Well, what makes a classic book? My eight-year-old asked this very question after spending several days with her nose buried in Charlotteís Web. “ErrrÖ I think itís a very good book liked by lots people that stands the test of time,” I replied. “If people are still reading the book 50 years after it was published then itís probably on its way to being a classic.”

Hereís the catch. For me, classic books also need to be readable because Iím not studying literature at university these days. There are many important books published decades or even centuries ago that have great significance but Iím not going to recommend them for your reading enjoyment. The prime example is Moby Dick, which I have read and I will never recommend. Lifeís too short and that novel is too hard to read. The most challenging book on this list is The Seven Pillars of Wisdom because itís epic in length and contains great detail about the Arab rebellion against the Turks.

This list covers 30 examples of fiction and 10 non-fiction books because thatís how the cookie crumbles. I actually prefer non-fiction books but I seem to focus on non-fiction published in the last 10 years, which doesnít help for a list of this nature. As I put the list to together, I was surprised by how many Ďclassicsí I had read and shocked by how many I had not. No Jane Austen. No Anthony Trollope. No Vonnegut. No Tolstoy. Sorry about that Ė Iíll try and cover them off in the next 40 years. I should also explain that becoming a parent opens the door to reading classics you missed as a child and rejuvenates your interest in books from the past.

Also some major examples of classic literature that make everyone elseís list did not make mine because they are not my cup of tea. Iíve tried to like F. Scott Fitzgerald but we just never got on. On the Road goes off the road for me. Holden Caulfield is a phony as far Iím concerned.

The most recent book on my list is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy from 1974 and I am a bit worried that might be a little recent for the Ďclassicí tag. The oldest is Don Quixote, from 1605, which I read as a child and didnít remotely consider as old-fashioned. Madness never goes out of fashion even if chivalry has.

This list of books includes three each from Robert Louis Stevenson and George Orwell, and two each from Charles Dickens and Ray Bradbury. The settings include two islands, an inn, a farm, a hospital and a garden. Through these books, you could visit the Yukon, Gloucestershire, Brighton, Paris, the Alps, Spain, Kansas and Cyprus, and meet pirates, smugglers, soldiers, spies and firemen.

Please add your own suggestions for must-read classics at the bottom of the page.


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