My Top Ten List of Classic Novels that EVERYONE Should Read

This is a post I did when I first began my blog, but I’ve decided to publish it again! All of these books are so important to me, so I thought I’d share it (again).


10. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, 1937.

Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly. He pushed himself back, drew up his knees, embraced them, looked over to George to see whether he had it just right. He pulled his hat down a little more over his eyes, the way George’s hat was.

I first read this book during my GCSE years at school. It depicts the friendship between two best friends, George and Lennie who manage to find a job working on a ranch in order to save money for their future plans; they want to own a farm. Things slowly begin to get out of hand as Lennie is a man of limited mental ability, and things do not go to plan. The book has been banned from various US schools and libraries for its “vulgar” and “offensive language” (taken from Banned and/or Challenged Books, 2007). In my opinion, everyone should read this novel.

Steinbeck

9. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, 1963.

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream

We briefly looked over this book during my A Levels, during on the themes of madness and depression. Esther is a college student who travels to New York to work on a magazine as a guest editor. She loves her time in the Big Apple but when she returns, she begins to question herself, her ambitions and who she is. Her life begins to spiral downwards and she receives electric shock therapy of a psychiatrist which only makes matters worse. It’s a moving story with extremely likeable characters, but it is a very dark read.

Plath

8. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951.

I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.

Again, this is a book I read during my GCSE years. Most of the class hated it, but I loved it! Set in New York, the story is about a mentally unstable teen, Holden Caulfield, who has once again been expelled from school and spends his time wandering around the city, trying to piece his life back together. It’s fairly easy reading; it could probably be read in one sitting if you wanted to!

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7. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818

His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

Now, everyone knows this story, but the mistake people always make is that Frankenstein is the monster but Frankenstein is the Creator of the monster! Frankenstein creates his monster from body parts and corpses, then uses electricity to ‘shock’ the monster into life. The story is extremely moving, and you actually find yourself sympathizing with the monster over Frankenstein! It’s an extremely surprising read.

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6. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 1890.

Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity.

Basil Hallward is a painter who meets Dorian Gray, a wealthy and incredibly beautiful young man who captures Basil’s imagination. Dorian sits for Basil several times. Over the years, the exterior world changes, but Dorian does not seem to age; there is more to his painting than meets the eye, but what is it?

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5. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

So, you hear Pride and Prejudice, you imagine Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in the 1995 TV Series; it’s a given. Although this series is an extremely close adaptation, the book is still worth reading!  It begins with the Bennet family; Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. The aim of the parents is to marry their children off to as wealthy a gentleman as possible in order to maintain their family’s reputation.Mr Darcy appears rude and obnoxious, but finds himself increasingly attached to Elizabeth Bennet. The narrative follows the family and their loves, sorrows and decisions they have to make in order to find the perfect husband.

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4. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, 1860.

I was a common labouring-boy; that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick; that I had fallen into a despicable habit of calling knaves Jacks; that I was much more ignorant than I had considered myself last night, and generally that I was in a low-lived bad way.

Great Expectation is the story of a boy named Pip who is brought up in a working class family. He lives with his sister and her husband Joe, who is a blacksmith. Pip spends his life wishing he could escape from this poverty-stricken life and become a real gentleman. The story follows Pip as he grows into a man, learning about money, society and love along the way.

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3. Atonement, Ian McEwan, 2001.

At this stage in her life Briony inhabited an ill-defined transitional space between the nursery and adult worlds which she crossed and recrossed unpredictably. In the present situation she was less dangerous as an indignant little girl.

The story starts at the Tallis’ house in 1935; they’re a very upper-class English family, the kind in which everything seems perfect. However, Briony witnesses a scene from her bedroom window which changes everything; her sister Cecilia strips down to her underwear and jumps into the fountain with Robbie, the son of the housekeeper, watching. Briony takes it into her head that Robbie is a “maniac” and has him arrested by making up stories about crimes he did not commit. The story jumps ahead to 1940, during the war, in which Robbie is fighting and Briony has become a nurse; she is no longer in contact with her sister. The guilt which consumes Briony about what she did as a child haunts her, and she decides to try to take back what she had done five years ago. The 2007 film adaptation for this book is incredible as well!

McEwan

2. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925.

There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and he champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his motor-boats slid the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam.

I absolutely love this book. I studied it in A Levels and it will always remain one of my favourites. The Great Gatsby follows the life of Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and Myrtle through the narrator, Nick. Nick has just moved in to West Egg, and lives next door to strange neighbour, who we soon discover is Gatsby. Gatsby throws fancy parties every week which hundreds of people would turn up to, many of them who had never actually met Gatsby; very strange. The further you read, the further you can begin to unravel the mysteries of Gatsby, his wealth and his parties.

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1.Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, 1847.

She was much too fond of Heathcliff. The greatest punishment we could invent for her was to keep her separate from him: yet she got chided more than any of us on his account.

Wuthering Heights, in my opinion, is a masterpiece. Lockwood appears at Wuthering Heights, wanting to make arrangements to rent the nearby manor, Thrushcross Grange. An approaching storm means Lockwood has to stay the night. He meets the housekeeper, Nelly, who tells him the story of the family who live at Wuthering Heights. The Earnshaw family live in the house; Mr and Mrs Earnshaw and their children Cathy and Hindley. Mr Earnshaw brings back Heathcliff, a young boy he found wandering on the marshes, who they adopt as one of their own. Cathy and Heathcliff begin to fall in love with one another, and the novel follows their lives as they try to understand their feelings for one another.

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