5 Classic Novels You’ll Actually Enjoy
By: Mies Allen
Reading is a very personal thing. Very rarely will two people see completely eye-to-eye about which bestsellers are worth reading, which Shakespeare play is the most important, or which Bronte sister made the biggest contribution to literature.
However, there are a certain number of classic novels that are undoubtedly incredible and are universally considered must-reads. But, to those who don’t have the time to sift through lists of the 100 best classic novels and can’t decide where to start with a seemingly endless list of important books, reading can feel like more of a task than a way to unwind and relax.
If you’re one of these people, look no further! Keep reading to find a shortlist of acclaimed classics that we are sure you will enjoy, regardless of taste. Ranked from the easiest to most difficult to read, you are sure to find something to keep you hooked until the very last page.
Dracula by Bram Stroker
Dracula is a classic and genre-defining tale of horror from famed author Bram Stoker. This novel contains chilling tales of those who have encountered Dracula on his quest from Transylvania to England, as he seeks to consume blood and spread his undead curse to the innocent. Experience the myth that has brought fear to generations—the timeless tale about the beast with the face of a man.
Dracula’s specularity lies in how accessible and enjoyable it is for an epistolary novel. Typically, epistolary novels (books composed through letters) are an acquired taste, as you are left to piece the story together without the help (or hindrance) of a narrator. This novel is chilling without being terrifying, and entertaining without feeling dated. It is also just as enjoyable to amateur readers as it is to those used to more difficult material.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary, the novel by Gustave Flaubert, was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856 and then published in two volumes the following year. Flaubert transformed a commonplace story of adultery into an enduring work of profound humanity. Madame Bovary is considered Flaubert’s masterpiece, and, according to some, it ushered in a new age of realism in literature.
Although a lengthy read with multiple translations of varying quality, Madame Bovary is delightful. Flaubert’s imagery is fantastic, and all the characters are complex enough for you to form genuine opinions about them. This is certainly one of the most beautifully written novels of all time – you’ll want to read it again as soon as you put it down.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby brilliantly captures the disillusion of a society obsessed with wealth and status. Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby appears to have it all, yet he yearns for the one thing that will always be out of his reach, the absence of which renders his life of glittering parties and bright young things ultimately hollow. Gatsby’s tragic pursuit of his dream is often cited as the Great American Novel.
This is one of the most well-loved novellas of all time, and with good reason. The story is original, the imagery is unparalleled and it has a balance of tragedy and beauty unlike any other. For such an adored novel, you may wonder why we rank it third based on difficulty. This is because, to really appreciate this book in all of its glory, you must also understand the context around it – particularly Fitzgerald’s thoughts on 1920s American culture. Otherwise, you simply cannot appreciate why it is a favorite of so many readers.
Tess of the D’ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.
Though a more challenging read due to it’s pressing subtext and Hardy’s signature excess of description, Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a favorite among seasoned readers because it is so enthralling. Tess is one of Hardy’s most sympathetic characters, and you will undoubtedly become deeply connected with her and her struggles. This novel will break your heart in the best way possible.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St. Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption.
This is admittedly a difficult novel – the length alone requires you to really commit to reading it, but we promise that if you do, it will certainly be worth it. Dostoevsky’s concoction of characters is so fascinating, particularly as he never gives you the chance to decide if you are on their side or not, which simply encourages you to keep on reading to find out how your thoughts will change in the next chapter. This story is truly interesting because it gives insight into Russia on the cusp of revolution, making it especially perfect for history lovers.