Reading classic novels is often associated with long periods spent in junior English learning how to write thesis statements for the nine hundredth time about books written before our parents were even born. Sometimes these novels hold our attention, but sometimes even the best of us are driven to SparkNotes or even cleverly paraphrasing our older brother’s essay on “The Scarlett Letter.” However, school gives classic books a bad rep. We’re taught to view them as these massive, complicated and intricate pieces of literature that we need teachers to drag us through.
Classics are classics for a reason. They’ve endured for hundreds of years because they’re good. This is my list of my favorite classic books that I think everyone in college should read.
Everyone knows J.D. Salinger for “The Catcher in the Rye,” and while that is one of my favorite books, one of my other favorites is “Franny”. While “Franny” is technically a short story, it’s often sold as a novel in combination with another short story, “Zooey”. Salinger proves again that he’s the king of validating the angst of young adults by eloquently expressing the soul-crushing existential crisis so common among college students. It’s an excellent commentary on both the higher education system in America and the pretentiousness of its students.
The next book I’m going to recommend is probably going to draw a few groans—“Lord of the Flies” is a staple in the high school English curriculum, but it definitely merits a second read. I’ve yet to read another book that contains a deserted island adventure, a coup, a beheaded pig on a stake and murder. It’s arguably William Golding’s best novel, and it’s as violent and dramatic as any Michael Bay movie, with the added perk of being well-written and engaging.
Lastly, nearly everyone has seen the Disney adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”, but the original novel is nothing childish. Originally titled “Peter Pan and Wendy,” it’s beautifully written and whimsical, but it also carries dark themes and resonant messages. It’s especially relevant for the college-age crowd; as young people, we are struggling to navigate the limbo between childhood and adulthood. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the expectations of adulthood, and “Peter Pan and Wendy” is required reading for anyone nervous about growing up.
While many classics might not seem like they’d measure up to the thrill of “Harry Potter”, “The Hunger Games” or George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series, the next time you’re at the library, give one a shot. These books are classics for a reason, so keep an open mind . Who knows, you might find your next favorite in the classics section.