My Top Ten Classic Novels

27/04/2015 Lists, Literature, Reading 18

My Top Ten Classic Novels10. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Whilst Jane Austen’s most popular book tends to be Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey remains my favourite. Despite its largely unlikable characters, this mock Gothic tale is one that is still funny today, and is a great example of Austen’s classic wit and satire.

9. Watership Down by Richard Adams

Yes, it’s a book about rabbits! But for me this book is so much more, and was a huge favourite of mine when I was a child, as was the film. I know a lot of people say that they find both the book and the film a little disturbing, but I think that’s partly because they do such a good job of showing the cruelty of humans and their disregard for the environment and animals. The book also uses world building that rivals some fantasy novels (the rabbits have their own language, hierarchy, mythology and even their own versions of God and Satan), has great characterisation (which considering the fact that all the characters are non-humans is pretty incredible!), and is an all-round powerful book.

8. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson’s now iconic Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a classic tale of doubling, and a chilling one at that, with its unsettling suggestion that beneath every civilised person lies an evil, demonic Mr Hyde…

7. Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Whilst I have never been much of a fan of the huge, weighty novels of Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy’s work is another matter, despite being equally dense (and considerably more depressing!). It was hard to pick between Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far From The Madding Crowd for this list, but in the end I went for Madding Crowd. I just love the various dynamics between Bathsheba and her three very different suitors, and the relatively happy ending left me with a more satisfied feeling than the grim ending of Tess.

6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s macabre masterpiece is still incredibly chilling today, and is a classic tale about the dangers of playing God. I have always loved the complexity of this novel, as despite Frankenstein’s creature technically being the villain (he kills all the hero’s family members after all!), you feel an immense amount of sympathy for him, whilst kind of hating Frankenstein for his treatment of him.

5. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells

Like Frankenstein, H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau is all about the consequences of playing God. The hero, Prendick, finds himself shipwrecked on an island inhabited only by the sinister Doctor Moreau, his assistant Montgomery and Doctor Moreau’s horrific creations – the so-called ‘Beast People’, who are animals who have been turned into humans…sort of. It’s an intriguing yet unsettling novel anyway, which really makes you think about what it means to be human.

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is set in 1920s New York, and is a tale of fabulous parties, extravagance and beautiful people. Yet underneath its glamour it exposes the emptiness and hypocrisy of the upper class society of that time, and does so through some of the most beautiful and poignant writing I have ever read.

3. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

This was actually the first book I ever reviewed on this blog, and I gave it a 5/5. It’s still one of my favourite books now, as I love the atmosphere conjured up by the bleak descriptions of the Cornish moors and really like the gutsy heroine Mary Yellan. I have also read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which was fantastic too, but I felt that the smugglers and shipwrecks of Jamaica Inn were slightly more exciting, and the heroine more dynamic.

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte

I’m a huge fan of all three of the Brönte sisters’ work, but Jane Eyre has to be my absolute favourite. I love that Jane isn’t your classic helpless Gothic heroine – she is plain-looking and shy, yet knows her own mind and sticks to her values even when it means losing her chance at love. Mr Rochester also has to be one of my favourite romantic heroes ever, which helps!

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I am a huge fantasy fan, and this all stems from The Lord of the Rings. As the original epic fantasy, it will always be one of my favourite books, and the world created within it by J.R.R. Tolkien is one that I  will continue to return to, over and over again.

So what are your favourite classics?

18 Responses to “My Top Ten Classic Novels”

  1. Nordie@writing about books

    Have read all but two of these books: Watership down and Island of Dr Moreau. Have no particular reason why not, just havent, and I have too many other books to add them to my collection right now.

    I struggle with doing “Top Tens” of any book related things – do you have any tips?

    • Laura

      I like doing Top Tens but they definitely can be tough! I decided on the ten books for this quite easily, but found it so hard to put them in order of which I liked best, so I think my only tip would be not to worry about the order too much. I just picked the top three that I knew I like the best (The Lord of the Rings was a clear winner for me!) and then arranged the others however.

    • Laura

      It is definitely one of those films that leaves you with a very weird feeling (I think it’s because I can never really work out if the end is happy or sad! Hazel dies, so it’s sad, but peacefully, so is it happy?), but I really do love it!

