Classic literature refers to the books and poems that completely transcend both time and culture, and are masterpieces in their own right.
They are thought-provoking mirrors of ourselves and also allow us to learn more about people, places, and conflicts we will never truly experience.
However, if you want to start reading classic literature, it can be difficult to know where to start and which ones should be at the very top of your must-read list.
Check out the list below for some of the best classic books you need to read!
Best Classical Books To Read
Classicals are the oldest of the classics. Some were written during ancient times or are so old we no longer know the true identity of the poet.
Because classicals are so old, there are only a few in this category – but they are still just as emotive, challenging, and engaging as the others on this list.
So, here are some of the best classicals you should check out!
One of the first epics in Western literature is Homer’s The Iliad.
Many believe that The Iliad was written sometime in the 7th or 8th century BC and although this epic is over two millennia old, it is still a relevant and readable book today.
It vividly tells both the heroism and horror of both men and gods during the Trojan War, making this epic a grim but engaging poetic read.
- Great option for someone who loves Greek mythology.
- Still deeply relevant after so many centuries of history.
- Certain descriptions can go on and on and feel irrelevant.
Following on from The Iliad, we have another epic from Homer, The Odyssey.
Like The Iliad, The Odyssey was likely written during the 7th or 8th century BC and today is one of the most well-known war epics in Western literature.
It follows the story of Odysseus, one of the great figures in Greek mythology, as he wanders for 10 years following the Trojan War.
- The tale of Odysseus is a classic myth known for its adventure.
- It follows on from The Iliad but works as a stand-alone epic.
- Like with The Iliad, certain descriptions go on forever with unnecessary details.
The Arabian Nights is a collection of tales and stories told throughout Asia for centuries.
It wasn’t until the 8th century that someone collected all these tales into a single book, which we now know today as The Arabian Nights and Tales from 1,001 Nights.
Here you will find many classic stories and characters you are probably familiar with such as Aladdin, Sinbad, Ali Baba, and Scheherazade.
- It’s a delightful collection of stories told for centuries.
- Some lesser-known tales are not a hit with every reader.
This book is one of the most famous pieces of literature to come from China and is very different from some of the other classic books on this list.
Rather than telling a classic narrative, The Art of War is a thought-provoking military strategy book from ancient China.
It was written roughly during the 5th century BC by an author only known today as ‘Sun Tzu’, which translates to ‘Master Sun’.
What makes this book a classic is how it’s still applicable today and its influence can be seen in various modern-day endeavors, even transcending military conflicts and into politics and sports.
- This novel is deeply insightful and interesting.
- Its take on warfare and strategy is still relevant today.
- Most people prefer to read narrative fiction over a strategy guide like this.
One of the touchstones in classical English literature is Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
This 14th-century book is a collection of masterful stories tied together through the framing device of a pilgrimage and a story competition between the pilgrims as they tell tales of people they have met during their travels.
This book is diverse with lots of different stories and characters all packed into a single novel.
- It’s one of the earliest, most iconic pieces of English literature.
- It’s filled with wonderful characters and tales.
- The old language requires a bit of translation and can be difficult to follow at times.
This classic story from 1605 is filled with playfulness and comedy as you follow the adventures of Don Quixote, an aging knight who tries to relive his chivalric days alongside his faithful squire, Sancho.
What follows is a series of hilarious exploits (including the famous windmill-tilting incident) that will have you wondering whether Don Quixote is a madman, a fool, or a genius.
- Don Quixote is hilarious and you will instantly fall in love with the characters and their exploits.
- Like with other classicals, the language used is old-fashioned and can be difficult for modern readers to understand.
Best Traditional Classic Books
These are some of the first books that pop into most people’s minds whenever they think of classic literature.
As a result, they’re a great starting point for your dive into classic books and are some of the most widely recommended titles out there.
One of the most iconic classics of all time is Leo Tolstoy’s 1867 serialized novel War and Peace.
War and Peace are set during Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia and the narrative follows the fictional lives of several diverse characters.
It’s tense and dramatic yet grounded in realism, making it a great historical novel for exploring society during the Napoleonic Wars.
Although it’s also a super long novel (with over 1,225 pages), it’s well worth reading.
- War and Peace is a masterpiece filled with emotional storytelling and wonderful characters.
- It’s gripping and tense at parts.
- It’s an incredibly long, incredibly detailed story that can be difficult to get through.
