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50 Classics Everyone Should Read

We could talk all day about what constitutes a classic book. My list would be different to your list and we could debate the virtues of our choices ‘til we’re blue in the face!

The definition of a classic book is a long and hotly debated topic. All exemplary, all noteworthy, but as we discussed in a recent blog on our sister site LoveReading4Kids when we debated the top 50 classics every child (and adult) should read, there are some tenets that the classics all have in common.

In classic literature, a work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written and it merits lasting recognition, one that deserves re-reading five times, and picking up again five years even 100 years after its publication. They are a treasured experience, they are books which exercise a particular influence when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable. They don’t elicit indifference, they polarise opinion. In other words, in this interpretation, a recently-published book is not a classic. While the term "modern classic" may apply to books written after World War II, they need longevity to achieve the designation of a simple "classic."

Here at LoveReading we present our list of classic books, all published before 1950. 

We start with the collection of stories told by 24 fictional pilgrims in a story-telling competition in the incredible Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, hailing from 1476! With one book from the 1700s, an amazing 29 from the 1800s, we selected the remaining 19 from the 20th century and finish the list in 1950.

It is an incredible list of stunning classics, all of which we adore here at LoveReading. What’s your favourite, how many have you read…and what will you be reading or re-reading next?

The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales

Author: Geoffrey Chaucer Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/10/2019

I haven't read all 24 stories from The Canterbury Tales, however I did study a number at A Level, and all these years later they are still with me. I initially marched over the words, puzzled the meaning, took the structure apart, but, but… Then the moment arrived when it all became clear! I actually saw five of the tales performed in a play using traditional language and a vivid, vibrant clarity appeared and gave meaning. From then on I would read the stories out loud and I could understand the pattern, the feel, the thoughts, the greed, corruption and saucy moments. These are wondrous tales, let yourself fall into them as they come to life in a way that could well open your eyes, they certainly opened mine.  Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Moll Flanders

Moll Flanders

Author: Daniel Defoe Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/11/2019

Not necessarily an easy read, but a fascinating, sad and rather tragic story. Written as Moll Flander's autobiography, it was originally published anonymously with Dafoe only being linked to the novel after his death. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/09/1995

  September 2009 Good Housekeeping selection.   On My Bookshelf by Penny Smith... This wasn’t a set text for us at school, but I read it anyway and it got me into the classics big time. I had such vivid pictures of all the characters and places. Sadly, every adaptation, including the fantastic one with Colin Firth, was never a patch on my image of what they all looked like and were like. Plus I just love a love story…   GMTV presenter Penny Smith is passionate about books and is now a novelist herself; her latest fiction, After The Break, is published by Harper Perennial. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Emma

Emma

Author: Jane Austen Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/12/2018

While Pride and Prejudice may sit at the top of many people’s favourite Jane Austen books, Emma has to be a contender for the title too. For me Emma has a little more bite, it isn’t quite as comfortable a read as Pride and Prejudice, and that makes it more interesting. In terms of lead characters Emma is right up there, she may be headstrong, snobbish, convinced she knows best, yet because of those characteristics, because she isn't perfect, she also feels so very real. Emma is a bright, beautifully written novel with real heart and I love it. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Persuasion

Persuasion

Author: Jane Austen Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/03/2003

May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on Persuasion... I love Jane Austen with a deep and enduring passion, and I think the story of Anne Elliott’s second chance is possibly my favourite.  The way that she revives as a character like a flower soaking up water is quite miraculous.  It is also has a plot of clockwork perfection.  I read this book at least once a year and I always find something new to marvel at.   The Lovereading view... Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities. In her introduction, Gillian Beer discusses Austen's portrayal of the double-edged nature of persuasion and the clash between old and new worlds. This edition also includes a new chronology and full textual notes. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Author: Mary Shelley Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/10/2018

In an age of gene splicing, stem cell research and Computer Artificial Intelligence, Mary Shelley’s dark gothic tale contains a stark warning message for us all in this modern age. The novel is as much about the struggle that Dr Frankenstein’s creature has with what it means to be human as it does about the creation of life itself. The key takeaway for the reader is just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Last of the Mohicans

The Last of the Mohicans

Author: James Fenimore Cooper Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/07/2019

If you have watched the film, then forget all you know! For me, the film came first, then I read the book and the two are as different as different could be. This is actually the second book in the Leatherstocking Tales written by Cooper. Just one piece of advice, remember that The Last of the Mohicans was written in 1826, and set some 75 years before that, so there are parts that will likely make you squirm. This is a trip into the past and all that goes with the mindset of those times. Having said that, I find this book endlessly fascinating and yes, I would recommend it. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.  

