Tristan Johnson, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Admit it, you probably did not read every (or any) book during your time in high school English classes. While it was probably okay to read SparkNotes for certain novels and discussions, there are a few that you should definitely consider picking up right away:
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
In the town of Macomb, Alabama during the Great Depression, two young siblings live with their father Atticus Finch. Finch is a prominent lawyer in the town and constantly gives his children valuable life lessons on having empathy and concern for others. Atticus takes on a case defending an African American man who is charged by the racist citizens of Macomb for allegedlly raping a white woman. The novel is still highly relevant for today’s society as it deals with race relations, social inequality and the importance of perspective.
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
Showcasing the American Dream and highly considered as the great American novel, Fitzgerald’s snapshot of 1920s society is filled with imagery and twists around every corner. Filled with evocative prose and a relevant storyline, the novel follows various characters through relationships and lifestyles of the wealthy. Through themes of society, class, love and justice, “The Great Gatsby” is still relevant nearly 100 years after it was published.
“1984” by George Orwell
“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”
Orwell’s classic novel that is beloved by millions contains a relatable character that is put into situations which can be linked to our modern world. With themes of communism, government interference, surveillance and the erasing of history, it is not hard to see why this book is still relevant today.
“The Odyssey” by Homer
“Be strong, saith my heart; I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this.”
As one of the foundational works of Western literature and described by many as one of the most important books in the world, Homer’s tale follows the central theme of returning home. Told in passionately vivid language, the story follows the Greek hero Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, after the end of the ten-year Trojan War and his adventure home after the fall of Troy. With countless monsters and twist on every page, this translated work is iconic for a reason, and deserves a read.
“Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
“Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
“Fahrenheit 451” presents a potential American society where books are outlawed and burned if found. Book burnings have happened throughout history, including one of the more infamous incidents occurring in 1935 Nazi Germany. The book follows the conflict between censorship and freedom of thought being deciphered in a society that does not feel oppressed and that has given up on reading and literature all together. The novel also describes how technology can ultimately be harmful to the people who interact with it, which is something that is becoming even more prevalent today.
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.”
“Of Mice and Men” is probably the first book that people think of when they reflect on their high school English career. Written in 1937, the novel follows two displaced ranch workers during the Great Depression and deals with important issues that are still relevant today. With a surprise ending that still haunts the minds of many people around the world, the novel presents lessons of the heart and teaches you how to be a compassionate human being. And if you just want to be a spiteful person, Steinbeck’s novel has regularly been on the banned books list put out by the American Library Association for vulgarity, racism and its treatment of women.