Victor Hugo’s most noticeable novel may now be best remembered as the groundbreaking musical, but it first began as an epic tragedy novel published in 1862.
The novel follows the life of ex-convict Jean Valjean as he struggles with redemption in an unforgiving French society.
With deep themes that explore justice, law, morality, rebellion, and love, Les Miserable is also one of the most emotional rollercoaster classics out there.
- This novel is incredibly thought-provoking and will leave you pondering about deep issues relevant to today.
- It’s also incredibly emotive and usually draws a few tears from its readers.
- It’s one of the longest novels ever written and takes a long time to read.
Jane Austen is one of the world’s most celebrated authors and her various novels are praised for their wit, humor, and diverting characters.
Of all of her works, Pride and Prejudice is easily the most iconic.
This 1813 novel gave the world the dashing but awkward Mr. Darcy and the bold Elizabeth Bennet, along with one of the most famous romantic stories of all time.
This classic has gone on to inspire countless romantic novels, movies, and TV shows which just goes to show how timeless this book is.
- This is one of the most romantic stories ever told.
- Jane Austen’s wit shines through her characters and narration.
- Very little happens outside of long conversations which can feel boring to some readers.
One of the most timeless Christmas classics and most celebrated of all of Dickens’s work is A Christmas Carol from 1843.
A Christmas Carol introduced the world to the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge and also gave us one of the most heartwarming, emotional stories of all time.
Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday yourself, you will still find plenty of joy within this timeless Dickens classic.
- It’s one of the most iconic stories ever told.
- It’s emotive and wonderful to see Scrooge grow as a character.
- May not feel relevant to you if you don’t celebrate Christmas.
This 1851 classic novel has one of the most iconic opening lines in a novel ever written, and it’s been remembered for decades since its publication.
Moby Dick is largely a metaphorical book that explores the themes of pride, humanity, and vengeance.
The story follows the sailor Ishmael as he watches Captain Ahab maniacally spiral in his quest for revenge against a giant white sperm whale.
It’s a rich epic adventure with deep philosophical subtext that elevates this novel into a timeless classic.
- This book will get you thinking and pondering about deep themes for ages after finishing.
- Its iconic story is easy to follow and engaging throughout.
- Sometimes a novel can have too many themes and it takes away from the action of the narrative.
Little Women is one of America’s best coming-of-age stories as it follows the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – as they grow from childhood into adulthood, living through the trials and joys such a passage of life brings.
Each sister is memorable and has her own story to tell, although Jo March is often hailed as one of the most iconic literary characters of all time due to her brashness, determination, and spirit.
It’s a must-read classic that has stood the test of time ever since its publication in 1868.
- Each character feels real and alive with their own motives and flaws.
- It’s a real tearjerker!
- There’s a lot of debate about the ending and it’s left more than a few readers upset in multiple ways.
Charles Dickens is widely regarded as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) authors of all time.
Among his wide collection of works, the 1861 novel Great Expectations is just one of many that classify as a classic.
However, it’s one of the most memorable due to its masterful blend of both comedy and tragedy.
The story follows the young orphan Pip as he grows, exploring themes of both wealth and poverty.
It also features other iconic literary characters including the haunting Miss Havisham.
- The character growth and development in this novel is outstanding.
- Dickens does a great job of writing a novel that can make you laugh and cry in equal amounts.
- It’s a bit of a slog to get through as Dickens isn’t known for keeping his works short and simple.
One of the most iconic adventure novels ever written is Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.
This epic adventure follows a young man who is falsely imprisoned and later escapes, beginning his plan of revenge against his friend who betrayed him.
The story is rich with characters and features an expansive plot that takes the reader on a fantastic journey.
- If you love adventure novels, you will love this classic book.
- It’s gripping and engaging from start to finish.
- There are a lot of characters and it’s easy to get mixed up with names.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of the heartbreaking, emotional novels on this classic list.
First novelized in 1891, it served as a social commentary and challenged the morals of late Victorian England.
The novel is rich with symbolism and deep themes such as injustice, nature, women, and religion.
It’s a stand-out classic from others during this period for highlighting the dangerous fates of many women during the time.
- If you love a sad book that is sure to make you cry, this is definitely a classic for you!
- It’s a great text to read to learn more about the hardships women of the past have had to endure.
- There are some very adult themes and traumatizing scenes in this book to be aware of.
