Lists, Reviews

Reading the Classics: A Top Ten List

Classics have gotten a bit of a bad reputation (feel free to hum “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation…”). They are often referred to as boring, stuffy, and hard to understand. This can be true, for me it’s  books like Ulysses and Moby Dick. The first I find hard to understand (still superior to my experience reading Pynchon) and the second I find to be quite possibly the best sleep aid I’ve ever used.  So without further rambling on my part, here are ten classics that I would recommend (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish).

Classics 2

10. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. But only the one narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. Obviously.

09. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Boarding schools, I always wanted to go to one.

08. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole. Every time someone I like tells me they hate this book, I will admit to pausing and thinking “…and how are we friends?”.

07. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This is, far and away, my favorite classic. I don’t even know how many times I’ve listed this one, I’m sure I’d be embarrassed if I knew.

06. The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. Whoever says classics are boring hasn’t read The Monk. This has everything, and I mean every single thing.

05. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. Scandal in small town New Hampshire. Writing this book ruined the author’s life, but it’s quite a fun read. This one really stretches the limit of the term ‘classic’, but I do have a soft spot for New Hampshire.

04. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The classic science gone awry story.

03. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Everyone goes on (and on, if you consider school curriculum) about 1984 and Brave New World, I feel like We should get a little acknowledgement too.

02. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I feel like The Grapes of Wrath gets all the glory, but East of Eden is a more enjoyable book from my perspective.

01. Sanctuary by William Faulkner. You’ll never look at a corncob the same again. Promise.

What classics do you recommend?

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  • Lianne @

    I totally agree re: We! I only got around to it recently myself but it’s definitely up there with 1984 and Brave New World as a novel to check out, read, etc. 🙂

    My TTT

    • Rory

      I feel like everyone knows about 1984 and Brave New World, but no one has heard of We. I’m glad you agree.

  • Melody

    Great list! I enjoyed The Grapes of Wrath and look forward to reading East of Eden someday soon!

    • Rory

      I’d be curious to know which one you prefer of the two when you get around to reading East of Eden. Good luck.

  • Alison Doherty

    Yay for Frankenstein being on the list. Now that I’ve been reminded of that book I think it might be in time for a reread, which I never thought I’d say (I had to read it and write papers about it for 5 different classes throughout my four years in college).

    • Rory

      It was a popular one for me too!

  • Alice

    Benedict Cumberbatch has narrated Metamorphosis? I must hear this. I loved reading the book.

    Lots of good choices here Rory!

    • Rory

      Thank you.

      And he did an audiobook version and it was lovely.

  • Sandra

    Finally someone who put A Confederacy of Dunces on a list. This classic isn’t hard to understand. Ignatius, probably the quirkiest character you can meet, shows us the decline of society in an outrageously funny way. This book doesn’t get enough attention.

    • Rory

      I completely agree, it’s hilarious and too many people have already forgotten about it.

  • Melinda @ The Book Musings

    Good list! I already have Jane Eyre on my kindle, should really read it. My favourite classic is The Count of Monte Cristo – I’d really recommend it.

    • Rory

      You definitely should. It’s a must read (I really do think it’s the best).

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I’ve only read The Metamorphosis from this list, but I really liked it. I’m going to have to track down the Benedict Cumberbatch audio because !!!!!!!!!!

    • Rory

      Right? YES.

  • Marisa @ The Daily Dosage

    Great recs! I really enjoyed East of Eden and Jane Eyre is in the top on my favorite classics too. I will have to try A Confederacy of Dunces and see if we are still friends ;).

    • Rory

      It’ll be a good test – it’s hilarious.

  • Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    I’m not a huge reader of Classics. I think High School burned me out. But I would ideally like to read Frankenstein some day!

    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    • Rory

      I think Frankenstein is a good one to start with.

