on it and they are indeed the best of the best.In true Dahl style, the books are about life with all the hardships, the quandary and confusion that comes with it. They are neither idealistic stories with neatly tied up endings nor candy floss that often goes through as children's fiction.He recommends The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinback, a story of failed beginnings, great tragedy and oppression. Mary Webb's Gone to Earth, a story of the loss of innocence and beauty to strength and force doesn't pop up as a first choice as a recommended read to a child.H.G.Wells' The Invisible Man, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, Kim by Rudyard Kipling, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, the wonderful Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen make Dahl's reading list an important one.
Bronte's story of a young woman's rise in the world Photo credit: whyjane.com
Also in the list is that story of an epic battle between a man and a fish, The Old Man and the Seaby Ernest Hemmingway. The murder thriller Brighton Rockfinds mention in the list. The Good Companions, by J.B. Priestly that was perhaps the first mould for all road trip movies is also featured in Dahl's list.
Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist
Like so many great authors of books for children Roald refuses to throw candy bits but expects young readers to do some heavy lifting. It's not the school race that he asks his readers to prepare for but the Olympics.Any child who goes through this list will have the learning of a lifetime. They will learn that being adult does not mean better. They will learn that life is full of unfairness, inequality and hardships. They will learn that despite this men and women push forward, partly because they have to and that in their maze like lives, they will rise above it.
Graham Greene's Brighton Rock
He seems to urgently want his young readers to know that the world is made of all sorts of people, be aware, be brave and alert. There is great injustice that must be countered with wits and courage. Understand your fellow companions for their true nature. There is still great beauty all around he seems to tell.His list is a legacy to children worldwide, one that can be built on. Learn from the best he appears to urge children, there is great wisdom to attained.Roald Dahl and His Formidable List
George Orwell's simple tale of great meaning: Animal Farm
Not on the list, but recommended elsewhere in the book are:
Dahl sums up the purpose of reading these books through Matilda who on watching her family eat their tv dinner thinks,
If only they would read a little Dickens or Kipling, they would discover there is more to life than cheating people and watching television.