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Is there such a thing as an easy to read classic novel?

Sometimes we shy away from classic literature because we are afraid it’s going to be boring with a capital B or be painful to get through due to archaic language and vocabulary. Some classic books take more effort to get through than others, but some are true page turners that you will not only be glad you read but you will truly enjoy the reading experience.

easy to read classics

Now, I can’t say for sure what you will like or what you won’t like. We’re all different, and what worked for me may not work for you. And that’s okay.

On this list, I am only including books I have personal experience with. All of these books met two criteria that I think make them easy-to-read classics:

  • The language itself isn’t difficult to navigate. I think this is the part that intimidates us the most when it comes to classic novels. We’re afraid that the language and syntax is going to be so antiquated that we won’t be able to make sense of it. This can definitely be true when you go back as far as Shakespeare or Chaucer, but most books that were written within the last couple of hundred years typically aren’t too bad.
  • Compelling plots and characters. I think what makes an old book compelling is the same thing that makes any contemporary novel readable — a powerful plot that drives the story forward and compelling characters that you care deeply about, so you want to know what happens to them.

For me, these were all easy classics to read because, at some point in the reading process, they became unputdownable either because of the plot or because I cared so much about the characters I wasn’t going to stop reading until the book was over.

I think the books on this list are not only some of the easiest classic books to read, but they are also some of the best classic books as well as some of my personal faves.

I really hope you find a book on this great book-reading list that sounds like something you would want to read.

This post is all about easy to read classics you won’t want to put down.

Easy to Read Classics

The Odyssey by Homer Translated by Emily Wilson

The Odyssey by Homer (8th or 7th Century B.C.)

I know what you’re thinking . . . . How can a book that is almost 3,000 years old and written in verse be easy to read? Here’s the thing: The Odyssey is like reading a fast-paced adventure novel. When the book opens, Odysseus is being held in captivity by the enchantress Calypso who wants to marry him, and he has been away from home for close to 20 years. But Odysseus has an advocate in the goddess Athena who pleads with Zeus to let Odysseus return home. The Odyssey tells the story of how he makes it back to his home in Ithaca, all while his wife Penelope is back home with their son Telemachus, trying to put off the many suitors who are very impatiently waiting for her hand. You will want to keep turning the pages to find out if he’s able to make it home in time and reclaim his home.

Here is my tip for reading this book: pick a good translation. Here are some translations I recommend:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

This classic story is one of the few books that I have actually re-read. And I enjoyed it the second time as much as the first, if not more. Pride and Prejudice is one of those books that has enough interesting characters and plot twists that there were things I noticed the second time that I didn’t notice the first. I am also a Jane Austen completist meaning that I’ve read all of her books. In the world of super-fans, I guess you could say I am definitely a Jane Austen super fan. I’m also a huge fan of the BBC TV mini-series production.

If you love audiobooks, I highly recommend this version, which is read by actress Rosamund Pike. It is excellent!

emma by jane austen

Emma by Jane Austen (1816)

Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever, and rich” with a “comfortable home and happy disposition.” And she’s a bit overconfident in her matchmaking skills. The main problem is that her matchmaking endeavors don’t really take into account the desires of her subjects, which leads to a series of misunderstandings and complications. She’s not only oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of others, but also her own feelings she has for the one and only Mr. Knightly. This is such a good book!

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1838)

I loved this book and the main character, Oliver Twist. Similar to Jane Eyre (below), he’s an orphan that you will want to root for. Oliver is raised under harsh conditions in a workhouse. When he dares to ask for more food, he is sent away to be an assistant to an undertaker. After horrible treatment from the undertaker, he joins a gang of pickpockets. He lives this life of crime until he is caught by a wealthy man, who takes pity on him and shows him kindness. There’s more that happens after that, but I don’t want to give the whole story away. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I felt like it flew by! I think Dickens’ gift is his ability to portray the social and economic inequalities of the time.

Something that has stuck with me from this book is the abject poverty the characters live in. It makes what we call poverty in the United States seem like a much different thing by comparison.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

Ebenezer Scrooge not only hates Christmas, he thinks it’s a complete waste of a day. He has no love for anything except making money. That all changes when he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who is now living in the afterlife in heavy chains because of how poorly he treated people. As Scrooge is shown his past, present, and future, he has an unlikely and very moving transformation. I never read the book until last year, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorite books.

jane-eyre-charlotte-bronte book

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847)

I fell in love with Jane from the first chapter. She is one of those characters that you will be rooting for from beginning to end. Jane is orphaned as a child and raised under hard conditions. She faces cruelty and isolation, shaping her into a strong-willed and principled young woman. When she is sent to a boarding school, she faces further hardship, but she also forms some friendships and gets an education. After school, she gets a job as a governess in the home of Mr. Rochester. Despite their differences in age and class, they form a friendship and fall in love. Unfortunately, on her wedding day she finds out that he is still married to a woman who suffers from severe mental illness that he keeps hidden in the attic. Even though she breaks off the wedding and leaves Rochester’s home, this relationship continues to drive the story.

