Lists, Recommendations

Recommendations: Easy-to-Read Classics

Hi everyone!
I’ve recently finished a degree in English literature and over the three years, as you’d expect, I’ve read a lot of literary classics. Classics can be scary though, right? Faced with Dickens’ Great Expectations or John Milton’s behemoth of a poem Paradise Lost, it’s tempting to leave them on the bookshelf where they look nice and you don’t have to try to wade through them. If you’re looking to read some classic literature but you’re put off by complex language and never-ending descriptions, there are some fantastic novels published in the last 150 years that are both fun and easy to read. Here are just a few:

My Ántonia by Willa Cather:                                                                                                           My Ántonia is technically the third book in a trilogy, but you don’t need to read the others to understand it (I didn’t). Set on the plains of Nebraska, we meet Jim as he arrives to live with his grandparents and forms a friendship with his neighbour Ántonia, whose family are immigrants from Bohemia. Cather’s novel follows them both as they grow up and grow apart, and the book is both beautiful and brutally honest about the hardship they face and the reality of the American West in the late 19th century.
My rating: 5 stars

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was later adapted into a film by Alfred Hitchcock, is not only an easy read but a quick one too. The book’s protagonist Richard Hannay has to flee London when he comes home one evening to find a corpse in his flat, and from there it’s a wild tale of cat and mouse across the Scottish countryside. The Wordsworth Classic edition is just over 100 pages of drama and disguise; it tells the story it wants to tell and doesn’t cram in painstakingly long paragraphs of detail.
My rating: 4 stars

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
I don’t read a lot of satire; unless it’s really well done, it’s just not for me. But the thing about Cold Comfort Farm is that it is really well done. Flora Poste, after the death of her parents, decides that she has no desire to look for a job, so instead travels to Sussex to live on the farm owned by her cousins, the Starkadders. There she sets about misguidedly transforming the lives of those around her in ways that changes the farm forever. There are some hilariously caricatured figures in the novel, and the writing is smart and consistently funny.
My rating: 5 stars

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Of the books on this list, this is probably the one you’re most likely to have already read, or at the very least heard of. Dracula is one of the most famous vampire novels in the world, but having not seen the film before I read the book, I realised I had no idea what to expect. We all know the basics – there’s a vampire who lives in a castle; the vampire wants to drink blood – but I promise there’s so much more to it than that.  Dracula is a Victorian novel and might be a little bit more complex than the other books I’ve mentioned on this list, but the narrative is split into chapters and then divided again into letters and diary entries, so you can easily read a little at a time.
My rating: 5 stars

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Another horror novel to finish, but this time featuring terrifying ghosts in a creepy haunted house. Doctor Montague gathers together a group of individuals who he hopes will be susceptible to paranormal happenings, including our protagonist Eleanor Vance, and it makes for a genuinely spooky read. There’s everything you’d expect in a good ghost story: things moving on their own, unexplained noises in corridors, and a general atmosphere of fear. Hill House is a modern classic and was only published in 1959, so it’s as easy a read as it is entertaining.
My rating: 5 stars

So there you go! That’s my shortlist of just a few classics I would recommend if you want something more literary but are afraid of jumping straight into Austen or Hardy. Are there any others you would recommend as an easy-to-read classic? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!




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