Classic literature isn’t usually a “choice of reading” for many of us, including me.
Even though I adore books, reading classics doesn’t make my reading entertaining!
Classics books definitely aren’t easy reads, to begin with!
Each sentence is unbelievably lengthy and wordy.
One can’t just “read the sentences” to understand the context. It often requires an analytical mind.
And the geographical and cultural references may seem peculiar or strange.
However, despite all these reasons we know how classic books are timeless and bookworms from around the world are still reading or rereading them.
So in this post, I thought of sharing some tips on reading more classics along with a great list of classic novels!
Let’s begin by finding out what exactly is a classic!
I often wondered about myself. Here is a quick definition from the editor and author Christopher Smith, which actually gave me what kind of books should I be reading from classic literature!
In his writing in Huffpost, Smith describes “any book that is not a new book, one that merits re-reading, 5, 10, even 100 years or more after its publication”
That’s why in 2020 despite my reluctance towards classic works I am going to challenge myself to read at least one classic per month if not more.
In my reading journey, I figured that a quick way to love reading classics would be to start with short ones. They really help you to understand the story better.
So here are some of the short classics for beginners, under 200 pages:
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- The Pearl by John Steinbeck
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- A Christmas Carol by – Charles Dickens
- Siddhartha by -Hermann Hesse
- ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel
- Letters From A Father To His Daughter by Jawaharlal Nehru
- The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
- Bonjour tristesse by Françoise Sagan
Want to read more of these? then have a look at this post: 32 Short Classics you can read in one sitting
Why should you read classics?
Italian journalist and short story writer, Italo Calvino in his books Why Read the Classics, explains the vital reasons comprehensively. According to him, only works of enduring cultural value, but also something much more personal. We understand the world, our history, and the universe through these great works. Above all classic books are loved by millions of readers and they mean so much more than stories to them.
Classics help us understand many of our favorite writers’ literary influences.
I remember watching one of the interviews of my all-time favorite author Santa Montefiore. She mentions how the classic book ‘Love In The Time Of Cholera’ influenced her writing.
According to her, renowned author Gabriel García Márquez taught her how to appeal to the readers through senses. And she also notes that it was Elizabeth von Arnim, the author of ‘Enchanted April’, who inspired her to go very deeply into the characters of the books.
If you haven’t read any of Santa Montefiore’s books I highly recommend reading them! Have a look at the book review of one of the recent books The Temptation of Gracie
So, undoubtedly, if it wasn’t for these great classic books, I don’t think we could have been able to read any of the contemporary writers.
Along with these, here are some great reasons to read classics:
- Reading classics enhances your Vocabulary.
- You will be a better reader.
- You will be exposed to cultural references.
- You may become an expert in history.
- You are reading something of great value.
What are the best ways to enjoy classic books?
Here are ways that helped me enjoy the classics despite being lengthy and descriptive:
- Start with making a list of classics you would like to read along not so overwhelming. For example Victorian classics or Theatre classics.
- Think about Genres you love and make the list accordingly.
- List out the movies or TV series which are based on classic literature.
Clueless is really the tale of Jane Austen’s Emma; Easy A is a modern high school retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
- Have patience and read slowly. This can help you understand the characters better. Go back and reread the sentences if necessary.
- If possible, do a little bit of primary research about the book. For instance, before I started reading books by Bronte sisters, I read briefly about their family, writing, etc.
Must -read list of classics
- Aesop’s Fables by Aesop- 560
- The Odyssey by Homer- 800
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-1390
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe- 1719
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift-1726
- Paradise Lost by John Milton-1667
- Pride and Prejudice– Jane Austen- 1813
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë 1847
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 1861
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë- 1847
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy- 1877
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas- 1844
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky- 1866
- Dracula by Bram Stoker- 1897
- Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville- 1851
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – 1859
- Les Misérables by Victor Hugo- 1862
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert- 1856
- Middlemarch by George Eliot- 1871
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy- 1867
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens- 1850
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad- 1899
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- 1843
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne- 1850
- Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley- 1818
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain- 1876
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy- 1891
- Persuasion by Jane Austen- 1818
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle- 1892
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens- 1839
- Emma by Jane Austen- 1815
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – 1865
- The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas- 1844
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen- 1811
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray- 1847
- The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins- 1859
- Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy- 1874
- Bleak House by Charles Dickens- 1853
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde-1890
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain-1875
- The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe -1827
- The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James-1881
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson-1882
- The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells- 1897
- The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo-1831
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell- 1877
- A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen- 1879
- A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle- 1887
- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen- 1814
- The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells- 1898
- The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane-1892
- Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith- 1895
- The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni- 1827
- The Time Machine by H. G. Wells- 1895
- Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy- 1878
- The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy- 1886
- The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat- 1847
- North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell- 1854
- Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens- 1857
- The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins -1868
- Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy- 1895
- Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman- 1855
- 1984 – George Orwell- 1949
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- 1925
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller- 1961
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger- 1951
- Animal Farm by George Orwell- 1945
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding – 1954
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- 1985
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- 1960
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck- 1939
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White- 1952
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez- 1967
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- 1936
- Ulysses by James Joyce- 1922
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck- 1937
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien- 1955
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac- 1957
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie- 1981
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry- 1943
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame- 1908
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier- 1938
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.- 1969
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- 1910
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker- 1982
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery- 1908
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury- 1953
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden- 1997
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone -J.K. Rowling- 1997
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez- 1985
- Watership Down by Richard Adams- 1972
- Beloved by Toni Morrison- 1987
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving- 1989
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – 2003
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 1949
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London- 1903
- The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – 2003
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank- 1947
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – 2005
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway- 1926
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne- 1926
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – 1988
- The Stranger by Albert Camus- 1942
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – 1951
- The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper- 1826
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith-1943
- The Story of My Life by Helen Keller-1902
- Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen- 1937
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway- 1929
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka- 1915
- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle- 1901
- A Room with a View by E.M. Forster- 1908
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien- 1937
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov- 1950
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum- 1900
- The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux- 1909
- Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence- 1913
- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje- 1992
- The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams- 1945
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco- 1922
- King Lear by William Shakespeare-1606
- The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley- 1953
- Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann- 1901
- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton- 1920
- Another Country by James Baldwin- 1962
- Orlando by Virginia Woolf- 1928
- Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck- 1962
- Perfume by Patrick Süskind- 1985
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf- 1925
- Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh- 1945
- Brighton Rock by Graham Greene-1938
- The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe- 1960
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis- 1991
- The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy- 1905
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn- 1962
- A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams- 1947
- The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov- 1967
- Dubliners by James Joyce- 1914
- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.- 1963
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf- 1927
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera- 1984
- A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick- 1977
- The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery- 1926
How many classics have you read?
Always curious to hear from you,
More classic books to add in your reading list
- 32 Easy Short Classics You Can Actually Read in One Sitting
- 19 Multigenerational Family Dramas You’re Going to Love
- 21 Classic Audiobooks You Can Listen For FREE
- 8 Amazing Debuts of Female Writers You Need To Read
- 33 Historical Fiction for your beach bag
- 57 Beach Reads You Won’t Be Able To Put Down In This Summer 2021