So, I feel like classics are the kinds of books people feel obliged to read, especially if they have studied it in any capacity. However, I am very much not snobby when it comes to literature. If we want to keep the amazing world of book readers and writers alive, we need to let go of stuffy notions about ‘good’ or ‘trashy’ literature, or at least, get over the guilt for our guilty pleasure reads.
However, if you want to dip your toe in, here are the ones I would recommend.
Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte
This one has got all the good victorian era classic vibes, without the fluffy drawn out prose of Austen or Dickens. You have a big gothic castle, you’ve got ghosty vibes, romance with a tall- dark-handsome-mysterious man and a little bit of feminism (for the era anyway).
Mansfield Park- Jane Austen
Now, I realise I literally dissed Austen in the paragraph above but this is the one I enjoyed the most. Although I didn’t actually mind Pride and Prejudice that much, you just have to read between the lines a bit sometimes with that. Our main female character in Mansfield park is not as demure as she’s expected to be, she is bookish, she enjoys writing. Then in the story itself, there’s a little bit more grit (such as allusions to Mansfield’s dealings in the slave trade, which is chooses to leave when his family is disgusted by it) and scandal (affairs and everything). Plus, a lovely central love story (even if he is way older than her and technically like a second cousin..)
But maybe I love it so much because I loved the film…
The Picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde
I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this and also, how eerie I found the story and the descriptions of Dorian’s painting. Normally, I don’t find any of the gothic era ghost stories that scary because they don’t go as grim or as creepy as something like Stephen King does, as gothic ones were the beginning of the genre really.
Actually, I’ve since read a couple of things by Oscar Wilde and he is by far one of the easiest to read and the most consistently enjoyable.
The Pit and the Pendulum and the Tell Tale heart- Edgar Allan Poe
Another one that surprised me, as impressions you get of Poe from movies etc, are largely based on The Raven and images of a stiff faced man with a strange moustache. But these stories and the others like it are actually quite spooky and still very readable as a modern reader.
The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett
This is my favourite, I’ve re- read it quite a few times actually. Maybe it’s because I loved the Maggie Smith version of the film from the 90’s but it’s a beautiful book, all about gardens, childhood imagination and children who just wanted to be loved.
A Little Princess- Frances Hodgson Burnett
Another one I’ve re- read a couple times and I only saw the film for the first time in, like, 2019 but this is another one where it really captured a love of stories and childhood imagination, even if it’s against the backdrop of quite terrible treatment!
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer/ Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
These books are good both because they have enjoyable narratives but they are also interesting from the historical perspective of them being antebellum novels (set before the American Civil War, specifically in the Deep South). Although the tunnels in Tom Sawyer gave me nightmares when I was a kid!
There you go, that’s my list. I’ve read quite a few classics over the years but these are the ones that stand out the most.