10 Best Classics of All Time

March 18, 2020

Classics...where to begin? There is so much classical literature out there that it can be hard to know what to bump to the top of your TBR and what to leave for later (or never). If you're looking for some guidance on how to organise your reading, look no further than this list of the ten best classics of all time.


1. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte




"Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.
But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?"
Dark, mysterious, and full of drama, this epic love story is one of those books that will keep you up at night trying to finish it. 

2. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen



"Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work "her own darling child" and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print." The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen's radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England."

All of Austen's books are incredible social commentaries, and none anymore than her most famous work, Pride and Prejudice. It's rare that a classic will make you laugh alongside making you fall in love with a fantastic host of characters. 

3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee




"The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into ten languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature." 

This is one of those rare examples of prescribed school books which is actually enjoyable to read - I've never forgotten it since I read it when I was 14!


4. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley




"Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever."

I was always put off reading Frankenstein as I'm not someone who enjoys sci-fi/horror, but I was so taken aback by the depth of emotional exploration and social commentary within it that I absolutely fell in love with it. It's now one of my all time favourites. 


5. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck



"The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.

Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream -- a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength."

I'm a fan of John Steinbeck in general, but Of Mice and Men is a super quick and touching read that has always been in my thoughts since I read it (again, for school!). 


6. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas




"Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas’ epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s." 

This book can be summed up by the phrase 'revenge is sweet'...except, is it? I think this classic carries some of the most important messages about how to live your life, and whether bitterness and revenge is the right way to achieve happiness in the end. 

7. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald




"Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing, and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby---young, handsome, and fabulously rich---always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel."

I was absolutely obsessed with The Great Gatsby when I first read it, and have reread it countless times since. It's one of the most evocative, atmospheric, and perfectly tragic books ever written. 

8. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde




"Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps."

One of the most beautifully written books ever published, reading The Picture of Dorian Gary feels like looking at an exquisite piece of art. 


9. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle




"The terrible spectacle of the beast, the fog of the moor, the discovery of a body, this classic horror story pits detective against dog. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on the wild Devon moorland with the footprints of a giant hound nearby, the blame is placed on a family curse. It is left to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to solve the mystery of the legend of the phantom hound before Sir Charles' heir comes to an equally gruesome end." 

If you prefer tension-filled, fast-paced books - the Sherlock Holmes classics are the ones for you. 


10. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy



"Widely considered the greatest novel ever written in any language, War and Peace has as its backdrop Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and at its heart three of the most memorable characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, a quixotic young man in search of spiritual joy; Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, a cynical intellectual transformed by the suffering of war; and the bewitching and impulsive Natasha Rostov, daughter of a count. As they seek fulfillment, fall in love, make mistakes, and become scarred by battle in different ways, these characters and their stories interweave with those of a huge cast, from aristocrats to peasants, from soldiers to Napoleon himself."

The only way to describe this book is epic. In size, in subject matter, in emotional depth...it's truly unbeatable. 

Obviously there is much debate to be had about which classics deserve to be named the best of all time, but the ten listed above are some of the most popular choices seen recurring across top book lists. Have you read any of them? Will you be adding any to your TBR?



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