Classic Books You've Always Meant to Read

Many people are put off reading classic literature in high school due to endless analysis of Death of a Salesman or awkward student performances of Romeo and Juliet but may regret not having learnt the classic stories later in life. So we have put together a manageable list of classic books that you can browse to get a good grounding in literature. J.B Priestley, Louisa May Alcott and Kazuo Ishiguro are some of the well-known authors who we have added to our classic book list.

🍿 Hello! If you're a big fan of TV Shows, Films and Pop Culture, take a moment to browse the January Media Shop where you'll find gifts, t-shirts, totes, candles and more. Click here to browse our collection.

Many people are put off reading classic literature in high school due to endless analysis of Death of a Salesman or awkward student performances of Romeo and Juliet but may regret not having learnt the classic stories later in life. So we have put together a manageable list of classic books that you can browse to get a good grounding in literature. J.B Priestley, Louisa May Alcott and Kazuo Ishiguro are some of the well-known authors who we have added to our classic book list.

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck, was published in 1937. The only thing George and his young friend Lennie have is the clothing on their backs and the hope that one day they would own some farmland. They eventually land a job at a ranch in the Salinas Valley of California, but their expectations are wrecked when Lennie, who has been up against great harshness, misunderstandings, and jealousy, falls prey to his own strength. 

Of Mice and Men, which has been adapted into a novel, a Broadway play, three critically acclaimed films, and other media, continues to be Steinbeck's most well-known work. It tackles issues of companionship and shared vision while giving voice to America's lonely and downtrodden.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy -  Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams is the author of the comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It debuted as a radio comedy on BBC Radio 4 in 1978 and later appeared as novels, theatrical productions, comic books, a 1981 TV series, a text-based videogame, and a 2005 motion picture.

Up to the time his house is destroyed, Arthur Dent's Thursday lunch is normal. His best friend has just revealed that he is an alien, and the Earth follows soon after to make way for a new hyperspace express route. They are currently travelling through space while carrying nothing but their towels and a book with the words "DO NOT PANIC" written in bold.

The Catcher In The Rye - J.D. Salinger

American author J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye was first serialised from 1945 to 1946 and then published as a book in 1951. Although it was written with adults in mind, teenagers frequently read it because of its themes of angst and estrangement as well as its condemnation of society's superficiality. The novel also addresses complex subjects including melancholy and sex as well as innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection. Holden Caulfield, the primary character, has emerged as a symbol of adolescent rebellion.

After World War II, a despondent 17-year-old  resides in a sanatorium in California. After his discharge within a month, he intends to go live with his brother D.B., an author and veteran who he resents for becoming a Hollywood screenwriter.

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Nine-year-old Liesel's is at her brother's graveside in the cemetery is irrevocably altered when she picks up a lone object that has been left in the snow. This is her first instance of book theft, and the book is The Gravedigger's Handbook.  So begins Liesel's passion for reading and writing, and before long, she is stealing from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, and any other place where there are texts.

But given the perilous circumstances she lives in, nothing will ever be the same again after Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish person in their basement.

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

In 1953, Esther Greenwood is thrilled to be offered an internship at a New York fashion magazine and feels as though her ambition of becoming a writer will now come true.

Nevertheless, Esther's life starts to spiral out of control in between the cocktail parties and mounds of manuscripts. As she struggles with challenging relationships and a culture that doesn't value women's dreams, she finds herself descending into depression and making a suicide attempt.

Sylvia Plath's only novel, The Bell Jar, was first released in 1963 under the pen name Victoria Lucas. The book, which has since become a modern classic, is inspired in part by Plath's personal life and decline into mental illness. Millions of copies of The Bell Jar have been sold all over the world and have been praised for its sharply observed and darkly humorous portrayal of 1950s society.

Anne Frank’s Diary - The Diary of a Young Girl

The diary of a Jewish girl named Anne Frank, who was thirteen years old at the time of World War II, contains one of the most well-known stories of life under the Nazi regime. 

In order to escape the horrors of the Nazi occupation, Anne Frank and her family spent two years hiding in the back of an Amsterdam warehouse alongside another family and a German dentist. When Anne entered the hidden annex, she was thirteen years old and maintained a diary. She movingly described how the eight residents of these unique circumstances dealt with hunger, the constant fear of being discovered and condemned to death, and other challenges.

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights in 1847, and it was first published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. It is about Heathcliff, the foster son of the Earnshaws, and two landed gentry families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons, who reside on the West Yorkshire moors.

A man trapped in a snowstorm is forced to seek shelter in the strange, ominous house Wuthering Heights as night falls.  He will discover Cathy's tale there: how she was forced to decide between her loving husband and the reckless man she had loved since she was a child. How her decision resulted in betrayal and terrible punishment, which is still torturing those in the present. 

The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood's futuristic dystopian book The Handmaid's Tale was first released in 1985. It takes place in a near-future New England in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian theonomic state that has overthrown the American government and is strongly patriarchal.

The Republic of Gilead is where Offred resides. For some, it represents an idealised future in which everyone has a role to play and lives in safety. But Offred can only perform one task in the Republic of Gilead, which is to procreate.

The novel examines issues such as how women are oppressed in patriarchal societies, how women lose their agency and uniqueness, how women's reproductive rights are curtailed, and the different ways that women struggle and try to become independent.

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. Amir really wants to win the local kite-fighting contest and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But the boys can't foresee the dreadful assault that will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to change their lives forever. 

After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to the USA, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan, which is under Taliban rule, to find the one thing that his new life cannot provide for him: redemption.