Another one of Leo Tolstoy’s literary masterpieces is Anna Karenina.
The 1877 novel follows the passionate woman Anna Karenina as she defies the social conventions of Imperial Russia by engaging in an extra-marital affair.
Like with other Tolstoy works, the story is long and complex with a huge variety of vibrant characters, but engaging as it explores themes of faith and fidelity, family and marriage, society, and passion.
- Anna Karenina is a passionate, romantic novel that will break your heart.
- It’s a wonderful critique of society and the restrictions it places on women.
- As with all Tolstoy works, it’s long and easy to get bored with.
Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – the three musketeers live in today’s culture as three of the most well-known literary characters.
They first appeared in Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel The Three Musketeers, now regarded as one of the best classic swashbuckling adventure novels of the time!
- This book is filled with adventure and thrills!
- Each musketeer feels real and deeply characterized.
- Contains some adult themes and the plot gets really complex towards the end.
Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe is regarded as one of the first realistic fiction novels and is often credited for beginning the ‘survivalist’ adventure genre.
It followed the titular character, Robinson Crusoe, as he fights for survival on a desolate island in the Caribbean as a castaway.
It’s an engaging narrative that has stood the test of time and has been enjoyed by so many readers over the centuries, that it’s inspired a genre of its own!
- It’s an adventurous, engaging read that is easy to follow.
- It’s a genre setter that inspired so many other works.
- A lot of the language is outdated and cringe to read today.
Middlemarch is an 1872 novel written by the author Mary Anne Evans under her pseudonym George Eliot.
Like many realistic fiction books at the time, it follows the intersecting stories of many characters and explores themes relating to societal challenges at the time including religion, the status of women, marriage, education, and political reform – deep stuff!
What makes Middlemarch a stand-out classic is how realistic it is and how deep the narrator dives into analyzing human motivation.
- This novel feels alive thanks to its vivid descriptions and well-researched world.
- Each character has their own clear motives and feels like a real person.
- All the intersecting stories makes it easy to lose track of who is who and how they know other characters, etc.
Many regard Anne Bronte’s 1848 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as one of the key feminist pieces of classic literature.
The novel is structured in the form of a series of letters from the character Gilbert Markham to a friend, which follows a series of events regarding a young widow called Helen Graham.
The novel provides a scathing social commentary on the place of women during the times as Helen not only defies conventions but English law in order to regain her own identity and independence.
Although Anne Bronte’s work is often overshadowed by the works of her sisters, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a gem of classic literature that is praised for its honest and frank portrayal of a woman’s life in the early 1800s.
- This deeply critical work is scathing and intriguing.
- The mystery around Helen Graham will keep you glued to the pages.
- It’s often overshadowed by the other works by the Brontes and is easy to overlook.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 work The Scarlet Letter is set in puritan America where Hester Prynne is forced to wear a red badge of shame shaped into the letter A and colored bright red.
Hester lives as an outcast but refuses to reveal the identity of her child’s father – and when her long-absent husband returns, he plans to reveal the truth once and for all.
This classic book is revered for its rich symbolism and challenging themes regarding morality, religion, and spirituality.
It’s become a popular choice among students and is a classic book that will be read and pondered over for decades to come.
- The mystery regarding Hester’s child’s father will keep you gripped.
- It’s a thought-provoking book that will encourage you to think critically about the themes and symbolism.
- Some of the values of the book are outdated today.
One of the most engaging and deeply psychological works in classic literature is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1867 novel Crime and Punishment.
It follows a poor student as he plans to kill an old woman in order to steal her money and escape poverty.
While the novel also dives deep into the themes of poverty, it also deals heavily with morality and ethics – rationalism, utilitarianism, and nihilism are all criticized in this work and the dangers they pose to humanity are highlighted in this gripping novel.
- It’s a real page turned thanks to the high tension and stakes.
- Dostoevsky does an amazing job of challenging the ethics and moralities of the time.
- It can be pretty violent and upsetting at times.
Best Horror, Gothic, And Sci-Fi Classic Books
A lot of classics call into one of these three key genres and are among some of the most beloved stories in literary history.
If you are a fan of these types of stories, then here are the classics you should definitely pick and read!
Dracula is one of the most famous pieces of literature around the world, yet alone one of the most beloved horror and gothic novels.
