There are easily 500 more, but a long list loses impact, and lessens the opportunity for future follow-up posts.
Classics, by definition, are worth re-reading, especially if you read them for the first time in your youth. Time will give you a different perspective, and it’s likely you’ve forgotten enough of the story to make it fresh.
So here are five, in no particular order, I recommend for summer reading — or any other season.
To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Race continues to divide this nation, and the quiet example of Atticus Finch in this Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is worth remembering. I know, the prequel creates a different picture of the man, but there was a reason Harper Lee told us she’d “said all she had to say” with To Kill a Mockingbird. In addition to Atticus, it’s uplifting to remember Boo Radley, and the straightforward point-of-view of young Scout paints an honest and at times innocent picture of the world. Don’t miss the 1962 film, either.
The Portable Dorothy Parker
by Dorothy Parker
The perfect book if you’re too busy for a novel. Short stories, articles and poetry abound in this volume. Parker took a sardonic look at just about every aspect of life, and it’s intriguing to note the change in her writing (particularly the short stories) over the years. Her tales are as timeless as human nature, however, no matter what changes may have taken place in her style of writing, and capture the subtleties of such things as young love and racism.
by Daphne Du Maurier
Ah, romance, true love and all that. The fairy tale comes crashing down, and you’re left wondering if the bliss of it all can be recaptured. Was Rebecca the better woman, the better lover, the better wife? We agonize with our unnamed heroine as she struggles to gain her foothold in a trepidatious situation and overcome her insecurities as the second wife. Who was Rebecca, and why does she still haunt all whom she left behind? A darn good movie, too (the 1940 Hitchcock version, starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier).
A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
I hesitated to call this one a classic since it’s not even 30 years old, but it’s on high school reading lists, so there you go. Written with Irving’s customary nod to the outlandish, but a bit of a departure from his usual style, it captures the intense feelings of fate, faith, friendship and the follies of youth and creates a clear visual of both main characters as they grow up and enter the world. Owen Meany believes in destiny, and lives his life with the knowledge he is “God’s instrument” and must fulfill a pre-ordained plan.
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame
If you can, get a copy with illustrations by Tasha Tudor. Okay, it’s been illustrated by several phenomenal artists (see left). The adventures of Toad, Rat, Mole, Badger and the rest of the gang are just as engaging for adults as they are for children, the alleged intended audience. These are well-defined characters, and their stories have a rhythm that is almost poetic (consider the title of one tale, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”). There’s a reason I still have my childhood copy.