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Author: Charles Dickens Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/12/2009

This edition of The Christmas Carol is one of a range of marvellous comic books created in the '50s and '60s now with artwork re-coloured and covers digitally enhanced for a new generation. Perfect bound at a terrifically good value price.   A message from the publisher: We're delighted to re-introduce these marvellous comic books to new generations of readers who will surely enjoy them as fantastic tales of adventure and excitement but will also improve their reading skills as a result and be inspired to read the complete versions of many of these fine works.  I sincerely hope that you enjoy these superb adaptations and are similarly inspired as I was, nearly 50 years ago - Jeff Brooks, CEO, Classic Comic Store Ltd Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

Author: Alexandre Dumas, Alexandre Dumas Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/03/2003

So incredibly entertaining, this is a novel I can read again and again. Discover adventure, betrayal, revenge and love between the pages of a drama filled belter of a read. Yes, I love this book, and it is one of my favourite classic reads. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Author: Charlotte Brontë Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/06/2006

One of Jeanette Winterson's favourite books. April 2010 Good Housekeeping selection. On My Bookshelf by Hilary Mantel... ‘I read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when I was very young and cared less about the love story than about the secret of the woman in the attic. It’s what a story should be – gripping, but have psychological truth and depth. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

November 2012 Guest Editor Kate Mosse on Wuthering Heights... Powerful and elegiac, a novel of drama, passion and compelling characterisation. Most exceptional of all, though, the brilliance of Bronte’s descriptions of landscape and light on the Yorkshire Moors has had a major influence on my writing about southwest France.   One of Clare Balding's favourite books. Chosen by the public through a survey to coincide with the 10th birthday celebrations of World Book Day 2007, this title is one of ‘the ten books the nation can’t live without’. Have you read them all? Below are links to each title and position on the list. 1. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen 2. The Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien 3. Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë 4. Harry Potter JK Rowling 5. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 6. The Bible 7. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë 8. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell 9. His Dark Materials Philip Pullman10. Great Expectations Charles Dickens Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray, John Carey Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

If you know Vanity Fair then the name Becky Sharp will immediately conjure images of a ruthless, immoral, and selfish social climber, and one of literatures most fascinating characters. At the time she was one of the first female leads and for her to be so ambitious and manipulative, well! Thackeray wrote a novel with flawed characters, cutting social commentary, along with the reality of being human and existing in a not so perfect world. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

David Copperfield - Compact Editions

David Copperfield - Compact Editions

Author: Charles Dickens Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/05/2007

David Copperfield runs away from home to stay with his Aunt Betsey and turn his life around, which he does, while facing many challenges along the way. In this Compact Edition cuts have been made to overlong passages of description and dialogue and some scenes or incidents with minor characters have been reduced but all the memorable eccentrics have been kept. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Moby-Dick or, The Whale

Moby-Dick or, The Whale

Author: Herman Melville Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/02/2003

One of Giles Coren's favourite books. A swashbuckling adventure story of seemingly epic proportions. The plot follows a half-crazed sea captain who seeks bitter revenge on a white whale who previously deprived him of his legs. Extraordinary details of ships, whale anatomy, and the nature of man make this novel intense and deeply fascinating. The first line of Moby Dick, ‘Call me Ishmael,’ has been described as one of the most immortal openings to any book in literary history. A must read classic. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Uncle Tom's Cabin Or, Life Among the Lowly

Uncle Tom's Cabin Or, Life Among the Lowly

Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ann Douglas Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/09/1981

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first serialised in an anti-slavery periodocial. By popular demand Harriet Beacher Stowe released it as a novel and it almost immediately sold out. The book describes the journey Uncle Tom takes from being a slave on a Kentucky farm takes to his death on the orders of the vicious plantation owner Simon Legree. His humanity, dignity and Christian faith shines through even in the worst adversity. The novel had a profound effect on attitudes to slavery and was cited by Abraham Lincoln as a strong motivation for the Amercian Civil War. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

North and South

North and South

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/01/1996

If you adore Pride and Prejudice then stop right here. A particular favourite of mine, North and South is so much more than a love story. Delving into the differences between different social classes, the industrial heartlands and pleasant peaceful countryside, it has real heart and soul.  Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Woman in White

The Woman in White

Author: Wilkie Collins Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/02/2003

March 2011 Guest Editor Robert Goddard on The Woman in White... There’s just such a lot to enjoy and admire in this ground-breaking work of mystery and suspense. It was one of my inspirations for trying my hand at novel-writing in the first place. When The Woman in White was published in 1860, it was an instant success. No-one else had ever dared to cram quite so much intrigue into a plot, not least because it’s an extremely difficult thing to do. But Collins brushes the difficulty aside, throws in memorable characters and carries the whole thing off with the aplomb of the master he was. Genius! __________________________________________ Turn mobile detective with the hidden object puzzler. Developed by Freeze Tag Inc. Woman in White has been adapted from Wilkie Collins’ 19th century novel and is available to download now from the App Store, priced £0.69 for iPhone®/iPod® touch and £1.99 for iPad® HD.  Just click the button below. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Author: Charles Dickens Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/11/2002

