Reading is my favorite escape. Getting lost in a good book is a great way to step outside of reality for a little bit. Every bed before night, I like to settle down by curling up with a good book. I was an English major in college which exposed me to dozens of classics. I discovered that the classics aren’t all super dry and boring (although don’t get me wrong- some definitely are). Of course, I haven’t had the chance to read every classic novel out there, as I do tend to switch up my genres quite often. I’ve listed nine of the best classic novels that I want to share, although I know there are hundreds of fantastic classics out there. Here are just a few of my favorites that I strongly recommend for any of you book nerds out there!
To Kill a Mockingbird– Harper Lee
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in class when I was in eighth grade. A lot of students didn’t like it. Many found it quite dry. While I could see how this could be a bit of a difficult read for a 13 year old, I personally loved the book. I fell in love with the book even more when I read it again in high school. The novel deals with intense topics, that sure could be a bit much for middle schoolers. Still, it’s important to expose kids to these topics and to teach them about the severity while they’re young. The themes of this novel stuck with me from the first time I read it in middle school. Rape and racism are very hard topics to talk about and this novel really tackles really difficult subjects in a very informative, but interesting way.
Vanity Fair– William Makepeace Thackeray
I’m a sucker for English fiction, and Vanity Fair might just be one of my favorites. It is a very lengthy novel, but it is a great read nonetheless. Becky Sharp is one of the most notable female characters of all time. The novel really represents what this era of time looked like. Becky is a character that does not have financial security, but uses her wits and intelligence to get what she wants. Throughout the novel, it’s hard to decide how to feel about the character Becky. On one hand, you have to respect her intelligence and motivation. On another, her sociopathic tendencies can get quite disturbing.
Pride and Prejudice– Jane Austen
Although I’m not usually a sucker for romance novels, Pride and Prejudice really got me. There is a reason why people love the novel so much, and it’s because of the growth we get to see of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s relationship throughout the novel. Unlike Becky in Vanity Fair, I can easily say Elizabeth Bennet is one of my favorite characters to ever exist. She is intelligent, witty, and stays true to her morals.
The Great Gatsby– F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve recommended The Great Gatsby before in my Books You Should Read this Autumn! post, but I figured it was worth mentioning again. I am a huge fan of this novel because it gives a great insight on what it was like to live in the Roaring Twenties, and to be quite honest, makes me sort of wish I grew up during this time. You’ll likely like this novel if you like love stories; however if you hate tragedies, maybe skip this one.
Mrs. Dalloway– Virginia Woolf
Like many of Woolf’s works, this novel is a bit depressing. The novel follows Clarissa Galloway’s day and her stream of consciousness. The novel happens all over the course of one day so don’t expect any crazy plot twists or anything of that sort. I think what makes this novel one of my favorites is that it is so unique and that she touches on dark subjects in such a subtle way that really affects you while you read.
Slaughterhouse-Five– Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors and there is a reason Slaughterhouse-Five is his most popular book. Like Vonnegut’s other novels, the plot touches on anti-war themes and is a very influential novel. Something I enjoy about this novel, along with Vonnegut’s other novels, is that it combines a bunch of different experiences and combines them to create one large satirical, yet influential story.
Oliver Twist– Charles Dickens
The characters in Oliver Twist are all so different from one another despite all being connected. You’ll even realize when reading the novel that the characters have names that fit their personality. While I think Dickens did a great job at inventing each character, I also think he did a wonderful job at expressing what it was like to be an orphan during this time. This poor upbringing leads to these children growing up to be criminals and leads to terrible violence. The novel, while overall having a happy ending, really does tug on the heart strings and makes you feel for these kids.
Daniel Deronda– George Eliot
I enjoy this novel because I think it’s written in a unique and fascinating perspective. The novel follows both Daniel Deronda and Gwendolen Harleth and shows how the two eventually cross paths. We see Gwendolen’s unrequited love which is heartbreaking, especially considering this is a theme relatable to many of us. Gwendolen faces much trauma in the novel such as death, heartbreak, and poverty. However, it is the fact that she handles each situation so beautifully that really makes this story. Although the ending may not be completely satisfying, everything does fall into place in the end.
The Canterbury Tales– Geoffrey Chaucer
This could be a tough read for many, especially since most of us can’t mutter a word of middle English. There are many translations out there that make the read a little bit easier and that I highly recommend. The Canterbury Tales is different from the other novels listed, as it is a collection of 24 short stories. If you’re someone who has an interest in medieval society, this is a great read for you.
I love a good classic and am always looking to read more. Some others I’d like to read include Frankenstein, Catcher in the Rye, and Great Expectations. What are your favorite classics?