In high school, my literature teacher gave us a list of over 150 classics. Each year, she told us to read 2 or 3, then write a paper analyzing them. In college, I took a class called “Great Books,” which was basically a book club with a couple writing assignments (and was, therefore, amazing). We read 3 or 4 books often considered classics and discussed them in depth. That means I probably read 16 classics during school from that list of over 150 (or about 11% for those of you who like math). Honestly, I don’t think that’s a great percentage, but I suspect that many of us are in the same boat here.
The Bibliophage community is working through the 2018 Book Bingo, which includes a space for reading a classic. It might seems strange that a classic is included in a challenge that is meant to widen our range of reading, but when you look at it in the context of the 11%, I don’t think it’s too surprising. I have gathered a list of excellent classic books for readers of all ages, and I hope you will be able to share these remarkable reads with your friends, family, and neighbors.
By Alan Paton
“An immediate worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1948, Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty. Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.” - back cover of the 2003 Scribner Edition
By L. Frank Baum
“Dorothy, her little dog Toto, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion will charm boys and girls of today as much as they delighted children nearly a century ago as they set out on an exciting quest for the elusive Wizard of Oz. Along the way, they'll encounter the Wicked Witch of the West, the fantastic Winged Monkeys, the Queen of the Field Mice, the kind-hearted Munchkins, and other fanciful creatures.” - Back Cover of the 1996 Dover Children's Evergreen Classics Edition
By Robert Penn Warren
“Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men is generally considered the finest novel written on American politics. Set in the 1930s, this beloved book traces the rise and fall of Willie Stark, who resembles the real-life Huey “Kingfish” Long of Louisiana. Stark begins his political career as a idealistic man of the people but soon becomes corrupted by success. First published in 1946, All the King’s Men won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.” - back cover of the 1996 Harcourt Brace Edition
By Daphne Du Maurier
“For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten—a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife—the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.” - Back Cover of the 2006 William Morrow Paperbacks Edition
By Zora Neale Hurston
“One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published—perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.” - Back Cover of the 2006 Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition
By Louisa May Alcott
“As a New England mother struggles to support her family in the wake of her husband’s service in the Civil War, her four daughters struggle, too—caught between childhood dreams and the realities of burgeoning adulthood. For Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, raised in integrity and virtue, negotiating the right path in life means making choices that will either narrow or expand their destinies. Based on the author’s life, Little Women transcends genre, gender, and class with its examination of personal quests, societal restrictions, family ties, and the end of innocence.” - Back Cover of the 2017 AmazonClassics Edition
By Maya Angelou
“Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.” - Back Cover of the 2009 Ballantine Books Reissue Edition
By H. G. Wells
“A metallic cylinder falls to earth, landing in the sands of Horsell Common, Surrey, generating curiosity and awe. But what’s inside soon induces only terror. The story that unfolds is a breathless first-person account of an inconceivable reality: an extraterrestrial war has been waged on the planet.” - Back Cover of the 2017 AmazonClassics Edition
By Ayn Rand
“The astounding story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world - and did. Tremendous in scope, breathtaking in its suspense, Atlas Shrugged is unlike any other book you have ever read. It is a mystery story, not about the murder of a man’s body, but about the murder - and rebirth - of a man’s spirit.” - Back Cover of the 1996 Signet Edition
By Jane Austen
“Love is in the air when five sisters discover that a wealthy and eligible bachelor is suddenly within reach. But it is his friend, the haughty Mr. Darcy, who becomes smitten. Unfortunately for him, the object of his affection is not so easily swayed. One of the most popular characters in English literature, Elizabeth Bennet is intelligent, witty, well-spoken and ahead of her time. If the terrible rumors about Mr. Darcy are true, he doesn’t stand a chance. Yet not all gossip is to be believed when marriage, money, and reputations are on the line. Will Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy circumvent her haste, his ego, and society’s expectations to find love?” - Back Cover of the 2017 AmazonClassics Edition
Have you read any of the books on this list? What other books would you add?
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