5 Classics Worth Revisiting

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I used to teach high school English. Even though I left the classroom years ago, I still get asked, "What did you did you do before having children?" And whenever I tell people about my former profession, I almost always hear the response, "Oh! I don't know if I can talk around you." 

What makes English teachers so intimidating?

Often the conversation devolves into a rant about people hating high school English or hating being forced to read things they hated in general. Because I seem to have this conversation far too often, I reassure my friends by saying English teachers don't always like the classics either. I'm not a huge fan of Moby Dick or Heart of Darkness or The Scarlet Letter or Wuthering Heights. Yet, somehow, I still love to read and still love to encourage others to read. Then, I usually recommend classic books that deserve another try. Here are my top 5:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird: By a landslide, this is my favorite book of all time. I'm always surprised when I meet adults who've never read it. Scout is a fantastic narrator, and Atticus is my literary superhero. More than anything, this novel reinforces the importance of integrity and human decency to every person, whether deserving or not.

2. Jane Eyre: Though a bit wordy and sometimes a bit ridiculous in its plot points, Jane Eyre is a rare kind of love story. The main character is not that pretty, and she sticks to her beliefs more than her man. The book features an intimidating house on a creepy English moor, plenty of mystery and secrets and strange happenings, and several moments of swoon and passion. Seriously, give it a shot.

3. Rebecca: Speaking of haunting English manors and secretive happenings, Rebecca is sure to please any lover of mystery or romance. Caught in a whirlwind romance and marriage, the new Mrs. de Winter faces daunting challenges. The return to Manderley changes her new husband, leaving her alone and unsure of her place. Worst of all, the new Mrs. de Winter cannot shake the memory of her husband's dead first wife, Rebecca. Full of intrigue and mystery, suspense and passion, Rebecca is sure to please fans of all genres.

4. Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, a fireman who starts fires rather than extinguishes them and works to burn all books he finds. Montag enjoys his job and life well enough until he meets a girl named Clarisse who causes him to question his life and its purpose. This novel shows what happens to a society when it stops reading. Plus, Bradbury's ability to write in 1950 about a world strikingly similar to our current world is unnerving.

5. A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens creates such intricate plot twists from such unusual characters, but set during the French Revolution, he also manages to provide a compelling story about self-sacrifice, love, and duty as well. Most noted for its beginning line, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times," this novel weaves a beautiful story about friendship during a time of war and bloodshed.

Do you have favorite classic novels? What would you add to the list?


Kelly Wiggains