Summer is the perfect time to escape into a good book. This year, more than ever, we can appreciate the power of losing yourself in a great story. Here is a selection of six classic novels to see you through the rest of summer…
Discover George Eliot’s final novel, which centres on the figure of Gwendolen Harleth. Trapped in an increasingly destructive relationship, only her chance encounter with the idealistic and eponymous Deronda seems to offer the hope of a brighter future…
George Eliot’s powerful novel is set in a Britain whose ruling class is decadent and materialistic. The novel’s exploration of sexuality, guilt, and the will to power anticipates later developments in fiction, and its linking of the personal and the political in a context of social and economic crisis gives it especial relevance to the dominant issues of the twenty-first century.
Read Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
Emma is written with matchless wit and irony, judged by many to be Austen’s finest work and considered the most representative novel by many modern readers. She evokes for her readers a cast of unforgettable characters and a detailed portrait of a small town undergoing historical transition. A perfect summer read!
Read Emma by Jane Austen
With our usual travel plans unconfirmed this summer, why not live vicariously through the travel adventures of Gulliver! Though not a laid-back beach trip we’d envisage for ourselves, this classic tale is brimming with colour and fantasy, with extraordinary experiences and encounters…
Though travel may be what sparks you to pick up this novel, it is the skilful blend of fantasy and realism which will keep you turning the pages. Swift plays tricks on the reader and delivers a satire of the human condition that is hilarious, frightening, and profound.
Read Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Be inspired this summer by the lives of the characters in Little Women. This novel has remained enduringly popular since its publication in 1868, becoming the inspiration for a whole genre of family stories…
Set in a small New England community, it tells the story of the March family: Marmee looks after her daughters in the absence of her husband, who is serving as an army chaplain in the Civil War, and Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy experience domestic trials and triumphs as they attempt to supplement the family’s small income.
Read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
As one of the most famous love stories of all time, this classic novel has also proven itself as a treasured mainstay of the English literary canon. Lose yourself in the world of the Bennett sisters as they navigate society…
Whether it’s your first summer reading this novel, or you’re rediscovering a favourite, it is impossible not to feel uplifted by this tale. As a story that celebrates the happy meeting-of-true-minds more unflinchingly than any of Austen’s other novels, and one that has attracted the most fans over the centuries, Pride and Prejudice sets up an echo chamber of good feelings in which romantic love and the love of reading amplify each other.
Read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
If your summer reading list is lacking an anti-heroine, you’d do well to add Vanity Fair to your to-be-read pile. Indulge in the wit and vitality of Becky Sharp and the fierce battle for social success…
This classic novel is a must-read story, where the satire is at once biting and profound, sparing none in a clear-eyed exposure of a world on the make. Thackeray’s scepticism of human motives borders on cynicism, yet Vanity Fair is among the funniest novels of the Victorian age.
Read Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
This list is just six of the hundreds of 18th and 19th century works available on Oxford World’s Classics, so if you’ve already checked off all six of our recommendations from your reading list then browse the online collection for more summer-reading inspiration!
Featured image by Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash