With the vast majority of us here in the United States choosing to stay in our homes for the foreseeable future (my state, California, is on complete lockdown), we find ourselves with a lot more free time than we’re used to. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend that free time reading, and since you have so much time to read, you might glance guiltily over at the classics in your TBR pile and think, “I should finally get to reading some classics.” I think taking advantage of this time to better yourself by reading some great books is an excellent idea, but you want to make sure you’re reading the right classics. For example, I was planning on The Giver being my next read, but with everything going on right now, it’s just too much of a downer. In all honesty, there are a lot of classics that are downers and thus not great reading right now, but there are also a lot of classics that are light, fun, and completely bingeable.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
This is a classic that has never gotten enough love, in my humble opinion, but it is my ultimate comfort read. Set in the late 1800s on Prince Edward Island, it’s got that small town feel, à la Gilmore Girls, that makes me feel all cozy inside. Instead of a big, overarching plot, it follows the many mishaps and misadventures of Anne Shirley, a teenage girl with bright red hair and an overactive imagination. Anne is always getting herself into some sort of trouble, from breaking a slate over a boy’s head to accidentally dying her hair green, which is endlessly entertaining.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s works always promise to be a good time. His social commentary hits home every time, making you laugh because it’s funny and groan because it’s true. While his other popular work, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is dark and shows the depths of human depravity, this play makes fun of lighter things, like marriage and social norms. It’s basically a Victorian rom-com. The plot follows two young women who say they can only love a man named Ernest, and two young men who pretend to be named Ernest, and it’s so over the top, but I love it.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Some classics guaranteed to keep you turning pages are mysteries, and what better mysteries to read than those featuring the master of deduction himself, Mr. Sherlock Holmes? I started reading the short stories recently and found them even more delightful than I expected! Each story is about 15-20 pages, so they’re quick reads, easily devoured. They’re written in an accessible style, Sherlock is a fun character to spend time with, and the mysteries are entertaining.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This mystery is another sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. I personally read this in less than a day. The setting here is really perfect for a mystery—the whole cast is stuck on a stopped train and someone has been murdered, meaning that the murderer must still be on board. The detective interviews each passenger, and each claims to be innocent—each appears innocent—but you know one has to be guilty. It’s a book that keeps you guessing until the very last second and it’s excellent.
Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
This novel is most popular because of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical adaptation, but long before that came to be, Phantom of the Opera was a mystery novel, narrated by a detective pulling and uncovering research to figure out who the Phantom is and how he appeared in the opera house. It’s a mystery, but also has strong elements of romance and gothic horror, meaning it checks multiple reading boxes! And once you are done, I highly recommend watching (or re-watching) the movie/musical and singing along at the top of your lungs—that’s what I like to do, anyways.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Another genre that makes it easy to stay engaged are adventure stories. This particular adventure follows a young boy living along the Mississippi River in the 1840s, who is clever, devious, and good at persuading other boys to join in his schemes. If you love Tom Sawyer, you can also check out The Adventures of Huck Finn, which is just as interesting, but with a little more mature themes.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
This adventure story is even more epic, because it includes pirates and buried treasure! Think of it as a precursor to Pirates of the Caribbean. When an old sailor shows up at his mother’s inn for the night, young Jim Hawkins does not realize that he will soon be caught between two warring groups of pirates, both after a treasure map in Jim’s possession. Stevenson wrote this, inspired by popular navy and deserted island stories of the time, to be a fun adventure story for boys, but it has been a huge influence on how we imagine pirates today and it’s a pleasure for anyone to read.
The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis
Everyone knows the more popular Narnia books, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but this one is much less well-known, but ultimately worth reading. It’s the first book in the series, meaning it gives us the origin of so many things crucial to the series, from the lamppost and the wardrobe to the White Witch to Narnia itself. Starring two curious pre-teens, it’s also a page-turning adventure story, starting with magic rings that can transport you to other worlds and filled with fascinated characters, including two of my absolute favorite villains.