If you're digging a new novel, we tell you which classic to pick up next
Beach reads don’t have to be all purple prose or the very newest bestsellers. Jessica Davey-Quantick’s guide will help you pick the best classic must-have books whether you’re reading on the plane, on the beach, or on your lunch break. It’s storytime!
If you like. . . Lord of the Rings Try. . . The Epic of Gilgamesh Let’s start at the very beginning. This is the first book, ever, written in ancient Sumerian on clay tablets. Not cool enough yet? It’s about an epic journey of Gilgamesh, an arrogant king and warrior, and his best man friend Enkidu, a bushman raised in the wilds. They’re the original bromance and together they go on adventures and quests. There’s politics, love, hate, and battles against gods but the really cool part is it contains basically every archetype of every story you have ever heard. And remember when we said this came first? The best preserved copies come from around the 7th century BC, but the original poems were written around the 27th century BCE. Heard how there were no original ideas? There was one. This.
If you like. . . Twilight Try. . . Dracula, Bram Stoker We weep for what has been done to vampires. Oh Vlad, we are sorry we are part of the society that made you glitter like a disco ball. If you think vampires are ‘totally dreamy’ then you really, really need to read this book. It’s an excellent read, with all the classic vampire myths, romance, excitement, and bug-eating minions, and it will have you leaving the light on for weeks, no matter your age. Twilight might be creepy in an I-feel-unsafe-and-need-an-adult way but this is far more dark and mysterious. Seriously: super old man sneaks into the bedroom of girl to watch her sleep and tells her repeatedly how much he wants to kill her in explicit detail. This is not romance people.
If you like. . . Dan Brown Try. . . Inferno Dan Brown’s got a new one out! Titled Inferno, it’s all about Dante’s allegorical masterpiece. With layer after layer of snarky punishments and tongue in cheek references, we think this is what would happen if we let Perez Hilton control the afterlife. Okay, yes, the original starts with Dante’s rather unhealthy obsession with his dead sort-of girlfriend Beatrice (who we’re pretty sure was about 14 when she died). Dante plots his own course through the levels of hell, each one populated by a different kind of sinner, and each one with their own deliciously devious punishment – there is boiling blood involved. Suddenly, those water cooler convos about Dan Brown’s newest historically driven mystery? You’re the clever one!
If you like. . . 50 Shades of Gray Try. . . The Prince, Machiavelli Leave the mind games and total domination to Machiavelli (also that choreographer from Bring it On). It’s like Psychopathy for Dummies. It’s basically a guide to power, how to get it and how to keep it - and it gets dark. Really dark. Machiavelli was sucking up to his boss when he wrote it while being totally willing to undermine him if it would advance his own career. It gives advice on just about every interaction, while itself being the ultimate piece of advice on social advancement (hint: don’t tick off people who can kill you). If nothing else, it’s a fun read that will have you laughing maniacally as you plan what sort of throne you want when you take over the world.
If you like. . . The Hunger Games Try. . . Utopia, Thomas More No, this does not include a stadium where children must battle for our amusement but we dare you to read this and be able to look at a crowd of labourers, toiling away to construct, the same way again. Written in the 1500s, it paints the picture of a perfect island society, with reason and pacifism reigning but still hires mercenaries from other countries to fight other warlike nations, in the hopes that the surrounding countries will kill each other off. With universal health care, no unemployment or poverty, it all seems great on the surface: then you see household’s with at least one slave, and while religions are tolerated, atheism is actively despised. Read this, then re-read The Hunger Games and watch your mind get blown.
If you like. . . A Game of Thrones Try. . . The Republic, Plato Do not fear the man in the toga. If what you like are multilayered, intricate dramas on human nature, this is a must for your bookshelf. He’s actually sort of awesome, and besides, you’ve already heard some of his greatest hits if you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 100 years. The entire Matrix franchise is one big kow-tow to Plato and he’s managed to worm his way into just about every bit of Western thought. And even though it’s considered one of those heavy, philosophical works, and often quoted at snooty academic parties by people with posh accents, it’s actually incredibly readable – it’s meant for the average person.
If you like. . . Shopaholic Try. . . The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde Your light and fluffy beach reads do not have to be the intellectual equivalent of candy floss. Take one part demonic pact and mix with equal parts intense vanity and a care-free indulgent lifestyle and you get this – a skewering, hilarious and telling account of the pitfalls of supercilious selfishness. Basically, a hedonistic young man sells his soul for the power to never age – whatever happens to him instead happens to a portrait of himself. No matter when this was written, it applies: add in a little Oscar Wilde and you know the puns are going to be good too.
If you like. . . The Great Gatsby (movie) Try. . . The Great Gatsby The much-awaited film has finally come out and to mixed reviews but we can assure you that the book is something very special. The Jazz Age has never been so vivid and while we certainly admit that the soundtrack to the movie had us tapping our toes we did also had beats circling our heads as we read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose. It’s extravagance, idealism and a cautionary tale of the so-called American Dream, flowingly written and ready to suck you in… far more than the movie promised to. Listen to the movie soundtrack in the background and you’ll practically taste 1920s America.