Humanity has imagined much since written words were first used to capture and preserve experience in story form. While most of these works have disappeared from our collective memory, a small fraction of the literature we penned survived and even flourished despite time’s test.
These timeless works of fiction were able to transcend the ages and remain forever relevant because they offer a unique and valuable glimpse into the workings of the mind, body and soul; they examine our human experience from a previously untapped vantage point.
Getting in touch with the thoughts, feelings and perspectives of the past’s most powerful literary voices works wonders for your critical thinking and writing skills. For those interested in exploring all that classic fiction has to offer, I’ve made a list of five fantastic classic novels you need to read.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian does not shy from violence. Rather, it embraces violence as a metaphor for what McCarthy perceives as humankind’s inherent tendency toward paths of conflict. Images of wanton bloodshed overflow the pages of this unapologetic battlefield of a novel, and it is the scale, scope and precise degree to which this bloodshed cuts reader’s conceptions of humanity to the core which makes Blood Meridian so memorable.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Revenge may be a bitter pill for some, but it is difficult to imagine vengeance tasting anything but sweet to main character Edmond Dantes, who, after being forced to suffer unjustly for years, is moved to act in sweeping, fantastic sequences of justice.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse’s explores the intricacies and moral underpinnings of one man’s path to enlightenment. A coming-of-age tale with a spiritual aura, this story explores gifted esoteric student Siddhartha’s lifelong transformation from holy man to sinner to sage. Siddhartha is ripe with subtle observations on what drives human desire, which paint its pages in the shade of both a prophets’ parable and an everyman’s aside.
White Fang by Jack London
Novels which feature nature’s critters as characters are no rarity, but epic adventures told entirely from the perspective of one animal are a bit less commonplace. This setup is executed wonderfully in White Fang, which chronicles a lone wolf’s search for home.
1984 by George Orwell
Orwell’s 1984 is a haunting klaxon for the ears of those with a tendency to forget how greatly freedom can be restricted. More warning than story, 1984 is an allegory for Orwell’s political and technological paranoia, and, in an age which often bears unnerving resemblance to 1984’s horrid circumstance, a necessary reminder of exactly what we have to lose.
Exploring these classic novels will do more than make you a better writer; reading these works will entertain you so thoroughly that you won’t even realize you’ve grown as a human being, not until the last page turns. So go on. Crack a book, and enjoy the ride.