Whether or not you’re in college, reading good literature truly does improve your mental capacity in multiple ways. Unfortunately, our currently inflating addictions to technology and access to quick information is slowly killing our attention span. As a result, sadly the habit of reading books is dying. Over the last year, I made it a point to read more consistently. Part of this commitment included reading books that are considered to be classics. So I thought it fitting to write about a few classic books everyone should read. I’m still working through the list myself.
Personally, I have found a lot of joy in sticking with my commitment to reading. The books themselves have been enjoyable, with the added bonus of feeling a sense of accomplishment. Not just this but reading has also improved my attention span, my ability to communicate clearly, my vocabulary, and my writing skills! Hopefully, that latter part is objectively true. Unless you think this is terrible writing, in which case you probably shouldn’t read further. Go find another one of the billion blog posts out there about reading classics. Just kidding, I’m rambling.
I think that there are some good suggestions below. Stick with this blog post. Bear in mind, these books are mostly classic novels, both relatively recent and very old. I’ve also split them into two categories. In the end, I’ve listed a few more random selections that you could look into.
This one is an investment, rather long. I thought it was pretty interesting. The story is, as you may have guessed, about Anna Karenina. Anna is married to Alexei Karenin, unhappily it seems, and begins to have an affair with Count Vronsky. Set in 19th century Russia, the affair is a scandal that would shake the society they lived into its core.
You must not, however, misconstrue this book as just a romance novel. I mean, sure, the story is about adultery and the growth and psychological changes that the characters face. But it also has historical value. When Tolstoy wrote this book, Russia was going through some serious changes. So you see a lot of patriarchal, typical aristocratic, values. You also see characters who believe in democracy and technology. This comes out through dialogues throughout the book!
The book is however filled with love and lust, resentment and turmoil, infatuation and longing, growth and loss…It’s a journey, as life is. This also means that is slow and takes a time commitment. Just thought that I should warn you, readers. But most of you already know how thick this book is, almost as thick as the fifth Game of Thrones book.
Read the book to find out what happens to Anna, Vronsky, and the score of other interesting characters. One of my favourites is Levin. And I’ll say one more thing, I absolutely dislike Kitty. I thought she was like a naive child. That’s all I’ll say!
You can find the book here, but if you’re really keen then you can do some more research on the different translations of this novel.
Jane Eyre is presented as an autobiography. The author of this book weaves a lot of emotions taken from her own life experiences into the story, which makes it fascinating to the reader. The story is about Jane Eyre, an orphan girl, who is deprived of much as a child. We are taken through her journey and the changes she experiences growing up.
Jane Eyre then tells us about the passionate love between herself and one Mr Rochester. Of course, there are some juicy complications, as you would expect. So ultimately, it is a love story but a realistic one that isn’t filled with useless fantasies. Rather, it addresses relevant rational concerns that are nevertheless heartbreaking at times.
I’m still reading this book and got really into it very quickly. Already you see how Jane Eyre is growing and how she is able to reflect inwards with a weird level of clarity. At one point, she’s recalling her memories as a 10-year-old girl, and I’m just thinking, “how do you remember this, and how were you so in touch with yourself?” I mean, what? I feel like most of us take some serious pains to find out that much about ourselves. Maybe that’s just me.
You can find the book here.
Yes, the author of this book was Charlotte Brontë’s sister. This is another passion filled love story between two people, Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. The story is told as a recitation, by a lady called Nelly Dean, to a man called, Lockwood. See Lockwood rents a manor from a rich gloomy man, Heathcliff. Guess where Heathcliff lives? It’s an ancient manor called…Wuthering Heights. Nelly Dean is Lockwood’s housekeeper, and she tells him the story of Heathcliff and Cathy. Lockwood writes it down, and this forms the main content of this book.
