The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
If you’re like me, you avoid old classic books as much as possible. I hated “Of Mice and Men”, and I refuse to go anywhere near “The Great Gatsby”. If it’s by white men in the 1900s, I want nothing to do with it. However, after being forced to read classics as a humanities major, I was able to read some really good ones and even explore other titles on my own. Don’t get me wrong – I still won’t hit anything F. Scott Fitzgerald with a ten foot pole, but some of my favorite books are now classics. So, I’m here to share with you some of my favorite classic books!
(Before reading any of these titles, I suggest researching triggers on the “Does The Dog Die” website. Most of these books have very triggering topics.)
“THEIR EYES WERE LOOKING AT GOD” BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON – 4/5
“She stayed there until something fell off the shelf inside her.”
Written in 1937 by a black woman about the experience of a black woman, this book is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. This book was assigned to me as reading material for my social studies course “Forms of Narrative” and I was immediately hooked. The story opens and ends with the same scene, beginning with the main character, Janie, telling her story to a woman who wants to understand her. Throughout the story, we get to know Janie and grow attached to her, suffering her pain throughout her three marriages and smiling as she finds love within herself. Janie discovers who she is throughout her journey and is content to be alone. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, feminism, and wants to learn more about the black experience, especially in the 1900s.
“THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY” BY OSCAR WILDE – 4.5/5
“Some things are more valuable because they don’t last long.”
This book is the one I read a long time ago at the beginning of high school. I had been curious about it after hearing stories about Oscar Wilde and thought I’d give it a shot. This. Has been. Surprising. I loved this book from the first page to the last. Written as a shorter story in 1890 and originally published in a magazine, Wilde later expanded the story into a novel and officially published this version in 1891. The story is about a man named Dorian Gray whose friend, Basil Hallward painted it because of Dorian’s extreme beauty. Dorian then meets a man he falls in love with and decides he wants to stay young and handsome forever. The book chronicles Dorian’s journey of selling his soul and living with his decision to value looks over a full and happy life. I highly recommend this book as it plays with LGBTQ undertones (for being late 19th century) and is extremely well written.
“LITTLE WOMEN” BY LOUISA MAY ALCOTT – 4/5
“I’m not afraid of storms, because I’m learning to sail on my boat.”
I’m sure most of you have seen the 2019 rendition of “Little Women” starring Timothee Chalamet as the loveable “Laurie.” However, this movie was a book first, and a powerful one at that. Originally written in 1868 (yes, 1868!) by an early American feminist, the book features four very different sisters, showing their own individual aspirations, desires and struggles. Although most people say they prefer the movie “Little Women” to the book, I really enjoyed reading the book. You should give it a try – maybe even read the book, watch the movie, and compare the two to see which you prefer.
“DEAD POETS SOCIETY” BY NANCY H. KLEINBAUM – 4/5
“No matter what anyone says to you, words and ideas can change the world.”
In my opinion, the movie “Dead Poets Society” is better than the book. However, the book is still an amazing piece of literature that will have you laughing with the characters and crying when they’re upset. Written in 1988, it’s the epitome of the “dark academia” aesthetic, set in a boarding school and following a group of friends who resurrect a long-dead club in order to free themselves from the expectations of their parents and even the ‘school. himself. They find themselves living every moment to the fullest – however, the whole book isn’t all fun and games. There are mentions of dark subject matter and endings of great tragedies. I highly suggest reading the book and watching the movie – the title will quickly become one of your favorites.
“WHILE I DIE” BY WILLIAM FAULKNER – 4.8/5
“My mother is a fish.”
This is another book that I had to read during my social studies course “Forms of Storytelling” this semester. Although I was expected to read it, the book quickly became one of my favorites. Written in 1930 by William Faulker, a renowned author, who claims to have written this book in six weeks without any changes. at all. The book is set in the south and follows the Bundren, a family of seven who all live on their family farm. The book begins with Addie Bundren, the mother of the family, finding herself gravely ill and predicted to die. Her family is doing their best to prepare for this loss and the whole book follows their journey through the loss of Addie, taking her to where she wanted to be buried and the chaos that ensued. The journey seems to do more harm than good, and you’ll quickly choose characters you hate and characters you love. Each family member has their own struggles and pains, as we can see throughout the multi-narrated book and 15 different narrators. There are plenty of heartbreaking lines and scenes that captivate readers. It’s a wonderfully written book with heartbreaks and twists that will leave you perplexed. This is by far my favorite book on this list (and probably overall).
PRIME: “TALKING” BY LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON – 4.5/5
“I want to confess everything, hand over the guilt, error and anger to someone else.”
Although this book was published in 1999 and is quite modern, it gave me a “classic” vibe, so I thought I’d include it as a bonus novel. The book follows fourteen-year-old Melinda Sordino, who was raped the summer before her junior year of high school. She’s lost all her friends and is pushed into the lion’s den alone with half the school hating her. It’s about Melinda’s experience of coming to terms with her assault upon finding her voice. She confronts her rapist, finds a friend in her art teacher, and discovers peace within herself. It’s a beautiful story that made me cry several times. I highly recommend reading this book and then watching the movie that followed it.