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50 Classics Everyone Should Read

Deborah Maclaren

By Deborah Maclaren on 6th May 2020

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?

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.

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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.

ebook of the month
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.

ebook of the month
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.

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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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