Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Classics You Should Actually Read This Year

Top Ten Classics to ReadTalking about the Classics

I have a love-hate relationship with literary classics. Is that kind of the same for everyone? I love, love, LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird, but omg please do not even get me started on Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Why are there people who like that book???? Just no. It’s not for me.

Ditto with Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations. I just could not get into those. Sorry. I know they’re favorites of literary geniuses and other readers.

But my list of favorite classics is pretty long, and I almost never get to talk about them on the blog because there are so many amazing books coming out every week, I can’t even keep up with those. So today, as my post this Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, I’m jumping ship, away from current releases, and swimming on back to list a few of my favorite classics in honor of the whole Back-to-School season!

First, though… did you notice anything different about The Story Sanctuary today??? I have a brand new header image custom designed for me, and I LOVE it. Let me know what you think about it by leaving me a comment or finding me on Twitter (@story_sanctuary).

Okay, back to classics! If you’re headed back to school, I hope you get to read some of these in class this year, because reading great books for a grade is kind of like discovering a favorite food is actually good for you. Yay! Bonus. But even if these babies aren’t assigned or your school days are done (woo-hoo!), they’re worth checking out for the sheer enjoyment of the stories.

To Kill a Mockingbird - ClassicsTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is without a doubt my number one favorite classic. I’ve probably read it five or six times, which for any book, isn’t that high a number for me, but is pretty huge for classics. I love the way Lee shows us everything that’s happening through Scout’s perspective. Often she’s totally unaware of the significance of events around her – like when she and Jem go visit Atticus at the jail and the mob approaches him. Scout has no idea how scary this should be. She only knows these are men who, in the daylight, are her classmates’ fathers who would never hurt her. But there are enough clues that we pick up on the bigger story and the drama or danger ourselves. So. Good.

The Great Gatsby - classicsThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I think one of my favorite things about this book is Fitzgerald’s goal that it be written so that anyone could read and understand it easily. I love that, and it makes this novel a quick read. I love the themes about true love and friendship and I’m always gripped by the destructiveness of the characters’ selfish behavior. (Okay, that sounds dark, but hopefully it makes sense.)

Watership Down - classicsWatership Down by Richard by Richard Adams

I. Love. This. Book. It was a genre-defying book when it was published. A serious book about rabbits. Yes! And it’s amazing. Fierce, warrior rabbits and small oracle rabbits. Brilliant characters that I remember years after I’ve last read the book.

Pride and Prejudice - ClassicsPride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

If you know me, you’re only surprised this didn’t come earlier in the list. I’m not a huge Austen junkie. I love this book, but I somehow never manage to get around to reading her other novels. And actually– true story– I did not like Pride and Prejudice the first time I read it in high school. Mostly I think I hated the format in which we had to read it, but that’s another story. The synopsis is I felt like it cheapened my experience reading the book. Anyway, after I graduated and my sister fell in love with the book, I went back and read Pride and Prejudice again and found myself totally getting lost in the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. (And yes, I love the movie. ONLY the BBC version, though.)

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell - classicsBlack Beauty by Anna Sewell

This is another big favorite. I love that Sewell wrote this during a time when it was this big ground-breaking idea that horses have feelings. It’s one of those “this will never sell” kinds of stories that reminds us that heart and courage are pretty much always worth reading about.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - classicsA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with this book, too. I love, love, love Francie and her family. I cried so hard at some of the tragic moments in the book. The writing is delicious. But I feel like I wanted a different ending. There’s a thing that happens toward the end, something that goes wrong, and she gets a letter that’s supposed to explain it. I kind of never really bought into that explanation. I needed there to be more. More backstory, more explaining, more reasons, more something. I don’t know. But other than that moment, I truly love this book and Betty Smith’s writing. In fact, I like another book of hers called Joy in the Morning even better than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so I probably should have swapped and focused on that one instead. It’s lesser known, but shorter and happier.

The Outsiders - classicsThe Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

This is another one I’ve read a bunch of times. It has kind of a circular thing going on where at the end of the book, Ponyboy (I love the wild names in the story) wrestles with all that’s happened and ends up writing it down for a school project (sounds more contrived than it feels in the book) and the last line of the story is the same as the opening line of the book, as if he’s beginning now to write the whole tale. The Outsiders is the first book that made me want to become a writer myself.

Cry the Beloved Country - classicsCry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

The way the story is formatted is a bit unusual. I went through a period of evangelical zeal about this book, trying to get everyone I knew to read it, and a couple people were so thrown by the way it’s written that they couldn’t get into it. (Dialogue is often not in quotes, for instance, but set apart after a colon.) I see authors bending those kinds of rules more now in other books, so I wonder if Cry would be more easily received now. At any rate, I loved the story and got completely lost in the South African landscape as we followed a man desperate to find his son in Johannesburg.

The Jungle Book - classicsThe Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Forget the Disney movie version. It’s cute and all, but totally sells this story short. Kipling is a master storyteller and his way of describing things is so rich and fun. It’s a fairly quick read, too. Definitely on my list to read with my littlest when she gets a bit older.

