11 Classic Books Everyone Needs To Read

11 Classic Books Everyone Needs To Read

Classic books recommended by an English major.

If you took an English class in high school, you probably read at least one or two classic books and you may or may not have hated doing it.

Even for people who love to read, it can be difficult to get into reading a classic book. The language is different and much harder to understand, making them a slower read. You don't have the cultural background to understand all of the little details and cultural references.

However, classics are worth reading because they help us mark the history of books and how we got to where we are with writing. Often, our more "modern" novels are based on classic ones. Here are 11 classics that everyone should read.

1. 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

While all of Austen's work is wonderful, Pride and Prejudice is arguably one of the best books ever written as well as one of the most well-known classics. It is a beautiful novel that has stunning scenery, glamorous parties, a crazy, but loving family, several hidden secrets, and, of course, a fantastic love plot.

The wit and charm of Austen's narrative voice and her use of free indirect discourse make it an enjoyable read. Plus, there are several really great movie versions to help you pick up on little plot pieces you might have accidentally missed.

2. 'Mrs. Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf

One of the famous pioneers of the stream of consciousness writing styles, Woolf takes her readers on the journey of a single day in the head of her title character, Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, and a WWI soldier named Septimus Smith.

These two characters have drastically different lives, and yet, they're connected in a way so deep and profound that I had to take a second to just sit and process after I figured it out.

It can be a little tricky to read until you get used to the narration being stream of consciousness, but once you learn how to follow it, the story becomes addictive and powerful.

3. '1984' by George Orwell

I personally hated 1984 because I'm not interested in politics or governmental issues, but its theme of the government taking complete control of every aspect of life is one that many people relate to very deeply. While the book is lacking in plot, it has an abundance of satire.

Readers follow the story of a man named Winston and his lover, Julia, and their resistance to Big Brother. There are also several highly quotable lines in here for everyone who likes that in a book.

4. 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray was Wilde's only novel and arguably his best work. The story is about a young man named Dorian Gray who has a portrait painted of himself by his artist friend, Basil.

Thanks to a throwaway comment, the picture now ages and takes on Dorian's sins rather than Dorian himself. The ending of the novel is tragic but inevitable. Wilde's descriptions, scenes, and characters are all beautifully constructed, making this very fun to read.

5. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

I could hardly exclude one of my favorite books from this list. Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is full of childhood adventure, racial tensions in a Southern town, choosing what's right, and judging people on more than just their appearance. The characters in this book are all wonderfully unique and each one teaches a new lesson to the readers.

If you find that you love this one as much as I do, I recommend Lee's other book, Go Set A Watchman as well. For more on To Kill A Mockingbird and the recent banning, see my article here.

6. 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott's Little Women is a staple of any literature lover's childhood. The story of the four March sisters and their best friend Laurie is one that is full of childhood adventures, teenage romances, and adult problems all wrapped in the neat little package of familial love.

Whether you're a Meg, a Jo, a Beth, an Amy, or a Laurie, everyone is bound to find at least one character they relate to in this book, making it a fun read.

7. 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton

Technically, Paradise Lost is an epic, not a novel, but it is still more than worth the read. The style is difficult and the syntax is twisted around, but so many novels draw on Milton as their source text that it's nearly impossible to not read Paradise Lost.

Plus, the epic offers a new take on the familiar characters of Adam, Eve, and even Satan.

8. 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles is easily the most famous Sherlock Holmes mystery. It has a spooky setting, a scary monster, an old family curse, and a full cast of potential suspects.

Basically, it has all of the makings of a good mystery. Its short and simple nature makes it a good book for people who are just easing into classics or people who don't have a ton of time to devote to reading.

9. 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens

While Dickens has several famous works, A Christmas Carol is my personal favorite. The story is familiar to everyone, making the plot easier to keep up with. The countless movie versions are helpful for anyone who has trouble understanding Dickens's writing style and language. Plus, it's about Christmas.

10. 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden isn't a classic book that typically makes it onto lists like this one, but I personally think that it is a good read for people of all ages. For me, it was the first classic I ever read. I was somewhere between eight and ten years old.

At the time, I found it to be full of magic and mystery. My opinion ten years later has not changed. I find it to be just as wondrous and magical at nineteen as I did at nine.

11. 'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury is one of the most difficult books I have ever read, but also one of the most interesting. It is set in Jefferson, Mississippi and Cambridge, Massachusetts and follows the Compson family through several years. This family has all you could ever want as far as dysfunction, feuds, and inheritance problems.

Faulkner's stream of consciousness style is really confusing to follow, so it's important to read the 1945 addition of the appendix before beginning the actual novel, but the story itself is rewarding and thought-provoking.

Cover Image Credit: Lily Snodgrass

Popular Right Now

Poetry On Odyssey: Where Sisters Bloom

Stand with us!


Why is it the womanhood is so vile?

People bash our bodies opening us up like

watermelons to see how sweet we are inside.

Squeezing our hopes and dreams like oranges into a glass cup.

I think you're threatened of our bodies sweetness.

Threatened of our anger.

Get used to it.

we are every fruit you wish you could pick from the tree.

