Just about everyone knows the power of a good book – it transports you, it caresses you, it overcomes you. However, with all of the wonderful novels currently hitting the shelves (J.K. Rowling has now written another novel) many often forget the host of classics already written and waiting for their pages to be turned.
Listed below are four classics to add to your reading list – a way to make yourself feel more cultured, and to absorb the legacy these author’s have left us.
Though the original was written in 1818, we’ve seen many adaptions since – from Boris Karloff as Frankenstein in 1931 to Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein in 1974. We’ve even seen remakes that make Frankenstein caught between the drama of ancient demons and ancient gargoyles.
Perhaps the lesson here is that the book really is better. Mary Shelley gathered her inspiration from, of all things, the eruption of Mount Tembora in 1815. This caused Shelley to suffer through ‘The Year Without a Summer’. This caused Shelley to be shut inside all day; she was away from the cold and the wet, but surrounded by an environment made of nightmares. From this ‘summer’, came the dream that would eventually lead to Frankenstein and his monster.
This story tackles all of the big questions: Can man create life? What is humanity’s purpose? What truly defines a monster? Touted as one of the first science fiction novels ever created, this novel offers its readers a chance to walk in Shelley’s shoes for a bit. So snuggle up with a blanket, the fire, and a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – one of the classics you won’t soon forget – on a cold winter’s night.
Though not technically an actual book, this play focuses on the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and Hippolyta. We follow the actions of four lovers as they enter the wood. It’s two couples, the king and queen of the fairies, and a bunch of mechanicals being manipulated by the fairies – shenanigans ensue.
Shakespeare is not known for making anything simple, which is why this work has all the major themes: love, heartbreak, betrayal, comedy, and mischief. How can you not enjoy a play where one of the main characters gets turned into a donkey because he’s been acting like one?
Considered one of Shakespeare’s most popular pieces, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been retold by almost every playhouse in the world. If you enjoy a good chuckle and a quick harrumph, take a seat and enter Act I Scene I.
Most people, when reading this suggestion, can be found groaning or turning their backs. Reading Faulkner is not for the weak of heart, but it is considered one of the classics for a reason. This story is told in a stream of consciousness style, often used by James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Marcel Proust.
What makes this novel so unlike those of its peers is that it maintains an unreliable narrator for a majority of the novel. We start with Benjy, who is a mentally handicapped 33-year-old man. The way he views the world is beautiful and unique and different. We are then introduced to Quentin, Benjy’s horrible sad and disturbed older brother. Think that’s the last twist? The next narrator is Jason, Benjy’s younger brother who is hateful and arrogant. It isn’t until we reach the last section of this book, when we’re given the perspective of an omniscient third party, that we see the Compson family for what they really are: broken.
So many of the same events are viewed through each narrative, and it shows us the truth that no perspective is ever going to be the ‘right’ perspective. The title of the novel is derived from a scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the meaning is clear – this is a tale told by an idiot, who is full of sound and fury. However, it isn’t until we reach the end of the novel, that we are truly able to comprehend the varying types of idiocy tackled in this novel.
When viewing this title, you might be confused – Can this be ‘one of the classics’ if it was only published in 2003? The simple fact that certain parts of this novel’s plot drew criticism in Afghanistan means that it must be worth a read.
As with Hosseini’s other novels, the story follows a multigenerational arc – allowing the readers to experience the actions of both father and son, of both a servant and a well-off businessman. Though you have a particularly Afghani dichotomy, Pashtun vs. Hazara, it is overwhelmingly universal: black vs. white, men vs. women.
This novel was especially powerful after the 9/11 attacks, when Arabic men and women were treated as outsiders. The lighter sides displayed in the book – two boys flying kites, the absolute devotion between one friend and another – helped many to see that those who lived in Middle East were just like everyone else.
These novels are a wonderful read, but it’s smart to be prepared with a box of tissues and your comfort food of choice – it will be necessary when you’ve read ‘the end’. All of these novels are, of course, available at your local bookstore. But, they can also be found at your local library – another ‘one of the classics.’