One of Sir Trevor McDonald's favourite books. This definitive edition uses the text from the first published edition of 1861. It includes a map of Kent in the early nineteenth century, and appendices on Dickens’s original ending and his working notes, giving readers an illuminating glimpse into the mind of a great novelist at work. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Author: Victor Hugo, Norman Denny Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/03/1982

I first saw the musical, then read the book, and let me just put this out there, Les Miserables is long, and even with a relatively simple plot, not a particularly easy read. Having said that, I am glad that I read it, but am going to whisper this... I prefer the musical (and now I’m ducking). Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

War and Peace

War and Peace

Author: Leo Tolstoy Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2016

It's 1805 and St Petersburg, Russia is overwhelmed by terror and uncertainty as Napoleon marches on the country and war breaks out.  Focusing on three characters whose lives are transformed, War and Peace is about people trying to find their place in a world completely changed by war, social, political and spiritual upheaval. Timeless themes that resonate today while also offering an insight into a moment in history. A fantastic classic recommended by us. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/02/2014

Initiated by a savage act, this is a powerful story of doom versus redemption. Although first published in 1866 in Russian, this is the original very dark tale of rebellious youth Rodion Raskolnikov stepping over lines and blurring morality in the name of higher purpose. It's a seminal piece of work whose themes are as relevant today as they were then, as you follow the journal of such a complex character. Highly recommended and an absolute  must on the list of classics. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Around the World in Eighty Days

Around the World in Eighty Days

Author: Jules Verne Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/06/2018

The novel was written in the 1870’s when newspapers were full of stories about the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the USA, the opening of the Suez Canal and the ability to cross India by rail. Phileas Fogg having seen this news has a bet with the members of his club that he can travel around the world in 80 daysand sets off with his valet Passepartout from London on a rainy day. A fast moving adventure that is still relevant to today’s traveller. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Far from the Madding Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd

Author: Thomas Hardy, Rosemarie Morgan Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/02/2003

June 2014 Guest Editor Freya North on Thomas Hardy... For me, no other writer so definitively captures both the beauty and challenges of Britain - its landscape, weather, village life versus city life and of course the class system.  But most of all I love the way that landscape is not merely a backdrop in Hardy's writing, but a leading character in it – something that has become a crucial element of my own writing.  I love the paintings of Millet – the unpatronizing dignity he imbued his scenes of rustic life.  This is so true of Hardy too and nowhere is this more compelling than in Tess of the D’Urbervilles - one of my all time favourite books. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

Author: Leo Tolstoy Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

  January 2010 Good Housekeeping selection.   On My Bookshelf by Wendy Holden... Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is the best in its class – I am a novelist, but for my money the writers of the19th century set the bar for the whole genre. The reason I love it isn’t so much the tragic Anna with ghastly Vronsky, but because of Princess Kitty and Levin. He’s cracked and she’s a bit cosy, but their love affair is just so transportingly romantic. The description of when they meet at the frozen pond, where she is skating and he can’t even look at her because he feels it would be like looking at the sun, gets me every time. It’s because of these two lovers that I’ve never understood the fuss about Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now

Author: Anthony Trollope, Peter Merchant Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/06/1995

Not recognised as a masterpiece until years after Anthony Trollope's death (perhaps it made people flinch a little too much), The Way We Live Now is just as current and relevant as it was when it was written. Corruption, social climbing, and scandal is as prevalent today as it has always been and the main character Melmotte is truly wonderful, because he is so very dreadful. A book to make you smirk, wince, and nod. There are surely some well known people alive today that would easily step between the pages and feel right at home.  Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.  

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/02/2003

The ultimate story of good versus evil although the twist being both these elements are fighting it out within one man. A wonderful novella that many have never read, thinking they know the story from film adaptations, but Stevenson's language and character analysis go way beyond what any film could portray and make this a timeless classic. Brilliant.   January 2010 Guest Editor Diana Gabaldon on ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON One of the earliest and best of the romance writers—back when "romance" meant adventure and excitement, escape from daily life. Treasure Island?  Kidnapped?  The Master of Ballantrae?  The titles alone are enough to transport you, but the clean prose and vivid characters bring you back again and again. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Middlemarch

Middlemarch

Author: George Eliot, Rosemary Ashton Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

