Discover the nine essential classic books that we think everyone should read.
Reading the classics is often a lifelong goal for avid readers, but it’s easier said than done. It can be tricky to know where to begin when there are so many fantastic classic books out there. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of our essential classic books for those who want to expand their literary canon.
Why not take the time to delve into Jane Austen’s romantic portrayal of nineteenth-century England or escape to a frightening dystopia where aliens are landing on Earth? The following list of classics features some of the most remarkable stories in literary history.
“There is no Frigate like a Book, To take us Lands away”Emily Dickinson
- Emma by Jane Austen
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
- The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- Dubliners by James Joyce
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Kicking off our list of essential classic books is the hilarious regency-period novel Emma. This beautifully written fan-favourite from Jane Austen is full of whimsical Victorian romance. Set in the fictional country village of Highbury and its surrounding estates, the story follows a young lady, Emma Woodhouse, as she meddles in the lives of those around her. Austen explores the concerns of social status and expectations of women living in Victorian England at the time. Full of irony and biting wit, this comedy of manners is not to be missed.
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.Jane Austen – Emma
This short novel by Jack London is a story of survival, heroism, and adventure. The Call of the Wild is told through the eyes of its central character, Buck. It follows his journey as a working dog in the Yukon amidst the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s.
A domesticated and spoilt pet, Buck must deal with the harsh realities of his new life, drawing on his primal instincts to help him through, along with his ingrained sense of loyalty and love. A book adored the world over, it’s been a must-read since the moment of its original publication.
Jane Eyre is one of the most famous romance novels of all time. This classic book chronicles the life of its main character Jane, through her growth into adulthood and love for the brooding Mr Rochester.
Written by the eldest sister in the world-famous literary trio, Charlotte Brontë, the novel questions the status quo and traditionalist ideas. With a narrative full of biting wit and social commentary, you’ll struggle not to get sucked into the Brontë’s world. Our edition also includes introductory essays by G. K. Chesterton and Virginia Woolf.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre
Told from the perspective of a young horse as he grows up, this classic children’s novel follows the turbulent life of Beauty as he is passed from hand to hand. Apart from being an incredible story, Black Beauty also spurred positive action in animal welfare after highlighting the poor treatment of horses to the public.
Anna Sewell’s classic story of a working horse appealed to both old and young through the themes of friendship and respect. Published only five months before the author’s death, it is one of the highest best-selling books of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
Earth vs Mars. This is an extraterrestrial race for world domination. Need we say more?
From our H. G. Wells Library, The War of The Worlds is a science-fiction masterpiece that has inspired various films, television shows, radio broadcasts, comics, and so on. Memorably dramatised on a 1938 radio programme, the adaptation sparked public panic among the listeners who believed aliens were really invading.
This famous volume by H. G. Wells has everything you could want from a sci-fi novel, and couldn’t be missed off our list of essential classic books.
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.H. G. Wells – The War of The Worlds
Possibly one of the most famous vampire stories of all time, this gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker paved the way for the Vampire Fantasy genre we know today. Since its publication, Dracula has been the inspiration for countless films, books, and television shows.
The story follows a British solicitor named Jonathon Harker as he travels to Transylvania to oversee the sale of a castle. There he meets the devious and bloodthirsty vampire Count Dracula and learns of his diabolical plans.
Telling the beloved story of the March sisters, Little Women is a coming-of-age novel following the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Chronicling their journey from childhood to adulthood, these four young women are all determined to live on their own terms.
The book is loosely based on the life of the author, Louisa May Alcott, and her three sisters. Since it was published in 1868, this classic book has been a prevalent masterpiece, inspiring countless adaptations. Alcott followed the beloved story with two sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”Louisa May Alcott – Little Women
Dubliners is a classic collection of 15 short stories by Irish novelist James Joyce. Noted for his experimental language, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.
These stories offer glimpses into the lives of the Irish middle-class, reflecting on life in Ireland at the turn of the century. Initially published in 1914, Dubliners follows ordinary people and the trials and tribulations of their everyday lives.
A guaranteed ticket back in time to Victorian England, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is another iconic piece of classic literature that completes this list of essential classic books.
It chronicles the life of a young man named Pip, living as an orphan in Victorian London, who dares to dream of becoming a gentleman. Featuring a colourful cast of characters, including the reputable Miss Havisham, this is a compelling story with themes of wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and triumph over evil.
“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
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