Half of this list consists of books I read in middle school and high school, that shaped me as the reader and writer I am today. It’s amazing how stories can stay with you, all these years later. I think the classics genre, while at times can seem daunting or intimidating, is an important one to explore. We can learn the beauty and basics of storytelling and see how the modern writers we love today have been inspired. Here are my go to classic literature picks.
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
As a writer, I envy Richard Yates. He has this amazing ability to capture human emotion on the page through his use of detail and attention to the rawest of feelings. He is actually known as "one of America's least famous great writers.” He barely sold any books during his lifetime and even now, few have heard of him.
Despite that, if you have read Revolutionary Road, I think you will agree that it is a classic. Set in 1950s America, we follow Frank and April Wheeler as they begin to realize their assumption that greatness is right around the corner, is slowly eating away at their relationship and themselves. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel that debunks the myth of the American dream.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This classic Victorian novel is one of my favorite gothic tales. Jane is such an appealing and interesting character. She is smart and witty and demands self respect in a time when women were thought best when they were subservient and brainless. The poor girl goes through a lot in this novel as it really is a dramatic story. I definitely want to reread this one soon!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I read this book in my middle school English class and fell in love immediately. Scout is one of my all-time favorite characters with her spunk, compassion and strength. (As a teenager, I named my pet rabbit after her.) This tale of race, human behavior, cruelty, history and love should be read by everyone.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
As a huge Middle Earth fan, I have to add The Hobbit to this list. Tolkien’s world absolutely fascinates me and I love this fantasy adventure story of a dangerous ring, a cruel dragon, and a reluctant hero, Bilbo Baggins.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
This novel opened me up to the mystery genre when I was in middle school. This Agatha Christie classic is suspenseful, smart, and just pure entertainment. An assortment of strangers are summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon by an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them. When their host is nowhere to be found, we start to learn about their wicked pasts as each guest starts to show up dead, one by one.
Little Women by Lousia May Alcott
I actually saw the movie with Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst before I read the book. (If you haven’t watched it, please do yourself a favor.) This story of sisterhood growing up in a matriarchal household while their father is fighting in the Civil War is about the bonds of family, love, and coming into one's own amidst the challenges of family duties. Jo March is my favorite character and I’m convinced she is the reason I pursued writing.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboksy
I’m not sure if this counts as a classic, but most readers I know have read and loved this story. We follow Charlie through his adolescence as he grapples with adulthood, sexuality, loss, and friendship, all while being an observant “wallflower.” This book is truly heartwarming and will always be one of my favorites.