Meet the residents of Middlemarch and view human nature as a number of relationships unfold. George Eliot set her novel some 40 years before it was written, and her overview of the times ensures a full-bodied novel with political and social commentary. She allows us to see flaws, she opens up the reality and frailty of human emotions and yet I don’t feel as though she makes judgement which makes this such a wonderful novel to sink into and experience. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Author: Thomas Hardy, Margaret R. Higonnet Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

June 2014 Guest Editor Freya North on Thomas Hardy... For me, no other writer so definitively captures both the beauty and challenges of Britain - its landscape, weather, village life versus city life and of course the class system.  But most of all I love the way that landscape is not merely a backdrop in Hardy's writing, but a leading character in it – something that has become a crucial element of my own writing.  I love the paintings of Millet – the unpatronizing dignity he imbued his scenes of rustic life.  This is so true of Hardy too and nowhere is this more compelling than in Tess of the D’Urbervilles - one of my all time favourite books. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Diary of a Nobody

The Diary of a Nobody

Author: George Grossmith, Weedon Grossmith, Ed Glinert Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/08/1999

The Diary of a Nobody is a comic tale of the ever optimistic and well meaning Mr Pooter, his long suffering wife Carrie, their feckless son Willie and their intimate friends the Cummings and Gowings. Written in the style of a diary Mr Pootle says: “Why should I not publish my diary?  I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see—because I do not happen to be a ‘Somebody’—why my diary should not be interesting.” The humour is about the small things in life, misplaced umbrellas, truculent tradesmen and the all too human desire to better himself and get the recognition that he feels he deserves from society. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Dracula

Dracula

Author: Bram Stoker, Christopher Frayling Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/03/2003

Dracula. Who doesn’t know the name and story of our favourite Count? This is a masterpiece of the horror genre and a book everyone should read. One of the first vampire stories, Bram Stoker here sets the ground rules of what vampires should be. The gripping story opens with Jonathan Harker visiting Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, and making horrifying discoveries in his client's castle. His diary entries are increasingly filled with dread and fear as we accompany him in his hell. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Van Helsing. A highly recommended gothic classic. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Kim

Kim

Author: Rudyard Kipling Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/02/2010

One of the most beautiful tales of friendship I have ever read, Kim is often described as Kipling’s love letter to India. At its centre is Kim, a young white boy, an orphan, and his friend and mentor the Tibetan Lama who takes Kim from the streets of Lahore to be educated at a public school in England and on to adventures. Set in an imperialistic world; a world strikingly masculine, dominated by travel, trade and adventure, a world in which there is no question of the division between white and non-white. The book is a celebration of their friendship in a beautiful but often hostile environment and Kim captures the opulence of India's exotic landscape, overlaid by the uneasy presence of the British Raj. This book is just unforgettable. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2001

The terrible spectacle of the beast, the fog of the moor, the discovery of a body: this classic horror story pits detective against dog. The Hound of the Baskervilles gripped readers when it was first serialised and has continued to hold its place in the popular imagination. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

Author: Joseph Conrad Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2007

Written more than a century ago, this absolutely timeless book and its underlying themes hold just as much significance today. Intense and compelling, Heart of Darkness looks into the darkest recesses of human nature and Conrad takes the reader through a horrific tale in a very gripping voice. Conrad’s novella is about a voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State, in the heart of Africa, by the story's narrator Charles Marlow. Marlow tells his story to friends aboard a boat anchored on the River Thames. In little over 100 pages, Conrad explores the darkness in men's hearts as Marlow narrates his travels up the Congo toward his appointment with the steamboat and with fate, in the form of Kurtz, the megalomaniac manager of an ivory trading station. This story is incredibly clever, profound and full of layered descriptions, symbolism and double meanings. It’s a must-read and an absolute certainty for our top 50 classics. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories

The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories

Author: Jack London Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/02/2009

First published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is widely regarded as Jack London's masterpiece. Based on London's experiences as a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and his ideas about nature and the struggle for existence, The Call of the Wild is a tale about unbreakable spirit and the fight for survival in the frozen Alaskan Klondike. It’s the story of Buck, a great dog, a Yukon sled dog. Buck's father was a huge Saint Bernard, and Buck's mother, a huge Scotch shepherd dog. He is shaggy, big of body, strong of muscle and stout of heart. Stolen from a California ranch and taken to live in the far glacier land of the North, he is put in a team of work dogs and made to carry the Yukon mail. It documents his journey and transformation from domesticity as the call of the wild takes him into her clutches. The Call of the Wild is an absorbing and enchanting tale of wild life, brutality, love and friendship from Buck’s point of view. Although shockingly harsh at times, it has moments of unexpected tenderness and I defy anyone not to fall in love with Buck. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

