I consider a ‘classic’ novel to be something timeless, enjoyable for all ages, and with amazing writing. Some of the books mentioned below are not found in a classroom syllabus, but I hope you still give them a chance. Happy Reading!
1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
This book is amazing – it was written by a female, in high school, about gang violence and social inequality. Told through the eyes of Ponyboy Curtis, it details certain events in his life, from when a rival gang jumps him at the movie theater, to when he first starts ‘writing’ the book. “Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold” is a hugely famous line from this novel.
2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
OK, basically all the Shakespeare plays are awesome – but I love this one in particular. It’s like the Lion King, with more ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. In this play, being kidnapped by pirates isn’t even the most exciting thing to happen – Hamlet’s inner struggle, the political intrigues, and crazy love issues make this better than any soap opera.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read this one sophomore year of high school – it was a pain in the butt to analyse with my classmates, but the book is awesome. Told through the eyes of Nick, it dives into American society during the Roaring Twenties, unrequited love, and the mystery of fate. It’s often called “The Great American Novel” – and it has several wonderful film versions made, including one with Leonardo Dicaprio.
4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
This book is long – think whole-Harry-Potter-series long. However, I read this when I was eleven, so no excuses! It is truly a one of a kind novel, that perfectly captures humanity through the different characters during the French invasion of Russia. You might not like all of the characters (they all have several flaws), but you will see a whole new perspective on life, love, war, and, of course, peace.
5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The idea of Frankenstein first came to Mary Shelley while she was participating in a ghost story contest with her friends, and has ended up ingrained into American culture and Halloween. The book talks about a doctor Frankenstein, and his quest to create life. It is not a scary, horrific tale in the traditional sense, but it plays with the ideas of personal responsibility, how far science should go, and what makes a monster.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Another Great American novel – told through the eyes of six year old Scout, it deals with issues that are definitely not childlike – racism, pain, rape, and lynching. The book manages to talk about injustice with a kind warmth that doesn’t detract from the truth, and Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, is the best lawyer I’ve ever heard of, fictional or otherwise.
7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
I don’t like this book, at all, but I do think that it is a very important novel. Reflecting on the Russian Revolution, it is an allegorical tale of power, corruption, and equality. By reading the book, we are able to see how easily power can corrupt even the best intentions, and, hopefully, we will in real life be able to stop it. Did put me off pigs for a while, though.
8. Zorro by Isabel Allende
Alright, so it’s written in 2005, but I still consider it a classic! An epic, masked hero, fighting against injustice on two different continents – it is a wonderful novel that also lets us catch a glimpse of California and Spain in the late 1700s-early 1800s. Swashbuckling never looked so good.
9. Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en
A Chinese novel published in the 16th century, it is considered on the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It’s about the pilgrimage of a Buddhist Monk to India, with his three companions (and a dragon prince that turns into a horse). Sun Wukong is the Monkey King, with magic powers and high intelligence. If you like epic sagas with a bunch of humour, then definitely pick up this book!
10. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Bet you didn’t even know this was a novel – written in 1990, the book is about an amusement park filled with genetically engineered dinosaurs…that then escape. Similar to Frankenstein, it talks about how far science should go, and it also has a really good bit about humanity’s place on Earth.
So, those are my top 10 favorite classic novels – what about you? Have you read any of these? What is your favorite classic? Let me know in the comments below!