One boring book can put me off of reading for like… a year. Not kidding. So I know the importance of picking up books worth reading. Nowhere is this a more daunting task than in the classics section of the library. “Classics” are those books that everyone says you should read, but does anyone actually want to read them? Let’s be real here–they have the reputation of being 800 pages of boring, old, and confusing. Rest assured though, not all “classics” are this classically dull. Still, it can be hard to know which classics are still cool today and which retired from being cool after 1865.
So, in the spirit of the Ann Richards Library’s campaign for classics (“Old Books for the New Year”), here are five curated classics that are still completely cool. Trust me–these books are so out, they’re totally in.
1. “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell
When we think of “Gone With the Wind” we think of the Antebellum South. The ups? Hoop skirts. The downs? Pretty much everything else. “Gone With the Wind” remains controversial today for its portrayal of slavery in 1860s Georgia, but ultimately, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is about more than just hoop skirts–it tells the story of a young woman’s quest for survival during the Civil War. It’s a heated romance, a grand adventure, a look at some of our country’s most troubled times, and a tribute to love’s strength in the face of disaster.
2.“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
You may not have heard of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, but if you had been around in the 1940s, you definitely would have. It was an immense success in its time, and it will be a huge success for you, too. The novel follows sweet and smart Francie Nolan, an adolescent girl growing up in the early 20th century in extreme poverty. Francie’s story is tender and raw–a tale of love, cruelty, heartbreak, and survival against all odds. Francie may have lived in the early 20th century’s Brooklyn slums, but her bittersweet journey to adulthood is one we can all relate to.
3. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
Romance. Intrigue. Suspense. Mystery. Adventure. All these things and more make up “Rebecca”, a classic that has received major love from contemporary readers. The novel follows a young bride who becomes entangled in the mystery of Rebecca, her new husband’s glamorous first wife, and her untimely death. If you are looking for a smart book that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole way, then “Rebecca” is the one for you!
4.“Middlemarch” by George Eliot
If you thought “Gone With the Wind” was a long book, you’re going to get a kick out of “Middlemarch.” “Middlemarch” may be a literary journey, but it is an unforgettable one. It is the story of Dorothea Brooke and her trials and tribulations as she searches for happiness and love. Pretty basic 1800s novel, right? Actually, not at all! “Middlemarch” was written later than most “marriage plot novels,” so it explores deeper themes and more complex, interesting plot lines. This book isn’t afraid to break your heart and totally play with your emotions. So if you love the drama of reality TV, you are going to love reading “Middlemarch” (and it will make you look a lot smarter).
5. “The Heart is A Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers
Set in Georgia during the Great Depression, “The Heart is A Lonely Hunter” has a lot of the same vibes as “To Kill a Mockingbird.” However, for me, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is a much more grown-up and gripping read. The novel follows the lives of four different people (all lonely for one reason or another) who confide in John Singer, a local deaf man. Through these characters, “The Heart is A Lonely Hunter” tackles big themes–violence, religion, race, individualism, and coming-of-age. Most of all though, “The Heart of a Lonely Hunter” explores what it means to be alive and inevitably alone. So, if you’re looking for a beautiful story that will make you really feel somethin’, this is it!
So, there ya’ have it. Five extra cool, super chill, darn captivating books that will have you saying goodbye to classic anxiety forever. And, if you finish those and want more, here are a few other classic books that are sure to be perfect for 2016, too!
“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck
“Persuasion” by Jane Austen
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Truman Capote *short!*
“The Stranger” by Albert Camus *short!*
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey
“East of Eden” by John Steinbeck