Since I have been spending so much time at home lately, reading has become a huge part of my day. My local library branch has been closed so I’ve found myself using their online service. It seems that I’m not the only one with this great idea, which means that many of the books I want to read are checked out. Fortunately, Project Gutenberg has hundreds of thousands of free classics online. Personally, I hadn’t read many classic novels since my high school English classes, so I looked for the ones that were the most accessible. Here are my favorite reads so far.
- The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
This is probably my favorite science fiction story that I’ve read. At novella length, it can be read in a day or stretched out over a few days. Wells has achieved a rarity in science fiction writing— timeless insights— which is ironic given that the novella is focused on a time machine. I don’t want to give too much away so what I will say is that The Time Machine feels like it was written just so that it could be read today.
- Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
If you haven’t read the book, you may be surprised to learn that the monster’s name is not Frankenstein. The book is different than what you might expect from the original tale behind a classic horror monster. Shelley creates a compelling story that will make you question your own sense of right and wrong. The story is complex, but vivid descriptions make it understandable. I would absolutely recommend reading it around Halloween time.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is without a doubt the longest book on the list, but it was worth every second I spent reading it. In fact, I love Pride and Prejudice so much that I watched pretty much movie version I could get my hands on. A side note: if you have lived in Utah or are familiar with LDS culture I would highly recommend this version on prime video that was made in Provo. Even though it’s tempting, don’t skip the book and just watch the movie, or else you’ll miss out on the rich descriptions and subtle humor that permeate the text. Austen is a master writer and uses satire to talk about dating and marriage in a fresh way that still rings true a few hundred years later.
- The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper is a short psychological horror story from the first-wave feminism era. Gilman’s tale about a woman’s experience with the “resting cure” for what we now call post-partum depression will leave you thinking about women’s rights, sense of identity, and women’s health issues. The story is influenced by Gilman’s own experience which adds another layer of complexity to the piece. This is a short but memorable read that you will want to re-read.
Each of these classic stories is a great place to start dipping your toe into classic literature. My advice would be to be patient with yourself and the story. It may take more time and effort than you are used to but it will pay off in innumerable ways.