    • Laura

      Northanger Abbey really is overlooked. I like Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park too, but I definitely enjoyed Northanger Abbey more!

  2. Charlie (The Worm Hole)

    Northanger Abbey and Jane Eyre are there for me, too – Jane Eyre is my favourite, Pride And Prejudice a close second. I completely agree with you about NA; it’s stood the test of time in a different way to the others. Despite not loving them completely, I really appreciate Rebecca and The Great Gatsby, in fact I think of them more when writing blog posts than the rest. There is just so much to discuss. I also love/hate Wuthering Heights; it’s tough to say you love that one!

    • Laura

      Wuthering Heights really is a tough one! I love the story and the atmosphere it creates, but don’t really like any of the characters that much which is why it’s a love/hate book for me too. Jane and Mr Rochester are flawed but likeable in Jane Eyre, whereas Cathy and Heathcliff just seem like all round bad people. Thanks for commenting!

  3. David Peter

    What struck me about your top ten is the absence of George Eliot and Charles Dickens. I would certainly recommend Adam Bede and Hard Times as two very accessible novels by those two. I would also recommend that you try some ‘foreign’ authors, say Balzac, Gogol, and possibly Solzhenitsyn. Finally, I’ve found some 20th century British novelists very rewarding: Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet and Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy. Like your blog and you’ve reminded me about Northanger Abbey, I really should re-read it.

    • Laura

      I did read A Tale of Two Cities at university and found it quite hard-going which has put me off Dickens a bit, but I will have to give Hard Times a go if it is a bit more accessible. And I had kind of forgotten about George Eliot! I did read The Mill on the Floss quite a while back and enjoyed it, so I’ll have to read some of her other work. Thanks for all your suggestions! I will definitely be checking some of these out.

  4. Sunny Smith

    I tend to shy away from classic novels, but in high school I was forced to read a few of them. I particularly liked The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. I also remember really enjoying the different themes of Frankenstein. Sometimes classics are so much more enjoyable when you can discuss it in an academic setting.

    Great post!

    • Laura

      I definitely agree that classics can be more enjoyable when you get to discuss them! I think sometimes when you are forced to read books for school/college/university it can really put you off them (which is why to this day I still hate Of Mice and Men!), but it can also enhance them for you when you learn about all the historical context and themes behind them. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Ardelia

    This is an awesome list! The books on your list that I haven’t read are on my TBR list. I love Frankenstein and The Great Gatsby. I read Dr. Moreau last summer, and it STILL freaks me out. (However, I’ve been told I’m a pansy, so…)

    I can’t wait until I get to Northanger Abbey and Far From the Madding Crowd. I love Austen, and I really enjoyed Tess of the d’Ubervilles.

    I’m now working my way through The Return of the King. I have five chapters left, and I really don’t want to read them because I don’t want the series to end. I hate that empty feeling I get after I finish a series. 🙁

    • Laura

      I hate that feeling when you finish an amazing series too! And The Lord of The Rings is definitely one of the best! Glad you have enjoyed it.
      And Dr Moreau totally freaked me out too (but maybe I’m kind of a pansy too!), but I really liked that about it. I think when a book is quite old it can seem kind of tame compared to modern day books, but Dr Moreau is still super creepy today (well, it is to us at least! Not sure about anyone else!).
      I really hope you enjoy Northanger Abbey and Far From The Madding Crowd. They are really amazing books! 🙂

  6. Claire

    *gaps* I LOVE The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! I’ve only read it once (I’m not sure I could stomach another read, it’s rather creepy and took me a while to get through), but I really enjoyed it- if you can enjoy experiencing chills, that is. I really want to read Jane Eyre, so I’m glad to hear another recommendation!

    Claire @ Cover to Cover

    • Laura

      Even though I love Jekyll and Hyde it isn’t the kind of book I can imagine myself rereading much either. It’s amazing but seriously creepy! And I really hope you enjoy Jane Eyre. It’s got such a great gothic atmosphere and Jane and Mr Rochester are one of my favourite fictional couples!

  7. Victoria Addis

    As with any ton ten list, there’s always some with which I agree and others I don’t, though overall you have a very good list– and your mini reviews are fab!

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