1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This is definitely one of my all-time favorite books. The Secret History is a campus novel that takes place in the 80s at Hampden College (based on real-life Bennington College) in Vermont. It is filled with beautiful writing and follows a group of students who study the Classics. This novel is highly entertaining and is filled with suspense, comedy, and a murder mystery. If you like the dark academia mood mixed with some 80s humor and murder, read this book.
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the classic book on which the film starring Audrey Hepburn is based. I absolutely love this book. It’s a quick read but still dense and lively. The plot follows the life of Holiday (Holly) Golightly, an untamed young woman living in New York City in the early 1960s. She befriends her neighbor Paul and a charming storyline unfolds. She lives with her cat, named Cat because she claims that no one should belong to another, so she shouldn’t name him. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is funny, timeless, brings up questions of belonging, and highlights the power of an independent woman.
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
A philosophical gothic novel following a young man named Dorian Gray who never grows old. After sitting to have his picture painted, Dorian wishes to never age, and he never does after selling his soul, while the painting of him grows old and bares all evidence of Dorian’s life. This novel dives into the psychology of human nature, the effect of self-image, death, and morality. Interestingly enough, it was also banned for a period of time!
4. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
You probably read this story as a child, but I highly recommend reading it again now. I have really enjoyed reading it as a teenager. The heartfelt story is entrancing and follows Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider. I love how E.B. White cleverly explains how the world works and emphasizes themes of self and identity through his anthropomorphized animals. One of my favorite parts of the book is when characters in the story are baffled and shocked by the miracle of the words appearing in a spider web, but Dr. Dorian expresses an important point: “I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place… the web itself is a miracle” (109). This is another timeless story that I believe can teach lessons to any age group.
5. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
This story follows a number of expatriates from the Lost Generation including Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes. The novel is set in Spain and France during the 1920s. The characters come alive off the page, the dialogue is poignant, and Hemingway describes the scenery beautifully. Throughout the traveling, bullfighting, and glamour, Hemingway investigates the themes of love and death, the reviving power of nature, and the concept of tragic love, all while diving into the minds of those from the Lost Generation.
6. That’s Not What I Meant! By Deborah Tannen
I actually read this book for a class, and it has proved to be very relevant. Written by a renowned sociologist and communications professor, this book helps you understand how important communication is in everyday life and in every relationship. It helps you better understand your own communication style and others around you and how to strengthen it. Tannen provides many anecdotes that I’m sure we can all relate to as well as an analysis about linguistics and miscommunication. It’s also very educational and explains terms such as meta-message and frames. Anyone who would like to learn more about communication should read this book!