The story itself hardly needs explaining as almost everyone is familiar with the terrifying Count Dracula, his home in Transylvania, and his encounters with Johnathan Harker, Mina Murray, and Abraham Van Helsing.
No other book has left quite a mark on modern society quite like Dracula and this 1898 novel remains a bestseller even today.
- Dracula is a classic for how spooky and gripping the narrative is.
- Dracula and the rest of the characters are memorable and worth your investment.
- Female characters like Mina are often pushed to one side and overlooked.
Widely regarded as the world’s first science fiction novel, Mary Shelley’s 1818 publication Frankenstein is one of the most thought-provoking science fiction classics written.
It’s easily one of the world’s best-loved novels as it uses a unique narrative to explore themes of humanity, science, and technology.
- As the first science fiction novel, it’s a must-read for any fan of the genre.
- The latter half of the book is truly gripping and thrilling as the stakes are ramped up.
- Because the story is told through letters, it can be easy to forget who is narrating. At one point, the story is a letter written by a character who has heard the story from another character who heard it from another character – it’s complicated.
One of Oscar Wilde’s best literary works is his 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
This gothic novel leans heavily on philosophical themes as we follow the decadent and debaucherous Dorian Gray as he sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.
Although the book was received with much criticism and controversy at its publication, it is today regarded as one of the best gothic novels in literary history.
- Dorian Gray is an engaging character to follow and read about.
- It really gets you thinking about the important themes of the novel.
- Some people don’t like this novel because of how overboard it goes with the debauchery – but that’s kind of the whole point of the message.
First published in 1898, The War of the Worlds is one of the most iconic science fiction novels that follows the story of an alien invasion.
The narrative alone makes this one of the most thrilling reads in literature and helped define the science fiction genre in the early 1900s.
The influence of this novel can still be strongly felt today with newer novels, movies, and TV shows all paying homage to The War of the Worlds.
- It’s gripping and thrilling and pretty terrifying!
- The plot and twists make it easy to see why this novel is such a classic and cornerstone in the sci-fi genre.
- Some parts of the novel feel cliche but this is the story where all those cliches originate before they became, well, cliche!
The Bronte sisters are some of the most famous female literary writers in history and one of the most moving works to come from them is Jane Eyre.
This gothic story was written by Charlotte Bronte and published in 1847.
It follows the life of the orphan Jane Eyre as she grows with a strong sense of morality despite her humbling life.
It’s a strong criticism of society and takes a lot of inspiration from Charlotte Bronte’s own life including her tragic brother Branwell, her experiences staying at a harsh boarding school, and working as a governess.
- Jane Eyre is a main character worth following and cheering for throughout the novel.
- As the story takes a lot of inspiration from Charlotte Bronte’s real life, Jane Eyre’ struggles feel real and heartbreaking.
- The ending leaves a lot of readers divided.
- You probably already know the big twist. If you don’t, don’t ever look up this book online again before you have finished reading the book itself. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Another classic by another Bronte sister, Wuthering Heights is best known for its Byronic hero/villain Heathcliff, and the toxic romance between Heathcliff and Catherine as they amble across the moors.
This 1847 novel is influenced by both gothic fiction and Romanticism, making it a tragedy and challenging read with deep themes regarding morality, religion, and society.
- Wuthering Heights is one of the most emotional books ever written and there’s tons of amazing speeches from characters that are the height of quality literature.
- Healthcliff is one of the most complex characters in literature and will have you crying and screaming from page to page.
- Emily Bronte uses phonetic transcription to clearly convey one character’s strong accent – and trying to get through those speeches is a pain!
Another classic gothic horror novel from the late 1800s is Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
First published in 1886, this novel follows the strange events that happen between the narrator’s friend Dr. Jekyll and the murderous Mr. Hyde.
You probably already know the twist – which just proves how this single novel has made such a huge impact on popular culture, making it a genre-defining classic.
- The events of this novel are seriously gripping!
- If you know the twist of this novel already, then some of the suspense is unfortunately taken out for you.
One of Victor Hugo’s most famous novels is the 1831 story of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, originally titled Notre Dame de Paris.
The story follows the tragic life of Quasimodo, a hunchback living in the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral in 15th-century Paris.
Not only did this book renew a revival of Gothic literature and architecture, but it also explored many significant themes including revolution, religion, and passion.
- This novel is incredibly thought-provoking and emotional.
- Some parts feel really outdated and can be difficult to read.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most famous adventures of the literary detective Sherlock Holmes.
