Embarking on a literary odyssey through the corridors of time, we find ourselves drawn to the magnetic allure of classic books—timeless vessels that transcend epochs, genres, and societal shifts. In the pages of these venerable tomes, we encounter the collective wisdom, dreams, and struggles of generations past, immortalized in prose that resonates with an enduring vibrancy. Join me as we navigate the rich tapestry of 20 must-read classic books, unravelling narratives that have withstood the test of time, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

1. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen (1813)

Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Image Credit: IMDB

Austen’s razor-sharp wit and keen observations of societal norms come to life in this timeless tale of love, class, and societal expectations. Elizabeth Bennet’s journey, a masterpiece of social satire, has also translated seamlessly onto the screen, making it one of the best book-to-movie adaptations.

2. “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville (1851)

"Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville - one of the must-read classic books
Source: Owlcation

Melville’s epic novel delves into the complexities of obsession, fate, and the indomitable spirit of Captain Ahab in his quest for the elusive white whale. “Moby-Dick” is a profound exploration of the human condition set against the vast and unforgiving backdrop of the sea.

3. “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)

"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky - one of the must-read classic books
Source: Russia Beyonf

Dostoevsky’s psychological masterpiece takes readers into the tormented mind of Rodion Raskolnikov, a destitute student who commits a heinous crime. The novel grapples with morality, guilt, and redemption in a gripping narrative that remains as relevant today as it was in 19th-century Russia.

4. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë (1847):

Source: whistles in the wind

Brontë’s Gothic romance follows the life of the orphaned and resilient Jane Eyre. Through its exploration of social class, gender roles, and the search for identity, the novel has left an enduring impact on literature and feminist discourse.

5. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez (1967)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967) - one of the must-read classic books
Source: Behance

Márquez’s magical realism unfolds in the fictional town of Macondo, tracing the Buendía family across seven generations. This multilayered narrative weaves together history, politics, and the fantastical in a way that has defined the Latin American literary tradition.

6. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1960)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) - one of the must-read classic books
Source: BookMarks reviews

Lee’s exploration of racial injustice and moral growth in the American South remains a powerful commentary on prejudice and compassion. Through the eyes of Scout Finch, the novel confronts the complexities of human nature and the pursuit of justice.

7. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

The Great Gatsby (2013)
Image Credit: IMDB

Fitzgerald’s quintessential portrayal of the Jazz Age exposes the allure and emptiness of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby’s tragic pursuit of love and success resonates with readers as a cautionary tale about the illusions of wealth and happiness.

8. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë (1847)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë - one of the must-read classic books
Source: KNCV – Tuberculosefonds

Brontë’s dark and passionate tale of the ill-fated love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw unfolds against the haunting moors of Yorkshire. “Wuthering Heights” remains a haunting exploration of love, revenge, and the destructive forces of societal expectations.

9. “1984” by George Orwell (1949)

"1984" by George Orwell (1949) - one of the must-read classic books
Source: Forbes

Orwell’s dystopian vision of a totalitarian future serves as a chilling warning about the dangers of unchecked power and the erosion of individual freedoms. “1984” remains a seminal work in the exploration of political philosophy and societal control.

10. “The Odyssey” by Homer (circa 8th century BCE)

The Odyssey by Homer - one of the must-read classic books
Source: No Sweat Shakespeare

Homer’s epic poem stands as a cornerstone of Western literature, chronicling the heroic journey of Odysseus as he faces mythical creatures and divine intervention. “The Odyssey” continues to captivate readers with its timeless themes of perseverance, loyalty, and the search for home.

11. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy (1877)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Source: ReadinGirl

Tolstoy’s exploration of love, infidelity, and societal expectations in 19th-century Russia centers around the tragic figure of Anna Karenina. The novel’s intricate characters and philosophical depth contribute to its enduring status as a classic.

12. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger (1951)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Source: PBS Learning Media

Salinger’s coming-of-age novel follows the disillusioned teenager Holden Caulfield as he navigates the complexities of adolescence and society. Its candid portrayal of alienation and the search for authenticity continues to resonate with readers of all ages.

13. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Source: Providence

Dostoevsky’s exploration of faith, morality, and the human soul unfolds in the complex relationships among the three Karamazov brothers. The novel’s philosophical inquiries and psychological depth make it a cornerstone of existentialist literature.

14. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley (1818)

"Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley
Source: Times

Shelley’s groundbreaking work in science fiction explores the consequences of unchecked scientific ambition and the complexities of humanity. “Frankenstein” not only birthed the genre but also raised profound questions about ethics, responsibility, and the nature of creation.

15. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Source: ThoughtCo

Huxley’s dystopian vision of a technologically controlled society explores the trade-off between individual freedom and societal stability. “Brave New World” remains a thought-provoking critique of the dehumanizing effects of mass production and consumerism.

16. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Source: Presbyformed

Wilde’s exploration of decadence, vanity, and the consequences of a hedonistic lifestyle centers around the enigmatic Dorian Gray. The novel’s sharp wit and philosophical musings on art and morality continue to captivate readers.

17. “The Iliad” by Homer (circa 8th century BCE)

"The Iliad" by Homer
Source: ancient-literature.com

Homer’s epic poem unfolds against the backdrop of the Trojan War, exploring themes of heroism, fate, and the consequences of pride. “The Iliad” remains a foundational work in Western literature, offering a timeless examination of the human condition.

18. “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens (1859)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Source: English Plus Podcast

Dickens’ historical novel set against the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution explores themes of sacrifice, resurrection, and the interplay between personal and political destinies. “A Tale of Two Cities” is a poignant reflection on the cyclical nature of history.

19. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Source: Open Culture

Hawthorne’s exploration of sin, guilt, and societal judgment in Puritanical New England follows the life of Hester Prynne, marked by the scarlet letter ‘A’. The novel’s nuanced portrayal of morality and redemption remains a classic of American literature.

20. “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Source: ThoughtCo

Dumas’ tale of revenge and redemption follows Edmond Dantès, wronged and imprisoned, as he orchestrates a meticulous plan for retribution. “The Count of Monte Cristo” is a swashbuckling adventure that explores themes of justice, forgiveness, and the transformative power of time.

In the closing chapters of our exploration, we stand on the precipice of a realization—one that underscores the perennial relevance of classic books. These works, crafted with ink but immortalized in the echoes of shared human experiences, offer more than escapism; these classic books provide a timeless sanctuary where readers can commune with the collective soul of humanity. Classic books, with their ability to traverse temporal boundaries, beckon us not to dwell in the past but to carry the torch of literary enlightenment forward.