A Room with a View

A Room with a View

Author: E M Forster Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/07/2019

Captivating, stimulating, and written with the lightest and wittiest of touches. E. M. Forster not only transported me to another place, he also opened my eyes to the times and made me smile. I think I quite possibly discovered my love for Italy having read A Room with a View as a teenager. The characters pop with such vivid intensity, and Italy, well I felt as though Italy was performing just for me. A Room with a View is a beautifully entertaining and lovely romance, with just a little bite. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Sons and Lovers

Sons and Lovers

Author: D. H. Lawrence Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/12/2009

Set in Lawrence’s native Nottinghamshire, Sons and Lovers is a highly autobiographical and compelling portrayal of childhood, adolescence and the clash of generations. The marriage of Gertrude and Walter Morel has become a battleground. Repelled by her vulgar, choleric and sometimes violent drinker of a husband, delicate Gertrude devotes her life to her children, especially to her sons, William and Paul - determined they will not follow their father down the coal mines. Conflict is evitable when Paul seeks to escape his mother's suffocating grasp through relationships with women his own age but he is so emotionally bound to his mother that he has a difficult time of it. As Philip Larkin is reported to have written, aged 19 “I have been reading ‘Sons and Lovers’ and feel ready to die. If Lawrence had been killed after writing that book he’d still be England’s greatest novelist.” This book will rekindle your love for classic literature or ignite it for the first time if it hasn’t developed yet. It’s a beautifully tender and engrossing portrayal of familial love, sexual love and romantic love and all of their complexities. I adore it. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Beneath the Heart of the Sea The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex

Beneath the Heart of the Sea The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex

Author: Owen Chase Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2015

First published in 1821 and the inspiration for 'Moby Dick', this is an absolutely fascinating true story, detailing a subject that will make you wince, grimace and wonder. Owen Chase the author, was the First Mate aboard the Whaleship Essex, a ship that was rammed and sank by a whale, leaving 20 men fighting for their lives. Travelling back in time, in language, in livelihoods; this most definitely makes for an uncomfortable read at times. It’s worth having a map by your side, as the distance travelled by the men of the Essex is quite remarkable. This is a tale of ultimate survival that will no doubt leave you wondering what you would do, if left face to mesmerising face with death.  The film adaptation, starring Chris Hemsworth is released in the UK on Saturday 26 December 2015. Click below to view the trailer. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Ulysses

Ulysses

Author: James Joyce Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/03/2000

March 2012 Guest Editor Alan Bradley on Louise Penny... As a young child and early reader, I used to pilfer my older sister’s copy of Ulysses. I didn’t understand the book but I loved the words. More than sixty years later, there are parts of Joyce (notably Finnegans Wake) that I still don’t understand, but I still love the words. I keep both books on my night table. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/02/2000

August 2011 Guest Editor Deborah Lawrenson on F Scott Fitzgerald... F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is so full of exquisite prose it’s like being glutted on champagne and diamonds and fluttering silk. And it’s the contrast between the glittering words, and the lost illusions and tawdry underside of the American Dream in the 1920s that makes this such a poignant read. That and the best closing lines of any novel, ever. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.   One of Giles Coren's favourite books. A classic that captures the mood of the 1920's, the time after the great War when life was for living. Gatsby in pursuing the 'American Dream' finds, with devastating consequences, that money may not be the route to happiness.   November 2009 Guest Editor Katie Agnew on F. SCOTT FITZGERALD Whenever I'm asked what my favourite book of all time is I never hesitate - 'The Great Gatsby'. For me there's no contest. I first read this novel at school and I've re-read it every couple of years since. I'm obsessed with it - Fitzgerald's flawless writing style, his painfully flawed characters, the deliciously decadent Jazz Age setting and, ah, that tragic ending. The story breaks my heart every time but like a moth to the flame, I can't help myself. I love it! I want to be in it! In fact, whenever I need a pseudonym, I use the name Jordan Buchanan, a character from 'The Great Gatsby'. A survey recently named The Great Gatsby as one of the greatest fictional playboys of all time … click to find out more

Brave New World

Brave New World

Author: Aldous Huxley Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/12/2007

Written in 1932, this is an amazing dystopian fiction is set in a futuristic world state where everyone has been conditioned to be content and perform according to a social and intelligence-based hierarchy. In a world where there have been scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning and behaviour conditioning the question is posed through Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson and John, is it better to be manipulated and happy or to be free? A must-read for all science-fiction fans. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm

Author: Stella Gibbons, Lynne Truss Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2020

Playful and ironic, witty and warm-hearted, Stella Gibbons gives us her debut novel and the masterpiece that is Cold Comfort Farm. When sophisticated and educated socialite Flora Poste is orphaned at 19 with little income, she descends upon her relatives the gloomy Starkadders in deepest rural Sussex. A veritable bunch of misfits with melodrama galore, the family is taken under the wing of Flora as she looks to release everyone and everything from the clutches of her Aunt Ada Doom and fix their social, sexual and psychological issues. A brilliantly funny tale. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

