A collage of images of my favorite classic novels. Includes “The Road,” “A Farewell to Arms,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Great Gatsby” and “1984.”

My Top 5 Favorite Classic Novels

By Ally Bolender
Web Content Contributor

I know that it can be hard to stay interested in classic novels due to their elevated language or outdated scenarios, so I am introducing some of my favorite page-turners that are relatively easy to follow and relate to. I think having a few staple novels under your belt makes for a better reader in the long run. Classics novels serve as a foundation for the future of literature– and for all entertainment in general.

From the East Egg of New York to the Mississippi River, these five novels are layered with memorable messages and beautiful language.

1.“The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Even if you’ve seen the Leonardo Dicaprio movie, it does not compare to the original 1925 text. “The Great Gatsby” will charm you with some of the most elegant English prose ever published, making it difficult to discuss the novel without the urge to just praise its beauty.

A very distressed copy of “The Great Gatsby.” There are holes and markings on the front cover.
My copy of “The Great Gatsby” has sure been through a lot of reads! Photo by Ally Bolender.

You might have skimmed through this novel in high school, but I highly recommend you go back and read it more in depth. It seems as though every time I read it I find something new buried between the lines. But if you haven’t already read the tale of a mysterious man, a love triangle, and the biggest 1922 parties, then you need to get your copy here, Old Sport.

2. A Farewell to Arms,” by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s writing style is one of my favorites, and it’s almost as if you’re in the novel yourself, listening to the conversations and watching each character’s mannerisms. Hemingway writes in the way humans react. That is what makes “A Farewell to Arms” both brilliant and beautifully raw.

A copy of “A Farewell to Arms” cover. The cover is completely blue and appears to look like a first edition.
This copy of “A Farewell to Arms” is very special to me. It has been passed down to me by my great grandpa. Photo by Ally Bolender.

That being said, this is one of the more mournful novels I’ve read. It’s about Henry, an ambulance driver in World War I. He is wounded and falls in love with Catherine, a nurse. Henry is captured by military police and in danger of being executed, but he manages to escape. Things are idyllic for awhile. But then, of course, life intervenes. This tragic novel is a staple for any Hemingway fan. Purchase “A Farewell to Arms,” here.

3. “The Road,” by Cormac McCarthy

“The Road” is an excellent book, as it is gripping, terrifying, utterly heart-wrenching and completely beautiful all at the same time. “The Road” stands out from McCarthy’s other works. It is one of the best of his works in terms of prose, plot, and brilliant storytelling of a father and his young son struggling in a post-apocalyptic world. McCarthy nails the dialog in this book, making the reader feel as though they are walking down the never-ending road as well.

Image of “The Road” book cover on concrete. Edited to appear in black-and-white.
A dark tale of a father and son surviving in an apocalyptic world. Photo by Ally Bolender.

In fact, the Texas State University Southwestern Writers Collection/Wittliff Collections holds several Cormac McCarthy-related collections, so check out some of his first drafts and original letters in our library.

I recommend reading “The Road” to truly get a feel for Cormac McCarthy and his brilliant south-western flare. Purchase “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, here.

4. “1984,” George Orwell

What is a top-classics list without Orwell himself?

“1984” may be one of those books you read in high school and forgot about, but it’s a classic that (hopefully) stays timeless and a novel that I think most readers would thoroughly enjoy.

Image of “1984” book cover on the edge of the pool. There is water on one side of the cover and stone on the other.
A utopia you don’t want to be a part of. Photo by Ally Bolender.

“1984” describes a Utopia. Imagine living in a country whose leaders apply a totalitarian system of the most extreme. Any hint of obedience or dislike can be detected by “Thought Police,” telescreen, or even your children – who will not hesitate to betray you. Individuality is a crime in “1984.” Published in 1949, “1984” is a revolutionary novel that will have you turning pages. It is outspoken, rebellious and continues to have reader’s question their very instincts related to conformity and individuality. Buy “1984,” here.

5. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain

Hemingway said American fiction begins and ends with Huck Finn, and he’s right. The “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” dives into issues such as racism, friendship, identity, religion and freedom. There are several moments in this coming-of-age story that are hilarious, but when I finished the book, I knew I had read something profound.

Image of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” book cover. Edited to have brown hues.
A Mark Twain classic sure to make you laugh – and think. Photo by Ally Bolender.

This is a classic tale of Huck Finn travelling along the Mississippi River with his friend and runaway slave, Jim. Published in 1884, this novel encompansses the natural human instincts we share, and how they are tested by society. Purchase “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” here.

Of course, there are hundreds of other novels that should make this list, but these are some of the novels that happen to be some of my favorites, and I feel as though everyone should read them.

I encourage you to pick up a classic novel this month and see how it plays into today’s time. It’s a way to live in a reality that was composed years ago. Classic novels give readers a better understanding of history and culture in context. You have an opportunity to see how society has changed over time, or see how history repeats itself.

But something that always makes me pick up a classic is the idea that you are reading the words that someone brilliant, many, many years ago, spent long nights composing. Cherish these stories, and pick up more classics!

Featured image by Ally Bolender.

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