Classic or "Old" Books that Won't Bore You

Monday, June 13, 2016

For the people who didn't love their high school English classes and resented required reading, "classic" books or anything written decades in the past may be a terrifying and taboo reading category. And it's true that some "classic" literature no longer seems like it should be so popular in classrooms. There is certainly a huge wealth of newer literature that deserves to be integrated into curriculum everywhere, and hopefully as time moves on, some required reading lists will be updated to include some "new classics" as well.

Nevertheless, there are some incredible classic books out there that won't bore you or make you feel like you're trapped in high school again. For those who just faked their way through required reading, or for those looking for some classic literature to get into, these are some of my suggestions for older novels or classic novels that won't bore you and might teach you some amazing things as well.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I talk about this book a lot! Because I love it so much! This book is great for anyone who enjoys romantic and humorous, character-based stories, and for those who enjoy Victorian Literature. It is delightful and so much more complex than it may seem at first glance.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A very popular high school requirement, The Great Gatsby is much better read for enjoyment than for a class, in my opinion. I read it first on my own for fun, and loved it and then read it a second time for class, and got a deeper and better appreciation of it. But I definitely could see liking it a whole lot less if I only ever read it when I was forced to. It is opulent, poetic, and features highly complex and conflicted characters.

3. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Possibly the most classic "young adult" novel of all, this one is well-known, and can be fairly polarizing to readers. Most either love it or hate it. While I'm definitely among the camp who loved it, the style of this book certainly might not be for everyone. But in my opinion, this book is hilarious, sharp and entertaining as hell.

4. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Why don't more people know about this book?! This will forever be one of my all-time favorites--I've read it quite a few times, and it never becomes less enjoyable for me. It's the adorable and humorous tale of Judy, an orphan with big dreams who receives money from a mysterious benefactor so she can attend college, with the stipulation that she must write him letters frequently. What follows is one of the best epistolary stories of all time, featuring plenty of laughs, intellect and romance.

4. Beloved by Toni Morrison
This book both creeped me out and emotionally moved me. It follows Sethe, a mother of four who escapes slavery, only to have to make a terrible choice when some of her slave captors come back to find her. What follows is part ghost story, part journey to forgiveness, and completely amazing.

5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I will admit that this book does get a bit dry in just a few parts. But it's also essentially the first true crime book ever written, and it's extraordinarily fascinating. Capote unearths the true story of a quadruple murder in rural Kansas, and writes the book based entirely on his extensive research of the case. He also conducted numerous personal interviews with the convicted murderers in the case, making the book very psychologically fascinating as well.

6. 1984 by George Orwell
This book felt super creepy to me, but also highly fascinating. It was published in 1949, about the then-future year of 1984, which of course has long since passed. It's thoroughly interesting to see someone's prediction of a future year when, as a reader, we know what has actually happened in that time. Orwell's imagined version of 1984 is brutal, dark, startling and imaginative.

7. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I will give the disclaimer that this book isn't for everyone, and it can be a bit dense or confusing at times. But it also an excellent and interesting story, and if you take the time to really read it carefully, it's highly enjoyable. It tells the story of a girl named Tess, and her increasing misfortunes and tribulations. For a book published in the late 1800's, it is impressively scandalous, action-packed and emotionally moving.

8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
This is both an excellent book and movie, set in a mental hospital in the 1960s. The world the novel creates is a much different one than what we'd expect in today's mental hospitals and therapy centers. It is a brutal and graphic story, but also heartily humorous at times as well. Many do favor the film adaptation in this case (myself included) simply because of Jack Nicholson's phenomenal performance, but the book is excellent as well, and will entertain and teach you from beginning to end.

9. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
This book is shockingly different from the other Capote book on this list, but is equally worthy of its inclusion. It is technically a novella, very short and very readable. This charming story could definitely be devoured in the span of one rainy afternoon. It follows Holly Golightly, one of film and literature's most well-known characters, a very outspoken, unique woman with lofty goals, living in Manhattan in the 1940s.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Possibly the most classic of any typical required school reading, this is truly a literary masterpiece. Harper Lee's gorgeous book examines race, family, friendship and justice. The writing is poetic, beautiful and sometimes humorous, and the characters are wonderfully fleshed out and established. If you are among the few people who never read this book for school, consider reading it now, at any stage in your life. The morals and messages in this book are lifelong and will never stop being important.

11. A Time to Love and a Time to Die by Erich Maria Remarque
This is a deep and emotionally moving book that takes a unique perspective on one of the world's most well known events. The book follows a German soldier in WWII, and was the first book I remember reading that had an opposite perspective on a war covered so thoroughly in my schooling. This book is less popularized than some of the others on this list, but that doesn't make it any less excellent. Like a few of the others, it can be dense or a bit hard to follow at times, but this is something of an expectation in some older literature, and particularly in translated volumes. However, this is also a captivating, emotionally moving novel that will open your eyes to a totally new perspective of WWII.

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