Author: Agatha Christie Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/09/2013

Agatha Christie's most famous murder mystery, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind

Author: Margaret Mitchell Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/09/1991

January 2014 Guest Editor Jodi Picoult on Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I memorized huge passages when I was twelve and pretended to be both Rhett and Scarlett (hence I had no boyfriend till I was 15…).  I loved that Margaret Mitchell had created a world out of words, and I wanted to do the same thing.   The LoveReading view... First published in 1936, this book is a historical novel set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War. It tells the love story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.   February 2011 Guest Editor Carmen Reid on Margaret Mitchell... Gone With The Wind must be the grandmammie of romantic novels. Yes it’s over 1000 pages long and you know the story already because you’ve watched the epic film over many a bank holiday. But February strikes me as the perfect month to turn the telly off, go to bed early and wade through this Southern Civil war blockbuster. Tighten your crinoline, practise saying: ‘Oh Ashley!’ And ‘No, no, Rhett!’ And vow to the skies that you will never, ever be poor again! Realise why it’s so terrifically good that Margaret snagged herself a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck, Susan Shillinglaw Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/01/2006

In Of Mice and Men Steinbeck delivers a wonderfully compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. This absolute classic tells of two drifters in search of work, George and his childlike friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream. A vivid story of male friendship built around the dream that one day they will have some land of their own. A vital read and a book for everyone’s shelf. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Rebecca

Rebecca

Author: Daphne du Maurier Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

A 2012 World Book Night selection.“ Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”  is probably one of the most famous first lines from a novel and captures the readers interest immediately. What is Manderley? Why is our narrator dreaming about it? The story is relayed to us by the second Mrs de Winter who is not even given a name throughout the novel, as if to emphasise how insignificant she is compared to her predecessor, Rebecca. This book is haunting, chilling and packed full of intrigue. Who was Rebecca, why did people love her so much, was she good or evil? The narrator is constantly searching for answers to questions that no-one seems to want to answer but the truth that has been hidden for years is about to be revealed. A true classic. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath

Author: John Steinbeck, Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/09/2000

The Joad Family have been cleared off their land by the bank and are forced to hit the long and winding road from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to California in search of a new life. And oh what a journey it is. Joined by a lapsed preacher Jim Casy the road is long, hard and does not let up with adversity after adversity after adversity as the family strive to keep their spirit alive. This book is an absolute classic; after initial negativity it was selling 10,000 copies a week by May 1939, became the year’s best-selling novel and won the Pulitzer. It’s a pure and raw celebration of the working man with an indomitable spirit, and the book inspired a generation of writers and readers right across the world. First class. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Brideshead Revisited : The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Brideshead Revisited : The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Author: Evelyn Waugh Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/04/2011

March 2012 Guest Editor Alan Bradley on Evelyn Waugh... Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and exquisitely beautiful Sebastian Flyte. Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian's magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, aristocratic inhabitants. But he also discovers a world which threatens to destroy his beloved Sebastian. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Lark Rise to Candleford

Lark Rise to Candleford

Author: Flora Thompson Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/05/2000

"The hamlet stood on a gentle rise in the flat, wheat-growing north-east corner of Oxfordshire. We will call it Lark Rise.” And henceforth we were introduced to Flora Thompson's immortal trilogy, containing "Lark Rise", "Over To Candleford" and "Candleford Green". Originally written as three separate novels, together they deliver a heart-warming portrayal of everyday country life in the 1880s and 1890s as told by Laura. This story of three closely related Oxfordshire communities - a hamlet, the nearby village and a small market town - is based on the author's experiences during childhood; a simplicity of life seemingly lost forever. In its beautifully nostalgic way, the story chronicles social attitudes, May Day celebrations, forgotten children's games, the daily lives of farmworkers and craftsmen, tales of friendship and family life - all constructed to make this trilogy an affectionate and evocative memorial to Victorian rural England. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Gormenghast Trilogy

The Gormenghast Trilogy

Author: Mervyn Peake Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/1999

June 2012 Guest Editor Joanne Harris on Gormenghast... Dense, ominous, strange and compelling, Peake’s masterwork defies categorization, and continues to offer new insights and perspectives at every re-reading. The story of a community steeped in ritual, living out of time, it chronicles the birth and coming of age of Titus, Earl of Gormenghast, his struggle for identity in a world of traditions that have long since become meaningless, his fight against his destiny and his eventual confrontation with his arch-rival and nemesis, the twisted, ambitious Steerpike. Books in The Gormenghast Trilogy: 1. Titus Groan 2. Gormenghast 3. Titus Alone Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

1984

1984

Author: George Orwell Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/12/2017

