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A back-to-school reading list of classic literature

With carefree summer winding to a close, we’ve pulled together some reading recommendations to put you in a studious mood. Check out these Oxford World’s Classics suggestions to get ready for another season of books and papers. Even if you’re no longer a student, there’s something on this list for every literary enthusiast.

Timon of Athens

If you liked Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, you should read Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare. Like Miller’s Willy Loman, Timon does not enjoy an especially happy life, although from the outside it seems as though he should. Timon once had a good thing going, but creates his own misery after lavishing his considerable wealth on friends. He eventually grows to despise humanity and the play follows his slow demise.

If you liked Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, you should read The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois. Many argue that each of these texts should be required reading in all American schools. The Souls of Black Folk sheds light on a dark and shameful chapter of history, and of the achievements, triumphs, and continued struggles of African Americans against various obstacles in post-slavery society.

The IliadIf you liked Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, you should read The Iliad by Homer. Written 2,700 years ago, The Iliad may just be the original anti-war novel, paving the way for books like Slaughterhouse-Five. Illustrating in poetic form the brutality of war and the many types of conflict that often lead to it, the periodic glimpses of peace and beauty that punctuate the story only serve to bathe the painful realities of battle in an even starker light.

If you liked The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, you should read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. This 19th century Victorian novel explores the survival of good, utilizing England’s workhouse system and an orphaned boy as vehicles to navigate its themes. Dickens was considered the most talented among his contemporaries at employing suspense and violence as literary motifs. The result was a classic work of literature that continues to be a favorite for many.

The Scarlet LetterIf you liked The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood you should read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If strong female protagonists are your thing you will probably enjoy Hester Prynne, who endures public scorn after bearing a child out of wedlock, and faces a punishment of wearing a red “A” to designate her offense. Despite the severe sentence, Hester maintains her faith and personal dignity, all while continuing to support herself and her baby—not an easy feat in a 17th century puritan community.

If you liked One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you should read The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. A colorful and eclectic assortment of characters make the best of a long and arduous pilgrimage by entertaining each other with tall tales of every genre from comedy to romance to adventure. If you enjoy certain aspects of Garcia Marquez’s writing, namely the fantasy elements and large cast of characters in One Hundred Years, you will probably appreciate those same characteristics in this novel, which was written 600 years ago and is still admired today.

My AntoniaIf you liked The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, you should read My Antonia by Willa Cather. A similar tale of survival in a harsh new land, My Antonia provides the context for a romance between two mufti-dimensional characters. Cather offers readers a glimpse into settler life in the nascent stages of American history, with vivid landscape descriptions and universal themes of companionship and family as added bonuses.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. – See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/08/daniel-deronda-book-design/#sthash.BydtPSF1.dpuf

If you liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, you should read The Trial by Franz Kafka. Psychological thrillers don’t get much better than The Trial, a book that incorporates various themes including guilt, responsibility, and power. Josef K. awakens one morning to find himself under arrest for a crime that is never explained to him (or to the reader). As he stands trial, Josef gradually crumbles under the psychological pressure and begins to doubt his own morality and innocence, showing how Kafka used ambiguity brilliantly as a device to create suspense.

Featured image: Timeless books by Lin Kristensen. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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