Chances are, if you ever survived a high school English class you may have read a few if not all of these classic book. But chances are you hated them because your teacher was evil and made you write a 10-page paper on the mean of every paragraph rather than letting you simply enjoy them. That’s why even if you have read the 10 classic novels after the jump, you should give them a re-read this summer. And if you haven’t read them…well, now is the time.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Sometimes only remembered for the epic motion picture and “Frankly … I don’t give a damn,” Gone with the Wind was initially a compelling and entertaining novel. It was the sweeping story of tangled passions and the rare courage of a group of people in Atlanta during the time of Civil War that brought those cinematic scenes to life. The reason the movie became so popular was the strength of its characters–Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, and Ashley Wilkes–all created here by the deft hand of Margaret Mitchell, in this, her first novel.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
The story portrays the life of Holly Golightly, a young woman transplanted to Manhattan with an unknown past. She is trying to find her place in the world when she meets her neighbor, an unnamed, unemployed writer. The novella is set in Manhattan’s Upper East Side during the 1940′s. It follows the young writer’s affections for the charming but strange Holly.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr. Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora; and the magnificently impecunious Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations. In David Copperfield—the novel he described as his “favorite child”—Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure.
A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s slim memoir of Paris in the 1920s is as enchanting as anything made up and has become the stuff of legend. Paris in the ’20s! Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, lived happily on $5 a day and still had money for drinks at the Closerie des Lilas, skiing in the Alps, and fishing trips to Spain. On every corner and at every café table, there were the most extraordinary people living wonderful lives and telling fantastic stories.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Having grown up an orphan in the home of her cruel aunt and at a harsh charity school, Jane Eyre becomes an independent and spirited survivor—qualities that serve her well as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him whatever the consequences or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving her beloved?
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Perhaps the most famous of Lawrence’s novels, the 1928 Lady Chatterley’s Lover is no longer distinguished for the once-shockingly explicit treatment of its subject matter–the adulterous affair between a sexually unfulfilled upper-class married woman and the game keeper who works for the estate owned by her wheelchaired husband. Now that we’re used to reading about sex, and seeing it in the movies, it’s apparent that the novel is memorable for better reasons: namely, that Lawrence was a masterful and lyrical writer, whose story takes us bodily into the world of its characters.
Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov
Despite its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert’s feverish fantasies, and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings.
Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger
The stories, originally published in The New Yorker magazine, concern Franny and Zooey Glass, two members of the family that was the subject of most of Salinger’s short fiction. Franny is an intellectually precocious late adolescent who tries to attain spiritual purification by obsessively reiterating the “Jesus prayer” as an antidote to the perceived superficiality and corruptness of life. She subsequently suffers a nervous breakdown. Her next older brother, Zooey, attempts to heal Franny by pointing out that her constant repetition of the “Jesus prayer” is as self-involved and egotistical as the egotism against which she rails.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Married to a powerful government minister, Anna Karenina is a beautiful woman who falls deeply in love with a wealthy army officer, the elegant Count Vronsky. Desperate to find truth and meaning in her life, she rashly defies the conventions of Russian society and leaves her husband and son to live with her lover. Condemned and ostracized by her peers and prone to fits of jealousy that alienate Vronsky, Anna finds herself unable to escape an increasingly hopeless situation.