The Top Ten Best Classical Literature Books (so far)
Since I first began to read I always was drawn to literary works that were found in classical literature. I enjoy stepping back into a time period I was not a part of whether it is a regency era, medieval times or even in the midst of a World War. So here I want to give what I think are 10 of the best works of classical literature that I have read so far that I feel are worthwhile reads.
Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte
While some may view this simply as a love story there is still one important theme to be found within it, forgiveness. Many of the plot points hinge upon forgiveness being bestowed to an individual by the protagnoist her her to move on in her endeavors. Jane did not start as a forgiving girl but is taught forgiveness by a young friend she meets along her journeys that shows her the only weapon they had against their injustices is to forgive those who have wronged them. This book also shows the importance of hard work in an individual as the only way Jane is able to leave the school is to work hard and learn all she can to improve her situation and become a governess. I do not discount thought that this is also a pefectly enchanting romance as Jane seeks the attentions of the mysterious Mr. Rochester.
The Lord of the Rings, written by J.R.R. Tolkein
While fantasy may not be everyone's cup of tea this trilogy deserves a second glance. It shows that help will always come from an unlikely place and even if we don't feel we can do something we must rise to meet the challenge. Never dreaming that his life might be more than quiet and uneventful young Frodo Baggins is placed into the most extraordinary of situations when he undertakes the quest to destroy a powerful dark ring. He is not asked to be the Ringbearer but simply steps up to the plate when no one else would. The adventure brings together many themes such as the ability to resist temptations and to face what it is you fear to be succesful. All in all this book will delight you with its characters and keep you enthralled on the quest with the fellowship.
Chronicles of Narnia, written by C.S. Lewis
I can hardly put Lord of the Rings on this list without also putting J.R.R. Tolkein's friend on here. The Narnia series are a wonderful book series to introduce children to classical literature. It is a quick easy read that introduces them to a magical world. Don't let them fool you though because C.S. Lewis actually originally meant them for adults. He always felt that adults needed fairy tales more than children because adults needed something to believe in again. Pulling his inspiration from biblical stories he wanted to engage not only children but the adults as well in his tales. So get lost in wonder with children again I promise you won't regret it.
The Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens
Probably one of the most recognized Christmas tales and has inspired many different film versions, even a Muppets one. The story follows a greedy old miser named Ebenezer that has lost all spirit for Christmas (though his feelings for other holidays are not mentioned). He is warned by his old business partner he will be encased in chains for all eternity unless the christmas spirits can convince him to change his ways. Upon seeing flashbacks and visions into the future we see that Scrooge moved his way up the ranks and lost his love to his ambitions. It is through this he is able to see the error of his ways and attempt to change them. This story gives us an important message that we need to be careful what we hold important in our lives as it might be the very thing that costs us everything.
Twelfth Night, written by William Shakespeare
I could hardly do a classical literature list and not include some work of Shakespeare. This play does not receive as much limelight as some of his others such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet or Macbeth but it deserves a place on this list. The story follows a brother and sister who both think the other is dead after their ship sinks. The sister dresses as a man to win the trust of a Duke to help her other shipwrecked friends since their countries are at war. The brother travels to also become a part of the Duke's entourage. In typical Shakespearian comedy the cast is full of delightfully amusing characters that all vie for the attentions of one girl. While not one of the more famous plays this has always been my favorite and felt it deserved a little recognition.
The Phantom of the Opera, written by Gaston Leroux
While most only known as Andrew Lloyd Webber's entrancing musical it was originally based upon a virtually unknown novel, until it was picked up in 1925 to be made into a slient film staring Lon Chaney. The book's opening words contained "The opera ghost really existed." Gaston Leroux, fascinated by the colorful history of the Parisian Opera House, created a story about a young disfiguired boy who finds his home in the catacombs of the Opera House gaining untold knowledge from its many occupants. Taking inspiration from real opera singers and playing on the history of the opera house he weaves an intriguing tale which leaves you wondering if there really was an opera ghost.
Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, written by Lewis Carroll
This was a curious little tale about a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a world where everything is nonsense. Before falling down Alice believes she wants a world of nonsense until she gets exactly what she wished for only its not everything she imagined it would be. She eventually finds herself in what is known as Looking Glass Land which is a place where everything is opposite and she must navigate a chess board in order to find her way home. While all of this really ends in a dream she finds she is ready to put away childish things and begin to grow up. It is an easy read and will enchant you as you see Alice work through the trials she faces to find her way back.
The Grimm's Fairy Tales, compiled and written by the Grimm's Brothers
Now it may be strange that I am putting on a collection of fairy tales on here but it is more the content of those tales I am referring to. The Grimm Brothers set about on a mission to collect old folk tales from different European cultures. It was both an effort to preserve the culture but also use the lessons from the tales to "scare" children into behaving. Many of the practices used in the tales were actually used in real life (i.e. child abandonment was used like in Hansel and Gretel if the family did not have enough to provide for them). The fairy tales are a glimpse into old European culture as well as a reminder to always be wary of the woods.
The Princess Bride, written by William Goldman
I say read William Goldman's version because he condenses the story down to where the story is actually able to be followed a little easier (I've read both versions and this one was easier). While many more know this as a movie the book is just as good. I always encourage others to read the book if they have also seen the movie because you still fall in love with the characters while reading and root for Wesley and Buttercup to find each other in the end.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
When I read this book I was intrigued mostly at this young girl's courage when faced with the injustice she was. Many stories surrounding the Holocaust had come from textbooks before for me so it was very intriguing to see the events play out from the eyes of a school girl that was slowly having her rights taken away and the only reason she knew was because of her religious faith. It is an eye opening book that deserves a place on everyone's shelf if nothing more that to be inspired by the courage one little girl displayed even amongst all the impossible trials that she had to face.
While I know there are many more books of classical literature out there for me to read I am putting forward this list as my OPINION of the best classical literature books I have read so far. I don't think of this as a definitive list and invite others to add to it. I don't believe one book on this list is better than the other and don't believe everyone will or has to agree with it. Use this list as a guiding tool that might open up the door to other classical literature books and let your mind by amazed at the wonders you might find.