I'm a bookworm, tried and true. I get no less than five newsletters from publishing houses to keep me up to date on the latest and greatest reads, and I have an entire room in my house dedicated just to my books. (I think some people call this a library, however, since mine also functions as closet overflow, I don't think it's quite highbrow enough to call it a library.) Among the books on my shelf are a handful of classic books from English Lit class that I couldn't seem to let go of. It turns out I was smart to keep them, because revisiting the books as an adult has been even better than reading them in high school.
There's something about books that are assigned to you that causes them to lose their luster, isn't there? I loathed To Kill A Mockingbird while reading it in high school, but as soon as I picked it up as an adult, I appreciated it. The same sentiment goes for the rest of the books on this list, because sometimes it takes a few years to gain the perspective you need to truly understand and cultivate your appreciation for English literature. (And sometimes it takes reading them on your own accord.)
1. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
Like I said, I loathed To Kill A Mockingbird in high school, but reading it as an adult, it struck a chord with me. Perhaps because I'm more aware of what's going on in today's society than I was when I was 16, or because I can reminisce on my own childhood and lessons learned a bit more clearly. Regardless, this book is ten times better (and more infuriating) as an adult than it was in school.
2. '1984' by George Orwell
If you thought omipresent government surveillance was scary ten years ago, it's even scarier to think about now. The themes throughout 1984 seemed imaginative at best back in high school, and now? They're relevant. Becoming an adult, learning more and more about society, the government, and personal security, the themes in the book hit home even harder.
3. 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens
Wealth, poverty, love, dramatics, rejection, and the triumph of good over evil? Great Expectations takes you on an adventure through Pip's life, that's somehow more exciting the second time around. I mean, now that I'm older, I make comparisons of characters to people in my life all the time. Who doesn't know a Miss Havisham, am I right?
4. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I don't care if it's cliche, The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time. And I barely gave it the time of day when I read it in in school. Now? I've read it at least ten times. I usually reread it once a year. Although Daisy has gotten progressively more annoying over the years, my understanding of Gatsby, Nick, and the rest of the characters in the book has grown, making me appreciate the struggle for the American Dream even more.
5. 'Of Mice And Men' by John Steinbeck
Because I'm more well versed in feminism now than I was in school, Of Mice and Men strikes more of a chord with me. The portrayal of Curley's wife throughout the novella is really an incredible statement on women in society, if you're paying attention to it. (Not to mention it got a Broadway revival with a killer cast last year.)
6. 'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne
When you're young, the concept of adultery seems black and white. But as you grow into an adult, you start to understand that relationships and everything they encompass are more grey than anything else. Morality, love, and other peoples opinions are things you begin to realize are situational as you hit adulthood, and The Scarlet Letter becomes an entirely different read when you take it on as an adult.
7. 'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley
Controversial as ever, Brave New World stuck out in the list of required reading. Though I didn't have high hopes for it at first, it reeled me in. Revisiting it as an adult has giving me even more of an understanding, and continues to blow me away at how much Aldous Huxley was ahead of his time.
8. 'Fahrenheit 451' by Ray Bradbury
There are no books like banned books, right? As a bibliophile, the thought of burning books kills a little piece of my soul every time I think about it, but rereading Fahrenheit 451 as an adult drives home the importance of this dystopian world, books about censorship, and teaching books that challenge the way people think about the world.
9. 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller
I've always loved The Crucible, I cannot tell a lie. (Probably the teenage part of me that was obsessed with all things witchcraft.) But this book — or rather, play — only gets better with age. Another social commentary, preaching the risks of censorship, judgment, and laws, this book will never not be relevant.
10. 'The Canterbury Tales' by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales is one of those books that you pick up something new from each time you read it. The tales are timeless, entertaining for multiple ages, and open to a thousand different interpretations. It's a perfect classic to visit with a book club, to get a smattering of different takes on the storylines in the book.
11. 'East Of Eden' John Steinbeck
Maybe all Steinbeck is better as an adult? A family saga, East of Eden, is even better as an adult, because as you grow up, you start to learn about delightful things like family politics. Not to mention the biblical references are glaringly obvious when you revisit it.
12. 'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac
In high school, I didn't get the irresponsibility of the characters in On the Road. I didn't understand the need to leave it all behind and drift. Now? I totally get it. Who doesn't want to live vicariously through a handful of kids road tripping through America in lieu of living a traditional life?
13. 'Little Women' by Louisa May Allcott
I was quick to characterize myself as a Jo when I read Little Women the first time around, but I think as you reread, and as you grow, you see yourself in parts of each of the sisters, and give them more credit for their trials and tribulations.
Ten years of life can change your outlook on a lot, including literature. I highly recommend taking a second look back at your school reading lists to revisit the classics, because more often than not, the second time around, they're even better.