Silver Lining: Most Readable Classics

September 18, 2014

Most Readable Classics

I love reading "classic" books. There are a lot of different ways to define a "classic," but I'm talking about older, iconic books that are very well-known and widely read. There's something so satisfying about reading a book that expands your vocabulary, has original symbolism, is well-crafted, and truly changes how you view something. Not to mention, you feel way smarter if it ever comes up in conversation ;)

However, not all classics are inherently "readable." Many classics were originally published in newspaper installments, and since authors were paid based on how much content they produced, many classics are very slow and dense. (That's also why many chapters end in cliffhangers - the authors had to get you to come back and read the next installment.) You have to really commit if you want to make it through some classic books, and at that point, it's not fun anymore. I once got 200 pages into Anna Karenina, only to realize I had no idea what the book was about. According to the back of the book, it's about an affair? I never did finish that one. 




Here is a list of my favorite classics that are fun, engaging, and relatively fast-paced for the average reader. 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - You guys. Just read this book already. I haven't included many American classics in this list, but this one is on the list for sure!
  • Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen is a very readable author. My favorites of hers are Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. I mean, there's got to be a reason that there's a million movie adaptations of each of these books!
  • The Great Gatsby - The narrator makes this book fairly easy to read, and the plot moves nicely along. (I also loved the movie, but that's a different blog post.)
  • Catcher in the Rye - I know lots of teenagers read this in high school now - probably because it's oozing with teenage angst and talk about growing up. Holden Caulfield is a fantastic main character.
  • Jane Eyre - Of all the Bronte sisters' books, this one is the most readable in my opinion. It's kind of like an Austen book, but with a little more mystery and depth.
  • Gone With the Wind - I loved this book, even though I hated every second of it. Scarlett O'Hara is a despicable main character who makes bad choices during the entire book, but at the same time, you find yourself rooting for her and understanding her. There were a few looooong passages about the Civil War, but I still couldn't put it down.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo - Another all-time favorite. And the good news is, you can read an abridged version without feeling like you're cheating! 
  • Tom Sawyer / Huckleberry Finn - These two books are fast-paced, have a lot of fun dialogue, and are very readable. Another classic American author.

And, just for fun, here are some classics that are NOT readable at all, in my opinion. Charles Dickens has the most hilarious way of describing people and situations, but it's hard work to make it through his books (I've read Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities and loved them both). As I Lay Dying was probably beyond my level, since I found it haphazard, super confusing, and not worth it. Anna Karenina, as I already told you, should never be attempted. And I've never really loved a Thomas Hardy book.

If you've tried reading a classic, and stopped because it was too boring or hard, don't give up! You just haven't found the right book yet. Keep trying other ones. Also, I'm on Goodreads if you want to see more of my recommendations and favorites.

Have you read any of these?
Favorites?
What other readable classics should I add?

PS A huge thanks to Meg-o, Michelle and Julie for answering my demand to tell me their favorite readable classics. Family is the best.

17 comments:

  1. I hated Tale of Two Cities, but LOVED Great Expectations.

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    1. Tale of Two Cities was definitely harder to get through than Great Expectations.

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  2. Oh girl! Ok here goes: Anna Karenina was brutal! I pushed my way through it cuz my grandma recommended it. I suggest watching the movie instead hahaha WAY easier to digest! (the one with Helen McCrory as Anna, it was on NetFlix at one point)

    Another favorite of mine is Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas! It's got everything from romance to mystery and thrill, I love it! And it's easy to get through, just skim the political stuff.

    Jane Eyre is one of my absolute favorites! But I always skip the first 9 chapters hahaha I don't think the history is needed to understand the story ;)

    Have you ever attempted Wuthering Heights?! Dude talk about a crazy book.....again, I'd recommend the movie (the one with Tom Hardy in it as Heathcliff)

    Les Miserables is one of my faves as well. the ABRIDGED version! Hugo was one of those authors that was paid by the word so he'd take like 80 pages to describe a blade of grass.......ugh so abridged is way better to get the actual story ;)

    LOVED this post! I'm a huge fan of classic lit! And I HATED As I Lay Dying.....we read that as a class project in high school and I still don't understand what the point of the book is..... "My mother is a fish" .... uhhhmmmm what??

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    1. AH I need to add 3 Musketeers to this list like right now! I loved it so much. And yes, Wuthering Heights is crazy to the max. I've always wanted to read Les Mis! Turns out you have fabulous taste in books, Ali.

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  3. Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice are two of my favourite classics... I'm also a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, have you read any of those?

    I wasn't too keen on The Great Gatsby when I first read it, although it does make for easy reading. I do intend to give it a reread in the future. Also, Charles Dickens can be very hit and miss, I think the volume of the books is quite off putting.

    Great post! Also, didn't realise you were on Goodreads, I hope you don't mind me adding!
    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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    1. For some reason I just can't really get into mysteries. I've read a few Sherlock Holmes ones, but meh. And I'm glad we can be goodreads friends now :)

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  4. Oh my gosh I LOVE this, thank you so much for this list! I'm terrible and I've only read one of these.... but just last night I was complaining to my husband about how much social media drives me crazy, and he was like "just get a good book on your phone, like a classic or something" and I seriously was like "blah no classics are so hard to read" haha. So there you go, this is super helpful!!

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    1. I seriously have to get off my phone and just read sometimes. Me and my husband will be lying in bed, him on his laptop and me reading. Sometimes we even holds hands. It's all highly romantic haha

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  5. I'm so not a classics person. I was in honors English all throughout high school and survived on Cliffs Notes. I'm a reader now, but I basically read contemporary fiction. I've come to accept this about myself :)

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    1. I mostly read contemporary fiction myself. I just like to relax and not have to work super hard in a book, ya know? But I like to throw in a classic every 10 books or so.

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  6. Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books EVER. :) I love classic Russian literature in general. I also love Jane Eyre a lot.

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    1. TELL ME YOUR SECRET. I could not do it!

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  7. love me some jane austen! I've read all of her books once and some of them twice!

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    1. Me too! I think the only one I haven't read is Mansfield Park.

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  8. I'm in a history of the English Novel class, and I'm reading all these books I've never heard of or seen on classics list, but I love them! I'm surprised how much I relate and that I'm getting through them and understanding! I've always been scared of the classics though, so I'll definitely be checking out some of these!

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    1. Tell me the titles you loved best! I'd love to add them to my list.

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    2. So far I've really enjoyed Moll Flanders by Dafoe and Pamela by Samuel Richardson. Pamela people either really like or hate, even back when it was written so if you do decide to check it out and don't like it, I'm sorry!

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