Classics can seem a bit daunting. If you’ve picked up War and Peace and put it straight back down again, you’re certainly not alone. Classics aren’t for everyone, and that is totally fine. Absolutely no judgement about what you read here! But if you’re planning on dipping your toe into the water and reading some classics for the first time (or since love for them was bashed out of you at school), here are my recommendations.
I’ll give some tips for reading each one. When you start to read classics, the writing may well seem clunky; it might be tricky for you to get into the flow. But stick with it and you will reap the rewards!
Classics are great, but they do need special care and attention. Keep the TV off, pour a nice cup of tea and let yourself be immersed completely in these picks…
Dracula was published in 1897, but it certainly doesn’t read like a book that is over 120 years old. It is creepy and full of character.
You will probably know some of, if not all of, the story (please be aware that the recent adaption does not follow the story particularly) – which is a bonus. You are already part of the way there!
The writing feels fairly modern, and it will keep you entirely hooked.
If you like your novels with a healthy dose of smut (that’s probably most of us), you have Lady Chatterley’s Lover to thank. It was first published privately in 1928, but it wasn’t released fully in the U.K. until 1960. It had been subject to an obscenity trial which the publisher (Penguin) eventually won and the book sold 3 million copies.
This led the way for books to include more sex, and laid the pathway to the more open conversations we have today.
Aside from the historical importance, it’s also a great read when you’re new to classics. There’s a love story that will leave you wanting more, and you will continue reading to find the parts that caused it to be banned in the first place!
If you want to dip your toe into the classics, why not start with a novel that feels as though it was written today?
George Orwell’s dystopian novel, published in 1949, will feel eerily similar to present day as you read it. You’ll notice all of the resemblances and leave desperate to read more of his work (I’d suggest Animal Farm next).
“Her body refused to turn around; something was holding her there in the bedroom doorway. But she wasn’t dreaming. You don’t feel pain in dreams.“
It is no secret that I am a fan of weird and wonderful short stories (and occasionally enjoy getting my quill out to write some of my own), and the joy of stumbling across a collection which is as good as this one is almost indescribable.
Things We Lost In The Fire is…there’s no other word for it, it’s terrifying. These are modern day, gothic horror stories set in the slums of Buenos Aires. Each is fast-paced, twisting and turning with terror building with each line.
I tend to judge the success of horror stories by the weirdness of my dreams after reading – and based on the disturbed sleep I had, this collection is a winner.
One of my favourites was The Neighbor’s Courtyard, a terrifically creepy yarn which reminded me, with its obsession, of The Yellow Wallpaper. But all of the stories are very good, and all very different.
You know that excitement when you read a book you love, will remember forever, and that you know you won’t stop recommending to people, probably ever? Yep. This is one of them. I’m sad that I can’t experience the joy of reading it for the first time again.
You can find Things We Lost In The Fire here and the book tracker bookmarks here.
Oh, how I love a fairy tale retelling. They are so deeply immersive and, when well-written, pick you up and spirit you away to another world.
Orfeia is a retelling of the Orpheus myth (a quick recap – Orpheus’ wife Eurydice died and Orpheus went to the underworld to beg for her life. The gods allowed her release as long as Orpheus did not look back at her as they travelled back to the land of the living. Unable to do so, Orpheus looked back and Eurydice was gone forever). Orfeia draws on the themes of death and grief, but focuses instead on a mother and her daughter.
As with all of Harris’ work, the story is beautifully told. Magic weaves through it and you question dreams and reality. I rushed through the book in a few sittings, swept away by the enchanting tale, and it would be perfect for a chilly autumn evening- by the fire with a glass of wine.
The book is illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins (who also illustrated A Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road) and the beautiful drawings bring Harris’ words to life.
You can find Orfeia here and the book tracker bookmarks here.
Last winter, the publishers Thomas Nelson released the Winter Seasons Editions, a set of four books with glorious laser cut cover designs. They are limited edition, with just 10,000 copies of each book available to buy. You can see in the picture above that I managed to get my hands on three of the collection – Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and A Tale of Two Cities. I missed out on the fourth! Little Women sold out very quickly and, although I have alerts everywhere for a copy, I haven’t been able to find a second hand one for under £200. That’s how special they are.
