What is a classic?
- A classic usually expresses some artistic quality--an expression of life, truth, and beauty.
- A classic stands the test of time. The work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written; and the work merits lasting recognition. In other words, if the book was published in the recent past, the work is not a classic.
- A classic has a certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch us to our very core beings--partly because they integrate themes that are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses.
- A classic makes connections. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature. Of course, this is partly related to the universal appeal of a classic, but the classic also is informed by the history of ideas and literature--whether unconsciously or specifically worked into the plot of the text.
YOUNG ADULT CLASSIC NOVELS
* For the purpose of our literature studies, a novel is considered a classic if it has been read by multiple generations and/or it is considered to be a “must-read” piece of literature.
YA - Middle School
Across Five Aprils
1964 - by Irene Hunt
When the horrors of the Civil War and his father’s illness invade his childhood world, young Jethro Creighton must grow up fast and assume responsibility for his family’s Illinois farm.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
1884 - by Mark Twain
Justice and honor are celebrated in this story about Huck’s adventures on the Mississippi River with the runaway slave Jim.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
1865 - by Lewis Carroll
The young and imaginative Alice follows a hasty hare underground--to come face-to-face with some of the strangest adventures and most fantastic characters in all of literature.
All Quiet on the Western Front
1929 - by Erich Maria Remarque
Though the war he describes is World War I, Remarque writes eloquently of all wars in this tale of a young German sent to fight in the trenches.
Anne of Green Gables (series)
1908 - by L. M. Montgomery
Everyone's favorite redhead, the spunky Anne Shirley, begins her adventures at Green Gables, a farm outside Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When the freckled girl realizes that the elderly Cuthberts wanted to adopt a boy instead, she begins to try to win them and, consequently, the reader, over.
Around the World in Eighty Days
1873 - by Jules Verne
One ill-fated evening at the Reform Club, Phileas Fogg rashly bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days - and he is determined not to lose.
1877 - by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty tells the story of the horse's own long and varied life, from a well-born colt in a pleasant meadow to an elegant carriage horse for a gentleman to a painfully overworked cab horse.
The Call of the Wild
1903 - by Jack London
When his beloved master is killed, the dog Buck flees to the wild, where he becomes the leader of a wolf pack. Rousing adventure set in Alaska’s Klondike country.
The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
1948 - by C. S. Lewis
Four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. Richly told, populated with fascinating characters, perfectly realized in detail of world and pacing of plot, the story is infused throughout with the timeless issues of good and evil, faith and hope.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes
1936 - by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Baker Street saga is chronicled in this collection that includes “A Study in Scarlet,” the 1887 story that introduced the English detective Sherlock Holmes, and his assistant Dr. Watson.
The Diary of a Young Girl
1947 - by Anne Frank
In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annexe" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.
Flowers for Algernon
1959 - by Daniel Keyes
Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled adult who cleans floors and toilets, becomes a genius through an experimental operation.
1818 - by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
1993 - by Lois Lowry
Jonas' world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
1726 - by Jonathan Swift
Shipwrecked castaway Lemuel Gulliver’s encounters with the petty, diminutive Lilliputians, the crude giants of Brobdingnag, the abstracted scientists of Laputa, the philosophical Houyhnhnms, and the brutish Yahoos give him new, bitter insights into human behavior. Swift’s fantastic and subversive book remains supremely relevant in our own age of distortion, hypocrisy, and irony.
1937 - by J. R. R. Tolkien
Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
1831 - by Victor Hugo
In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destroy her that only Quasimodo can prevent..
Island of the Blue Dolphins
1960 - by Scott O’Dell
In the Pacific, there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea birds abound. Karana is the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Hers is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.
1943 - by Esther Forbes
When a young, arrogant silversmith badly burns his hand in a bowl of molten silver, he must fend for himself on the streets of 1773 Boston and seek a new purpose in life.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
1864 - by Jules Verne
The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth's very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet's primordial secrets, the geologist--together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans--discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne's imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.
