I didn’t read very many classics in high school or college, with the exception of a lot of Shakespeare, since I was a theater major. For some reason, I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious streak when it comes to reading – if someone says, “these are books you definitely should read,” I usually think, “I don’t think so.” But you know what? Classics are classics for a reason – whether it’s because of the beauty of the writing, or the universal themes explored, or the ageless characters. Since I started reading the classics a couple of years ago, I have discovered so many wonderful books and authors – and I’m nowhere near done! Here are a few of my favorites so far:
Persuasion by Jane Austen – Most people list Pride and Prejudice as their favorite Austen, but not me. While I love the romance in P&P, I think the writing is better and deeper in Persuasion. Plus, I love the idea of having a second chance at love. This is one I try to re-read every year.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I’ve only read two books by Dickens so far – this one and A Tale of Two Cities, which I also enjoyed. But Pip’s story struck me as more personal, and I loved it. Dickens is a master of writing descriptions – of people, places, events.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Love the story, love Jane, love the choices she makes. I really need to read this one again.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – If you are at all an audiobook fan, listen to this one as read by Sissy Spacek. She is Scout. One of the greatest American novels of all time – my daughter is reading it this year for 7th grade lit (we homeschool) and I can’t wait to discuss it with her.
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tina Nunnally – This trilogy is a living, breathing description of life in 14th century Norway – and a book that shows that the issues that women deal with – children, husband, temptation, aging – are universal, no matter the time period or country.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – This one can be difficult, with all the Russian characters going by so many different names: first, last, diminutive. I kept an index card with the characters and their relationships to each other on it, and it made it a lot easier to keep track. From my review: “Tolstoy is a remarkable writer. Russia is a place I’ve never had a desire to visit – until I read Tolstoy’s descriptions of St. Petersburg and Moscow. He made me want to visit these cities. He also made me want to live as a Russian peasant and sleep on a haystack, after eating a simple meal of bread and cheese.”
Favorite history books
Favorite books about reading and writing
Favorite historical fiction
Favorite memoirs, part one
Favorite memoirs, part two
Favorite contemporary fiction, part one
Favorite contemporary fiction, part two
Favorite contemporary fiction, part three
Favorite children’s novels, part one
Favorite children’s novels, part two
Favorite YA fiction, part one
Favorite YA fiction, part two
Favorite graphic novels and memoirs