8 Books to Ease You Into the World of Classics


Thursday, February 23

Perhaps one of the most common bookshop experiences is walking into a store, and finding yourself skirting the section. You know the section I'm talking about: it's full of books with covers in shades of brown and gray that have big block print titles. It's the one occupied by men in spectacles and women in tweed.

In other words, the classics section.

For many people, this is an automatic response, ingrained into them due to years of habit. Yet, many would admit that they don't actually know what classics are, other than the scary word their English teacher keeps repeating in class. So to begin - what are classics?

Classics are books regarded by literary critics and the public at large as extremely high quality, and good enough to withstand the test of time. They're often old, which has led to the popular belief that classics are stuffy, outdated reads, enjoyed only by old people and sadists.

However, it's arguably high time we leave behind this misconception, and realize that classics don't have to be boring - many are in fact highly enjoyable! Nevertheless, stepping foot into the world of classics can be tricky, and the wrong one could put you off them for life. This article will therefore provide eight easy-to-read and accessible recommendations to help ease you into reading classics.

1. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

The first recommendation on this list is the nineteenth-century book Frankenstein, conceived by Mary Shelley when she was just eighteen years old. The book follows the grim chain of events that occur when Victor Frankenstein, a young Swiss scientist, creates and animates a creature from the body parts of dead people. Shelley weaves a thrilling tale complete with a dark, spine-chilling atmosphere, intriguing characters and a complex, sympathy-worthy villain. Pop culture is packed with references to this book, so once you've read it, you get to join the ranks of people smugly informing others of how 'Frankenstein' refers to the scientist, and not the monster.

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: morally gray characters, transgression of natural boundaries and the supernatural.

2. Lord of the Flies, William Golding

The book surrounds a group of schoolboys whose plane crashes onto a remote island, and who then are forced to fend for themselves until help arrives. The boys form what at first appears to be some semblance of an ordered society, but which swiftly descends into disaster. Classics rarely seem to focus on children, and Golding does so in a way that is both captivating and thought-provoking to read. The book explores the darker side of human nature in a way that makes it difficult to put down.

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: good versus evil, power, and survival.

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray was highly controversial for its time, with many contemporary readers regarding it as indecent and immoral. However, that was not enough to prevent its popularity, and over the centuries the book has only increased in readers. The story revolves around a young man named Dorian who makes an ominous deal that results in a portrait of Dorian, painted by his artist friend Basil, taking on his sins and age instead of himself.

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: hedonism, gothic horror, and dark, complex characters.

4. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

It's difficult to think of a more heart-warming book than Alcott's Little Women. The book surrounds the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and follows their conversion from girlhood into womanhood, as well as the trials and tribulations that come with this transition. Despite being written more than a century ago, the book depicts family relationships in a way that appears to readers both familiar and endearing to read. This book is best enjoyed just before bed accompanied by a mug of hot chocolate!

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: sibling relationships, personal growth, and women protagonists.

5. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Next on our list is Pride and Prejudice, a book that has captured the hearts of readers across the world for centuries, and for good reason. The book explores the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet's navigation and participation in Georgian society, as well as her confusing relationship with the mysterious Mr. Darcy. Austen's characters are fleshed out, her writing witty, and her plot intriguing. What more could you ask for from a book?

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: big families, enemies to lovers and 19th-century English society.

6. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

Many only know Plath for her poetry, but the one book she wrote is definitely not to be ignored. Plath's semi-autobiographical book The Bell Jar follows nineteen-year-old Esther and her struggle to deal with her declining mental state. This is one of the more recent books on the list, written only in 1963, and is therefore perfect for those keen on reading a classic, but not wanting to immediately be confronted with the dense language often associated with books from the past.

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: realistic characters, identities, and personal struggles.

7. Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery

While this book is technically for children, I don't think the list would be complete without it, and I think it's one that can equally be enjoyed by teenagers and adults. The story revolves around a young orphan, Anne Shirley, who is mistakenly adopted by an elderly pair of siblings who had intended to adopt a boy. The book follows Anne as she settles into her new home, and explores how her imaginative way of looking at the world leads to both difficulty and delight.

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: whimsical settings, fiery protagonists and endearing relationships.

8. 1984, George Orwell

George Orwell's 1984 is one of the most well-known and beloved dystopian books out there. The book follows Winston Smith, an unimportant worker in the Ministry of Truth, who begins to doubt the ideas and beliefs enforced on him by his totalitarian government. Winston soon meets a woman with whom he begins a secret relationship, that dangerously flouts the rules of the tyrannical society in which he lives.

You may like this if you enjoy reading about: evil governments, rebellion and dystopias.

So there you have it - 8 recommendations to help you dip your toe into the world of classics. Hopefully, after reading these, you'll be ready to take the full plunge. Enjoy!

Areesha Ahmed
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Areesha is a student from London. She enjoys going on long hikes, watching horror films and drinking tea. When she is not reading books, she is buying them.