When our trees shed leaves you run

because god for bid my ovaries drop an egg

and my legs split like a canyon with a sanguine

river flowing for a week.

You get down on your knees begging

for our bodies so long that

when you stand your ankles crack like

the noise I make on my way up the stairs from the

night shift.

I let my spine arch on the bed creating an invisible

hill that you will try to climb.

We are becoming stronger by learning not to brush

off the

cruel cat calls you make when we walk by

but instead we raise our middle fingers.

Tell you to woman up

Tell you to grow some damn ovaries because

lets face it your balls will never mount our courage.

No its not that I don't think you're strong

but I know you need to change the way you speak to women.

Stop calling us hoes because we wont send you nudes.

Stop shaming us with our body parts.

Stop saying "that's' gay" why is something weird gay.

Do you remember when I said you are threatened of our anger?

No baby this is rage.

This is something I don't like to wear its like

a heavy coat that clings to

my sweaty caramel skin during Florida winters.

Do not be threatened of our sweetness.

We are honeycombs

golden yellow and thick.

We love the feeling of our honey dripping

on your lips.

We want you to covet our thoughts not our thighs

take in our cellulite like oxygen

but not until you learn.

To march with us. Fight with us. Show pride with us,

when we wear our flowy shirts and tight jeans

because don't you dare say my lacy bralette was asking for it.

If you understand now.

Hit pause.

Take a stroll over to the orange groves

and peel back our thick layers of glory

and now you can taste our royalty.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

To Percy Jackson, I Hope You're Well...

Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus are both series which helped shape my life. I want to share my love for them here, with you.


Two days before I moved from New Jersey to California, I had a late night at a friend's house. Just a few miles outside of my small town of Morris Plains, his house was out of the way and a safe haven for myself and my mother during a harrowing and strenuous move. My father had been across the country already for almost two months trying to hold down his new job and prove himself. His absence was trying on me (at the tender young age of nine years old) and my mother, and we often spent time at my friend's home, as our mothers got along well.

That night came the time to say goodbye for the very last time, and as our mothers were tearfully embracing at the door, he ran up to me and shoved a book in my hands. Bewildered and confused, I tried to give him my thanks but he was already gone - running away in a childish fit that expressed his hurt at my leaving more than any words he could've said. I looked down at the book in my hands. It was a battered copy of Rick Riordan's "The Lightning Thief," with its binding bulging slightly out in a strange fashion, the cover slightly torn and bent, and quite a few pages dog-eared. The book wasn't in good condition, but I took the time to read it. I was ensnared and enchanted by the lurid descriptions of mythology, of the lovable characters of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, and the upside-down world they lived in. Over the course of the move and our eventual settling into our new California home, I devoured the series adamantly, reading "The Battle of the Labyrinth" almost five times in the fifth grade and eventually finishing out with "The Last Olympian." The series accompanied me through a difficult move and a whirlwhind of early puberty; by that time, Percy and friends I knew intimately as my own companions. When the series ended, I happily parted with it, and began other literary conquests (namely in the realm of classics).

After an almost year-long break, I re-discovered the series in sixth grade. I hadn't realized that there was a companion series to the first, in fact, a continuation - The Heroes of Olympus. I lapped up "The Lost Hero" and "The Son of Neptune" with greed, and eagerly awaited the arrival of "The Mark of Athena" the following year.

One of my most vivid memories of middle school was sneaking downstairs the morning of the Kindle release of "The Mark of Athena", sneaking past my parents' bedroom as stealthily as I could in the wee hours of the morning to get my kindle and immerse myself in the world. I believe I finished it in about two days. For the next two books in the series, I followed the same pattern: get up early, read it as fast as I could get my hands on it. "The Blood of Olympus", the last book in the series, came out in my freshman year of high school. After finishing the second series, I shelved my much-loved paperbacks for good, and turned myself to other literary pursuits. I eventually relocated to Virginia, and went to college. Percy and friends were almost forgotten until my first year at the University of Virginia.

I was devastatingly alone my first semester at university. I didn't know what to do with myself, entombed by my loneliness. However, at the bottom of my suitcase, I found my old Kindle Paperwhite, with both of Percy's series neatly installed for me. I made a resolution with myself: I would reread both series, reading only at mealtimes where I sat alone. By the time I was finished, I wanted to see where I was compared to when I started.

Re-reading the series was like coming home. It was nostalgia, sadness, and ecstasy wrapped into one. I delighted in revisiting Percy's old haunts, his friends, his challenges. However, it was sad, knowing I had grown up and left them behind while they had stayed the same. It was a riveting memory train which made me look forward to meals, and eased my loneliness at school. Gradually, as the semester progressed, I was reading on Percy's tales less and less, as I found my friends, clubs, and organizations that gradually took up more and more time.

I still haven't finished my re-read, and am about halfway through "The Blood of Olympus". I've come a long way in the almost decade since I first received that tattered copy of "The Lightning Thief", and I still have some ways to go. So thanks, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, Jason, Piper, Reyna, Nico, Frank, Hazel, Leo. Thank you for growing up with me. I'll never forget you.


Related Content

Facebook Comments