Classics are often talked about in the book world. Many people have different opinions on what classics are still worth the read today. Some classic authors I find easier to read than others, some I just find I have no interest in (I won’t name them just because I don’t want fans of theirs to come for me). Below, I have listed 5 classics I feel need to be read in this day and age. I’m sure some will not be a surprise to many readers, but others, well… perhaps you may have forgotten about them.
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
I know this book is talked about a lot when it comes to classics, but it’s for good reason. This was the first ever Jane Austen book I picked up, and some quotes have still stayed with me long after. It’s a classic for a reason, as it shows feminism at it’s classiest. It shows that people should not be judged by first appearances. It proves that getting to know someone can change your alter-ego about them.
Unlike some classics, I find Austen so easy to read, and it feels as if I could be reading an author who published today. The characters are richly defined, and who cannot forget how dominant that scene is where Elizabeth first rejects Darcy. To me, this is Austen’s best work. You have humour, you have romance, and you have determination to prove that status and sex does not determine someone.
I won’t ramble too much seeing as this is an obvious well-loved classic. But what I will say is, if you’ve just watched the film or the 1990s tv show — then you need to pick up the original text. For Austen’s words stay with you for years.
2. Rebecca by Daphne de Murier
This was actually only a recent find for me. I saw the trailer for the Netflix film, and I’m not sure if it was my interpretation gone wrong or it was what I was hoping for, but I thought it was going to be more a supernatural horror — my mistake. But watching the film only made me want to go out and buy the book. And oh my, I’m so glad I did. Netflix did a good adaption, but the book is so much richer. You dive more into Rebecca since she is an absent character and is more a haunting presence.
I’ve never been so glad to be wrong about a story. Since it is more thriller esc and you have it linked with a murder mystery, it flips you around entirely. I went from thinking that the main protagonist — who I love that doesn’t actually have a name — is a weak-minded woman who can be pushed around by those around her, to being a badass that is determined to save the man she loves.
I feel a fool for not having known the classic sooner, and much like Pride & Prejudice, it’s perfect for anyone who loves a bit of girl power.
3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Of course, I had heard of Frankenstein from a young age, but it wasn’t until my A Levels that I read the book. Normally when you are told you have to read a book for school, you don’t find it that exciting, but I was so glad I was studying this one after I read it the first time. I am a lover of Norte-Dame de Paris (or The Hunchback of Norte Dame it’s best known as thanks to Disney), so when I read this book and found it had similar tropes, I couldn’t help but love it.
The battle between what makes a monster and what makes a man is one that I love to explore in books. I was tempted to put Hugo’s work as one of the classics to read, but I feel Frankenstein is not loved enough. The fact that many people when asked think that the monster is called Frankenstein is the reason why I think the book needs to be talked about more. The fact that the monster is simply known as this thing, it speaks enough volumes about the exploration in this novel. But not only that, it is also explained that the monster is in fact the reflection of Doctor Frankenstein himself. It truly proves the debate as to what man can be like when misjudged, and the language Shelly uses throughout is as enticing as the story itself.
4. Odyssey by Homer
To think that this is a story (or a compilation of stories) that has been told for 2,800 years just proves that it needs to be talked about. I am a lover for the Greek and Roman mythology, and anything to do with the Gods or the heroes of this time already has me gripped. I will admit, I’m not much of a lover of poetry, and it didn’t change my mind when studying at college. But if you’re like me and don’t pay much attention to poetry, then perhaps your surprised that I have noted this example in my classics list. But, epic poetry is something different. I’m not drawn to poems because normally it’s not a telling of a story. I like a beginning, middle and end to what I am reading, and this is what epic poems do — this is what the Odyssey is. It might have the rhyming and the rhythm of a poem, but it is telling a story, and this one in particular is the telling of the King of Ithaca after the Trojan war. It is gripping, and intriguing to read and something I think shouldn’t be left just for school, but on anyone’s book shelf to keep the story alive for another thousand years.
5. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
This is the first, epic pirate story everyone should know. It has made its way on the screen a few times — I especially love the one with Eddie Izzard, but nothing beats reading the book. I’m sure you know the tale, about a pirate called Long John Silver who befriends Jim Hawkin on a journey to try and retrieve the treasure that had been stolen from him and his crew. But the reason why I think this story should be raved about is not just because of the action sequences of being a pirate, but because of the characters.
Long John Silver is a beautiful example of a felony you can’t help but love. He is a pirate after all, he has raved and murdered, and yet, the affection he has for Jim shows that there is still good and even someone who their whole life has pillaged and stolen, can be kind. This character made its dent in the market for the beloved Captain Jack Sparrow, to prove that pirates can be seen as good and do the right thing.
But also, this book shows consequences for the wrong actions. Jim is rewarded for bravery and his goodness, and even though Long John did try to help Jim, he was still abandoned and left to try and make it in exile because of what he had done prior.
The character developments are amazing, and to me, there is no wonder why many studios choose to try their mark and portraying it on the screen.
Of course, even in this list there are some classics that many people would agree with. But I hope that I have listed some that perhaps are not mentioned enough. Every author hopes their work will go down in history, pray it will become a classic over the years. But, in my opinion, it takes a good compelling story and characters — something I think these authors easily accomplished.