We’ve written posts before about how important it is to read widely, and if you read interviews with writers or talk to an established writer, at some point it’s likely that they’ll tell you that in order to write well, you need to read a lot. Even if you don’t plan on making writing your career, reading is important. Reading fiction has been shown to increase a person’s empathy, for example. It also can fine-tune our social awareness, as well as relieve stress, as found in this article. Many of us didn’t get to read all the classics that we always hear about, so what better time to catch up on some of these books than right now? Here are some to kick-start your classics spree.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

This is a classic for good reason – our personal favorite edition of this book is the original scroll version. Kerouac wrote this book in 3 weeks as a single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper that he taped together to make a scroll that measured 120 feet. The original scroll version is the uncut version that was originally published in 1957. If you’re looking for the “regular” version, that’s a great one, too, and the link is the heading. Kerouac tells the story of two friends traveling cross-country as only he can – and summertime is the perfect time to read it.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Okay, okay, so maybe not a CLASSIC classic, but this is definitely a modern classic that we couldn’t resist including here. Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you’ll love this book. Dana is a contemporary woman celebrating her birthday with her husband when she is ripped from the present and placed into the antebellum South. Toggling between the present and the past, Dana travels through time back to the slave quarters, with each stay becoming longer and more dangerous. This book is a perfect example of why Butler is considered one of the masters of science fiction.

1984 by George Orwell

This timely book tells the story of a dystopia where the government will stop at nothing to control the official narrative. Written nearly 70 years ago, it is uncanny how Orwell managed to capture such contemporary issues, such as surveillance, groupthink, the dangers of unbridled power, and what can happen when technology is too ubiquitous for our own good. (If you like this one, also check out Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World).

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

If you’ve never read this, we envy your experience of reading it for the first time. This is a gorgeous Southern story about a woman discovering herself, falling in and out of love, and her tale of survival. Hurston is a master storyteller, and this is a must-read.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book has endured as a classic for good reason: the story of Boo, Atticus, Jem, Scout, and Dill is perfect for summer and is a timeless story about injustice and the belief in doing the right thing. After you read the book, check out the classic movie with Gregory Peck. There’s also a graphic novel of the book – not as good, but still well done.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This sprawling book tells the story of the Buendia family, but also the history of a mythical town called Macondo. It is a beautifully written book that can be confusing in the beginning, but stick with it and you’ll be richly rewarded. Marquez is a writer who blends imagination and magical realism and precise yet descriptive writing, and his books have colorful writing that jumps off the page for that very reason.

What classics do you want to try and get to this summer?

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