Classic Books to Reread This Summer
Now that summer reading season is upon us, student book list titles are again filling up bookshop tables and tempting us to pick up a few books that have stood the test of time. We first read the classics in the classroom, but this time we’ll meet them without the pressure of homework assignments, book reports and potential quizzes — and something tells us we’ll be enjoying them all the more.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Buy It: $5.80; amazon.com
There’s nothing like a juicy mystery to pass time in the heat of summer, and nobody does great mysteries like Agatha Christie. Wondering which of her titles to choose? Murder on the Orient Express is being made into a movie starring Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer this November, so we’d pick that book first.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Buy It: $7.30; amazon.com
The Netflix series Anne with an E fills orphaned Anne Shirley’s life with drama and darkness, but in the books, Anne bring light to everyone in her life. If you’re not ready to leave Green Gables once you’ve turned the last page, check out the other seven books in the Anne series. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself wistfully sighing at the sunset or delighting in wildflowers; Anne’s attitude can be contagious.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Buy It: $11.58; amazon.com
Looking for a tale of adventure and love in a dramatic western? Lonesome Dove is big and sprawling, long enough to get lost in and so beautifully written that you’ll be reluctant to leave it behind when the story is through.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Buy It: $6.99; amazon.com
When we're talking about classics that stand the test of time, it's impossible not to mention Jane Austen. If there's ever been a novel that has it all—romance, wit, fantastic characters and great pacing—it's this one. It’s the story that spawned a thousand romantic comedies, but it’s also insightful and poignant in its own right.
The Odyssey by Homer
Buy It: $9.89; amazon.com
Think your summer road trip is long? Odysseus spent a decade making his journey home, battling men and deities along the way. So many of our modern myths and stories have their roots in The Odyssey that, if you haven’t picked it up before, you might be shocked at how current and familiar its characters seem.
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Buy It: $6.00; amazon.com
We love the Little House books for their wonderful depiction of a real and happy family, but we also enjoy the details they share about pioneer life. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s descriptions of making maple candy, listening to fiddle music and heading into town to shop feel so fresh that it can seem like we’re scrolling through a blog about homesteading instead of reading a classic novel.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Buy It: $8.71; amazon.com
Two sisters refuse to let their relationship wither, even though one is living in the South and one travels to Africa as a missionary. This classic about loyalty and family is an incredible story and meditation about the power of the ties that bind our relationships, and even though we now have Skype and Facebook to help us stay connected, the longing and separation we feel when we’re apart from our loved ones still rings true.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Buy It: $8.99; amazon.com
If it's been a few years since you picked up Fried Green Tomatoes, now's the time to revisit this story of friendship, murder, loyalty and—of course—good Southern cooking. Reread it to feel like you’re coming home again.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Buy It: $7.99; amazon.com
If you’re dreaming of a summer spent by the lake just dreaming about life and finding yourself, living vicariously through Henry David Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond might be just the escape you’re looking for.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Buy It: $10.00; amazon.com
A young bride comes home to a mansion. But instead of new possibility, the house is filled with mysteries centering on her husband’s first wife, Rebecca. Author Daphne Du Maurier’s haunting mystery is the perfect summer escape, and it’s especially tempting this summer since another of her novels, My Cousin Rachel, is a summer 2017 movie starring Rachel Weisz.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Buy It: $10.82; amazon.com
The life story of Janie Crawford is as packed with drama as any summer love story, but it's also filled with grief and strife. Ultimately, a drive to overcome anything life throws at her and to pursue freedom and love keep Janie going. If you’ve read Their Eyes Were Watching God before, you probably lost yourself in Janie’s story; this time, take extra time to savor Hurston’s beautiful descriptions of the natural beauty of old Florida.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Buy It: $8.83; amazon.com
Did this summer's King Arthur movie leave you hungry for more of the round table? Get your fill in The Once and Future King (a longer story by the author of The Sword in the Stone). This novelization of the King Arthur myth had a heavy influence on many of today’s best fantasy writers, and it’s fun to guess which of White’s words may have inspired some of our favorite stories.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Buy It: $10.48; amazon.com
Before Gone with the Wind was a blockbuster film, it was a bestselling book. Want to get lost in the fantasies of a bygone era? Fill those long afternoons on your porch swing with Scarlett O'Hara. Once you’ve turned the last page on the novel, plan a movie night and to see how the classic film stacks up to the book.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Buy It: $6.16; amazon.com
Do you think politicians act like a bunch of barnyard animals sometimes? Well, so did George Orwell. His metaphorical fable is a hard-hitting critique of communism, totalitarianism and selfish politicians; it’s also easy-to-read and short enough to blow through in a couple of sittings.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Buy It: $6.99; amazon.com
Edna is stuck in a marriage that makes her feel trapped and desperate to escape. We first read this in high school, but now, Chopin’s words have layers we couldn’t have imagined as teenagers. Even in this age of Tinder and Facebook flirting, Edna’s longing and her affair feel poignant and relevant.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Buy It: $8.30; amazon.com
