Three incredible classics for you to give a look
Republished from Barkley’s Book Recs, March 3, 2023.
What crosses your mind when someone says the word “classics”? For me, it’s books like Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre and Moby Dick. The classics are the books you hear about all the time, that you probably read in school at least once and that your parents or grandparents probably have on their bookshelf or somewhere in their house. They’re classics for a reason, though. They have stood the test of time, and they are ridiculously good.
It’s hard for me to pick my top three books or series every post, but picking my top three classics was especially so. I am a sucker for a good classic, and that made it a struggle to pick three for this post. There are so many amazing ones it’s hard to narrow it down, so I have arrived at not necessarily a “top three” but a “I-had-many-tied-for-top-three-so-I-randomly-picked-these.” With that said, I hope you enjoy this look at some of my favorite classics!
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I say this very nicely, but if you have never even heard of Pride and Prejudice, I quite honestly do not know where you have been since… at least 2005. That year was when the Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen movie was released and very quickly exploded in popularity. I firmly believe that the best televised version of this classic is the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, but I do love the 2005 movie as well. However, not only is this post about books, but I also firmly believe that the book is the best version of the story.
Jane Austen begins the book with one of the most well-known lines in literary history: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The book continues to get better from there. (If you don’t know what the book is about, follow this link for a synopsis.)
Pride and Prejudice is the original enemies-to-lovers, basically the first (and in my opinion one of the best) of this beloved trope. Austen creates wonderful characters, full of life and humor. The book is full of witty banter, timeless quotes (“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Or “My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” And many others.) and relatable moments (“She was convinced that she could have been happy with him, when it was no longer likely they should meet.”).
The only problem I have with the amazing Miss Austen is that she creates such wonderful fictional men. At least half of the Bookstagram and Booktok community is wondering where their Mr. Darcy is, and wondering why other men don’t measure up. So read the book at your own risk…
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
My copy of this book was published in 1912. It was published on thick paper that has now slightly browned with age. It was published on a printing press, and you can feel the indentations of the typeset letters when you run your fingers down the pages. It has a thick, embossed cover that is slightly fraying at the spine. It smells of old ink and old paper. It is well-loved and cherished – it has been for years. I have read it at least 10 times.
The amount of love I have for this book is hard to put into words. There is the appeal of it being a classic tale, yes, but there is more beyond that. Cooper is one of the best storytellers I have ever read, and he writes of a world that does not exist today. But to him, it did, and he does such a masterful job of conveying it through his words that you are utterly transported. The America that Hawkeye, Chingachgook, Uncas and later Major Duncan Hayward, David, Cora and Alice Munro move through and live in is nothing like the America of today. It is wild and untamed and breathtakingly, spellbindingly beautiful.
But The Last of the Mohicans is more than just a trip through a beautiful world. It is action-packed, near nonstop twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat as you read. It is a tale of courage, of harrowing escapes. It is a tale of war, of rescue, of sorrow, of love both familial and romantic. It is packed with emotion and adventure, and I guarantee that whether you are a guy or a girl, you will most likely end up loving this book.
As a bonus, if you read this incredible book and like it, it is a part of a series. James Fenimore Cooper wrote a five-book series that he called The Leatherstocking Tales, which follow Hawkeye through many adventures. The Last of the Mohicans is the second in the series, and if you enjoy it then I highly recommend reading the rest of the series!
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
This is a slightly “newer” classic, having been published in 1967, whereas the other two I’ve talked about have been from the early 1800s. But being newer does not mean it is any less good. This book is a common middle or high school read, and it consistently proves itself a classic through how much it is read and how often it is enjoyed by those who read it. As a young author, I love that S.E. Hinton published this book when she was only 18… and now there are over eight million copies of this book in print.
There are a lot of things to love about this book: the story, the way Hinton writes about class struggles, the world she creates for her characters and much more, but my favorite part about the book is the characters themselves. The book is “written” by Ponyboy Curtis as his school project. Ponyboy – and his older brothers and best friends – are Greasers, the “rough” kids who live on the other side of the tracks and are nothing compared to the rich and well-off Socs. Yet you cannot help but love Ponyboy and his friends and family (even when they occasionally do things that make you want to smack them…). They’re there, they’re fighting, they love each other and would do anything for one another. They’re real.
This is ride-or-die, always-got-your-back found family at its best. This is found family before it was really a thing. It’s the kind of relationships we long for – the ones that will have your back no matter what. The ones who are always there for you. The ones who will fight beside you and go to jail for you (I’m not saying that’s what happens, I’m just using tropes, if you will. As always, no spoilers!).
It’s an epic story, with characters you will fall for and a world you will be transported to. You’ll laugh (a lot), you’ll want to yell at a couple characters, you’ll cry. You’ll live with the boys, struggle with them, laugh with them, grieve with them. You’ll finish the book and feel like you’ve said goodbye to an old friend. You know those songs or books people talk about where they wish they could have the experience of hearing or reading them for the first time all over again? This is one of those books for me.
A bonus for this book is there’s a movie, too! I love the movie (they actually did a really great book-to-movie with this one, which is rare), and if you want to see some very well-known and loved actors in their teens (this movie actually was what jump-started a lot of their careers) then I highly recommend it. And when I say well-known and loved actors I mean Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon and Ralph Maccio… as teenagers (my candid recommendation to y’all girls is brace yourselves…).
I highly recommend both the book and the movie. 😉
I know all genres are not for everyone, and sadly the classics are no exception, but I hope that this post either gave you some new books to look into or encouraged you to try out the genre. I hope these reviews and recommendations were helpful (and that you found a new time and place and set of characters to fall in love with)! Stay tuned for a dive into Adventure books next!