Published in 1902, it marked the return of Holmes after his apparent death in The Final Problem.
Although you may be initially inclined to label this classic as a crime novel, the mystery and supernatural themes used in the narrative help bind it with a lot of the conventions of a classic gothic novel.
- It’s a classic Sherlock Holmes!
- It’s also really spooky and thrilling at times, which makes it stand out from other Holmes books.
- Most people already know the ending and that takes away from the mystery.
Best Modern Classic Books To Read
Modern classics are ground-breaking books published either after the end of World War I in 1918 or World War II in 1945.
Although they may not have had as many years to mature as some other books on this list, they are no doubt classics that will go down in history.
Dystopia is a huge theme seen in modern classic literature and one of the most renowned books in this category is George Orwell’s 1984.
Orwell is no stranger to writing chilling cautionary tales but 1984 is especially haunting and startling due to how convincing this dystopian world is.
The story follows Winston Smith as he works rewriting history in his government’s ‘Ministry of Truth’.
The story is deeply political and one that is still relevant over 70 years after its publication.
- It’s actually scary how many predictions this classic book had right?
- It feels incredibly relevant in today’s world of internet cookies, data, surveillance, and more.
- The way Orwell talks about his female characters at certain points in the book feels pretty gross today.
Easily one of the most powerful modern classics is Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.
This 1982 novel follows a black Southern women’s struggles as she endures hardship after hardship all while trying to find her own sense of identity.
The story is told through a series of letters as an epistolary novel, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most emotive classic books ever written.
- It’s deeply emotional and a real tear-jerker.
- Most classic literature focuses on white characters so it’s great to see some novels centered around characters of color.
- The structure and form of the book won’t work for everyone.
Another chilling dystopian with an unfortunate amount of relevance today is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
This modern classic has been widely regarded as one of the best pieces of feminist literature as it tackles important topics and issues regarding women’s rights.
Even though The Handmaid’s Tale was only published in 1985, it’s made waves around the world.
- It’s a haunting warning of the life of women in a society where their bodies and reproduction rights are taken from them.
- Attwood’s writing is vibrant and so sensory that you can easily imagine important settings in the book.
- Not a lot actually happens so if you are looking for a more narrative-driven classic story, this isn’t for you.
The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 but didn’t claim its classic status until much later, during World War II.
It follows Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire, in a classic rags-to-riches story that turns tragic.
With rich imagery and themes around the American Dream, class, and gender, it’s now one of the most well-known American novels around the world.
- It’s a modern but still classic rags-to-riches story that is super engaging.
- Set against the backdrop of the Roaring 20s, this novel has plenty of character and vibrancy.
- Studying this book in school means that a lot of people have lost any interest in this classic work.
This epic novel takes place during the Great Depression as Steinbeck records the Dust Bowl migration that took place during the 1930s, capturing one of the most significant times in American history.
The book is compassionate while highlighting the flaws in American society in terms of justice and class.
This makes The Grapes of Wrath a powerful novel with a captivating narrative and provoking themes.
Steinbeck is known for his thought-provoking writing and how it challenges our expectations.
This classic novel is deeply critical while maintaining a warm, compassionate tone.
- It’s a pretty deep read that may not be to everyone’s tastes, especially if you’re here for the narrative over the psychology.
Another Orwellian classic is the 1945 novella Animal Farm.
This satirical allegorical beast fable is set up like a fairy tale set on a British farm – but the pigs are Russian Stanlists, and the farm is Soviet Russia.
Animal Farm is known as one of the best political satire works out there and perfectly captured the criticisms and fears of the time.
- The allegory here works amazingly well and it’s genius to see it play out in the novel.
- Each animal character is memorable and a stand-out.
- The politics behind this novel is pretty divisive even today.
Virginia Woolf is one of the most celebrated authors in literature and out of all her works, Mrs. Dalloway remains one of her most widely acclaimed.
First published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway examines a single day in the life of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, who on the surface appears to be the average upper-class Englishwoman who is planning to host a party that evening.
However, as the novel progresses, more and more is learned about Mrs. Dalloway.
Mrs. Dalloway is another important feminist piece of literature on this list as well as one of the few which touches on LGBT themes, mental illness, and restrictions of society.
It’s masterfully written and deeply critical, and the lack of any real plot just proves how much of an expert author Virginia Woolf was!
