September means school, football, and the promise of cooler temperatures. And even though here in Georgia we’ve been back in school for almost a month, in many places the school year is just beginning. That’s why the September theme for our reading challenge this year is “Back to School.” In honor of the kids everywhere who are fighting through required reading, here are ten classic books that might just surprise you!
- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
- Even though I tried to pick books for this list that I’d never written about before during our 2018 challenge, some classics are just too good to miss. If you’ve never read Jane Eyre, it’s one of those. The more I learn about this classic, the more I realize how many themes of temptation, sacrifice, and love Bronte was able to include in her most famous novel.
- Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
- This American classic has all the intensity and grittiness of one of today’s top crime dramas. If you’re a fan of the murder mystery, you’ll like Capote’s vivid descriptions paired with a detailed, journalistic style.
- Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
- Considered by many to be the first detective novel, this 1868 novel will keep you guessing! It’s written in letter form and involves the theft of a valuable diamond with questionable origins.
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
- This classic might just be one you struggled through in high school or college, but it’s worth a second look. Technically a novella, it only has four chapters. Don’t let the length lead you to believe this book is shallow or inconsequential. Far from it! This book is my favorite showcase of an unreliable narrator, so question everything Marlow tells you!
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
- This book has long been on my “re-read” list, but I haven’t had time. It’s by far one of the shortest and most accessible Russian novels, and Dostoyevsky’s views of faith and religion play a huge part. Just be prepared for the format of this novel–part one is the crime, and parts two through eight are the punishment.
- Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles
- My first encounter with this book was in the pages of another book. I think (and I could be wrong on this, because I can’t find evidence online to back me up) that Tess is one of the books Holden Caulfield gripes about in Catcher in the Rye. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed Tess and the questions Hardy raises much more than Catcher in the Rye. This story, which Hardy subtitled “A Pure Woman, Faithfully Presented,” will make you think long after you close the book.
- Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
- If you’re feeling exceptionally busy this Fall and decide it’s time to pretend like you’re loafing around Spain with a bunch of ex-pats–read this book. Not much happens other than that, but Hemingway’s writing style is, well, Hemingway’s!
- Arthur Miller, The Crucible
- This play by Arthur Miller is set during the Salem witch trials, and would probably be a great Halloween read. Even though it’s about the Puritan days, I think there’s a lot in The Crucible that could apply to us in 2018.
- Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
- I’d recommend this classic for fans of Downton Abbey or other British dramas. Charles Ryder, the main character, falls in with a family of aristocrats at Oxford, and the relationships that ensue are the main source of conflict and drama in the novel. Also, I think it’s helpful to know that the author, Evelyn Waugh’s, first wife’s name was also Evelyn, so their friends called them He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn. #relationshipgoals.
- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Last on this list is Wilde’s strange novel about a man whose life devolves into sin and corruption. His sins don’t change him physically, although strange things do start happening to a fantastic portrait of him. This one reminds me thematically of The Scarlet Letter–what happens to us when we sin, and what are the personal and public repercussions? Plus, with Oscar Wilde’s signature style, this read is fascinating!
Which of these ten have you read? Which will you be adding to your list for September? I’d love to know! I’m also always on the hunt for good classics to read, so share those with me, too.