For a self-proclaimed book lover, I’m definitely not as well-read as I could be. The books that I’ve been assigned to read in my previous English classes have ranged from pretty hard to crack open to actually enjoyable. I understood the merit of some books and why they were good to discuss in class. I’ve picked up other classics along the way and want to assure those that may be apprehensive about reading some older books: They’re actually good, I promise. Here’s some classic novels that I’ve personally enjoyed and would suggest to those looking to expand their reading horizons. Some are considered to be contemporary classics, but they’re good all the same.
“How to Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
This classic from the mid-1900s offers an important exploration into the Deep South, prejudice, hypocrisy and love with a colorful cast of characters. Its cultural impact, coupled with its readability and fairly short length have rightly made it a favorite among readers of all skills and ages. I remember reading it in middle school because my sisters both had to read it for their freshman English classes, but alas, Common Core thwarted my proactive efforts and I wasn’t required to read it after all. Nonetheless, it’s a book that I enjoy rereading from time to time, and I know that the discussion that it incites is what keeps it (deservedly) timeless.
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
If you’re going to pick up a Jane Austen book, this should be it. Not only is “Pride and Prejudice” noteworthy because of Austen’s success in the literary world despite being a minority among male writers but also because of her biting and humorous critique of class and courtship in her time period. Her humor is as smart and witty as the loveable (and sarcastic) main character, Elizabeth. Some of the commentary is so subtle you might not notice on the first read. And I can’t forget to mention the plethora of quality film and TV adaptations: I know many prefer the 1995 BBC miniseries, however, the 2005 film with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen has a special place in my heart. Excuse me while I go watch it for the 10th time.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
With the Hulu adaptation of this novel winning awards left and right, we can’t forget the genius of the source material. From the matter-of-fact narration that draws even more attention to the absurd yet very possible dystopian environment that Offred is forced to live in to the clever motifs, this book deserves all the praise it receives and initiates important discussion of the treatment of women in our society.
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
Just in time for spooky season, the mother of science fiction and horror brings us a classic that at first glance may appear to be another Gothic thriller, but delves deep into the question of humanity and the boundaries of science. I have less-than-fond memories of reading the entire novel during Halloweekend at UConn when I was visiting my sister, but even the pressure of finishing it on time was not enough to detract from the appreciation I developed for Shelley’s work.
“In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
Only now do I realize that all the books I’ve mentioned are written by women, and honestly, it’s rightly deserved. Here to mix it up is a crime thriller that is so methodical and accurate in its account that you can’t forget that it’s a true story but that also offers such a realistic and humanistic view into those involved that you don’t want it to be true. The psychology and complex relationship between the two killers is of special note, as is the detailed account of the lives of the murdered that makes it all the more tragic.
Honorable mentions: “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery, “1984” by George Orwell, “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.