Classic Literature

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We use the word "classics" for books that are treasured by those who have read and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to read them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them. - Italo Calvino from The Uses of Literature

Read or reread the Classics with us! Each season we'll post 10 titles from Classic Literature to get you started.


In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
The true story of the shocking 1959 murder of the four members of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote explores the motivations and backgrounds of the murderers and their victims, in effort to show how and why the murders occurred.

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Tells the story of the upper-middle-class Bennett family, led by Mrs. Bennett's drive to secure the future of her daughters through marriage. This all seems possible when the wealthy Charles Bingley falls in love with eldest Bennett daughter Jane, but issues soon arise when Mr. Bingley's sister and his friend Mr. Darcy do not approve of the Bennetts.

The Monk - Matthew Lewis
This classic example of Gothic terror is set in Spain during the Inquisition. Abbot Ambrosio succumbs to lust for the evil Matilda and quickly possession, passion, and violence follow his fall from devotion.

The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger
A prep school dropout, Holden Caulfield, rejects the phoniness he sees all around him and runs away to Manhattan, but events there only strengthen his disgust and sense of alienation.

The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
This is the story of Wang Lung, farmer and peasant, and his struggles with the true value of land, family, and money.

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
An old man hooks a large marlin that is two feet larger than his small boat, the fish tows him farther and farther from shore. What follows is an epic struggle to survive and return to shore with his catch.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
At great peril to himself and his children, lawyer Atticus Finch defends an African-American man accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town. The children learn more about their father that summer and befriend the mysterious recluse Boo Radley. Harper Lee won a Pulitzer prize for this, her only novel, in 1961.

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Classic tale of two unhappy lovers whose calamitous relationship causes distress not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of those around them. The intense, unrealized romance between Heathcliff and Catherine lasts through multiple generations and both of their lifetimes. Their love story is balanced by Heathcliff as a dark, mysterious character full of revenge.

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Details the story of a black man growing up in the white world of the 1940s, his search for himself as an individual and as a member of his race and his society.

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
Depicts the punishment and redemption of Hester Prynne, a young woman out-cast from her Puritan community for adultery. Hester is forced to wear a scarlet letter "A" on the bodice of her dress as a symbol of her transgression and keeps secret the identity of the father of her illegitimate child.


Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
This novel is set in the future, where society is free of war and diseases, but also void of diversity and creativity. Children are bred and born in test tubes and processed by an assembly line. The appearance of a John the Savage, a human born naturally outside of a controlled environment, shakes the foundation of this static society.

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Wealthy and prestigious Jay Gatsby throws fabulous parties and loves Daisy Buchanan, and although she has married someone else, he risks everything to lure her back.

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Taking place in early nineteenth-century England, this is the story of an orphaned young woman, Jane Eyre, who accepts employment as a governess and soon finds herself in love with and engaged to her employer, a moody man with a terrible secret.

The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
Young Union soldier Henry Fleming, struggles with his conflicting emotions about violence, death, and the nature of bravery during the Civil War.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
Follows uncivilized orphan Huckleberry Finn and runaway slave Jim. The two have many adventures, but in the end this story is about Jim's freedom and the significant role Huck plays, both as a loyal friend to Jim and as a role model for the reader.

Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Classic sea adventure of the ill-fated voyage of Captain Ahab and his search for the white whale that crippled him.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
Tess Durbeyfield, driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbevilles, meets her "cousin" Alec, but this proves to be her downfall. When Angel Clare offers marriage, she must choose whether to reveal her troubled past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

A Room with a View - E. M. Forster
Humorous novel in which highly admired Lucy Honeychurch falls in love and must choose between convention or following her heart.

Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Depicts the struggles of a United States airman attempting to survive the lunacy and depravity of a World War II airbase.

The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
Retells the tragic times of the Compson family, who in the years following the Civil War, are faced with the instability of a depleting family fortune as well as issues with each of their children, including beautiful, rebellious Caddy and manchild Benjy.


Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman
First published in 1855, Leaves of Grass consisted of 12 poems, but has evolved over time to include up to 380 poems. The focus of this collection is nature and the individual's role in nature. Includes the poem "Pioneers! O Pioneers!"

Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse
An allegorical story of a young man in search of Nirvana. Blends elements of psychoanalysis and Asian religions to probe an Indian aristocrat's efforts to renounce sensual and material pleasures and discover ultimate spiritual truths.

War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
Details events leading up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and its impact on all facets of society, including an illegitimate sons of a wealthy count, a prince who leaves his pregnant wife to fight in a war against his idol Napoleon, and the beautiful daughter of a wealthy nobleman.

On the Road - Jack Kerouac
On the Road is a fictionalized autobiography, narrated by Sal Paradise, one of Kerouac's alter-egos. This book is a cross-country bohemian odyssey, as Sal Paradise and his Dean Moriarty travel from New York City to San Francisco to Mexico City and back again. On the Road not only influenced writing in the years since its 1957 publication but penetrated into the deepest level of American thought and culture.

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young women in nineteenth-century New England.

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
The story unfolds with the arrival of a new governess at a remote country estate. She has been hired by the uncle of two young orphans to take complete charge of the children's lives and upbringing. Her first peaceful weeks are disturbed by the apparition of the ghosts of two evil servants who once served in the house.

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
The orphan, Pip, and the convict, Magwitch, the beautiful Estella, and her guardian, the embittered and vengeful Miss Havisham, the ambitious lawyer, Mr. Jaggers -- all have a part to play in the mystery.

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
A bitter feud between the Montagues and the Capulets keeps the city of Verona, Italy, in a state of constant unrest. Despite the enmity, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall passionately in love. Enlisting the help of Friar Laurence, the young lovers wed in secret, hoping that their marriage will finally unite the two families. But things go terribly, tragically wrong

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
Tells the adventures of a French professor and his two companions in the mid 19th century as they sail above and below the world's oceans as prisoners on the fabulous electric submarine of the deranged Captain Nemo.

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The author's use of magical realism combines fantasy with social satire to tell the story of six generations of the Buendia family, their births, deaths, and marriages in the mythical town of Macondo.

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