I have two large bookshelves filled to the brim and if you peek under my duvet, beneath my bed, you will find the floor stacked with them as well. People always asked why I could not get rid of them and it’s because I am…a re-reader. There. Now, you know. The truth will set you free. I am Nina and I re-read books. Not just once. Or twice. But over and over again, like meeting a friend for coffee (of course, like friends, I am closer with some books than with others). And some friends like to go for cocktails with plenty of guacamole and warm tortilla chips. Still, I think these seven “classics” are worth not just reading once (if you haven’t) but reading a second time. Somewhere along the way, the word “classic” became a dirty word. Not so. Here’s what’s up:
1. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Goodness gracious. I hardly know where to start if you have never read this book before. I am actually very excited for you because a book like this changes you so you are on the verge of something spectacular. Imagine a dystopia (those are super popular right now) where the main character, Offred, can still remember what it was like to have money and go to the bank and read, even though, as a woman, she can no longer do any of those things. She is a Handmaid which means she is valued for her ability to bear children for the Commander under the new regime because of declining birth rates. Offred was not always her name though. Not only does she remember what it was like before this regime, she remembers her family and the time before. This book stuns me every time I read it.
2. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
Though most everyone was assigned this book in school, maybe you did not read it and even if you did, it is more than worth another read, especially with everything going on in this country and in the world. One of the many things I love about this book is that it can be read in a million ways. It’s a coming of age novel. It’s about race. It’s about justice. Lee always said it was about love. I used to want to marry Atticus Finch. This last time I read it, I cried.
3. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
You probably own a DVD version of this story (I’m partial to the Colin Firth version) but the book version is worth a re-read as well. If you’ve never read it, and only seen the films, then please, please, please, I believe the kindle version is free! You don’t want to miss the biting british humor, the true agony of Darcy’s missteps and Elizabeth’s embarrassment. The evolution of their relationship, both subtle and shocking at turns, is worth whatever qualms you may have about the language of 1800’s.
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
It became cool when Leo played Jay Gatsby or maybe it has always been cool. After all, a family member who shall not be named and who I will never understand told me this: “You know, Nina, I didn’t read a single book in high school. But I started The Great Gatsby and I was actually considering finishing it before they showed us the movie and then I thought, why would I finish it?” I share this illuminating anecdote because this person does not read books but this one held his interest. Also, you know it has to be a good story. When was the last bad movie Leo did? Haha.
5. C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce
A short book, an allegory about heaven (and also hell), this one will keep you thinking. My entire copy is almost entirely underlined. Also, it’s totally not about the dissolution of a marriage. Not a bit.
6. John Steinbeck East of Eden
This happens to be one of my favorite books of all time (it’s the only book I can safely say for sure would appear both on this list of seven books and my seven favorite books of all time…which I’ll get to at another time). It is so good. It is so, so good. Following generations of two families–the Trasks and the Hamiltons–based off of the story of Cain and Abel, this sprawling tale, though long, will keep you enthralled. Every time I read it, I never want it to end.
7. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner
I knew from the beginning that I did not want this to be a list of books written by dead white men. I also did not want this list (which was really hard to narrow down to seven books) to represent only a western point of view. Though this is the most recently written book on the list, please read it. I love all of Hosseini’s work but like the other authors I had to make a choice between novels. Taking place in Afghanistan over the last 30 years, telling the story of a friendship between rich boy and a poor one, everyone I have ever recommended this book to has not been able to put it down–man or woman, peers through senior citizens. Trust.
Have you read all of these? Have you re-read any of them? Did I miss some? It hurt me to keep it to seven.
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