- It’s one of the few classics to touch on LGBT themes.
- It’s deeply personal and very relevant to modern times.
- If you prefer a busy narrative, this slow-paced classic is not for you.
Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird is a classic for many reasons.
Not only is this book so well written with rich descriptions and emotive language, but also tackles important issues that are still relevant today decades after its publication.
The novel is framed as a coming-of-age story for young Scout, a girl living in a small American community.
However, even at a young age, she witnesses the injustices, the inequality, and the good and the even that thrives in her town.
- Not a lot of classics tackle the issue of race as this novel does.
- Scout and her small town of Maycomb feel so real and alive.
- The ending is tough to read but also very emotional and moving.
This is probably the most controversial classic on our list but there’s no denying that the 1954 novel Lolita is a modern classic.
Lolita tackles some very tough subject matter and taboos but by doing so, it explores the role of unreliable narrators and they can change our interpretation of events.
Because of this, Lolita remains to be one of the most challenging, thought-provoking reads if you can handle the uncomfortable themes.
- Lolita breaks taboos to open up a whole new range of conversations and debates you can have because of this book.
- The subject matter of this classic makes it a very challenging and difficult read for many – and that’s okay!
Best Classic Children’s And Teens Books
Some of the most beloved classic books are written for children but that doesn’t mean you should skip them!
A classic is a classic, and whether you are reading these by yourself or to a child in your care, these are definitely not to be missed!
Treasure Island was first published in 1883 and today, it is one of the most well-known coming-of-age novels and perhaps the best pirate tale ever told.
The story follows a young Jim Hawkins as he embarks on an adventure to uncover a lost pirate trove.
It’s a classic that has been re-told repeatedly (even with Muppets!) and is a great adventure to enjoy even as a child.
- Treasure Island is the original pirate adventure story that is bound to be a favorite with many people!
- The plot moves surprisingly fast and the stakes are high from the beginning.
- Some themes may be a little too mature for children but these are barely touched upon.
Lewis Carroll is the well-known author of one of the most timeless children’s stories of all time – Alice’sAdventures in Wonderland.
First published in 1865, this novel has seen many different iterations, sequels, and adaptations, but you can’t beat the original classic.
It’s a nonsensical but enjoyable story with familiar characters including the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit, and, of course, Alice herself.
- This novel is a delightful classic that has won the hearts of many due to its charm.
- It’s filled with unique and memorable characters.
- It’s nonsensical and this may not be to your personal tastes.
Peter Pan is familiar to most people thanks to the famous Disney animated adaptation, but it is also one of the most beloved classic novels for children.
First published in 1911 as Peter and Wendy, Peter Pan has remained a favorite with children across the decades thanks to its magical and adventurous story.
With memorable characters like Peter Pan himself, the notorious Captain Hook, and the mischievous fairy Tinker Bell, Peter Pan is one children’s story that is enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
- There’s plenty of heart and charm in this classic novel.
- There are a ton of memorable, loveable characters who are easy to root for (and against).
- Some parts of the book may feel pretty outdated.
This classic children’s novel is a great choice for children of all ages. Although this classic is less than a hundred years old, it’s so beloved that
Winnie-the-Pooh is beloved for its gorgeous stories and fantastic characters including the honey-loving Pooh bear himself, his best friend Piglet, the energetic Tigger, doleful Eeyore, and so many more!
- This is one of the sweetest stories I have ever read.
- The characters are adorable and unique and it’s easy to fall in love with each and every single one of them.
- This novel is better read to very young children but there’s no denying that it’s a classic.
This 1894 childhood classic novel has been adapted many times (most successfully by Disney in 1967) but even today, the original still manages to inspire so much creativity and wonder in children today.
Set in the jungles of India, the story follows the young boy Mowgli as he is raised by wolves and learns from the many animals of the jungle.
Not only does it feature many interesting characters, but teaches important lessons regarding justice and nature.
- The worldbuilding and characters really bring the jungle alive.
- The story and lessons Mowgli and the reader learn are enchanting.
- Kipling himself is a controversial author and parts of his work feel really outdated, especially if you want to read this novel to children.
Most of us studied this classic novel at school, but there’s a good reason why so many school kids pick up Lord of the Flies and struggle to put it down!
This 1954 novel is a gripping story that is better suited for teenagers than young children.
