I was going to write this post with the intention to recommend you follow suit and read my favourites, but I’m very aware that classic novels don’t tickle everyone’s fancy. Truth be told, they rarely tickle mine, i’m simply arrogant enough to think if I read them, I am instantly more interesting. Is that true, though? I doubt.
Thanks to a degree in English Literature i’ve (skim-)read more Classics than I can remember, If you’d like to see the (almost-)full list of Classics that i’ve read, feel free to click here.
Pride and Prejudice
I could write 10,000 words on this book. In fact I did, for my dissertation at University. It was fairly easy because my Mother brainwashed me with the 1995 BBC Drama as a child but, nevertheless, I think this book is wildly ahead of its time and if you have to read any classic novel, let it be this.
Lizzie Bennett is my absolute hero and while she is intelligent, self-aware and quite the feminist for her era, there’s also faults in her personality that aren’t typical for a woman of the 19th century. What I mean by this is, there are many faults with female characters in classic literature, but those faults are usually at the behest of either her male counterpart, or her male Author. Lizzie is written with class and passion and real understanding.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
A brilliant novel about a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth, I’d highly recommend following this novel with De Profundis which follows Oscar Wilde’s time in jail, when he was imprisoned for being homosexual.
East of Eden
A classic American novel that I’m always a little surprised I managed to read. I chose it purely because Kristen Stewart said it was her favourite novel back when Twilight was cool. I’ve often wondered whether she claimed this book as fave purely to add to her edgy and aloof persona because it’s a most odd novel to really appreciate, both as a young adult and in this era. Then again, people might say the same to me about P&P.
East of Eden lays heavily on the story of Cane and Abel, good vs. evil etc. The thing I enjoy most about American Literature is they’re not too difficult to understand because the language isn’t too dissimilar to what we currently use. I don’t mean that to be insulting, it’s to be expected when the country is so young and it’s one of the things I find so irritating about classic English Lit – I can’t understand it!
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
I truly, deeply, maddeningly hated this story. I picked it up because E. L. James referred to it so often in Fifty Shades and I felt I ought to read it but I should have known from the source of the recommendation that this was going to be pure shit. When you consider this novel was published circa 70 years after Pride and Prejudice, it really fucking drags women back into the dark ages; Tess is continually, relentlessly and brutally abused in every way throughout the novel, all the while taking it on the chin like a second class citizen ought to. I struggled to appreciate this story for a novel of it’s time and perhaps that says more about me than it does about the book but, quite frankly, I thought it was trash.
While we’re on the subject, you can give Far From the Madding Crowd a miss too, terribly dull.
A Christmas Carol
An obvious choice yet have you ever actually read it? Or just watched the Muppets prance about with Michael Cain? A Christmas Carol is a true British classic, it’s easy to read, which says a lot for Charles Dickens (ever tried to read Hard Times?), the plot is simple, the characters are likeable (even grumpy old Scrooge) and the ending is happy, which is how all Christmas stories should end.
The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
If you like dystopia, then it’s a right of passage to read the works of ‘the father of science fiction’. This time traveller leaps hundreds of thousands of years ahead of his own where he discovers two new and, quite frankly, bizarre races. The Eloi and the Morlocks. He continually ponders how the human race could have possibly reached this point and often finds his theories are wildly incorrect. Like most dystopian literature, Well’s forces you to consider what is and what could be.
Other classic’s I would recommend
- To Kill a Mockingbird (obviously), Harper Lee
- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
- Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
- Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
- The Scarlett Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
- Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Classic’s I wouldn’t bother with
- Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
- Middlemarch, George Eliot
- Clarissa, or, The History of a Young lady, Samuel Richardson
I know there are many avid readers out there who have a far deeper appreciation for a classic than I do. Whether you do or don’t, I genuinely love having a chat about these types of books, let me know if you’ve read any of the above and tell me what you thought of them!