20 Classic Books You Must Read

Book lovers love to read different kinds of books, but classics are books that nobody wants to miss.

A classic book is a book that has endured the test of time and gained timeless popularity and appeal. Such books often have crucial elements of literature that have made them stand out from other works of their time, such as strong characters, powerful themes and a unique writing style.

Though there are many classic books everyone should read we have listed some of the 20 most well-known classic books for you-

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age novel about a child’s awakening to racism, prejudice, sexual abuse, and corruption in a community. Narrated from a young girl’s perspective, it talks about how she understands that good and evil coexist in society. The Mockingbird in the story represents innocence. In a world where it is so easy to hate, one must do one’s best not to kill the Mockingbird.

2. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

The book is considered Fitzgerald’s best work. It is about the life and tragedy of self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby narrated by Nick Carraway. This classic captures the flamboyance, carelessness and cruelty of the wealthy during America’s Jazz Age. The book is a tale of ambition, desire and betrayal.

It takes a cynical look at the limits of the American Dream. The book makes one realise that materialism can only do so much. The key to happiness lies in being content and living by values, ethics and principles.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Heathcliff and Cathy’s dark and twisted romance is one of the most famous love stories. This haunting gothic romance is one of the great novels of the nineteenth century, which has influenced many songs and film adaptations. It’s a book where you will find it difficult to decide whom you dislike, but the passion at the novel’s heart will keep you spellbound. What you understand after reading the book is that love is the most powerful force on earth, and it can build and destroy lives.

Also Read: The Dying Habit Of Reading

4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

First published in 1843, this classic Christmas novella by Charles Dickens was an instant success. It is the story of the heartless Scrooge, a wealthy man with a cold heart. Spirits visit him on Christmas Eve to make him see the error of his hard-hearted ways so that he can change into a better person. With heartrending characters, rich imagery and powerful language, the book’s message is as relevant today as it was back then.

Also Read: The Ultimate List of Book Genres: 24 Popular Genres, Explained

5. Persuasion by Jane Austin

Persuasion was the last novel completed by Jane Austin. Published after her death, it is believed to be her most refined work. The book tells the story of Anne Elliot, who, as a teenager, was engaged to a naval officer Frederick Wentworth. But she breaks off the engagement on the persuasion of her friend and also because her family disapproves of him. He is too poor to be a suitable match for her. Years later, she meets him again, but the tables have turned. Fredrick has returned triumphant from the Napoleonic War while Anne’s fortunes are floundering, and he is also courting another woman. So will they find happiness.?

6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is a simple story about the life of the four March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. The book charts the highs and lows of the four sisters as they navigate from childhood to adulthood. The story shows the struggle to balance each woman’s personal growth and familial responsibilities. The book is a must-read for every young adult struggling to find their identity. You need to be your own person and not be restricted by what society dictates.

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The book is about the inner struggles of a woman caught between her desires, moral obligations and social norms. It describes how she faces life after losing her parents at a young age and leading the life of an orphan under cruel guardians. It is her indomitable spirit that shines through all her ordeals. When she takes a position as governess at Thornfield Hall, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with the brooding master of the house. The undisputed classic is full of passion, mystery, tragedy and a strong-willed heroine.

8. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando is a whimsical exploration of perceptions of gender and love through the ages. Orlando is a young Elizabethan nobleman whose wealth and status allow him to lead an extravagant lifestyle. Appointed as an ambassador to Constantinople, he wakes up one morning to find he is a woman. Inspired by her lover’s life, this imaginative and comic story by Virginia Woolf is a real trailblazer.

Also Read: 9 Ways to a Minimal Lifestyle

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin

Pride and Prejudice is a story about Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters and their father, who is faced with marrying off his five daughters, which is a challenge.