So when I received the news that the Summer Seasons Editions were on their way, I was determined not to make the same mistake again. Thomas Nelson were kind enough to send me this copy of Jane Eyre to feature on my Instagram, and let me tell you that the Summer Editions are even better than the winter ones, so I think they will sell out quickly. They have listened to feedback from their first set and these ones have a thicker protective wrap. They also each come with a laser cut bookmark. As with the winter books, they’re all individually numbered too.
The Summer Seasons Editions are being released on 30th June, so you can preorder the set now and make sure you don’t miss out. Although I’ve preordered the rest of the set from Amazon, and they won’t be delivering to here in the UK until 23rd July. Still, the wait will make the anticipation even greater!
“But this is a women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s, and the poet will look upon their pain – the pain of the women who have always been relegated to the edges of the story, victims of men, survivors of men, slaves of men – and he will tell it, or he will tell nothing at all.”
There are good retellings of Greek myths and legends – The Song of Achilles, for example. There are good feminist retellings – Circe and The Penelopiad. And there are (I’m sorry to say it) not so good feminist retellings, such as The Silence of the Girls. With A Thousand Ships, we thankfully have a feminist retelling which falls into good – if not excellent- category.
The book follows a mostly chronological story of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ (and other ‘heroes’) various meanderings afterwards, told solely through the eyes of the women involved. Some are well known to fans of the immensely popular recent novels, others were new to me.
A Thousand Ships flits between many of the women involved in and affected by the war, and I have read several views that suggest the book was the worse because of this. I found the opposite- perhaps it’s down to my lack of focus at the moment but I loved gaining a wider perspective through multiple viewpoints.
I gave this book 9/10. Will it win the Women’s Prize? Probably not. It may not be as in-depth and focused as some people would prefer, but it was the perfect read for me at this time. If you want to escape into the world of Greek myths and legends, this is the book for you. And on that note, if you have any other recommendations for myths and legends retellings, pop them in the comments!
Blood appears black in the moonlight. Don’t ask me how I know that. There are many things I’ve done and many things I’ve seen that I’d prefer not to tell you. But I suppose, now I’m here, that I should share.
It is freeing, in a way, to be able to tell you anything. To feel like I can tell you anything. I trust you. I haven’t trusted many people in my life, but you – I feel like we have a connection. Don’t you?
So, where to begin? I suppose you want to know everything, don’t you? Perhaps I should start with my childhood. How little there is to tell about that though. I was a loner – I imagine you guessed that already, from how I am now. An only child, distant parents. I can’t pretend that my difficulties, the trials and tribulations I’ve felt during my life, haven’t stemmed from then. In fact, until I found you, I was drifting. I had no anchor, despite my wealth. Oh, how I do now!
No, don’t worry, my parents weren’t cruel. But I can’t say that they showed me love either. They were busy, I felt like an afterthought. I found my own ways to entertain myself. I won’t bore you with them, ordinary childhood things that they were. Games.
I went to University a year early. I always was bright, but numbers come naturally to me. I was confused by how others struggled in those lessons, perhaps that goes some way to explain my lack of friends. I hoped things would be different at Oxford University. Surely there, there would be people like me?
As you know, I was disappointed. They had all of the benefits of a socialised childhood and they gathered in groups that I couldn’t infiltrate. I just didn’t know how – they weren’t like me. Instead, I went from lecture to lecture, head down, books in hand, talking to no one. I was invisible. I kept my eyes on the ground and studied in my room. I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me and that was that.
This may sound like I want your pity. I don’t. You know that since then, my life has become an apparent success. I have friends, fans even. My money. Status. But I’ve always wanted more. I’ve always been hungry for more. Now that we’re together, I’m content. You have changed that side of me, at least.
