Seeking Recommendations: Your Favorite “Classic” Books

Hi everyone!  I’m planning to join in on the “Classics Club“, which is a challenge to read 50 classic books in 5 years.  I’m planning to read one a month so I’ll actually finish in just a little over 4 years.  To start, I need to come up with my list of 50 books to read.

I’m planning to reread some of Jane Austen’s books because I’m also [sort-of, not really] participating in the “Motherhood and Jane Austen” online book club.  So that’s six books for my first year but I need ideas for more!  I’m thinking of reading some of the older Newbery Award winners and some Charles Dickens (any favorites to recommend?).  I’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird (*gasp, I know), I don’t remember Jane Eyre and I know there are more holes in my knowledge/education.  I’m also open to non-fiction recommendations, which you would consider to be classic, important knowledge builders.

So…what recommendations can you share with me for must-read classic books?  I’ll post my complete list in the next couple weeks!  I’ll also be blogging each book as I finish reading it so perhaps some of you might like to read along with me?

(For inspiration, here’s the club’s “Big Book List“.  And their definition of “classic” is simply something published more than 25 years ago.)

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27 Responses to Seeking Recommendations: Your Favorite “Classic” Books

  1. Karyn says:

    I really enjoyed “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I need to re-read it one of these days.

  2. harmony says:

    Love the ones you mentioned (all of Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, To Kill). Re: Dickens – Great Expectations and/or Tale of Two Cities were my faves (some of the others I don’t like/love as much). Other faves that come immediately to mind: Middlemarch, George Eliot; Portrait of a Lady, Henry James; The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, Steinbeck; Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez; North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell; My Antonia, Willa Cather; Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky; Too Late the Phalarope, Alan Paton (I liked it better than Cry, The Beloved Country), and The End of the Affair, Graham Greene. This is a totally random and incomplete list, of course – just what comes to mind. Please let me know what your favorite classics are – I’m also making a list for myself for the coming year!

    • Laura says:

      Wow – thank you for such a great list, Harmony! I haven’t read any of the ones you recommend so I’ll definitely check them all out. Thank you for reminding me about Middlemarch – that’s one I wanted to put on my list for sure.

  3. katie says:

    David Copperfield is amazing! It’s definitely my favorite Dickens, but I also enjoyed Oliver Twist. A Day in the Life of Ivan Desisovich by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe. And even though they are children’s lit, I love the Shoes books by Noel Streatfield – particularly ballet shoes and dancing shoes.

    • Laura says:

      Thank you Katie! I love the Shoes books too – I can’t wait to read them to Ellie. I’ll check out your other recommendations. I appreciate them!

  4. Bets says:

    Siddhartha (Herman Hesse) – will definitely be a change of pace from what you’ve listed this far, and it is a quicker read (good for busy months).

  5. Martha Sinis says:

    Don’t be confused Laura with the flood of books around. Every educated person should have read the Great Books, starting with Iliad and Odyssey and continue with the father of History Herodotus ( who is such fun, most exciting stories) and then the plays of Aeschylus , Sophocles and Euripides . Fascinating human conditions that apply even today in our own lives.
    You don’t need anything else ,for wisdom and knowledge , except of course the bible and Shakespeare . If you stop here, you are considered a well educated individual.

    After you finish with the essentials I can recommend other authors.

    Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy are exciting reading with substance and of course Dickens. Have you ever read any Pearl Buck books?
    I also love Kazantzakis , especially his book “Report to Greco”.
    I congratulate you, that you want to expand your horizons.

  6. War and Peace and Anna Karenina are both great. I have not read other Tolstoy but ive heard its all good. The Wealth of Nations is too long and mostly incorrect, but an interesting read anyway (i have not finished it!). Nick says Vanity Fair, Gullivers Travels (his words, i hated it) and lots of Dickens – David Copperfield to start – should be on your list. Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland, GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, How To Lie With Statistics (Darrell Huff). You have most of the NPR sci fi / fantasy list fitting your criteria too. HG Wells, Jules Verne. Dracula, Frankenstein. I second Love in the Time of Cholera and Siddhartha. Really enjoyed making this list, thanks!

    I have never read Jane Austin so I went ahead and joined that group – I feel like I am the only 30-something white female who has never read Pride and Prejudice!

    • Laura says:

      Hi Tory! Thank you to both you and Nick for the recommendations. I’ll check them out. And about Jane Austen – what? You’ve never read P&P? 🙂 I’m not convinced that book club is for me. There are so many people in it and I’ve stopped trying (well, never really tried) to keep up with all the posts. But I think the idea (of reading Austen through the lens of motherhood) is an interesting one so I’m going to reread them. Persuasion is my favorite Austen by far. We could have our own discussions in real life if you want to! 🙂

  7. Eliz.K says:

    I third the suggestion of Dostoyevsky (Brothers Karamazov) and Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, Resurrection)– love the Russian authors! Portrait of Dorian Grey is another favorite. I’ll have to look at my shelves to see what else. I can’t wait to hear what you read!

  8. Crystal says:

    I simply love My Antonia and A Lost Lady by Willa Cather. She is one of my favorite American Authors. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is also a must for American classics. Henry James is good. I enjoyed all his books, but Turn of the Screw was a good thrill/suspense if you like that type of thing. And if you like speculative fiction Edward Bellamy’s Looking backward is fun and short. But if you need faster reading for some months here are some awesome Children’s classics that I think adults really enjoy as well. Maybe you have already read these?? Wind In the Willows, Heidi, Little Women, Mary Poppins, Collected works of Beatrix Potter and AAMilne. Avery and I read through all the Beatrix Potter stories when he was 2 and he still asks for them now and again. Delaney is in love with the Classic Pooh stories right now and “reads” them to herself if I am not available.
    Enjoy your reading. It sounds like a fun project. I wish I could read as fast as you. =)

    • Laura says:

      Thank you Crystal! All great ideas!! And yes, reading fast is a gift! Partly, I get bored and skip words, which Nik says is cheating! Sometimes I have to go back and reread a section if I skipped too much but usually it works out for me!

  9. Sepideh Miller says:

    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton. Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Awakening by Kate Chopin

  10. Indeeds says:

    I loved David Copperfield. Dicken’s other stuff is also delightful. I also love love love love The Chosen by Chaim Potok. Those would probably be my top 2 recommendations.

  11. I have several favorites…Russian authors. Anna Karenina, War & Peace (both Tolstoy). Anna Karenina is amazing, a page turner….the characters are so well formed you feel as if you know them. War and Peace, I found to also be wonderful but longer (took a little more work to get through it…but a good winter read). Dostoyevsky’s “The Brother’s Karamazov” took about 100 pages of reading to get into. But has a wonderful, uplifting theme once you get into the meat of the book. These are probably my top three choices.

  12. Definitely read “Jane Eyre” — it’s SO good. (I’m an English teacher and my classes are reading it now). I’m also a huge fan of “The Grapes of Wrath.”

    Happy reading!

  13. Pingback: Classics Club: Book Picks | Salmon and Souvlaki

  14. ‘Great Expectations’
    ‘The Grapes of Wrath’
    ‘Lolita’
    ‘Dracula’
    ‘The Old Man and the Sea’
    ‘Catcher in the Rye’
    These are my favourite classics!

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