I have always love reading classics, but I just never seem to make time for them. I know that I am not alone in this! I want to try and prioritize classics in 2020 and this is the list I’m going to choose from.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
I have never read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell, which is such a shame as I am fascinated by her as an author. One of my favourite memoirs is The Victorian and the Romantic which is about a woman writing her thesis on Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve been meaning to read her work since then! North and South seems to be the most popular so I figured I would start there and then, if I enjoy it, I’ll picked up Wives and Daughters.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This is probably the book on this list that I’m most ashamed to admit I have yet to read. In fact I’ve read nothing by any of the Bronte sisters even though I have read so much about them as people. Many people have told me that Jane Eyre is their favourite classic and that I must read it. Even though I feel like I already know the story so well, I would like to experience it for myself. For someone who loved The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde so much it is criminal that I haven’t read Jane Eyre.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray is another one of those books that I often hear people say is their favorite classic. Truth be told, I know next to nothing about the actual story. I don’t know how I have avoided being spoiled! This cover has me intrigued and I think it may just be the first one that I pick up.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
It should be no surprise to see another Bronte on this list. I have heard so many mixed things about Wuthering Heights and that has me curious. Plus I need to know what the Heathcliff hype is all about. I guess I should probably read an Anne Bronte novel as well. Which one is better, The Tenant of Windfell Hall or Agnes Grey?
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
When I read the following blurb from Zadie Smith I instantly knew that Their Eyes Were Watching God was a book that I needed to read:
“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith
I recently purchased the audiobook and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
I’m just now realizing that Middlemarch is 900 pages long… Long classics always intimidate me, but there is something about Middlemarch that is calling to me. I’ve heard that it is a slow burn which is my thing!
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved is what I would considered a modern classic. I have been meaning to read Toni Morrison for years and I would love to make my way through her entire collection. I also thought about starting with The Bluest Eye and reading her books in publication order. What do you think it the best Toni Morrison novel to start with?
63 thoughts on “Classics on My TBR”
Out of the above, I have only read The Picture of Dorian Gray and Wuthering Heights. The former I loved due to the beautiful prose which is so rich in meaning. The latter, more than the Heathcliff hype, is lovely due to the over-the-top family drama of two generations. 😍
I am here for beautiful prose! I also love a good family drama. I need to prioritize both of those!
I love the picture of Dorian Gray! Also really want to pick up North and south!
Dorian Gray is so well loved!
Good luck! I’m the same with Classics and have a fair few on my TBR but can never squeeze them in around other reads! Hopefully this year I’ll do better!
Good luck to you as well!
North and South is fantastic. If you like Austen or Dickens you’ll love it!
I do! I have heard her compared to Austen and that made me even more excited.
Have read all of these except Their Eyes Were Watching God and Beloved. Dorian Gray is a personal favorite, along with Jane Eyre! Good picks!
Those are the two that people often tell me are their favourites!
I don’t think I’ve ever read or watched Little Women, so that’s a classic that’s pretty high on my TBR.
Good luck with your classics readings. I wish I could help you on deciding which Anne Bronte book to pick up, but I’ve only read from Emily and Charlotte.
I love Little Women. The newest adaptation is fantastic!
Thank you! Anne’s books just do not seem to be as popular. I am curious to know why that is.
I recently bought myself a copy of the book, so a read-through will happen before I watch the newest adaptation.
I think I remember discussing that during one literature course back in college, but I don’t think I can remember why Anne did not receive the same acclaim as her sisters.
As someone currently listening to the audio for Jane Eyre as I type I 100% support this challenge! I hope you enjoy your selected Classics. North and South is one of my favorites.
Ahh that is awesome! How is the audiobook?
Really good. Thandie Newton narrates and she goes an excellent job of keeping the story compelling at points that would be difficult to read through.
That sounds perfect!
Great list! North and South is one of my absolute favourite books.
That makes me so happy to hear!
Ahhh Jane Eyre! The book has been on my TBR since forever..? I would love to read it but can’t bring myself to read it *if you understand what I mean lol
I completely understand because I am in the same boat!
I keep meaning to read more classics. I did go through a Bronte phase a good 15-20 years ago so have read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Have to confess I was not a fan of Wuthering Heights but I loved Jane Eyre.
I do love the adaptation of North and South so have considered reading it but whether I ever will…
Wuthering Heights seems to be very hit or miss, but I have never heard a bad thing about Jane Eyre.
I have never seen the adaptation of North and South. I will have to read the book and then watch it!
Oh I definitely recommend the adaptation, Richard Armitage is wonderful in it 😉
I’ve only read Picture of Dorian Gray and Jane Eyre, but both are favorites of mine! I definitely want to pick up Beloved as well!!
Those two are very popular! I think I am ready to introduce Toni Morrison into my life!
ooh The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favorites books! 😍 I hope you enjoy reading it and became as obsessed with it as I am hahaha
I have a feeling I just might become obsessed with it too!
I have read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre on this list. I found Wuthering Heights a challenging read because of the languages but it was certainly a Gothic love story. Jane Eyre, on the other hand, is one of my favorite books of all time. The language is difficult but the plot is still understandable. I just love Jane Eyre!
That is so good to know going in. I have a feeling I will love Jane Eyre as well!
I just listened to Jane Eyre back in January…my first time! Loved it and I also thought I knew the story, too (didn’t really). Highly recommend the audio narrated by Thandie Newton as she’s fantastic!
