It’s amazing how many readers wince at the word “classics.” As Mark Twain so aptly put it, “‘Classic’ – a book which people praise and don’t read.” Yes, classics are (usually) long. Yes, classics are (usually) wordy. But there’s a reason they’re classics! I have a few of my favorite classics listed on my Book Recommendations page, but if you’re looking for a good classic to start with, here are a few suggestions and reasons why it’s a good one to start with.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Why? Unlike most of Dickens’s books, it’s short. Also, you probably know the story if you turn on the television at all the month before Christmas. A good way to ease into the classics.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Why? This is one of those great books that has an engaging surface plot and plenty of under-the-surface pondering. You can enjoy the action of the plot, then chew on the meatier details between readings.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Why? Serious bragging rights. If you want read one classic to make yourself look good, make it this one. You tell people you’ve read Les Mis, and jaws will drop, followed by the question, “Isn’t that like twelve hundred pages?” It’s long, and it’s tedious at parts, but it’s also incredibly moving. Also, if you get to the end of this one, you feel like you can read anything in the world. Once-daunting classics will now be mere child’s play.

If you have a younger child that you’d like to get interested in the classics—or if you’re just looking for an easier way to get a few classics under your belt—check out the Great Illustrated Classics. I had several of these as a child and loved them. They’re abridged and simplified, with a picture on every other page.

Also, here’s a list of 100 middle-school classics. I haven’t read all of them, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend all of them (I disliked Tale of Despereaux, and after my experience with Heart of Darkness I don’t think I’d care much for Lord of the Flies), but it’s a good list of some less-daunting classics.

Do you enjoy classic literature? What are some of your favorites?


  1. My favorite classic is and always will be Dracula by Bram Stoker although Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a close second. Vampires = monsters. No sparkly love interests here! I have also read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

    Anyone looking for younger classics, I always recommend The Chronicles of Narnia.

  2. I adore the classics!! I feel bad for people who don’t read them, because they’re missing out on not only great stories, but also amazing learning experiences for those who write. The plots, alone, in those bad boys keep me pressing to be a better writer.
    Some of my favorites are (in no particular order):
    1. The Divine Comedy/Dante’s Inferno. It’s a serious undertaking and usually requires a dictionary or companion so we know what the heck he’s saying, but it’s a great piece.
    2. Anything Shakespeare. I adore him. Especially his sonnets.
    3. The Scarlet Letter
    4. Anything by Jane Austen
    5. Anything by Elizabeth Gaskell
    6. Flowers for Algernon
    7. 1984
    8. To Kill A Mockingbird
    9. Anything by Charles Dickens, really. I love Our Mutual Friend and The Pickwick Papers and Bleak House and, of course, A Christmas Carol.

    Okay, I need to stop. I could easily list 100 classics that I adore, but I’ll stop here. Great choices on your part! I still haven’t read Les Mis, but I intend to someday. If only my TBR list wasn’t so long!!!

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