Apart from the Bennet family, there is the character of Mr Darcy, perhaps one of the most famous romantic heroes of all time. In contrast with Elizabeth’s spirit, his strong and silent demeanour makes it an impossible pairing, but the pleasant predictability of Austen’s work means that you know it will all work out in the end. The book focuses on universal truths about love, life and relationships that hold to date. The story is full of wit and sparkling dialogue with themes and characters that have stood the test of time.

10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This 1967 masterpiece from the Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez introduces the world to magical realism, a literary style marked by fantasy elements and realistic fiction synonymous with Latin American authors. The book tells the story of the Buendia family, which spans over seven generations and 100 years in the fictional town of Macondo. The book is regarded as the author’s best book.

11. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye was one of the first novels written from a distinctly adolescent viewpoint. It is the story of a 16-year-old boy Holden Caulfield and his two-day experience in the phoniness of the adult world. After being expelled from prep school for getting low grades., Holden wants to be the ‘catcher in the rye’- someone who prevents children from falling off the cliff, which can be a metaphor for adulthood. He wants to stop his sister Phoebe and every other child from growing up and becoming an adult and saying goodbye to their innocence.

12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Published in 1878 and considered by many—including acclaimed novelists Fyodor Dostoevsky and William Faulkner—to be the best novel ever written, Leo Tolstoy’s work of classic literature unfolds the tempestuous love affair between a married woman and a dashing count, and the impact it has on the lives of their friends in Imperial Russia. Tolstoy’s character development and emotional detail are masterful. At over 800 pages, we recommend taking your time to enjoy this classic. 

13. The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea describes the woes of an ageing and unlucky Cuban fisherman. He sets out on a grand voyage to end his unlucky streak and is met by challenges that test his courage and tenacity. This is perhaps one of Hemingway’s most famous and hugely inspiring works.

Also Read: The 25 Most Inspirational Books

14. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

In this book, Woolf creates a literal and a figurative space- A Room of One’s Own – for female writers in a world traditionally dominated by men. The book is more of an extended essay than a novel and explores women in fiction as writers and characters in it. It is quite a pathbreaker and highly inspiring.

15. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Behind every great movie is a great novel, which certainly holds true for the Audrey Hepburn film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Though the movie is excellent, there are certain details, thoughts and motivations that it cannot convey, which is why the book is a must-read. Capote’s American geisha Holly Golightly will keep you glued to the book.

16. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace is a historical novel based on the French invasion of Russia in 1812. The novel is so real that you feel you are living the life of the characters. Even the names used in the story are based on Tolstoy’s family. It is amongst one of the best classic books.

17. Beloved by Toni Morrison

This classic won the Pulitzer prize in 1987 and was made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey in 1998, quickly joining the ranks of the must-read classic books of the 20th century. It is one of the most popular books by Morrison and is a touching story of a slave girl, Sethe, haunted by the death of her infant daughter whose grave is marked with the word Beloved.

18. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations is a book by Charles Dickens that is amongst the must-read classics. The book is about Pip, an orphan trying to transcend his humble origins who unexpectedly gets an opportunity to lead a life of wealth and prosperity thanks to an unknown benefactor. But soon, reality takes over as he realises that the money he has been given is tainted and the girl he has loved since childhood will never love him back. Perhaps he was happier in his earlier life.

19. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The diary written by Anne Frank was discovered by her father, Otto, after her death in a concentration camp and is one of the most heartrending books on the Holocaust. The book is an account of the two horrific years that the Frank family spent in an attic during World War 2. In a touching narrative, the young girl talks about her desire to become a writer, but unfortunately, the family is captured three days after her last entry. 

20. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

This classic is a realistic account of mental illness. Written in 1963, it is an autobiographical tale written by Plath, who herself had to deal with mental health issues. The titular bell jar is a metaphor for feeling suffocated and trapped, which is how college student Esther Greenwood feels as she struggles to find joy and peace in her life after college. Though it’s a dark book, the themes of depression and trauma are relatable in today’s world.

Happy Reading!

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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