  • Acid Free Pulp

    Great list! I’ve often said that about Sanctuary. I think that sometimes classics get a bad wrap is because teenagers are forced to slog through them before the works can be appreciated (re: Moby-Dick). In recent years, I’ve seen We edge its way forward. Some other favorite classics: Villette, The Woman in White, A Modest Proposal. I often recommend Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke as a foolproof sleep aid.

    • Rory

      I think Sanctuary is by far his most accessible work and usually the book I recommend to get started.

      I will keep that in mind regarding Reflection on the Revolution in France. Even the title sounds promising…

  • Caitie F

    How did I forget The Monk on my adult list? It is one of my absolute favorites! It might be that it is just so good I forget it is a classic…

    • Rory

      It has a little bit of everything in it. It’s a fun one.

  • Priscilla

    I don’t *hate* A Confederacy of Dunces, but I do think of it as The Novel that Should Have Been a Short Story. I like seeing Peyton Place on your list! That book is more pivotal than people think…

    I still can’t believe I haven’t read A Separate Peace. I should remedy that sooner rather than later.

    • Rory

      Peyton Place really is, I think it’s get written off far more than it should.

      A Separate Peace is worth a read, it’s fairly short too.

  • Sue

    Eek. You know you’re old when you remember the first release of two of the books on a “classics” list…

    • Rory

      Haha, classics are loosely defined her – more for impact than age. 🙂

  • Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    Yes ONLY the one narrated by Benedict is allowed. Oh surprise, surprise. Jane Eyre. hahaha The Monk needs a place on my TBR for sure. I really need to read some Faulkner. And some Steinbeck. And We sounds phenomenal and considering my love for dystopian fiction this really needs to get read.

    • Rory

      Benedict is what makes that worth a read.

      Jane Eyre. I’m sure you experienced shock and awe at that inclusions. The Monk is a must for the sheer ridiculous nature of that book and Faulkner is a *should* read, but I think you’ll survive just fine if you don’t.

  • Kerri

    Never read Peyton Place, though I did take it out of the library once, but it was a VERY old copy that I don’t think had been opened in about 40 years. Made me sneeze every time I went near it, so I retuned it unread. I will need to get a newer version, also looking to read East of Eden this summer.

    • Rory

      Peyton Place was quite scandalous for its time. It’s pretty fun when you think about the scandal it caused.

  • Andi @ Estella’s Revenge

    Great choices! I’m reading East of Eden this month (started today!) for book club, so I’m glad to see it on your list.

    • Rory

      East of Eden is such a great read, I hope you enjoy it!

  • Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf

    I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t realize Peyton Place was a book. I really like the old movie, though! 🙂 Great list.

    • Rory

      Meh, with that one, the movie is just fine! 🙂

      (It’s “important”, but by no means pivotal)

  • Laura

    Jane Eyre should be on all the lists. I’ve never heard of “We” but I’ll have to give it a shot!

    • Rory

      Yes! Every single one…

  • Naomi

    I have to admit that there are a three books on your list that I have never even heard of. I can’t wait to look them up! Jane Eyre is one of the best, for sure, and I have loved everything by Steinbeck that I have read (almost all). Very curious about The Monk and We. Great list!

    • Rory

      The Monk is totally worth a read, just to find out how much an author can pack in to one book.

  • AMB (@Koiviolet)

    This is a great list! Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics too. My husband (who just finished reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion) is now experiencing Jane Eyre for the first time. So far, he’s really enjoying it.

    • Rory

      Ooh, smart man! I’m a little envious. 🙂

  • Sarah Says Read

    Oh East of Eden, that was a great book. WAY better than The Grapes of Wrath.

    • Rory

      So much better! Part of it is that I was forced to read The Grapes of Wrath and analyze it to death, I just enjoyed East of Eden.

  • Christine @ BookishlyB

    There are people that don’t like Confederacy? Really?

    • Rory

      Yep, even in the comments above (and below). It’s a mad world.

  • Words for Worms

    Dude, I hated Confederacy of Dunces. Luckily, we’ll always have Jane Eyre.

    • Rory

      Katie! How could you?

      But yes, Jane Eyre is a better litmus test anyway.

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