2020 was one of the most intense experiences in our lives. But after each such cataclysm comes the bright light which paves the path for us to shine. 2021 is your year to read classic books and revive a period so enriched with literature.
Culling is God’s Natural Order but what followed the Black Death? The Renaissance. RebirthDan Brown, Inferno
What defines classic books?
Is it the ambiguous writing style in these books? Themes of romance, suffering, solitude and yet the beauty in it?
Classics make your soul yearn to exceed. The year to read classic books is here and they will inspire you to emerge from your ashes in 2021.
1. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Based on the lives of the author herself and her three sisters, this book follows the lives of the March sisters – Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth.
This book traces the different personalities of the March sisters, each of whom is a gem. Post Civil War, Jo March lives in New York and makes a career as a writer, while her sister Amy studies painting in Paris. Amy gets an opportunity to encounter with Theodore, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg, gets married to a schoolteacher, while timid sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family together.
In 1869, Louisa May Alcott had to give a different ending to Little Women than one she would’ve wanted. Her little women had to be all married off by the end of the book to get it published. In 2021, the year to read classic books, her book still reminds its young readers that every person has the choice to do want they want.
Women have minds and souls as well as just hearts, and they’ve got ambition and talent as well as just beauty. And I’m sick of people saying love is all a woman is fit for.”Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
The dynamic love story of Elizabeth and Darcy which made one of the best romance novels ever written.
When Elizabeth Bennet meets Darcy for the first time at a ball, she writes him off as arrogant and obnoxious. But as they cross each other’s paths, again and again, Darcy begins to fall for her wit and intelligence, while she questions her feelings for him. When Darcy saves her sister from a scandal, she wonders whether she prejudiced her opinion of him. The 18th-century tale of two warring hearts continues to enthral its readers today.
Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
3. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
This novel continues to appeal to adolescents and adults alike. All teenagers stepping into adulthood in 2021, the year to read classic books, should read this book. They will empathize with the protagonist Holden Caulfield, the symbol of teenage rebellion.
The author brings up themes of loneliness, anxiety, loss, belonging and connection experienced post-war. By the end of the book, we see that sometimes alienation acts as a passing phase in our lives and falling into adulthood isn’t always a conspiracy against you.
It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road.J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
4. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
Being one of the most popular novels there is, this classic tale of thwarted passion is a must-read. Emily Brontë mirrors the wildness of Heathcliff’s character through the wilderness of the lonely Yorkshire moors in this book.
A tragic romance between clashing characters of Heathcliff and Catherine comes together and it sprouts an act of revenge that destroys them all. Themes of love, envy, betrayal, solitude, dark academia aesthetic spawn one of the best gothic novels ever written.
Catherine and Isabella fell victims to Heathcliff’s patriarchal persona. Through this, Emily Brontë explored the audacity of the patriarchal British society. Reading this in 2021, the year to read classic books, it implores women to fight back against the encroachment of patriarchal power.
He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
5. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
This masterpiece is one of the first Gothic fiction novels ever written – the story of Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. This horror fiction entails the story of Frankenstein and the monster he created. It showed us how unnatural scientific experiments come at a great cost.
On a superficial level, perceived as a villain is Frankenstein’s monster but the real antagonist is Victor Frankenstein himself. Symbolism works as a central theme when reading this book. The dark and looming setting acts as symbols of evil foreboding in this novel. Frankenstein’s character acts as a symbol of unaccountability in humans, inspired by Lord Byron himself. The so-called “monster” symbolizes co-dependency in all creatures on Earth.
After the pandemic, many readers will relate to this book, to the solitude that Frankenstein’s monster felt.
There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
6. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
A delectable piece of art by Oscar Wilde everyone should read/re-read. Through this book, Oscar Wilde manifests the idea of beauty. An author who prized aestheticism shows the horrific outcomes of obsession with beauty.
This book engages in various paradigms such as vanity as sin, youth & homosexuality. Each character, Lord Henry, Dorian Gray and Basil represents one such paradigm.
Containing quite a few parallels from his own life, Wilde mesmerizes his readers by strategic placing of suspense and comic relief in his prose. In his own words, it is the spectator and not life, that art mirrors.
There seemed to be something tragic in a friendship so coloured by romance.Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald surpasses literary artistry. It will make the reader yearn for glamorous galas & extravagant parties, the “American Dream” that existed in the 1920s.
It shares commentary on simple yet complex ideas like greed, class, money. Through the romance of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, such tropes are realized. The class stratification of the post-war economy and the clash between new & old money is seen. The unrealistic desire to materialistic things portrays a world headed for its downfall, ringing as truth bells till date.
I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
8. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
A true masterpiece delving into a panorama of human emotions and weaknesses. It may be the year 2021 but human ardour burns with the same passion as it did in 1878.
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina works on the spectrum of very serious topics. Topics such as infidelity, paranoia, politics, society, elitism, obsession, drug abuse, vengeance. But it all comes down to simpler things in life like love and happiness. The novel indulges you in a journey through both plot and background setting.
Anna Karenina, the wife of a Russian imperial minister, creates a high-society scandal by an affair with Count Vronsky, a dashing cavalry officer in 19th-century St. Petersburg. Anna’s husband, Alexei, offers her a difficult choice. Go into exile with Vronsky but never see her young son again, or remain with her family and abide by the rules of discretion.
Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
9. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
A classic written much ahead of its time. Another popular romance novel right at par with Pride and Prejudice, a very engaging read. The holistic growth of the protagonist, Jane Eyre acts as a central theme. This novel is coloured by topics of individuality, realism, feminism, sexuality and class.
Jane Eyre is a first-person narrative told from the perspective of Jane. A seemingly ‘plain’ girl who meets a lot of challenges in life. The novel presents Jane’s life from childhood to adulthood making one very advanced Victorian classic.
The depiction of feminism in this book, re-advocates why feminism is needed more than ever.
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
10. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
This 1925 classic by Virginia Woolf is one of her best novels. Clarissa Dalloway, the heroine of the novel, struggles constantly to balance her internal life with the external world.
Her world consists of fine fashion, parties, high society, but as she moves through that world she probes beneath those surfaces in search of deeper meaning. At a time when our most ordinary acts—shopping, taking a walk—have come to a stop, Clarissa’s vision of everyday shopping as a high-stakes adventure resonates in a peculiar way. We are all Mrs. Dalloway now.
It might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
11. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
A quintessential English classic is the Great Expectations. Although set in post-colonial Britain, this classic tale remains adaptable to newer settings. Depicts themes of classism, wealth & poverty, love & rejection.
Great Expectations follows the childhood and young adult years of Pip, a blacksmith’s apprentice in a country village. He unexpectedly comes into a large fortune from a mysterious benefactor and moves to London where he enters high society. He thinks he knows his benefactor but he turns out to be sadly mistaken. The story also follows Pip’s unrequited love for Estella.
I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could beCharles Dickens, Great Expectations