The Jungle Books
1894 - by Rudyard Kipling
The Jungle Books can be regarded as classic stories told by an adult to children. But they also constitute a complex literary work of art in which the whole of Kipling's philosophy of life is expressed in miniature. They are best known for the 'Mowgli' stories; the tale of a baby abandoned and brought up by wolves, educated in the ways and secrets of the jungle by Kaa the python, Baloo the bear, and Bagheera the black panther. The stories, a mixture of fantasy, myth, and magic, are underpinned by Kipling's abiding preoccupation with the theme of self-discovery, and the nature of the 'Law'
The Light in the Forest
1953 - by Conrad Richter
John Cameron Butler was taken captive as a child and raised as a Lenne Lenape Indian, but when required to return to his white family at 15 years of age, adjustment is more than difficult.
1868 - by Louisa May Alcott
In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy come of age while their father is off to war.
The Little Prince
1943 - by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.
Lord of the Flies
1954 - by William Golding
A group of English schoolboys, marooned on a tropical island during a time of atomic warfare, bring both civilization and savagery to their community.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
1954 - by J. R. R. Tolkien
Through the urgings of the enigmatic wizard Gandalf, young hobbit Frodo Baggins embarks on an urgent, incredibly treacherous journey to destroy the One Ring.
The Old Man and the Sea
1952 - by Ernest Hemingway
Santiago realizes the dream of catching a giant marlin, but he must battle the sharks for two days to bring his prize home.
1967 - by S. E. Hinton
Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.
1906 - by J. M. Barrie
Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children--Wendy, John, and Michael--who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks.
Pride and Prejudice
1813 - by Jane Austen
A delightful comedy of marriage traces the courtship of Elizabeth and Darcy as they overcome his pride and her prejudice and fall in love.
The Princess Bride
1973 - by William Goldman
When the vain and deceitful Prince Humperdinck commands the beautiful Buttercup to marry him, Westley, her true love, will do whatever it takes to remove her from Humperdinck’s clutches.
The Red Badge of Courage
1895 - by Stephen Crane
Through the eyes of Henry Fleming, a young Civil War soldier, we see the fears of battle and the inexplicable courage that comes when soldiers unite in a wartime machine.
1719 - by Daniel Defoe
Defoe’s novel about a castaway marooned for twenty-four years on a deserted island is an engrossing story of survival, civilization, and barbarism.
The Secret Garden
1911 - by Frances Hodgson Burnett
What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle's estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won't enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty--unaware that she is changing too.
Sense and Sensibility
1811 - by Jane Austen
Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—two sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.
A Separate Peace
1959 - by John Knowles
Fifteen years later, the narrator remembers his boarding school roommate. The rivalry that tinged their friendship eventually leads to tragedy.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
1886 - by Robert Louis Stevenson
In this harrowing tale of good and evil, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that unleashes his secret, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde.
1952 - by Edgar Allan Poe
A collection of short stories by the nineteenth century master of the macabre. Included are “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
Tarzan of the Apes
1912 - by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A ship's mutiny forces a young noble English couple out onto the African coast, and their child is born in the wild. When they die a short time later, the boy is adopted by an ape, and raised as her own. The boy, Tarzan, rises to dominance in the jungle
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
1891 - by Thomas Hardy
Tess is ruined when her father’s vanity forces her to seek the favors of rich relations, and her life becomes a study in the grim reality of her times.
The Three Musketeers
1844 - by Alexandre Dumas
Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honor of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, and the honor of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth-century France are vividly played out in the background.
The Time Machine
1895 - by H. G. Wells
So begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing firsthand account of his journey 800,000 years beyond his own era—and the story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him the reputation as the father of science fiction. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes...and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine’s lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth. There he discovers two bizarre races—the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks—who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of the men of tomorrow as well.
To Kill a Mockingbird
1960 - by Harper Lee
Small town Alabama in the 1930s is the setting for this fine novel of a child’s brutal introdution to racial prejudice and adult injustice.
1759 - by Robert Louis Stevenson
Young Jim Hawkins, finds himself owner of a map to Treasure Island, where the fabled pirate booty is buried. Captain Smollett, heroic Dr. Livesey, and the good-hearted but obtuse Squire Trelawney, help Jim on his quest for the treasure. Long John Silver, is one moment a friendly, laughing, one-legged sea-cook . . .and the next a dangerous pirate leader!
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
1869 - by Jules Verne
French naturalist Dr. Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster, only to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo's mission is one of revenge-and his methods coldly efficient.
Where the Red Fern Grows
1961 - by Wilson Rawls
A loving threesome, they ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Old Dan had the brawn, Little Ann had the brains -- and Billy had the will to train them to be the finest hunting team in the valley. Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too.