Yes, I know why we are here, having this conversation. Yes, I can tell what that expression on your face means. You want more. Well. I don’t know whether delving any deeper would be helpful. You already seem disappointed in me. What can I do? It is more difficult than it seems, peeling back the layers. As painful as removing a layer of skin. I’ll try. I’m flattered that you want to learn more about me. I feel there is something I’m missing though, something urgent that you want. You are tense. But you feel as though you can’t ask. Ok, that’s fine. I want you to believe in me.
A heart is like an apple, you know. When it’s healthy and happy it is fresh and juicy and red – filled to bursting. Have you ever bitten into an apple and left it on the side? Straight away it starts to wilt, brown, rot. There’s no healing it. That’s my experience, anyway. Give it an hour or two and there’s nothing you can do to save it, you may as well just toss it in the bin.
You could say that’s been my life’s work.
You don’t get the connection? You look confused, but trust me, it is a good metaphor. I can see your micro expressions now, flitting across your face, you are struggling to understand. It will become clear. I want what you want – I want the two of us to be happy and I want you to know me. I know that’s important for us to move forward.
Shall we move on to your reservations about me? I can see that you have them. People have had reservations about since I was a child. Perhaps it’s something about the way I hold myself. I’m so used to being alone that others sense that they are unnecessary around me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I need you as much as you need me. I’m sorry that I can’t be different.
Perhaps talking about my career will help. You know that I’m successful and – well, you’ve seen my office. You perhaps don’t know quite how hard I had to work to build my company. From the ground up. Starting with nothing – no loans, just a computer in my bedroom. Am I proud of what I’ve achieved? Yes, of course I am. Wouldn’t you be? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to undermine your own career. I know you work hard. But yes, to get to the bottom of what you want to know, I did trample on people on my way up. To be a success, you have to. Kind people don’t get anywhere in this life. Oh, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but you understand – to make millions, to become a someone, you have to stand on top of a pile of bodies. Excuse my crude phrasing. It was harder for me than those Eton boys with their connections readymade. I had to rely on pure talent and guts. You think I’m cold, and I don’t deny it. But you can see why I would be, with a life like mine.
Now I’m confused because you still seem to want more from me. There are no more relevant things that I can share about my life. I said it was freeing to be able to tell you anything and I stand by that, but your reaction is frankly quite disappointing. You have a strange look on your face. What is that look? If you came closer to me, maybe I would be able to decipher it. As it is, I am drawn to your glinting eyes in this gloomy room.
I see what you want. I understand now. You want to know about my past relationships. Are you alright? I noticed a subtle change in you. This is what you were waiting for. Well, I’m afraid there’s really nothing to tell you. I have never been much of a one for long relationships. They don’t tend to work for me.
I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear.
Interview adjourned at 13.49. The accused remains unwilling to disclose the locations of the other bodies.
If you liked this, you can buy me a coffee by making a donation below. No pressure and it is certainly not expected, but each donation gives me the sweet caffeine I need to carry on writing. Thank you!
Bright, light books should grace everyone’s shelves. These are six of my particular favourites. The Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice are part of the glorious Thomas Nelson Seasons Paper Cut series. These fall under winter – the summer set is available for preorder now. They are some of the most gorgeously intricate designs I’ve ever seen. Also included are my incredibly special Anna Karenina and the Knickerbocker Jules Verne collection.
Here’s where you can find them (starting from the bottom):
Late spring is perhaps my favourite time of year. The anticipation of summer and long, warm days ahead, bright flowers bursting onto the scene and chirruping birds. Throw in some glorious sunshine and I don’t think you can beat it.
This is the mood I was trying to convey with this image. Here are the links to the books that I featured (starting from the bottom):
Ah, this is one of my favourite photos that I’ve taken in a long time. I love the colours, they remind me of spring. Here’s where you can find the books to brighten up your bookcase. They’re a variety of publishers and editions, and I’ve done my best to locate them all for you. Here they are, from bottom up:
These four black books contain some of my favourite works. The one novel – Dracula – is close to the top of my list of classics I enjoy the most. It is always a delight to read (and the recent BBC adaptation was a delight to watch – amazing for binging!). The other three books contain short stories and novellas from some of the very best authors. The Flame Tree short stories in particular are fantastic value for money.