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Back to School Books

September 7, 2016

It's that time of year: Back to School! To celebrate this glorious time here are 15 classic books we (well at least in my day) had to read in the fun house.  Perhaps a revisit will teach us to re-appreciate their contributions to literature. Carpe liber!

1 To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee | Fiction


To Kill a Mockingbird is a actual novel by Harper Lee really published in 1960. It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has since become a classic of American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author's observations of her real family and also neighbors, as well as on an real event that actually occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old.

2 The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Francis Scott Fitzgerald | Classic Literature


In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new, something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology.

3 The Odyssey

The Odyssey

Homer. | Humanities and Arts


The Odyssey (Ancient Greek: Ὀδύσσεια, Odysseia) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he was known in Roman myths) and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War.

4 Huckleberry Finn (Easy English)

Huckleberry Finn (Easy English)

Dave Mckay | Youth


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were first printed in 1884, eight years after Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It starts up where the other story finished, and the two books together are believed to be the best that Mark Twain ever wrote. Huck travels down the Mississippi on a raft, facing many dangers on the way and learning about life and what it means to be a friend. 

5 Hamlet


William Shakespeare | Fiction


After Hamlet's father is killed by his brother, Claudius, Hamlet struggles with his vow to seek revenge by murdering Claudius.

6 Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare | Classic Literature


The lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (first published 1597) is a play by William Shakespeare concerning the fate of two young star-crossed lovers. Perhaps the most famous of his plays, it is one of his earliest theatrical triumphs and is considered the archetypal love story of the Renaissance.

7 The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne | Fiction


In early colonial Massachusetts, a young woman experiences the results of adultery and must spend the remainder of her life atoning for her sins.

8 Macbeth


William Shakespeare | Classic Literature


Macbeth is among the best-known of William Shakespeare's plays, and is his shortest tragedy, believed to have been written between 1603 and 1606. Often regarded as archetypal, the play tells of the dangers of the lust for power and the betrayal of friends. There are also many superstitions centred on the belief the play is somehow "cursed", and many actors will not mention the name of the play aloud, referring to it instead as "The Scottish play".

9 Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen | Fiction


The beautiful, young Elizabeth falls in love with Mr. Darcy, but he must control his pride while she tries to overcome her prejudice.

10 Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad | Fiction


Captain Charles Marlow describes his experience transporting ivory along the Congo River in Africa where he encounters many instances of ruin and destruction.

11 A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens | Fiction


This novel follows the lives of three peasants who are degraded and subdued by the French aristocracy.

12 Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte | Drama


A servant in the house at Wuthering Heights reveals the historic story of the love affair between Catherine and Heathcliff to a visitor who is currently staying there.

13 Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky | Fiction


Raskolnikov kills two people in the belief that some people are "extraordinary" and have the right to kill others in order to improve the state of the world.

14 Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller | Humanities and Arts


Arthur Miller has emerged as one of the most successful and enduring playwrights of the postwar era in America, no doubt because his focusing on middle-class anxieties brought on by a society that emphasizes the hollow values of material success has struck such a responsive chord. 

15 War and Peace

War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy | Fiction


The lives of Russian aristocrats become intertwined between the years 1805 and 1812 and during Napoleon's invasion of Russia.