At around nine years old, I decided I was too old for children’s books and that I was ready to move onto the world of classic literature. For a book to be considered one of the “classics”, I believe it needs to possess artistic quality, universal appeal, and success over time. Classics are the books with the great reputations, and they are found at the top of every “Read Before You Die” list. I’ve listed below my ten favourites, although it was incredibly hard to condense to that amount.
- The Odyssey – Homer. One of the most influential and beautiful pieces of writing ever written.
- The Waves – Virginia Woolf. I love the structure of this (short) novel. It collates the voices of several characters throughout life, and shows how they progress and move apart as individuals.
- King Lear – Shakespeare. This is by far my favourite Shakespeare. It’s themes are so universal (family disputes, power, class), yet as a tragedy it’s also so exciting, moving and distressing.
- War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy. No matter how long it takes to read, give it a go. I was surprised how much I was drawn to Pierre in the opening pages, and didn’t find it boring at all.
- Dubliners – James Joyce. I read somewhere that a person either likes Joyce or Woolf, although I’ve chosen both to be on this list. If you haven’t read “The Dead” – the last short story in this collection – you better get to it. The ending is incredible.
- First Love – Ivan Turgenev. I found Turgenev’s writing to be really simple, yet he really drags you into the story. A great story of first love, like it says on the tin.
- The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas. This is a massive book, and so much happens, but everything that happens is of such great consequence. Being falsely imprisoned in an island jail is probably one of my greatest fears!
- Great Expectations – Charles Dickens. So far, this is the only book by Dickens that I’ve read more than once. Yes, it’s one of the easiest to read, but it’s also so good. I think I’ve probably shouted at Pip, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” on several occasions.
- Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky. I was surprised how much I was scared and disturbed by a piece of literature written in the nineteenth century. Dostoevsky provides a lot to consider psychologically and morally, as usual.
- The Lady With the Little Dog – Anton Chekhov. After hearing the opening of this short story read aloud in “The Reader”, a film starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, I set about tracking down a collection of Chekhov’s short stories. It really is written beautifully:
“The talk was that a new face had appeared on the promenade, a lady with a little dog.”Dmitri Dmitritch Gurov, who had by then been a fortnight at Yalta, and so was fairly at home there, had begun to take an interest in new arrivals. Sitting in Verney’s pavilion, he saw, walking on the sea-front, a fair-haired young lady of medium height, wearing a béret; a white Pomeranian dog was running behind her.