Updated: Jul 8, 2019
"A classic is something everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read." ~Mark Twain
Let's be honest: how many of you have pretended to have read Moby Dick? Said you loved Pride and Prejudice . . . but never stuck around long enough to see how Elizabeth and Darcy's romance turned out?
We've all been guilty of concealing our hate for a few musty old books. But classic novels don't have to be only for that high school English class you hated.
Yet let's not swear off classics forever! Cold, rainy nights spent under cozy covers, road trips with your feet on the dashboard . . . sometimes this coveted books can't be beaten!
Here is a list of six superior reads that will impress, but not bore you to death. I'll spout a brief synopsis, tell you why I like it, and how it's different from other classics. I've also included a few tips to spice up your summer reading. Ladies and gentleman, classic books you'll actually like!
What it's about: Rose is now an orphan. She never knew her mother and her beloved papa has died. Rose gets sent to live at the Aunt Hill, a group of houses christened for the many aunts who live there. The aunts work themselves into a tizzy over the despondent Rose, doting on her every need. When Uncle Alec, her new guardian, arrives, he's furious! He begins a campaign to turn the meek and mild Rose into a healthy, happy one. That includes no more coffee, chores, boating, and . . . her eight rambunctious cousins. Despite her appalled aunts, Rose joins in the cousins' mischief and hilarity ensues.
How it's different. Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom aren't books to make you constantly flip through footnotes or a dictionary. (I'm looking at you War and Peace!) They're buoyant novels appropriate for middle grade and adult readers alike. Yet, unlike other children's books, they're genuinely interesting for older readers. My aunt gifted the first one to me a few years ago and I've read it almost seven times since!
Laura Linderman said she can never enjoy canon novels. The two reasons she names are that she can't relate to the lifestyle and has to make an effort to try to read them. These books aren't like that. They're enjoyable and, although from a different period, relatable. What more could you want from a series?
Read in a random spot! Take fifty, two, or thirteen steps . . . anywhere, outside or inside. Then plunk down with your novel and enjoy the new surroundings.
Make a story quilt! Feeling crafty? Put those busy fingers to use and create a story quilt. Look for fabric like one of Rose's dresses, a Chinese pattern, or a sash Uncle Alec would approve of. Bonus points if you read aloud while sewing!
Create a cozy environment. Pile fluffy pillows on the floor and string Pinterest-worthy fairy lights. Add snacks and you have a comfy-cozy reading party!
#2: Jane Eyre
What it's about: It's safe to say that Jane Eyre's childhood was miserable at best. Orphaned, she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Her uncle passed shortly after, leaving her deplorable aunt to wallow in regret. Regret over having Jane. After a terrorizing incident involving a ghost, Jane's sent to a boarding school. With disease rampaging and inhumane punishments, Jane's more than happy to escape. She goes to work at Thornfield Hall as a governess and meets Mr. Rochester, her employer.
He's brooding, handsome, and way above her class, but that doesn't stop Jane from falling in love. Miraculously, Mr. Rochester loves her too! But haunting memories resurface and mysteries arouse . . . Careful, Jane. Thornfield Hall is not all as it seems.
How it's different: Jane Eyre is a classic novel with contemporary interest. (Ghosts! Romance! Heartbreak!) You'll find everything you love about modern novels here.
Some classics are so difficult because of the language and way things are phrased. It took me about a chapter or two for the style of this one to feel natural. Not going to lie, I was reading a lot of children's books right before I started! But before the exposition was even over, I felt comfortable reading it. This book is timeless for a reason!
Go on an adventure. (Jane would approve.) You don't have to sacrifice a trip to stay at home and read! Instead, go anywhere and everywhere. Bring Jane Eyre and squeeze in a chapter on the subway or train. Go to a museum, the beach, or get so swept up in the book you sit in a park and read it all day.
Stay in bed! Really! Brew a cup of coffee (or tea, if you're like me) and sit in bed for an hour or two. Huddle under the blankets and enjoy just sitting and reading.
Move! One of my favorite things to do is to read on the trampoline. If it's nice weather, I take a book out and get some sun while I read. That way you can take jump breaks if you get bored! I also love to read outside at nights. Call me crazy, but there's nothing better than a novel, an avocado blanket, and a mango popsicle in the night air.
#3: Little Women
What it's about: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are four sisters and about as opposite as you could be. Meg is the mother of the sisters: doting, kind, and responsible. Jo's hotheaded and passionate with dreams of becoming a great author. Beth is sweet and docile, always trying to please her family. Amy is the baby, vain and artistic, who wishes she had a better nose. The sisters have always been close, but when their father goes to war, they become more inseparable than ever. The girls whom generations have fallen in love with are here to steal your heart!
How it's different: Like in Eight Cousins, Little Women is a favorite for both children and adults. The story of a sisterly dynamic through trouble rings true for years. I've seen plenty of spirited arguments over who is the Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy. (I personally claim I'm Jo with Amy tendencies. Of course she wanted limes!)