One of the most renowned classics of all time was brought to us by George Orwell in 1949. A compelling, striking nightmarish vision of a dystopian world, this remains one of the most chilling yet favourite books I've ever read and one of the best openings of a book ever: "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen" So much of it has entered our language, becoming an integrated part of our common cultural inheritance, that I'm sure many people don't even realise their beginnings.   It is the year 1984 and the world is divided into three superstates each at war with eachother. Britain is Airstrip One ruled by the Party and led by Big Brother, the symbolic face of totalitarianism. Even love is considered subversive and we follow the story of Winston Smith who works in the Ministry of Truth where his job is to rewrite the past to fit the present. Depicting everyman, Winston begins to subtlely rebel by writing a secret diary, a deadly thought crime in a society where the actions and thoughts of the people are strictly controlled through propaganda, secrecy, constant surveillance, and harsh punishment.  Where will it end? This book will stay with you, and will never be forgotten. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Comments (74)

Aileen H - 25th October 2020

Brilliant selection of books

Tracy B - 25th October 2020

A great list of classics, have read quite a few of them and will be reading some of the ones I haven't read yet

Heather N - 25th October 2020

Great list! Some of my “go to” favs, a couple on my “must get round to reading” list, and a couple I hadn’t considered before.

Georgie W - 25th October 2020

It's a fabulous list. I've enjoyed many on there and plenty of others are on my wish list!

Leah T - 25th October 2020

Ashamed to admit I've never read The Great Gatsby, about time I corrected this error.

Jeanette L - 25th October 2020

Fantastic books definitely some brilliant books amongst these

James D - 25th October 2020

My favourite book growing up was The Catcher In The Rye. This is a great list.

Tracy G - 25th October 2020

I have read a few of these but there are lots that I still need to read.

Stephanie A - 25th October 2020

Love the list of mice and men and 1984 are personal favourites

Michelle P - 24th October 2020

Not read a classic for a very long time, I must keep this list so I can look out for them so I can ead one every now and again! Many thanks

Lauren O - 24th October 2020

What a great collection of books!

Sheri D - 23rd October 2020

I am surprised at how many of these I have read

Andrew W - 23rd October 2020

I'm shocked at myself! I've hardly read any of them!

Jennifer R - 22nd October 2020

Some great classics here, some real favourites and some I've yet to read x

Rebecca K - 22nd October 2020

I'm sorry to say that I haven't actually read any of these books! It has really inspired me to make a start as many of them have been on my 'to read' list for so long :)

Michael O - 22nd October 2020

Just under half but a few I am surprised I have missed.

Debbie H - 22nd October 2020

Murder on the Orient Express is a great favourite. I first read it when I was around 13. I should like to read all the books in this list.

Sonia G - 21st October 2020

What a fantastic list of classics, it definitely inspired me to re-read some of them again.

Maria D - 21st October 2020

I have always wanted to read the hound of the baskervilles

Maria J X - 19th October 2020

Such a great recommended list of books. Read quite a few books from this list and i absoultutely love them.One of my favourites articles. Thank you for recommending a fellow book-worm !

Charlotte C - 19th October 2020

I’ve read 12 so far on the list. One big plus of 2020 is ive made a nice dent in my to read list!

Christine L - 17th October 2020

What a great selection, must try and read more from this list

Richard T - 16th October 2020

Great list!

lynn n - 15th October 2020

I love Pride and Prejudice

Harriet T - 14th October 2020

Would love to have my own personal library one day which would hold all of these books plus many many others ?

DENISE W - 13th October 2020

There are some I have read on there others I would love to read great list thank you

Jenny A - 13th October 2020

I'm pleased to have read a lot of these, but I still have lots to go at.

Lesley S - 13th October 2020

Something for everyone. Some I love some I’m not so keen on, great list, thanks.

Natasha M - 12th October 2020

I have only read just the one of these. But I do have a lot of them on my to read list

Debbie E - 12th October 2020

Looks like a great collection!

Alex M - 12th October 2020

A great range of classics here. I'm trying to reread some during lockdown

Nadia J - 11th October 2020

I am ashamed at how many of these I have yet to read! I am going to do better!

Melanie P - 11th October 2020

I’m ashamed to say that I have only read a couple of these classic books but am now going to read more of them!

Tamsin T - 10th October 2020

I’m glad to see ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ on the list! I relied on the old school Gothic tales for my dissertation, but I would like to read the other classics on the list too.

Karen H - 9th October 2020

Really need to make time to read some classic books

Gaynor V - 7th October 2020

I was looking for Woman in WHite, Wuthering Heights and Ann of Green Gables - tow out of three!

