Classical literature is usually not on a leisure reader’s list. Classics tend to conjure up views of dusty tomes, inaccessible texts, or mere ornaments in an ersatz library. Mention to someone you read moby cock, Brave New World, or some other renowned classic and you are sure to lament their experience reading said book in school.
Wasted largely by high school students with no real life experience and through an extended adolescence through college, the classics remain for many an untapped source of growth, knowledge, and generally just good read.
Many of these novels are genuinely hilarious, thought-provoking, and contain commentary you wouldn’t expect coming from periods sometimes decades, centuries, or even millennia before our modern world.
A lesson from Professor Jeffrey Brenzel
This is by no means a definitive list. Classics abound in many genres and eras. You could spend your entire life reading only the great ancient Latin and Greek works or tumbling into the Golden Age reservoir of seminal science fiction from elsewhere. Just picking up one of these books will allow you to start reading something of the classic variety. And best of all, it’s on your own this time!
Here are 10 classic novels that will hopefully set you off on an endless journey into the soul of literary excellence.
Ernest Hemingway once remarked on Huckleberry finn this: “All modern American literature comes from a book by Mark Twain titled Huckleberry finn. American writing comes from there. There was nothing before. Nothing has been so good since.
Twain’s tour de force and most famous novel address a number of questions. Exploring racism, war, religion and more, the book is American canon. It’s no exaggeration to say Huckleberry finn stands for American Literature. In the wake of an orphan and a runaway slave in the southern United States, Twain got to the heart of so many important moral issues. With many poetic descriptions and the allure of being once a forbidden and censored book, Huckleberry finn is a founding classic.
Published just one year after the death of Emily Brontë, The Wuthering Heights would become the archetype of doomed romance. Continuing on and passing the Black Prince himself, Lord Byron, Brontë has woven a formidable classic in the Gothic lineage of literature. The tormented love and heartbreak between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw has become a role model for many great works since.
Written in the Victorian era, the characters and authorship in this book explore behavior that would certainly have made a Victorian blush, to say the least. Brontë created a weird and obsessive love story that transcended its time and genre.
Written with a hilarious spirit, moby cock is a deep meditation on the human condition. Filled with 19th century whaling traditions and other periodical cultural artifacts and customs, Herman Melville’s epic is unmatched. The prose is dense, allusive and cleverly archaic. moby cock is not a book to read, it is an experience to be lived. Don’t let any detractors stop you from diving in because of the supposedly tedious whaling chapters. In endless treatises on whaling lines, ketology rides, and scrutinizing observations, there are sparkling lines of philosophical observations and timeless humor.
Literary excellence seemed to run in the Brontë family. Jane eyre was an incredible breakthrough for an English novel at the time. From the outset, the reader is immersed in a very personal account of history. Many literary critics believe this to be a precursor to novels that invest us heavily in internal monologues and character awareness as the main focus of prose. Jane eyre has all the cogs of a Victorian novel as the romance between Jane and Rochester is told through an enchanting Gothic element.
Pride and Prejudice centers around a family with five single daughters and their family estate has been promised to a male descendant of the family. When the appearance of a wealthy Mr. Darcy comes to town, the action begins and we end up with this wonderful story.
“It is a universally recognized truth that a single man in possession of good fortune must need a wife. Little known as the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entry into a neighborhood, this truth is so firmly established in the minds of surrounding families that it is considered the rightful property of one. either of their daughters. ”
Colin Firth and the many excellent and average adaptations of this separate book, Pride and Prejudice turns out to be a literary masterpiece.
At only 18 years old at the time of writing this novel, Mary Shelley was in the literary world at the time. As the infamous story goes, she wrote the book on a bet with a number of renowned scholars. She definitely won this bet. Part gothic thriller and uplifting tale of the limitless powers of science, Frankenstein paved the way for generations of writers to come. Drawing on biblical references such as the 16th century Jewish Golem, in Frankenstein, Shelley shows off her writing prowess and historical knowledge.
A book of passionate fantasy and fantasy, the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, told the whole modern story through Don Quixote. The real and the illusory blend and blend together to perfection. Don Quixote has had a huge effect on many writers over the years. William Faulkner once remarked that he would reread it once a year, joking that he had read it, “just like some people read the Bible.”
An outlier in our list of classics, The odyssey deserves special mention. Considered by many to be the first novel of all time, this Greek discourse has stood the test of thousands of years. It is the epic saga par excellence. All great works must pay their due on the original. Lattimore’s translation is what brought this book to a contemporary global audience. Technically spoken (or written) as a long form poem, The odyssey is a great and exciting read after all these years.
An unforgettable novel that is easy to read for many who have just immersed themselves in the classics. By no means a light book, Kill a mockingbird deals with some heavy themes such as racial inequality, rape and moral ethics. Harper Lee’s inaugural novel was an instant bestseller and award-winning book. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 after being released in 1960. There was later an exciting adaptation and an equally compelling classic film made a few years later – a rarity for some of the classics.
One of the most important works of the 20th century, 1984 brought a lot of words into the cultural vernacular. Big Brother, double talk and the infamous slogan of war is peace. George Orwell’s masterpiece becomes more haunting and relevant as we move into the future. Political satire was never meant to be so real.
As our main character Winston Smith gets lost in Ingsoc’s bureaucratic nightmare, we watch in horror and disdain. Yet, looking around our world today, as despotic regimes implement social capital systems and English language politics deteriorate in many ways, 1984 begins to take on a disconcerting foreknowledge.