The March sisters were all for plays! Gather up your siblings, family members, and/or friends and reenact your favorite Little Women scene. Stage fright? Throw on sock puppets and embrace your silly side!
Whatcha got cookin', good lookin'? Whip up some treats mentioned in the book for an extra special dinner. Try strawberries (without the salt please!), blancmange, or Hannah's Bread. You can do this with other books too! Check out my post on Literary Cookbooks and Recipes.
Keep cooking! Try a different March-inspired idea and make that Christmas breakfast the sisters never got to eat. Your family will love you for it!
What it's about: Anne is an orphan (sensing a common theme here?) She's overjoyed when she learns an old brother and sister are adopting her; even if she did have to wait hours at the train station for them to get there. Marilla and Matthew aren't as happy. They asked for a boy, not a girl with carrot-colored hair! But dramatic and spirited Anne's determined to stay. You'll love reading about Anne's many scrapes and melodramatic proclamations . . . and how she melts two old farmers' hearts.
How it's different: Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book! When I first picked it up in second grade, Anne spoke to me on many levels. Imaginative with a tendency for the dramatics? Check. Avid reader and jam eater? Check. Occasionally wanting to break a slate over someone's head? Checkity check check.
This may be the book I recommend the most. L.M. Montgomery did a masterful job of creating touching and relatable characters. One of my biggest complaints about classic books is that the characters are unapproachable. They're often stiff and hard to connect with. You won't find that here!
Another thing I love about this one is that it isn't hard to read. You can slip in and out of Green Gables with ease.
Start a book club! Ever since I read The Mother-Daughter Book Club, I've been obsessed with the notion of starting one. Even if it's a one-time thing, invite a bunch of your girlfriends over. Have a wonderful time with bookish snacks, hysterical discussion, and a good book.
Decorate! Take a break from reading and print out these gorgeous Anne of Green Gables quotes. Frame them, hang them, or simply tape them for a pretty burst of Anne in your life.
Throw a party! If there's even the tiniest possibility of having a party, throw the biggest bash you've ever seen (or at least have a good time!). I'm over the moon with this Anne of Green Gables party!
What it's about: We all know the tale of the blonde little girl who fell down a rabbit hole! Alice discovers whimsy and insanity while following a rabbit talking to himself. Wonderland is not all roses; there's a queen of hearts running around ordering people's heads chopped off! Alice must construct a plan to get out of - and save - Wonderland. With the Mad Hatter, growing and shrinking potions, and an absurd tea party, there's no wonder why this cherished book is so beloved!
How it's different: This book doesn't try to be profound . . . instead, it's droll in the best way. When I open up the little book and see its quaint old typewriter font and cheery cover, my heart skips a little beat. Call me a fanatical bookworm, but it does!
Watch the movie! Even if you're a stern believer in "the book was better," settle in for a night of cartoon or live action amusement.
Share it with someone else! Build a simple fort (two chairs with a blanket on top, anyone?) and rope in your younger siblings or the kids you babysit. Turn down the lights, crawl under the fort, and devour a few read-alouds! You'll love seeing the joy they feel about a book you share.
Play an Alice in Wonderland game. I adore this list of themed party games! Try Follow the White Rabbit or Nonsensical Nonsense.
#6: Animal Farm
What it's about: The animals at Mr. Jones' Manor Farm are sick and tired of the way he treats them. Stumbling home drunk, forgetting to feed them, working them too hard . . . The fed-up animals are certain they could run a better farm than Mr. Jones. One night, they stage a revolt! Out goes Mr. Jones and in goes freedom and prosperity (or so they think).
The creatures establish a code to live by and rules for the farm. Everything runs smoothly. But when their leader dies and the pigs learn to read, things begin to slip into disarray. The pigs begin to swindle the other animals by adding a few little notes to the rules. After all, "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."
Don't let the farm's communist ideals throw you off! As Abe Books said, "a little bit of politics is easily digested when set in a farmyard." I also love their quote "Orwell wrote so few books and yet they all matter."
How it's different: This one's a little bit tricky. I don't think there was a defining quality that set it apart from other canon books. It certainly felt like a classic to me, but it was still a book that I enjoyed.
It was a pleasant read! The animals were quite entertaining. The idea of animals running a farm was interesting enough to keep coming back to the novel. I loved that it went deeper than just being an enjoyable hardback. It addressed important topics that are still relevant today and force you to reflect.
Don't swear off this publication because you "don't do classics!" It's a must-read.
Watch the movie! You can watch the 1999 version your English teacher always put on, or hold out for Netflix's. They bought the rights in 2018, so get ready!
Take your book on vacation. Grab a copy and lounge out on the beach next vacation. Not on vacay? No problem. Try a cozy cafe, window seat, or hammock.
Brew a cup of chai tea, put on your coziest sweater, and sit in front of the fire.
I hope you enjoyed this list of classic books! Which one is your favorite? What are your favorite qualities in a book, and which ones do you hate in classic reads? As always, thanks for reading! Ciao.
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