Friday, August 21, 2015

I Don't Always Love Classic Literature, But I Love These 5 Amazing Novels

If you've been reading this blog or checking out my Instagram for any amount of time, you've probably noticed that I really love books. I think I've been a little more in love with them this year because I've finally managed to overcome the awful reading slump I was in for a couple of years. And, for the first time ever, I'm actually on track to finish 50 books! (This probably excites me more than it should.)

I truly love reading, but I don't read many classics. After commenting/emailing with Steph a few days ago regarding To Kill a Mockingbird (which I haven't read yet), I started thinking about my relationship with classic literature. 

At first I thought that maybe I haven't read enough. (But what is considered enough?) 

Then I thought of all the classic novels I had to read in high school and college that I hated. The worst of the worst were the ones that seemed so promising ... The kind of books I'd pick up on my own. What disappointment. (I'm looking at you, As I Lay Dying!)

Then I started looking at my bookshelves. (I don't own every book I've ever read and loved, but I do own quite a few!) After scanning the titles, I realized that I've probably read more classics than I initially thought. And I actually loved several of them. I would even say that I consider some of these absolute favorites ... Books I'd happily read over and over and recommend without hesitation.

I love giving and receiving book recommendations (have I mentioned how much I love the Show Us Your Books! link-up with Steph and Jana?), so today I'm sharing 5 of my favorite classic novels. 

 photo ClassicLiteratureILove_zpso6qczqrd.jpg

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Find it on Goodreads here.)

I first read this novel when I was a senior in college, and it changed my life. I was dealing with severe depression at that point, and this book made me feel a little less alone. I think The Bell Jar is an important book, and I feel that anyone who has dealt with depression would benefit from reading it. I realize that it may not have a profound effect on everyone, and some people may find Esther Greenwood "bratty" or "whiny." Regardless, the descent into a despair that cannot be shaken is something those dealing with depression will identify with, and this novel may also allow loved ones a glimpse into what they're going through.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Find it on Goodreads here.)

This is one of the best books I've ever read. It's often referred to as a "horror classic," but it's not a traditional horror story. There are no ghosts or vampires or witches ... The true horror here lies within Dorian Gray, a man willing to sell his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Once an innocent man, Dorian allows himself to be corrupted by Lord Henry Wotton. Although he remains physically perfect, his portrait, which he keeps locked away, reveals the true nature of his ugly soul. 

3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Find it on Goodreads here.)

Beautiful and haunting, it's easy to see why Lolita is considered by many (myself included) to be a masterpiece. Yes, it's about a man who falls in love with a very young girl ... But it's so much more than that. This novel made me feel so many conflicting emotions. Nabokov created an unreliable, unlikable narrator in Humbert Humbert and still managed to make me pity him. His obsession consumes him and, if readers are to believe his story, he allows himself to be manipulated over and over by the object of his affection. While there is some dark humor in this book, the overall feeling I was left with was heartache. As I said, this book made me feel so many things ... And it made me feel them deeply.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Find it on Goodreads here.)

This is dystopian fiction at its finest. Set in a world where women no longer have rights, The Handmaid's Tale is the chilling story of Offred, a handmaid whose sole purpose is to provide the Commander with a child. However, this novel is not simply a tale of horror ... It's also a tale of loss. Offred can still remember her life before she became a handmaid: a time when she was free to work, free to seek knowledge, and free to love her husband and daughter. I've loved every Margaret Atwood novel I've read, but The Handmaid's Tale is a true classic.

5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Find it on Goodreads here.)

This is the only novel on this list that I don't own, which explains its absence in the photo. Although I haven't purchased my own copy (yet), I would happily read this again. This was required reading for one of my college literature courses, so I didn't expect to love it. (I rarely love books I'm required to read.) But Madame Bovary really struck a chord in me. Emma Bovary lives her life without truly living, in a constant state of dissatisfaction. When I first read this as a college student, I completely identified with that. For me, this novel served as both a cautionary tale and a slap in the face ... It affected me on so many levels.

Before I end this post, I feel like I should say this: my "To Read" list is out of control (and constantly growing!), and classics often get shoved to the bottom of that list. I think it's because they're more of a "gamble" for me ... I usually either love classic novels or hate them. Occasionally my feelings fall somewhere between those two extremes, but, for the most part, I'll have a strong positive or negative reaction. 

So I'm not saying that you should immediately run out and pick up a copy of any of these books if you haven't read them. (Though if you want to, that's awesome!) I get that classic literature isn't often at the top of everyone's "To Read" list. But, if you're in the mood for a classic and aren't sure what to read, give one of these books a try. 

You may hate it (we all have different tastes, after all!), but who knows? You may discover a new favorite!

I'd love to hear from other book lovers. Have you read any (or all) of these? What are some of your favorite classic novels?


  1. Indeed, what is considered enough...indeed.

    Love this post and still need to get around to doing mine. I think The Handmaid's Tale was FAR ahead of its time and still holds true with a lot of issues women have today - particularly in America. And Lolita is a favorite of mine too. I'm probably due for a re-read of Madame Bovary. I wonder how I'd feel about it now? I also read it in college, and I feel like everything is so much more fraught with...feelings?...then. I'm curious how I react to it as an adult.

  2. I haven't read any of these except the handmaid's tale, which i only just read, and i am so conflicted about it.

  3. I don't think classics and I go together well. But, I've intended to read The Bell Jar for quite a while.

  4. I haven't read most classics. I'm generally okay with that but there are some that I think I want to try. Dorian Gray and The Bell Jar are on that short list.

  5. Of these, I've only read The Bell Jar. I read it in high school during probably the saddest part in my life and I really loved it. I'd like to re-read it as an adult to see if I get even more out of it.

    I want to read all of the rest of these. I had never known what The Picture of Dorian Gray was about until recently. When I heard the story, I thought it was really interesting and made a mental note to read it someday. Good to hear another recommendation of it.

  6. I liked Dorian and Bell Jar when I read them. I hated Lolita. I don't like to say that but it was just not for me. I do remember pitying him and seeing how he was manipulated by Lolita but at the same time, no.