You are bound to love these beginner-friendly classic novels
October 28, 2022
Inspired by my favorite TV show protagonist Rory Gilmore and her impressive repertoire of books, I decided to start reading classics at a young age. At 12 years old, I ordered Swan’s Way by Marcel Proust from Amazon because of its academic-looking cover. A week later, the book arrived (this was before everything was delivered within a couple of hours), and I cracked it open with excitement, read the first sentence and promptly closed the book. I had no idea what the hell Proust was saying, despite googling the meaning of his book for hours. It wasn’t for a couple of years that I dared to pick up another classic, then another, then another, until an obsession formed. Early on, it became clear that classic novels can be a hit or miss for young modern readers. To prevent a similar experience, here are my favorite beginner-friendly classic novels. P.S. since all of these books are well-known, you will most likely be able to find nice copies at a local library or secondhand bookstore if you are looking to have sustainable reading habits.
Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”:
This novel tells the beautiful narrative of a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who creates a monster from old body parts out of curiosity. He runs to tell his friend Robert Walton what he has done, but the monster disappears before he returns home with Walton by his side. The consequences of Frankenstein’s actions create a thrilling story of what happens when one takes the pursuit of knowledge too far. “Frankenstein” is a fantastic read, and in the novel’s 280 pages, the language is still straightforward for beginning readers. Furthermore, this story has beautiful themes of rejection, hatred, greed and a familiar tale of the dangers of secrecy. The themes are skillfully integrated into the story and are guaranteed to stick with the reader for months after finishing the book.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”:
Perfectly encapsulating the 1920s, Fitzgerald’s novel tells the story of Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby intertwined in a love story doomed to fail. Both insufferably rich and blind to the social issues occurring in the 20s, the duo lived through a series of lavish parties, excessive alcohol consumption and an unbelievable amount of pining on Gatsby’s behalf. In addition, there is a subplot of friendship between Buchanan’s cousin, Nick Carraway, and Gatsby, which Fitzgerald describes with just as much love as there is between the romantic couple. Arguably one of the most famous novels in American history, “The Great Gatsby” is also one of the most simple to read because Fitzgerald tells the story mainly through basic dialogue. Yet, despite its simplicity, Gatsby and Nick are characters with extreme complexities and developed storylines that make the book an entertaining read. Aside from the language, the themes within this novel are more applicable than ever, consisting of ideas of wealth inequality, love without bounds, the American dream and the fragility of life.
Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”:
Okay, okay, according to my Goodreads account, I rated this book three out of five stars, but that rating has now been revoked and will be replaced with my thoughts from reading this book a second time around. Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” is the story of an old man who goes fishing. He stays on a boat for several days with a massive fish on his line, waiting for the perfect time to catch it. While this plotline may seem boring, the lessons taught through this short 127-page novel are incredibly valuable. The themes of patience, persistence and pride are spelled across the pages. Lucky for any beginning classical literature reading, Hemingway was known for using simple language to tell a complex story, which he has truly perfected in this novel. That being said, I now officially change my rating of this book to five out of five stars for teaching me that all you need is a little patience, a cool head and an ungodly amount of knowledge about fish to get out of a sticky situation.
There are billions of beautiful novels out in the world, stacked upon each other, telling stories to whichever eyes dare to pick them up. I am proud to say I’ve read a good amount. Many of the narratives played out in my head quickly disappeared after a couple of months, but these novels above have stuck with me for years because of their timeless themes, developed characters and plain language. If you decide to read any of these and have any pressing thoughts, please share them with me; we can even start a book club!