16 Wonderful Literary Classics Worth Reading
I’ve been a literary classics book lover for a long time. It comes down to fantastic teachers that taught books like The Odyssey in approachable and fun ways. I firmly believe there is a right “classic” for everyone, even if you’ve never loved them in the past.
School reading lists are filled with classic literature books. But if you did not tackle these while you were in school, we still encourage your to read some of these literary classics on this list to see what the fuss is about.
Also, if you are looking to venture into the world of classics, it might make sense to try them out in Audio. There are so many ways to listen to these literary classics and many of these are narrated by celebrity narrators as well.
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Literary Classics Written by Women
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
We absolutely love this classic love story. This love story has everything you could want. Elizabeth Bennet is a smart and stubborn woman who was ahead of her time. With 5 Bennet girls, one of them must marry well to support the other sisters.
There are so many new and wonderful adaptations of this novel, we did an entire post on it. And you don’t want to miss the other Jane Austen adaptations in the post as well.
Austen is a master of romances and this book is the original enemies-to-lovers novel! How could we not include it in a list of enemies-to-lovers books and books about sisters?
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Chopin’s The Awakening was considered scandalous when it was first published back in the Victorian era. This literary classic involves a woman in a loveless marriage who turns away from her husband to ignite a passionate romance.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I remember reading this story with my grandmother when I was young. It features a family of four girls who are trying to support each other and their mother while their father is away at war.
The classic story by Alcott has survived for generations for a reason, the way she wonderfully encapsulates what it’s like to be in a family. The highs and lows of the personal and collective lives of Beth, Jo, Amy, and Meg are an endearing testimony to the bonds of sisters. If you have not read this book about motherhood from our list of literary classics, we highly recommend it.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Not all books with unreliable narrators are mysteries and thrillers. Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical work shows Esther Greenwood’s mental breakdown. While working as a summer intern in New York City, Esther is sexually assaulted and returns home to recuperate.
With her academic dreams on hold, Esther falls into a deep depression and attempts suicide, eventually sent to a psychiatric hospital to recover. With its deep insights into mental health and gender roles, Plath’s novel is a great classic book to read and another must-read from the list of books set in New York and is a perfect pick for an unreliable narrator book.
Fantasy Literary Classics
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
For the record, I read this book BEFORE Oprah picked it! We spent a semester learning about this family saga during my Senior Year. Each person was assigned a symbol to report on throughout the book each week.
Mine was goldfish -part of the symbolism of amnesia and the duality between amnesia and nostalgia. Yep. I still remember the lesson. Maybe is was the teaching that contributed but, this remains one of my favorite books ever.
The Odyssey by Homer
There is a reason this boat book is one of my favorite books of all time. I just find this classic tale to be so entertaining.
It’s a classic for a reason. Odysseus’s struggle to get home to his family is truly epic. Those Greeks sure knew what they were doing.
I’m constantly pickup up something new and reading it along with A Thousand Ships and The Lost Sisterhood gave me so much to think about.
More Literary Classics
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet is usually covered during the high school years, but if you haven’t learned about this classic book, you need to read it!
Shakespeare’s beloved story is a tragic romance set in Verona, Italy. It’s about the children of two warring families, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet who start meeting in secret away from their parent’s machinations.
The story’s tragic end has inspired countless classic book retellings and adaptations on the big and small screen.
The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I am a HUGE detective story lover and no one does detective stories better than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes’ ability to solve the crime is fascinating. His observations are astute and I can never, ever guess who committed the crime. Again, love all the various adaptions of this series, but Sherlock on the BBC is my absolute favorite. (Narrated by Stephen Fry – the British narrator of the Harry Potter series and Mycroft Holmes in one of the adaptations.)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
If you didn’t read this book in high school, you should consider reading it now! Set in Puritan Massachusetts, The Scarlet Letter tells the story of Hester Prynne, a woman condemned to wear the letter A for the rest of her life after giving birth to bastard child.
When her husband who is presumed dead finds out about the baby, he takes up a new name and vows to find the unknown father. As her daughter, Pearl, grows, we learn of the impact Hester’s shunning has on her life as well.
Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Are you a fan of Rose’s storyline from Downton Abbey? Well, our swinging-dancing, jazz-loving, rebellious debutante would be perfectly happy inside Fitzgerald’s famed novel.
The book might take place in America, but the same ideas of the class divide and resistance to change in the most opulent of settings could be felt in England too.
Daisy and Gatsby’s story still seems so relevant today too. This tragic love story is a classic for a reason. Of all the books set in New York, this classic is a must-read.
Epic Literary Classics
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
The first time I read this book was actually before I saw the movie Shawshank redemption. I read it a bunch of times and loved it. I did not realize, however, that it was an abridged version.
When I was in University, I embarked on a journey to read the unabridged version of this book. I was so amazed at the brilliance and detail that is has been a favorite ever since.
Edmund Dantès is thrown into the Chateau D’if for a crime that he did not commit. There, he meets a fellow prisoner who teaches him within the confines of their cells before telling him of a treasure. Dantès escapes and seeks his revenge. As the classics go, this boat book is epic and it is one of my all-time favorite books!
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The only Charles Dickens book I’ve ever read and was recently nominated for PBS’s Great American Read.
The story features orphan Pip who comes into an unexpected fortune. His life is changed forever when he becomes a man of leisure and meets beautiful but aloof Estella. It’s a great tale that could just as easily have been set in modern-day London.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I read this MASSIVE text for fun when I was a sophomore in college. It took me an entire semester but it was worth it. Dostoevsky’s classic features a mystery, multiple love triangles, and well, brother relationships. It’s a SUPER complex book but it’s seriously worth it.
For more books like these, check out our list of 58 of the Best Long Books over 500 Pages
Literary Classics for Kids
Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery
My mother was the first person to read this book to me and I was immediately drawn to Anne. She was smart, precocious, and has a way of making everyone love her while simultaneously finding new ways to get into trouble.
I read the book again when I was a teenager and then again as an adult. I will be reading this to my daughter next. Every time I read it, I am able to capture more of the nuances that are hidden within the pages. I am not sure if this book is more popular in Canada but, one day I hope to visit Prince Edward Island. This is one of my all-time favorite books.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll’s Alice is as trippy as the Disney version leads you to believe. His imagination was fascinating and the story details are so wonderful. (Narrated by Scarlett Johansson.)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
This swashbuckling tale of piracy and treasure is perfect for children and adults alike. Long John Silver is quite a scary villain, whose legacy lives on in Halloween costumes everywhere.
One-legged, parrot-wearing, map-loving pirates everywhere can thank Robert Louis Stevenson for the inspiration. Why not read this one to your little buccaneer at bedtime?
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Peter Pan is one of Kirsten’s favorite childhood stories. The magical world of Neverland with it’s pirates, mermaids, and natives is so engrossing.
The story of Peter Pan and his adventures with the Darling children have inspired countless spin-off books, movies, and theatrical productions for a reason. It’s a must-read for everyone.
Wow, there’s only three on this list that I haven’t read! And, yes, they are totally worth reading if you’re a bookworm. Classics are classic for a reason.
Which 3 haven’t you read?