Patricia A - 3rd October 2020

I'm 73 and have been an avid reader since Grandma taught me to read before I started school so I have read and enjoyed the majority of books on this list however I have never heard of one of them so will be looking out for a copy now. Beneath the Heart of the Sea The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex

Suzanne G - 2nd October 2020

I read The Call of the Wild so many times as a teenager! Many books on this list I still need to read - and encourage my teens to. Great list!

Jacqui G - 30th September 2020

Ulysses - I've tried to read this numerous times, roughly every five years, after someone whose book collection I truly admired said I should. I give up after three/four chapters each time, just can't get into it. Pleased to say I've read most of the rest.

Michelle S - 30th September 2020

The collection is amazing there are some lovely books that I would love to read.

Ruth H - 30th September 2020

Vanity Fair and The Count of Monte Cristo are two of my favourite books of all time! However, putting Middlemarch here - I hated that book, I must tell you all. I found it hard to read, and felt like I'd wasted my time. I know we all don't agree what's good and bad, though, so I accept it being here. Great list otherwise xx

Kate B - 28th September 2020

Brilliant books on here - A Room With A View and Dracula are my favourites

Pippa A - 28th September 2020

I'm guilty of not finding the time to read the classics and I have gaps, this is a great starting point for a 'to read' list.

Bridget A - 27th September 2020

I loved reading Of Mice & Men and 1984 at school. I really should read more of the classics

adrian p - 27th September 2020

Embarrassingly ive hardly read any of these

Annabel G - 27th September 2020

These are all such great classics and I would love to have a chance to read them all

Laura P - 27th September 2020

Some great titles in there! Is Vanity Hall going to be included?

tessa p - 26th September 2020

Recently read Jane Austen's Mansfield Park for the first time and would put it above Emma - Fanny Price deserves a place in classic book history!

claire w - 26th September 2020

Good collection. I've only read a few of them.

Sandra L - 26th September 2020

Now that has whetted my appetite for getting out the Golden Oldies and finding a quiet corner to get my head stuck into a good book again!

Clive H - 25th September 2020

Great Selection of Books

Sheena B - 25th September 2020

I have read a fair number of these I do like a classic to dive into

Mary L - 25th September 2020

Good selection. I have read quite a few but some sugfestions I will follow up

Peter W - 25th September 2020

Fabulous list.I would put Ulysses as my no 1.

Yolanda D - 25th September 2020

I'm a huge book fan & have really wanted to try some of these classics, for quite a long time. Theres just so many books & not enough time in the day to read everything I want to. I'm really going to try harder to fit one in.

Karen K - 25th September 2020

My next classic to reread is A Christmas Carol so I can chat to my daughter about it - she is studying it for her GCSE English Lit exams

Hayley B - 25th September 2020

I’ve not reading everything, but agree with a lot of the books, would have liked to see some Virginia Woolf or China Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I’ve added one or two to my list though, because I haven’t read any Russian literature.

Julie T - 25th September 2020

I love this collection - some great books!

Claire T - 25th September 2020

Love this list ! I have read a few but will endeavor to read more !

Stuart W - 25th September 2020

Fantastic selection

claire m - 25th September 2020

You can't beat a Classic from either Dickens, Brontë or Austen. I'm yet to complete reading War and Peace, one day.

Sarah B - 25th September 2020

Great selection! Must check how many I've read.

Marion P - 24th September 2020

Great list of classic books that everyone should make time to read!

Susie W - 24th September 2020

I've read quite a few of them, but some are just too heavy going for me!

Gill W - 24th September 2020

Wow, what a fab collection of Classics. Makes me want to start reading them all over again.

Lisa R - 24th September 2020

A Room With A View is my favourite, and I've read 36 of them. I think there's a good mix of classics on here, although I'd love to have seen I capture The Castle by Dodie Smith make it on there. I'll be re-reading Murder on the Orient Express next.

Ben M - 24th September 2020

It is my aim to read more classics, and this list is a great start. Thank you!

Juliet D - 24th September 2020

Very few I haven’t read there - had some brilliant teachers at school who got us reading the good stuff!

Michelle L - 24th September 2020

I’m shocked to learn that I have read quite a few in the list. Yippie lol

Susan B - 24th September 2020

I love your lists. Thank you! I was slightly put off reading classics at school but have promised myself to dive in again, especially as the range of what is considered a classic is now much wider.

Andrea H - 24th September 2020

Ashamed at just how few I've read! Will keep the list to check out some titles over the coming year.

Film 1 - 27th July 2020

Thank you for sharing this list of classic books. Classic is always good to read.

JENNIFER N - 23rd May 2020

LEWIS GRASSIC GIBBON: A SCOTS QUAIR. This trilogy had a profound impact on me when I read it as a teenager

Vicki L - 23rd May 2020

Would love to read them all

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