Reading the Classics: A Top Ten List

Classics have gotten a bit of a bad reputation (feel free to hum “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation…”). They are often referred to as boring, stuffy, and hard to understand. This can be true, for me it’s  books like Ulysses and Moby Dick. The first I find hard to understand (still superior to my experience reading Pynchon) and the second I find to be quite possibly the best sleep aid I’ve ever used.  So without further rambling on my part, here are ten classics that I would recommend (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish).

Classics 2

10. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. But only the one narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. Obviously.

09. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Boarding schools, I always wanted to go to one.

08. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole. Every time someone I like tells me they hate this book, I will admit to pausing and thinking “…and how are we friends?”.

07. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This is, far and away, my favorite classic. I don’t even know how many times I’ve listed this one, I’m sure I’d be embarrassed if I knew.

06. The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. Whoever says classics are boring hasn’t read The Monk. This has everything, and I mean every single thing.

05. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. Scandal in small town New Hampshire. Writing this book ruined the author’s life, but it’s quite a fun read. This one really stretches the limit of the term ‘classic’, but I do have a soft spot for New Hampshire.

04. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The classic science gone awry story.

03. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Everyone goes on (and on, if you consider school curriculum) about 1984 and Brave New World, I feel like We should get a little acknowledgement too.

02. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I feel like The Grapes of Wrath gets all the glory, but East of Eden is a more enjoyable book from my perspective.

01. Sanctuary by William Faulkner. You’ll never look at a corncob the same again. Promise.

What classics do you recommend?

49 thoughts on “Reading the Classics: A Top Ten List

  1. Yay for Frankenstein being on the list. Now that I’ve been reminded of that book I think it might be in time for a reread, which I never thought I’d say (I had to read it and write papers about it for 5 different classes throughout my four years in college).


  2. Finally someone who put A Confederacy of Dunces on a list. This classic isn’t hard to understand. Ignatius, probably the quirkiest character you can meet, shows us the decline of society in an outrageously funny way. This book doesn’t get enough attention.


  3. Great list! I’ve often said that about Sanctuary. I think that sometimes classics get a bad wrap is because teenagers are forced to slog through them before the works can be appreciated (re: Moby-Dick). In recent years, I’ve seen We edge its way forward. Some other favorite classics: Villette, The Woman in White, A Modest Proposal. I often recommend Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke as a foolproof sleep aid.


    1. I think Sanctuary is by far his most accessible work and usually the book I recommend to get started.

      I will keep that in mind regarding Reflection on the Revolution in France. Even the title sounds promising…


  4. I don’t *hate* A Confederacy of Dunces, but I do think of it as The Novel that Should Have Been a Short Story. I like seeing Peyton Place on your list! That book is more pivotal than people think…

    I still can’t believe I haven’t read A Separate Peace. I should remedy that sooner rather than later.


    1. Peyton Place really is, I think it’s get written off far more than it should.

      A Separate Peace is worth a read, it’s fairly short too.


  5. Yes ONLY the one narrated by Benedict is allowed. Oh surprise, surprise. Jane Eyre. hahaha The Monk needs a place on my TBR for sure. I really need to read some Faulkner. And some Steinbeck. And We sounds phenomenal and considering my love for dystopian fiction this really needs to get read.


    1. Benedict is what makes that worth a read.

      Jane Eyre. I’m sure you experienced shock and awe at that inclusions. The Monk is a must for the sheer ridiculous nature of that book and Faulkner is a *should* read, but I think you’ll survive just fine if you don’t.


  6. Never read Peyton Place, though I did take it out of the library once, but it was a VERY old copy that I don’t think had been opened in about 40 years. Made me sneeze every time I went near it, so I retuned it unread. I will need to get a newer version, also looking to read East of Eden this summer.


  7. I have to admit that there are a three books on your list that I have never even heard of. I can’t wait to look them up! Jane Eyre is one of the best, for sure, and I have loved everything by Steinbeck that I have read (almost all). Very curious about The Monk and We. Great list!


  8. This is a great list! Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics too. My husband (who just finished reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion) is now experiencing Jane Eyre for the first time. So far, he’s really enjoying it.


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