Their Eyes Were Watching God - classicsTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I didn’t read this one until just a few years ago, but I really enjoyed it. The characters stuck with me– flawed as they are– and I can still picture some of the most climactic scenes in my mind. Plus, for some reason, I have a thing for stories about natural disasters. I don’t know. My family is the type to hole up during a hurricane and watch Twister. (True story. We did this last year during a big storm.)

So there you have it. Those are my top ten picks for classics to read this year. I hope at least some of them still find their way into classrooms. I’m hoping to read at least one with my older girl this year at home, too.

What are your favorite classics?

Did any of your favorites make the list? Any of mine that you just could not get through? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

36 Responses to Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Classics You Should Actually Read This Year

  1. RO says:

    You’ve listed lots of great ones that I read while in school, and they are definitely classics. I fell in love with all things Shakespeare as a kid, and still re-read them every once in a while. Great post! Hugs and Happy Friday! RO

  2. I love To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s one of my favourites. Great list!

  3. I remember reading a lot of horse stories when I was a kid.

    I haven’t read The Jungle Book, but I have a Rudyard Kipling post planned for my blog for October of next year, LOL. He was a great author.

    Maybe one of the reasons why classics can be so darned annoying to read in school is that “literary critics” try to read more into them then is actually there and get snobby about it. I suppose I find themes in some of the books that I read too, but the story comes first, and the themes are just a clever bonus that I find.

    • Me too! I used to love reading about horses. The Black Stallion books and Misty of Chincoteague. 🙂 Good times!

      Agreed. Critical notes by the experts can be really insightful, but what makes the stories amazing in the first place is, well, the story! You said it well. Thanks, Brooke!

  4. I’m a bit ashamed to admit I’ve only read three of these! Great list!

    • Girl, that’s how I feel reading everyone’s TTT lists! No shame in the fact that you’ve read lots of other great books and haven’t gotten to them all. 😉 Thanks for checking out my list.

  5. Deanna says:

    I love The Outsiders!

  6. Greg says:

    I’ve never read The Outsiders but I did see the 80’s movie version (amazing ALL the actors in that movie who went on to be big names) and I’m fond of it. I should read the book, and Watership Down too which I’ve always wanted to read, but for some reason haven’t.

    • OMG I forgot about the Outsiders movie! It’s been SO long since I’ve seen it. Now I have to go back and watch it this weekend. 🙂 I checked out your list, too. Thanks, Greg!

  7. Sam@WLABB says:

    I definitely agree. My relationship with the classics was love-hate, but I think a lot of that stems from being made to read books I wasn’t quite old enough to read when I was in HS. I did required reading books, and Mockingbird made my list. It is definitely a grade-A classic

  8. Angela says:

    I only read Pride and Prejudice for the first time in the last couple years, but I enjoyed it and now I actually seek out retellings!

  9. Leslie says:

    Great list this week. I’m actually going to start Pride and Prejudice next month! I’m pretty excited! I haven’t read many classics but I’m hoping to change that.

  10. Tessa says:

    Even though I read a lot of YA, I still have a soft spot for classics. In particular, I love Frankenstein. The story is so complex for such a short novel and I love all of the interconnected themes that can spark hours of discussion.

    I also really love Pride and Prejudice. After discovering the webseries, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, there is nothing I love more than Elizabeth and Darcy.

    I haven’t read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn yet, but it has been on my TBR for a while. Sometimes I need convincing to jump into a sad book, even though I already know that it is going to great.

  11. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all time favorite books!!

    Here’s a link to my TTT post this week:

  12. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Outsiders are two I loved! I have the audio for P&P and hope to get to it. I don’t normally read classics so I thought the audio might help!

    • Yay! So fun to talk to people who loved some of the same books. High five! You know, I tried P&P on audio, and I had a really hard time with it because the language is kind of dense and the audio was too fast for me to process it. It could just be me, though! I know other people who’ve listened to it and enjoyed it that way. I just don’t want you to be discouraged if you find the audiobook version isn’t the best fit.

  13. Shealea says:

    I keep telling myself that I should try my hand at more classics, but I haven’t gotten to it. Maybe this list can help me figure out where to start.

    Great post!

    * TTT: 10 spreadsheet hacks to step up your blogging game

  14. Gabby says:

    Yay someone else with Cry The Beloved Country on their list this week! Mine is a different take on the subject, but this book is so good and so under-read!

    Also Black Beauty is amazing and still makes me cry as a grown adult lady.

  15. I was an English major but somehow I’ve only read three of these – To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby and Watership Down. I think I’m going to make it a point to read The Outsiders before the year is over. You’re the fourth person I’ve seen mention it today and I feel like I must be missing out!

    • Haha! That’s the thing about Top Ten Tuesday! I feel like I always wind up adding a bunch of titles to my reading list. It’s so great. I hope you enjoy The Outsiders!

  16. Poinsettia says:

    I didn’t read Pride and Prejudice until I was an adult, and I really enjoyed it! Here is our Top Ten Tuesday

  17. Nickimags says:

    Two of my favourite classics are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles dickens, both as audiobooks.

  18. Rachel says:

    I am definitely a Pride and Prejudice (and Jane Austen) junkie, so I strongly agree with that suggestion! I haven’t read all of these on the list, but Their Eyes Were Watching God was an excellent read. And Black Beauty was my jam in 2nd grade during my horse phase. 🙂