Silver Lining: What to Read: Easy Classic Novels

June 15, 2016

What to Read: Easy Classic Novels

Classic novels. We love them and we hate them. On one hand, they're so enriching and full of beautiful language and ideas and stories. And you feel super smart when a reference comes up in conversation and you've read that book. ;)

BUT. A lot of "the classics" are really dense and long and hard to read. Especially in today's fast-paced, easy reading society, it can be hard to commit to and really love a classic book. That's why I wanted to compile my favorite classics that are pretty darn readable. They're fast-paced, they're comparatively short, and they have exceptional main characters. You see a lot of these on high school reading lists for these exact reasons.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee, 1960
Just read this one already. I didn't include very many American classics on my list, but this just had to be mentioned. Great main characters, invaluable lessons and engaging plot line.

Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas, 1844
This is such a fun book! It's funny, it's fast-paced, and it's full of adventure. One of the most famous historical romances out there.

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
This book has a great narrator, which makes it easy to read. It's fast-paced and absolutely crazy at the end.

Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen, 1811
Jane Austen's books are generally regarded as easy to read. My favorites of hers are Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. I mean, there's got to be a reason why there are a million movie adaptations of each of her books.

The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger, 1951
Lots of high school classes read this, and for good reason - it's short and absolutely brimming with teenage angst. Some people love it, some people hate it, but it is definitely a classic.

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte, 1847
Of all the Bronte sisters' books, this one is the most readable in my opinion. It's kind of like a Jane Austen, but with a little more mystery and depth and emotion.

Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell, 1936
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
Alexandre Dumas, 1844
Another all-time favorite, all about love and revenge. Plus, you can read an abridged version and not feel like you're cheating!

Tom Sawyer/ Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain, 1876 and 1884
Another classic American author. These two books have fun adventures, awesome dialogue, and are very readable.

And just for fun, some classics that I did NOT find inherently readable:
  • Anna Karenina - I got about 200 pages into this 1,000-page book before giving up. It was just too dense and slow for me, with way too many tangents. A lot of the language didn't translate very beautifully, either.
  • As I Lay Dying - I read the whole thing, and it was short, but again, it just wasn't my favorite. I don't think I'm smart enough to appreciate this one (but for real, there must be something beyond my comprehension level that makes people love this book).
  • Thomas Hardy books - I've read Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Both plots were okay, but I found myself finishing both just to say I didn't give up on them.
  • Charles Dickens books - This is tough, because Dickens is one of my very favorite authors. Nobody can create a world or describe a character like Dickens. That being said, they are very slow and often dense books. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations are my favorites. 
What am I missing?
What are your favorite classics?
And the easiest ones to read?

A similar version of this post first appeared on my blog a few years ago (link here).

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