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5 Must-Read Classic Novels


Article by Kate Baxendale

Photography by Stock Images + Provided

Perhaps you've read most of the books recognized as "the classics;" or maybe you merely skimmed through The Great Gatsby when it was assigned to you in high school. Or you devoured these titles—20 years ago. Whether you've read them or not, classic novels are worth reading and revisiting. Here are five to add to your list now.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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"The Catcher in the Rye is a 1945 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, the novel has become a common part of high school and college curricula throughout the English-speaking world; it has also been translated into almost all of the world's major languages. Around 250,000 copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than 65 million. The novel's antihero, Holden Caulfield, has become an icon for teenage rebellion." –Wikipedia

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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"As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage and compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South. The story takes place during three years of the Great Depression in the fictional "tired old town" of Maycomb, Alabama. The narrator, 6-year-old Scout Finch, lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer." –Wikipedia

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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"Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team's authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for generations to come." –

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

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"Alonso Quixano, a retired country gentleman in his 50s, lives in an unnamed section of La Mancha with his niece and a housekeeper. He has become obsessed with books of chivalry, and believes their every word to be true, despite the fact that many of the events in them are clearly impossible. Quixano eventually appears to other people to have lost his mind from little sleep and food and because of so much reading." –Wikipedia

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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"The narrative is non-linear, involving several flashbacks, and two primary narrators: Mr. Lockwood and Ellen "Nelly" Dean. The novel opens in 1801, with Mr. Lockwood arriving at Thrushcross Grange, a grand house on the Yorkshire moors that he is renting from the surly Heathcliff, who lives at nearby Wuthering Heights. Lockwood is treated rudely, and coldly by the brooding, unsociable Heathcliff, and is forced to stay at Wuthering Heights for a night because one of the savage dogs of the Heights attacks him, and the weather turns against him. The housekeeper cautiously takes him to a chamber to sleep through the night and warns him to not speak to Heathcliff about where he is sleeping, for he would get in deep trouble." –Wikipedia