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

American author Harper Lee wrote the book To Kill a Mockingbird  in 1960 and it became popular immediately. It is commonly read in middle and high schools in the United States. It recounts a lawyer's advice to his children while defending the actual Mockingbird, a black man wrongfully accused of assaulting a white girl. Harper Lee tackles the absurdity of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s via the youthful perspectives of Scout and Jem Finch with enthusiastic humour. The tenacity of one man's fight for justice wounded the conscience of a town rife with prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy.

The Woman In Black - Susan Hill

Susan Hill published the gothic horror book The Woman in Black in 1983. The story revolves around a mysterious ghost that stalks a small English village.

Unaware of the tragic secrets concealed, junior solicitor Arthur Kipps is compelled to attend the burial of Mrs. Alice Drablow, the only resident of Eel Marsh House.

The house is at the end of a causeway and is cloaked in mystery and fog, but it is not until he sees a wasted young woman at the ceremony who is dressed entirely in black that he feels a growing sense of apprehension. This feeling is furthered by the locals' unwillingness to discuss the woman in black and her purpose.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is a 1953 dystopian novel by American writer Ray Bradbury. Often regarded as one of his best works, the novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found.

Guy Montag, the main character, is a fireman who eventually quits his job and dedicates himself to the preservation of literary and cultural publications after becoming disillusioned with his part in censoring books and eradicating information.

This book has been used to highlight the historical significance of book burning. The Nazi book burnings and the ideological repression in the Soviet Union served as inspiration for Bradbury.

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro envisions the lives of a group of teenagers growing up in a darkly twisted version of modern England. It is set in a dystopian vision of late 1990s England where a state-approved human cloning programme extends the lives of common individuals. The students, or clones, are raised in segregated facilities away from the outer world.

Never Let Me Go, which is narrated by Kathy, a 31-year-old woman, dramatises her struggles to come to terms with her upbringing at the idyllic Hailsham School and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the outside world.

It is a story of love, friendship, and memory that is infused with a sense of life's brevity throughout.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Victor Frankenstein, who is obsessed with creating life itself, diminishes cemeteries of their components in order to create a new person that he then shocks into life with electricity. But after being rejected by Frankenstein and denied human company, his confused creation sets out to kill him and everything he holds dear.

Frankenstein was the product of a pact between Mary Shelley, her husband Percy, and Lord Byron to create their own eerie stories. This horrific gothic tale, which drew inspiration from Milton's Paradise Lost and the Prometheus myth, went on to become the most well-known piece of horror literature in history.

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

The coming-of-age book Little Women was written by American author Louisa May Alcott. At her publisher's request, Alcott composed the book over a period of several months. It was first released in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. The book discusses domesticity, labour, and true love as its three main themes.

Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth endure the hardships and enjoy adventures in Civil War New England. Readers have applauded Laurie in his pursuit of Jo's love, cried over Beth's death, and fantasised about seeing Europe with Amy and old Aunt March. Jo's commitment to her writing has served as an example to other authors. Louisa May Alcott has created four of the most adored women in American literature in this straightforward, engrossing tale, both of which are included here.

Norwegian Wood - Murakami

Norwegian Wood is a 1987 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and sexuality. Toru Watanabe remembers his first love Naoko, the partner of his best friend Kizuki, when he hears her favourite Beatles song.

He is immediately taken back almost twenty years to his school days in Tokyo, where he was lost in a world of shaky friendships, casual sex, passion, loss, and ambition. It is at this point that an impulsive young woman named Midori enters his life, forcing him to choose between the present and the past.

'Such is the exquisite, gossamer construction of Murakami's writing that everything he chooses to describe trembles with symbolic possibility' - The Guardian 

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is an 1813 novel by Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice, which is set in early 19th-century England, follows the five unmarried daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet after the wealthy and eligible Mr. Bingley and his status-conscious companion, Mr. Darcy, have moved into their community. The eldest Bennet daughter, Jane, immediately wins Bingley over, while Darcy struggles to fit in and frequently squabbles with Elizabeth, the second-eldest Bennet daughter.

A novel about the pursuit of happiness and self-knowledge in a society with rigid social norms, where a woman must marry well to survive. It focuses on Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet's love story, in which they misjudge, then challenge, and change each other.

Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell

The dystopian social science fiction novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by English author George Orwell serves as a cautionary tale.

The protagonist of 1984 is Winston Smith, a man who could symbolize every man. Winston skillfully rewrites history to serve the purposes of the Party from his secret location in the Ministry of Truth's expansive Records Department. However, he secretly protests against the totalitarian society in which he lives, which requires complete submission from him and exerts control over him via all-seeing telescreens and the constant presence of Big Brother, the Party's eponymous leader. Smith starts a covert relationship with Julia, a coworker, out of his desire for truth and freedom, but quickly realises that the actual price of liberty is betrayal.

An Inspector Calls - J.B Priestley

An Inspector Calls was first performed in the Soviet Union in 1945 and at the New Theatre in London the following year. A family dinner is being hosted by wealthy manufacturer Arthur Birling to honour his daughter's engagement. The harsh police inspector looking into a young working-class woman's suicide enters this intimate setting. Every member of the family is revealed to have a dirty secret that connects them to her death after being questioned.

Lord Of The Flies - William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a 1954 novel by the Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding. The plot concerns a group of British boys who are stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves. They learn to live while exploring amazing wildlife and beautiful beaches during the day, but at night they are plagued by nightmares of a wild beast. After being abandoned by society, their innocent play soon turns into a ruthless, homicidal quest.

Classic Book List - Classic Books You've Always Meant to Read

Thanks for reading "Classic Books You've Always Meant to Read" on January Media.

You'll Like These