That is great to hear! I am definitely going to listen to the audiobook!
I really hope you enjoy the Picture of Dorian Gray! It’s my favourite novel! 😀
Ah I am so excited to read it!
Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are some of my, hands down, FAVORITE classics. I love the flawed characters, the eerie moorish setting and the men – Heathcliff [even if he is an ass] and Edward Rochester are some of the most compelling love interests in literature. Darcy who??? I hope you have as much fun as I did when you get around to them! <3
I love flawed characters too! They both sound perfect for me even though I am a HUGE Darcy lover. Thank you!
I’m with you on the Bronte wagon… And it’s infuriating, since I’ve come across many Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights retellings that sound amazing, but I refuse to read them without being able to pick up the similarities with the originals.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is full of ironic events and sarcastic phrases that Wilde used to describe his society but that are still valable to describe our society. This guy was a genius. There was a weird time jump in the middle of the book, which felt a little odd, but otherwise, it’s very enjoyable!
I am the same way except I actually cave and read the retellings even though I know reading the original first would have made me appreciate the retellings more.
It is always interesting to me when classics that commentate on society remain relevant!
So very glad to see Their Eyes on this list. I loved the novel back in the day and am interested in the audio book because of the dialects. I listened to a preview of it and it sounds well done. I will try and finish it sometime later this year. And of course Jane Eyre be one of me favourites.
x The Captain
I will have to check out the audiobook! I have a feeling I will get to all of these classics sooner if I try the audiobook versions!
Beloved is one of my favorites of all time. It’s absolutely brilliant. I’ve read a handful by Morrison and Beloved will always be my favorite by her.
That is great to hear! I can not wait to experience her work.
Classics and I tend to not get along but I’ve had the urge to pick one up anyway. Debating between Jane Austen and Virginia Wolf.
You can never go wrong with Jane Austen. They are surprisingly readable!
I enjoy checking out classics myself- but do yourself a favor and skip Wuthering Heights. It’s infuriating!
I hear such mixed things about it!!! Maybe I will try the audiobook and see how it goes and I will be open to DNFing it.
Haha, I’m one of those people that says Jane Eyre is their favorite classic! It’s just so good. And I finally read The Picture of Dorian Gray last year and loved it – it was surprisingly humorous!
Those are the two I am most excited about!!
I think Beloved is the best one to start with and probably one of the easiest ones too. Other folks have also recommended Bluest Eye as one to start with.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my fav classics, and Jane Eyre is a good read too. I think it’s perfect for fall.
Thanks for that advice. I have heard her books can be quite complex so I would like to start with the easiest one and ease my way in.
I went through a classics phase and while they were entertaining in their own way, the only one I really loved was Jane Eyre – amazing book!
That is what everyone keeps telling me!
Wow, what a great list! I’ve read a bunch of these with my book group, and a few on my own. Their Eyes Were Watching God is beautiful and pretty accessible, so I’d start there. North and South is long but worth it. Same for Middlemarch! I didn’t read Jane Eyre until a few years ago, and ended up loving it! And I just read Dorian Gray within the past year, and thought it was amazing. The only one on your list that I don’t love is Wuthering Heights…
Thank you for all of this advice! Wuthering Heights gets such mixed reviews so I am curious to see what I think.
Great list! Beloved, Middlemarch, and North and South are on my classics TBR as well. I’m also due for a reread of Wuthering Heights I think, as I read it in high school and no longer have any idea what to think about it. I did like Jane Eyre, though its treatment of mental health leaves a little to be desired from a modern perspective! Even so, I enjoyed the plot. I hope you’ll enjoy your classics reading!
I have heard that about Jane Eyre, so it is good to reminded of that going in. Thanks!
I’m also hoping to prioritize some classics this year, although I’m not off to a great start so far! I’d love to read Pride & Prejudice (I’ve never read any Austen before!), The Iliad, Brideshead Revisited, and Rebecca among others.
I just read Jane Eyre a few years ago for the first time and absolutely loved it. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!
Pride & Prejudice is one of my favourite classics. I am a sucker for Mr. Dracy! The Illiad and Rebecca are also ones I would love to get to at some point.
Oooooo! I’m so excited for you! If you end up liking Elizabeth Gaskell, I HIGHLY recommend “the old nurse’s story” — it’s so creepy and good!!! I’m sure you’ll love it!
I read Jane Eyre back in undergrad. I really enjoyed it, though I hate the main love interest — Jane is pretty cool though!
The Picture of Dorian Gray is another great one — I read it for undergrad and did a major paper on it regarding the use of beauty imagery to reflect Dorian’s mental state. SUPER good, especially if you like creepy yet beautifully written works.
Their Eyes Were Watching God — honestly, I have NO doubt you’ll enjoy this.
SO excited to see what you think of these!
Ohh I don’t know that I have ever looked into The Old Nurse’s Story. The title alone intrigues me!
I have heard that about the love interest in Jane Eyre!
That sounds like an interesting paper! I love any creepy story.
Thank you so much for your thoughts on all of these!
It’s so goooooood!! And yes … It’s frustrating but the rest of the story is really good!
All of these are excellent! Hope you enjoy!
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is gripping from start to finish, completely unputdownable. And if you loved The Secret History, you probably might love The Picture of Dorian Gray, two very dark novels indeed.
Middlemarch is amazing and was so much FUN to read! ☺️ it’s one of the most British books I’ve ever read.