It follows a group of schoolboys trapped on an island as they fall into despair and lose touch with civility and their own humanity.
- The plot is gripping and filled with shocks, twists, and really emotional highs.
- The premise is a ton of fun and Golding’s writing is vivid and wonderful to read.
- Definitely not suitable for younger children as it can get scary and mature at times.
Before J R R Tolkien published his groundbreaking fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings, there was The Hobbit.
This 1937 fantasy novel has received nothing but critical acclaim since it was first published.
It’s filled with enchanting characters, places, and adventures that make it a favorite for adults and children alike.
- Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a fantastic setting filled with memorable characters and fun key scenes.
- It’s a great way to ease yourself into high fantasy and can be enjoyed at any age.
- It’s a pretty long children’s book, even for a classic.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written and released as a direct sequel to Mark Twain’s first success, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Like the original, this novel is a fun coming-of-age centered on adventures while growing up near the Mississippi river.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has even arguably become more successful than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, firmly earning its place in classic literature.
- Huck is an iconic character who is easily loveable and relatable at times.
- The adventures and exploits he undertakes are amusing and enjoyable to read.
- This book is seriously outdated and some parts will definitely make you cringe – but hey, it’s of its time.
Best Classic Poetry Books
Over the years, classic poems have been published and read time after time. There are lots of iconic collections out there that are must-reads for any fan of literature.
So, if you want to branch out from prose, here are some of the best classic poetry books you should pick and read.
John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost is one of the most celebrated in the world and has stood the test of time since it was first published in 1667.
It explores many challenging themes like morality, cosmology, and spirituality, as it follows the Fall of Man from the Bible.
It may be a poem but it’s still longer than some books, with over ten thousand lines of verse.
- It’s a very deep epic poem that tackles a lot of very personal, thought provoking topics.
- Milton is a fantastic poet who really brings a story to life through poetry.
- It’s a super long read that can easily become boring for some.
This poetic masterpiece is even older than Milton’s Paradise Lost as it was first published in the early 1300s.
Like Paradise Lost, it is a heavily religious poem that discusses the afterlife as Dante begins a pilgrimage, representing the soul’s own journey towards God.
- The clever framing of this masterpiece makes it a very interesting read.
- The very religious tones can be a big switch-off for a lot of people.
Edgar Allan Poe is easily one of the most revered poets in history but his most iconic work is the 1845 poem, The Raven.
The Raven is a narrative poem praised for its musicality, rhythm, and rhyme.
It has strong supernatural elements as it follows the narrative of a mysterious talking raven that visits our mourning narrator.
It’s iconic and a must-read, even if you’re not a huge fan of poetry!
- Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry reads like a song due to his masterful use of language.
- Honestly, I think it’s over too soon!
William Shakespeare is the world’s greatest playwright but he also wrote 154 sonnets during his life between 1564 and 1616.
These sonnets have all been collected and can be read in a single novel.
So, if you’re also a fan of Shakespeare and his outstanding wordplay, The Sonnets is a great way to get a taste of Shakespeare outside of his plays.
- William Shakespeare is a skilled craftsman with words and can create some truly beautiful imagery with just a few lines.
- Don’t expect anything overly complex like his plays – but this could be an advantage to some people!
Under Milk Wood began as a radio play written by world-renowned poet Dylan Thomas, completed just before his death in 1953.
Today, it is sold as a poetic novel that follows the everyday lives of the inhabitants in a little Welsh town.
It’s comical and at times bawdy, but it’s also expressive and a ton of fun to read.
- Dylan Thomas is usually known for his deep, thought-provoking work – but Under Milk Wood is a riot of laughs!
- Don’t expect this book to get you choked up like some of Thomas’s other moving poems do.
The great thing about classic literature is that there are just so many for you to read and indulge in.
From classic gothic stories to wild adventures to romance to poetry, there are lots of thought-provoking literary classics for you to reflect and ponder on.
The list above is just some of the very best classic books out there for you to try.
Even if you read every single one of them, there are still plenty more classics out there for you to discover!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Makes A Classic Book A Classic?
Most people think that whether or not a book is classified as classic literature depends on its age but that’s not true.
Age is a factor but it’s all about how timeless and relevant the themes, character, and narrative feels.
For example, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre touches on how governesses during the 18 and 19th centuries were treated poorly by the people they worked for – and if you have worked in customer service before, you can relate despite the two-hundred-year time gap!