7 Essential Classic Books to Read

Although people are still divided on the importance of classical literature in the classroom and everyday life, there’s no doubt that America’s collective literacy is made up of key works. Instilled into classroom curriculums and deemed essential reading, these books have become part of a global canon, one whose motifs and themes pop up in our daily lives, inspiring and challenging us.

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7 Essential Classic Books to Read!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

A quintessential American classic by one of the most revered American writers and satirists. Mark Twain’s novel is an excellent jumping-off point for those interested in the writer’s work and stories of irony, adventure, and Twain’s recurring motif: the Mississippi River.

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Describing the emotions and fears of a young girl trapped in tragedy, Anne Frank’s diary has served as a wrenchingly human portrait of the Holocaust. Told in waves of hope and despair, Frank’s diary captures a personal youth and global wreckage, making it one of the most impactful books in contemporary writing. 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Often considered one of Steinbeck’s masterpieces, The Grapes of Wrath is an American epic following the lives of the Joad Family, as they are forced to leave Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Painting a vivid picture of poverty and hope for a better life in the West, Steinbeck’s story remains clear and poignant today.

 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

A coming-of-age classic and one that looks deep into the racial conflicts of the Harlem Renaissance. In Ellison’s novel, an unnamed young man moves to Harlem to help fight against white oppression but is ignored by all those around him. Filled with both the real and the obscure, Ellison’s description of a man’s search for identity in an indifferent America is a searing portrait.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Telling a story of love, abundance, and doom, Fitzgerald’s novel catalogs a man’s undying devotion and an era’s obsession with money. Told from the point of view of the observer, Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s fantastical parties and determination to charm the married Daisy create a spiral into an epic downfall. Moralless, volatile, and rich, Gatsby’s characters have become iconic. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Perhaps the most celebrated of Hemingway’s books, The Old Man and the Sea is a story of aspiration and futility. Following the story of an aging fisherman, Santiago, it details a lengthy struggle to catch a great marlin only to lose it to a shark. As the man deals with this disappointment, the novel becomes a portrait of humanity’s place in the world, struggling against apathy.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

In this autobiography, Angelou captures the struggle of children when caught between bigotry and cruelty. As Angelou describes the trauma of racism, rape, and neglect, she reveals the voice that persists despite oppression. Her work stands as an impactful inspiration and an unforgettable portrait of a legendary writer.


Classics are a great way for people to begin their reading journeys and find out what they enjoy while gaining a greater literacy for the icons and themes that permeate our everyday lives. The titles on this list serve as examples of essential reading for book fans and people just beginning to find time for reading. While there are no doubt many more titles to be added, this makes for a jumping-off point.

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18 thoughts on “7 Essential Classic Books to Read

    1. Art Fuentes says:

      I Agree! Books not even close, not even classics.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Invisible man and Maya Angelou’s book are not classics by any means. I can name a dozen more classic books. Those 2 books are there for diversity and wokeness of the author of this article who is virtue signalling.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Says the dude too afraid to post his name to his opiniokln.

    2. Thomas Grady says:

      Angelou is one of the top poets in history. I can’t comment on her book because I never read the work. Classics are older works, maybe modern masterpiece is accurate.

    3. Anonymous says:

      All I can say is that you have not read them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This list should be called ‘ I support the current think list’ and sole purpose of it is to not include Russian autors, witch are most important classics in history.

    1. Anonymous says:

      The reviewer is quite specific.
      These are the key works that make up
      America’s collective literacy.

      As a non-American, it suggests to me that Americans don’t read a lot of Russian or other nations’ classics.


      1. Thomas Grady says:

        Americans eat junk food to obesity, conform to predatory capitalist poverty economics, and enslave themselves in corporate fascist power structures. Reading is for humans.

    2. Thomas Grady says:

      Autors,Witch! Authors, that or which and let’s try who, are superior words to use.

    3. Thomas Grady says:

      Maybe classics and modern masterpieces are correct.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Eh…Jane Austen? The Brontes? George Eliot? Charles Dickens? Tolstoy? Anne Frank the only non-American author? Mmmmm….not my list, though some great books on it to be sure.

  4. Genoveva Estacio Estrada says:

    The list is only some of the classics.I’m familiar with these books and what they’re all about.I never had the time to read them as there’s never enough time in my days but I try to get what each book is all about as my basis for reading them word for word.I love reading biographies,auto or unauthorized,documentary,history or whatever interest me at the moment or stage of my life.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is “only American literature” list. Where are the South American authors like Marques, Russian classics like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, English writers like Dickens? Your list is poor and incomplete. Try look a little bit out of your own yard.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Definetly not my list…so many famous foreign writers and their books not mentioned…

  7. Steve says:

    I agree with most here.This is a woke list.Angelou is every woke persons favorite ,but many are better especially regarding world literature.


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