I recently listened to this interview with Madeleine Kearns about Jane Eyre, in which she makes the case that Jane Eyre is a spiritual autobiography, which I thought was an interesting perspective.

The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is credited with pulling back the curtain on the harsh realities of slavery in America. Abraham Lincoln famously said when he met Stowe: “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” It follows the life of the main character, Uncle Tom, as he gets bought and sold to different owners and is forced to work and live under a variety of conditions. I think this is one of those books that everyone should read. It had me engaged from start to finish and was a total page-turner for me.

LIitle Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

Little Women makes you feel like you are one of the March sisters as they navigate their journey from childhood to womanhood against the backdrop of the Civil War. This is a story about family, love, loss, friendship, and personal integrity. Which of the four sisters will you identify with the most — sensible Meg, tomboyish Jo, shy and gentle Beth, or Amy and her naive vanity? Expect to have a serious book hangover when this one is over.

Huckleberry Finn by mark twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)

I personally find Tom Sawyer annoying, but I love Huckleberry Finn. Finn is a much more sympathetic character because he has a lot more stacked against him. This American classic begins when Finn fakes his own death to escape his alcoholic and abusive father. Finn travels down the Mississippi River on a raft, seeking freedom, safety, and adventure. Along his journey, Huck meets Jim, a runaway slave seeking his own freedom. The book follows the two as they navigate their way down the river. This might be one of my all-time favorite books.

(This edition contains the original illustrations.)

the call of the wild by jack london

The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London follows the life of a dog named Buck, who is a domesticated dog in Northern California. He is stolen from his owner and sold to join a team of dogs that serve those involved in the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon Territory in Canada, just East of the Alaska border. The new world he is brought into is completely new to him, and he has to quickly learn how to navigate this world in order to survive. Buck undergoes a complete transformation from a domesticated dog to a dog that not only serves humans but also learns how to survive in the wild. I thought it served as an interesting commentary on human nature as he has to learn how to work with different types of people — some good and some very bad. At just over 100 pages, this book is a short classic book.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (1908)

Anne of Green Gables begins when Matthew Cuthbert goes to pick up an orphan boy he and his sister plan to adopt to assist with farm chores. But unexpectedly, he finds himself bringing home a lively 12-year-old girl instead. Despite initial misgivings, particularly from his sister Marilla, the girl, Anne, gradually endears herself to them and becomes an integral part of their lives at Green Gables, their farm in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. The story explores themes of unexpected blessings, the richness of found families, and the beauty in embracing imperfection. Anne’s character, with her blend of flaws and charm, embodies the concept of finding “kindred spirits” in unlikely places, making the book a poignant celebration of life’s serendipitous moments and the enduring value of love and acceptance. This is not only one of the best books, it is also an easy read.

If you are interested in the Anne of Green Gables books, check out my complete guide here.

the great gatsby by f scott fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is a classic set in the summer of 1922, capturing the essence of the era through the eyes of Nick Carraway, who becomes fascinated by his enigmatic neighbor Jay Gatsby’s grand parties and mysterious past. The story centers around Gatsby’s undying love for Daisy Buchanan, whom he hopes to win back despite her being married. The novel explores themes of wealth, love, and desire, prompting readers to ponder the true value of these pursuits. At just 180 pages, it’s a compelling, thought-provoking read.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936)

Even if you have seen the movie, don’t let that stop you from reading this book. This book is a tome at more than 1,000 pages, but it is also a page-turner. It is vast in its breadth as it tells the story of the Civil War from just before the war began through to the Reconstruction. After reading this book, you will have a good familiarity with the Civil War, but you won’t feel like you just read a history book. The story is told by following the famed Scarlett O’Hara, who is a young Southern Belle from Georgia when the story begins. The book is interspersed with brief chapters that tell you exactly what is going on with the war as the story unfolds.

rebecca_daphne du maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a gothic thriller about a young woman who marries a wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter, and moves to his large estate, Manderley, only to find herself living in the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose presence lingers throughout the house and estate. The new Mrs. de Winter’s struggle with her identity and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Rebecca’s death leads to a dramatic revelation and the ultimate destruction of Manderley. This book is more than 400 pages, but it kept my attention from start to finish.

Other Easy to Read Great Books to Consider:

I have not personally read all of the books on the list below, but these are books that other reader friends of mine have told me are easy to read.

Children’s Classics

I personally think that Children’s classics are a great way to dip your toe into classic literature without getting overwhelmed. I do not believe that good children’s books are only for children, and if you have never read any of these, then I recommend starting here. These books are like comfort food in a book:

Are there any other must-read classics you think would belong on this list? What easy classic book on this list are you excited to read? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

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  1. Ohhh I love classic literatures! I love all Jane Austen’s novels, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Of Green Gables. Those are my all time favorite reads.

  2. I love an Austen book too, although I have to admit to not having read most of them on your list. I’ve probably started, then got distracted by other books or just watched the films instead.

    1. I totally feel you! Maybe starting with something shorter like The Call of the Wild, The Old Man and the Sea, or one of the children’s classics, would be a good way to go.

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