It’s September! The temperature begins to drop and the kids are packing their bags and heading back off to school. In honor of this annual occurrence, we thought it might be fun to bring to life some nostalgia by looking at a few of those classic books you may have missed in high school.
The books on this list are all certified heavyweights – truly great pieces of literature. If you’ve never read them, you owe it to yourself to find out what all the fuss is about. If you have, it might be fun to refresh yourself on exactly why they’re classics. The best books are always timeless, just like the pieces of literature on this list.
Here are seven classic books you may have missed (or need to re-read!) from high school:
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ellison’s 1952 novel is a stunningly gripping portrayal of life for an African American man trying to navigate mid-20th-century American society. Our story follows an unnamed narrator from his time at a black college all the way to the streets of Harlem as he witnesses social injustice and prejudice at every turn.
As our unnamed narrator descends in social standing, he ascends in his realization of what true discrimination looks like. Packed with rich symbolism on every page, few literary works have done as good a job portraying the plight faced by African Americans in this country.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
“Who knows, he may grow up to be President someday unless they hang him first!”
This one has it all: adventures, laughs, drama, and excitement. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is one of the great American stories told by one of the great American storytellers.
With Twain’s hilarious yet compelling style, reading this one will feel as easy as floating down the Mississippi River as Tom did. You’ll meet some of the most wonderfully drawn characters from literature including Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, and a whole cast of delightful characters. It features more biting wit, satire, and social commentary than you’ll know how to handle. And if you’ve never read it: after you finish this one, check out the sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe’s tragic novel tells the story of Okonkwo, a tribal leader in the Igbo tribe in British colonial-era Nigeria. Some themes of the story include the impacts of colonialism on African society as well as the very concept of masculinity. It’s a devastatingly effective character study of one man’s descent into his preconceived notions of manhood while his own society crumble around him.
It’s a dense and tragic tale but expertly told. Achebe’s characters are fleshed out and developed in hauntingly realistic ways. Things Fall Apart is a powerful work of art that will stay with you for days on end.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
“Maybe…there is a beast…maybe it’s only us.”
This 1954 book by William Golding offers commentary on the formation of modern civilization as well as the true nature of man. A group of British boys are shipwrecked on a deserted island and attempt to organize a civilized society. What happens next is shocking and indicative of the base, animal nature of mankind.
You’ll see characters’ decency challenged as well as their ability to maintain decorum. It’s a truly fascinating hypothetical: what would anyone do in such dire conditions? That’s what has allowed this story to withstand the test of time.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s seminal work is a condemnation of the pursuit of the “American Dream.” Through the eyes of the narrator, Nick Carraway, we follow socialite Jay Gatsby as he throws some of the most lavish parties of the early 20th century as he clamors for his beloved Daisy. The pursuit of his childhood love and an endless parties call his extravagant existence into question, and his story begins to unravel.
One of the novels most distinctive aspects is its colorful language, used for symbolism in the story. Fitzgerald takes his time describing the most intricate details of the characters’ wardrobes or settings, each one having a purpose. For fans of descriptive dialogue, this classic is a must-read.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
Bradbury’s dystopian novel imagines a future where many books are outlawed and destroyed by “firemen.” It’s a story about how censorship and totalitarianism walk hand in hand. It paints a chilling picture of a society that exists without the written word and how truth and literacy are woven into the fabric of civilization.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
When a black man in the Deep South goes on trial for a crime he doesn’t commit, it’s all but assumed it will be an open and shut case in the town of Maycomb, Alabama. But with noble and principled Atticus Finch as his defense attorney, he stands a chance. To Kill a Mockingbird still resonates as one of the most gripping commentaries on racism in America, as well as the dangers of a mob mentality. It’s a stunning narrative with themes we still observe in today’s society.
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