My Literary Must-Be-Read List

I feel there are some pretty big literary classics out there that I really must get round to reading. I always feel a bit guilty when they are brought up in conversation and I have to mumble that I haven’t read them even though I’m a literature graduate! So here are my literary MBR’s:

1. 1984 by George Orwell

So this is a biggy. This is one of those novels that is referenced so much that it has become part of popular culture as well as being a literary classic. It would be nice to fully appreciate the references! I also really enjoy reading dystopian fiction, making it even more strange that I haven’t picked up 1984, one of the literary dystopia giants.


   2. On The Road by Jack Kerouac

This seems a particularly student-y kind of book for some reason – maybe I’ve just seen the cover Instagrammed one too many times – but it’s definitely a book I’ve had on my TBR list for a loooong time! I’ve heard people say it’s a book to read in your twenty’s so I’d better get it read!


   3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

As one of the first African novels, written in English, to achieve global critical acclaim, this book has to be on my list. I did a post-colonial fiction module at university which I found really interesting but I haven’t read anything similar since I left, so it would be good to return to the genre.


 4. Emma by Jane Austen

I definitely haven’t read enough Austen. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice which I loved so I’d like to read another of Austen’s works. I have a beautiful copy of Emma which was given to me as a Christmas present about 3 years ago so for that reason it is shameful that I haven’t read it yet. Also, as one of the only female authors who make it into the traditional (and by traditional I mean hugely outdated and mainly old, white guys) literary canon, I think Austen deserves more of my attention.


   5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This novel makes it onto the list because it is (or was, I’m not so sure on the syllabus anymore) a novel commonly studied for GCSE English and so everyone seems to have read it. Except me… because our class did William Goulding’s Lord of the Flies instead. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is such a great book, I would definitely like to read something else by him.

of mice and men

This list is by no means exhaustive; there are hundreds more that could be added on to this. I also look at the ones I have picked and there should definitely be some more variety there. I mentioned the traditional literary canon and it is amazing how despite my awareness of its exclusionary politics, when I think of ‘the classics’ a certain few novels jump more readily to mind. This doesn’t take anything away from these traditional classics but it’s definitely important to recognise there are plenty of other ‘classics’ out there, written by women and people of colour, we just need to redefine our notion of the literary canon.


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