1905 - by Jack London
Only one man saw White Fang's intelligence and nobility. Only one had the courage to offer the killer a new life. But can a wolf understand the word "hope"? Can a creature of hatred understand the word "love"?
A Wrinkle in Time
1962 - by Madeleine L’Engle
Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
1900 - by L. Frank Baum
Join Dorothy Gale, Toto, and all of her friends as they explore the incredible land of Oz. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is American's most enduring fairy tale. From the moment Dorothy puts on the silver slippers (changed to ruby slippers by MGM to take advantage of their new advance in movie making: color) until the moment she clicks her heels and returns home to Kansas you will be swept away and captivated by her extraordinary story.
1847 - by Emily Bronte
Catherine and Heathcliff share a romance in this tale of passion and revenge on the Yorkshire moors.
1930 - by Marjorie Rawlings
Jody Baxter, a young boy living in the backwoods of Florida, takes in an orphaned fawn and as they grow together, must make fateful decisions about the animal he has come to love.
YA - High School
The Best Short Stories
1945 - by O. Henry
Short vignettes display irony and coincidence in everyday life. O. Henry’s forte is the surprise ending.
Brave New World
1932 - by Aldous Huxley
Huxley brilliantly satirizes contemporary society’s dehumanization in this grim novel of the future.
The Chocolate War
1974 - by Robert Cormier
When Jerry Renault won’t be forced by Archie Costello into selling chocolates at school to raise money, an intense psychological war begins.
The Count of Monte Cristo
1844 - by Alexandre Dumas
Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.
Cry, the Beloved Country
1948 - by Alan Paton
In lyrical language Paton relates the moving story of a Zulu minister who searches for his children in Johannesburg, only to learn that South African society has destroyed their lives.
1612 - by Miguel de Cervantes
Originally published in Spanish in 1605, Cervantes’ satire about a gentle visionary who becomes a knight after reading too many chivalric romances is a universal tale of idealism versus practicality.
1897 - by Bram Stoker
During a business visit to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count's transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula's grim fortress, but a friend's strange malady — involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds — initiates a frantic vampire hunt.
The Grapes of Wrath
1939 - by John Steinbeck
Proletarian fiction at its finest, Steinbeck’s portrait of an Oklahoma family during the Depression spurred legislation to help stricken migrant workers.
Gone with the Wind
1936 - by Margaret Mitchell
Set against the backdrop of Georgia during the Civil War, Mitchell’s massive historical novel chronicles the tempestuous romance of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.
The Great Gatsby
1925 - by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jay Gatsby has built an illegal empire to win the love of Daisy Buchanan, but his sacrifices for her prove to be his downfall.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
1979 - by Douglas Adams
Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space.
1847 - by Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre’s ill-fated love for the brooding Mr. Rochester endures in this story of a strong-willed heroine who refuses to compromise herself.
1851 - by Herman Melville
Captain Ahab’s obsessive struggle to defeat Moby Dick, the great white whale who maimed him, is the focus of Melville’s masterpiece.
1918 - by Willa Cather
In spite of a life of hard work, Bohemian immigrant Antonia Shimerda is sustained by the healthy Nebraska soil and her warm-hearted brood of children.
Of Mice and Men
1937 - by John Steinbeck
George and Lenny, itinerant Depression-era farm laborers, have their dream of attaining the good life shattered on a troubled ranch in the the Salinas Valley in Steinbeck's monumental novella of social realism.
The Scarlet Letter
1850 - by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hawthorne’s novel is a study of sin, guilt, and revenge. Adultress Hester Prynne must bear public humiliation but Roger Chillingsworth and Arthur Dimmesdale suffer equally.
1861 - by George Eliot
This classic story shows redemption for a lonely and bitter man in the form of a child who brings him love and hope.
The Sound and the Fury
1929 - by William Faulkner
The moral decay of the Old South is presented through the eyes of four members of the once prominent Compson family of Jefferson, Mississippi.
A Tale of Two Cities
1859 - by Charles Dickens
This dramatic story of Paris and London during the Reign of Terror contains some of Dickens’ most memorable characters—Madame Defarge with her knitting and the self-sacrificing Sidney Carton.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1852 - by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Stowe’s sentimental but realistic novel is often credited with heightening public awareness about the evils of slavery, thus hastening the Civil War.