Holden Caulfield is a character who seems very different depending on when you meet him. If you read Catcher and the Rye as a teen, he was probably a sage and a confident — read by adults, he can be more frustrating. Read Catcher in the Rye today to understand your teenagers, recapture the angst of youth, or just to remember how high school really felt.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Buy It: $7.19; amazon.com
In The Giver, we learned that memories, even painful ones, are essential to both individuals and to society. In our world of fake news, rapid news cycles and shifting social media, Lois Lowry’s classic Young Adult novel is a good reminder that forgetting our history, even the difficult parts of it, can be dangerous.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Buy It: $6.99; amazon.com
This novel, told through the small incidents in a girl's life that add up to helping her become a woman, is a wonderful coming-of-age story that emphasizes the importance of being true to yourself —something we all need a reminder of from time to time.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Buy It: $6.95; amazon.com
Brave New World might have been written almost a century ago, but its predictions about the development of science and culture feel eerily predictive of the future.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Buy It: $13.59; amazon.com
When we retake the journey of Coelho’s shepherd, we’re inspired to think about what wealth really is, which things in life are important, and whether or not your dreams are worth pursuing even when you think they might have passed you by. If you’re looking for a deep dive into the big questions of life, it’s time to pick up The Alchemist one more time.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Buy It: $10.50; amazon.com
When we met The Bell Jar’s Esther Greenwood through assigned reading in high school and college, her struggles felt relatable. Read with more maturity and perspective, it’s clear when the darkness starts to seep in and overtake Esther in a dangerous way in Sylvia Plath’s classic story of a young woman battling depression.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Buy It: $8.51; amazon.com
In her incredible first novel, Toni Morrison's used characteristic wisdom and beautiful writing to tell the story of a young girl and tackle our society's perceptions of beauty and perfection.
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Buy It: $12.16; amazon.com
We’d put Graham Greene’s tough, gritty book up against summer thrillers any day: Pinkie is a gangster who is afraid of nothing; certainly not killing a reporter who could expose the mob. What he doesn't count on is Ida, the woman who makes it her mission to avenge the journalist's death.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Buy It: $10.49; amazon.com
This bizarre and funny novel manages to skewer politics, war and convention all at once. Joseph Heller uses dark humor to point out the ridiculous and absurd elements of war and politics; his circular logic and incoherent edicts from authority figures are both extreme and unfortunately familiar.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Buy It: $8.69; amazon.com
What happens when fundamentalism is twisted to the point of totalitarianism? That's the question asked by The Handmaid's Tale, and it's one we hear in the news daily. Read the book and then watch the popular Hulu series starring Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel, or watch first and revisit the questions it raises through the pages of the book.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Buy It: $4.99; amazon.com
Maya Angelou's memoir is powerful and transcendent, and her determination to find freedom and identity through art and literature is inspiring. If you haven’t reread Angelou since her 2014 passing, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a great place to start.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Buy It: $6.71; amazon.com
This charming story of a lost aviator and the prince who finds him in the desert is whimsical and beautiful, exploring themes of love and loneliness. It's one you can enjoy alone on an afternoon or share with children during lazy summer afternoons.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Buy It: $8.78; amazon.com
Reading A Separate Peace reminds us of the difficult times of adolescence, how complex teen friendships can get, and that ordinary kids sometimes experience extraordinary circumstances and emotions. Rereading it helps us relate to the ordinary kids in our lives whose internal battles can be bigger than we sometimes imagine.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Buy It: $6.79; amazon.com
So much has been said about To Kill a Mockingbird over the past few years with the death of Harper Lee and the publication of Go Set a Watchman that it's easy to forget about how this story touched and changed so many minds and hearts. Let Scout and Atticus Finch surprise and impress you all over again by turning back to the original novel this summer.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Buy It: $9.14; amazon.com
This seminal work of magical realism is haunting and magnetic, and the layered story of several generations of the same family is a masterwork. With author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passing earlier this year, we lost a literary legend. What better time to revisit one of his best works?
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Buy It: $6.75; amazon.com
The original story of Peter Pan isn’t quite the version we get from the cartoons. The book is just as charming, but Peter’s immaturity isn’t celebrated quite as much as it is in the movies, and in the midst of wonderful adventures, we also learn about friendship, sacrifice and love.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Buy It: $11.80; amazon.com
Can anthropomorphized rabbits help us learn about life? In Richard Adams’ hands, yes. Legend has it that this novel grew out of stories he used to tell his daughters on car trips. The recent death of Richard Adams encourages us to take a look back at this favorite book from childhood summer reading.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Buy It: $4.92; amazon.com
Do your road trips consist of hours in the car with whining kids or teenagers Snapchatting selfies? Reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the story of a road trip adventure punctuated with philosophical conversations that you probably first heard about in college. Maybe it’ll even inspire a few deep conversations with your own family (between Snapchat sessions, of course).