But, as tempting passionate love stories go, it ultimately ends up being quite destructive for everyone. There are some weird bits in this book. What I mean is that the love story is not as sweet, or even sane, as you would think. It’s pretty interesting and takes a lot of different turns. I’m sure most of you have heard of this book anyway.
You can find the book here.
Few More In This Category
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gatsby is this mysterious man who lives in a huge mansion and throws many parties. The story is told by Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbour. Carraway gets invited to one of Gatsby’s parties and is immediately intrigued by him. We learn that Gatsby has a love interest, Daisy. And shit goes down. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the recent version of this movie. You can find the book here.
2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This is a story of an orphan boy named, Pip and his coming of age. Set in 19th century England, very interesting, and unusual, hard to summarise in a few words. I’ll tell you this, Pip’s journey begins with an ambush by a prisoner. Pips end up helping the man and you’ll find out the rest. You can find the book here.
3. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
As the title of the book suggests, most of the characters in this story are vain. However, I did find out that the title was actually derived from the name of a town. The story follows the lives of Becky, who is not rich, and her friend Emmy, who is very wealthy but kind. Anyway, in this book we enter a world where we see a society obsessed with wealth, material things, and social status. You can find the book here.
Okay, I’ll try to keep these ones shorter, they all follow more or less the same theme. A dystopian theme explores political and social structures in fictional societies that are primarily dominated by systemic oppression of some kind. Some are satirical.
If you haven’t already read this book, you should. Even if you have read it, read it again. This dark and twisted story, set in futuristic England, follows Alex. Alex is a delinquent, a very serious one, living in a society that is largely blind to teenage violence. He is arrested for an intense crime he commits. Given his propensity for violence, Alex is put through an experimental trial. Basically, he is conditioned or brainwashed.
Burgess makes up a language that the teenagers of this society use. I remember my friends and I used it for a while right after we read the book in school. On another note, there is also a movie on this book directed by Stanley Kubrick, if you’re interested. For those of you who don’t know, Stanley Kubrick was also the director of, The Shining. Great movie! Also a good book by Stephen King.
You can find the book here.
Another great dystopian novel that takes a close look at “Big Brother.” Big Brother is the government and this government monitor and controls everything. Sounds intrusive but the people no nothing else. 1984 has come to become increasingly relevant today, drawing a similarity to the modern versions of surveillance and monitoring.
However, 1984 can be read in another way. In an introduction to the book George Orwell Essays, Bernard Click explains that the text can also be seen as a satire, as opposed to just dark pessimism. So, maybe Orwell wasn’t telling us that we should be prepared for totalitarianism in the Western World. Maybe he was using satire to expose “the pretensions, even the impossibility, of the total power of any kind.” I suppose you can make up your own mind about this novel, it is excellent either way.
Here is a little quote from the book,
“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
You can find the book here.
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a future world where the United States Government has been overthrown by “New England.” The story follows the narrator, Offred, and her trials living in an extremely patriarchal society.
Indeed, this new government that is in power is basically a religious fanatic establishment. So one of the major changes they make as a ruling power is to strip women of all their rights. Pretty dark but very interesting.
You can find this book here.
Brave New World is set far into the future. This society is hellbent on efficiency and obviously has advanced scientific methods. In order to be fully efficient, one can’t be sad. So, they engineer a pill that simply kills any bad emotions. In fact, almost everything in this society is engineered. This includes human beings.
You can find the book here.
Well, that’s it for now. Below is a list of a few more books you could check out. Hope you guys are able to find something in this list that you like! Get your read on.
1. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (I personally loved this one)
6. The Stranger by Albert Camus
7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
8. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis
10. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
11. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
12. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Another favourite of mine)
13. The Road by Cormac Mccarthy (Very sad)
14. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
15. Dracula by Bram Stoker
16. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
17. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
18. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
19. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
20. Middlemarch by George Eliot
21. Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
22. Persuasion by Jane Austen
23. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
24. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
25. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
26. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
27. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
29. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
30. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
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