Oftentimes, readers wish to expand their reading capacities, and a huge aspect of this includes diversifying the content that they consume. Of course, what better way to do this than emulsify oneself in the wondrous universe of Classic Literature, a range that is replete with some of the finest pieces ever written, available to be read by readers across demographics.
However, a very practical problem arises when readers who are coming-of-age set out to read the classics: while some don't enjoy the extensive use of ancient English in the texts, some may find it hard to relate with or connect to the themes and topics being discussed. This makes it hard for young adult readers to appreciate and benefit from Classic Literature, and this is why I've come up with a list of five classic books that will surely be high school readers' cup of tea.
1) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger
Salinger's novel beautifully covers three days in the life of 17-year-old Holden Caufield, who is portrayed as nothing but impertinent, sluggish and, quite frankly, completely oblivious about his future-- his characteristics making him endlessly relatable for teenagers. A striking mix of humour, unbearable sadness and the raw reality of life, The Catcher in the Rye explores imperative themes of rebellion, identity and independence.
The novel in itself can act as a propeller for many as it reminds us all, but especially those of us who feel lost more than others, that our greatest asset is our hope, and by being hopeful, we unknowingly hold on to what it truly means to be human. The Catcher in the Rye is full of eccentric messes and chaos, a representation of the epitome of being a teenager.
2) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Exploring the life and lies of Atticus Finch, a truly unconventional 'hero', To Kill a Mockingbird exposes a plethora of dilemmas, many of which young adults painfully relate to, like innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humour and pathos. And Atticus, who is unconventional not because of his physicality, but because of his own entangled moralities, as he creates for himself a line between what is 'right' and what is 'wrong'.
What truly distinguishes Finch from other characters in his archetypal personality is his unwavering acceptance of every person and the fights they are fighting.
He is not racist, he is not homophobic, he is not xenophobic, he is simply human. The beauty of To Kill a Mockingbird truly shines in its capability of adapting itself and being relevant to the struggles of every generation: be it in the 1930s with the Great Depression, or the 2020s with the Global Wars.
3) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury's revolutionary novel is set in the bleak, dystopian future of our ever-evolving world, one where books are burned and entertainment stems from large screens on walls. And yet the question is whether his novel is now no longer futuristic but the reality his readers are living in, with all of his worst fears already having come true.
Following the life of Guy Montag, a firefighter designated to destroy printed books and the houses they are hidden in, Fahrenheit 451 is an exemplary description of the ruthless human craving for change and innovation, amidst which they unknowingly drill through the past, leaving nothing but pieces of a world we once knew. Exploring themes of cultural development, forced rebellion and what it feels like to meet someone who changes everything you've ever known to be true, Bradbury weaves a story that illustrates the consequences of heating paper till its burning point, Fahrenheit 451.
4) Othello by William Shakespeare
One of Shakespeare's most renowned tragedies, Othello is set in the backdrop of the contemporary Ottoman-Venetian war fought over the Island of Cyprus. Following the lives of integral characters, the titular Othello, his closest confidante and ancien Iago, his loyal lieutenant Michael Cassio, and his wife Desdemona, Othello is a five-act play that takes place over a period of two weeks but presents the actions of three days.
The play explores themes of racism, jealousy and credulousness as scenes of betrayal and downfall ensue, a pragmatic representation of modern-day relationships and the effects of hatred. Forcing the audience to reflect on their own acceptance of other people's opinions and advice, Othello exposes why those of us who are easy to trust may not always be rewarded.
5) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Alcott's titular 'little women' include the four March sisters: skillful 'tomboy' and writer-to-be Jo, tragically ailing Beth, lovely Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, all united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War. This piece of didactic fiction covers the lives, struggles and journeys of the March sisters while exploring timeless themes of love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.
Alcott's novel is also a key piece of feminist literary representation as it unapologetically depicts the lives of four disorderly, loud, unique and independent women who learn to forge their own way into the horrors of the real world, while still trying to hold onto their unblemished kindness and goodwill. Written elegantly yet retaining its poignance and horror, Little Women shows the extraordinary experiences of a rather ordinary life.
The category of Classic Literature is infinitely filled and can be daunting to navigate, especially for busy high schoolers. Reading through this short list of five classics will help avid readers find their entry into the era of classics, and help newer readers to develop their pace, bringing joy to both as they divulge the lives of characters that, while retaining their individuality, can become a portrait of the reader. Happy reading!