Some of the greatest books ever written are now read mainly by high school students too young to fully appreciate them. Here are six classic novels well worth rereading. They are enjoyable and meaningful—and often available for eReaders for free or at very low prices.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. When young people read Huckleberry Finn, they often come away thinking it’s just a fun adventure story, a tribute to the pleasures of youth. Reread it as an adult, and you will discover that Twain doesn’t actually portray childhood as a particularly joyous time. It’s a useful reminder that while we might long for our lost youth from time to time, we are in most ways better off as grown-ups.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. There are many novels about coming of age. This novel is about the importance of understanding who you are after you have come of age. The book cautions us that there are things in this world that we cannot change. Wishing that those things weren’t so won’t change them.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby is a novel about loss, missed opportunities and the passage of time—topics more likely to resonate with older readers than with the high school kids typically assigned this book. Fitzgerald reminds us that part of becoming the best that we can be is accepting what we can no longer be.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. While the other books on this list are read mainly by high school students these days, Pride and Prejudice remains widely read by adults—but almost exclusively by women. Jane Austen is considered the godmother of modern “chick lit.” Yet Austen novels are surprisingly enjoyable reads for men, too. That’s because Austen isn’t just the godmother of chick lit, she also is the godmother of modern British comedy—everything from Monty Python to Mr. Bean. Her characters struggle to remain dignified in undignified situations, with humorous results.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The plot of this short novel takes place in high school, but it’s compelling for older readers as well. The story is about loyalty, friendship and setting priorities that can seem clear-cut when we’re young but often become more complicated as we age. The book is set in the 1940s, an era that should resonate in particular with the older readers who lived through it.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is a wonderful novel for fathers and grandfathers to reread. It’s a moving tribute to the contribution that family men make to their children’s and grandchildren’s lives. Much of the book is about the heroism that the main character’s father, Atticus, shows by being a good dad—a heroism of maturity and reason, not of physical strength. Much of To Kill a Mockingbird likely is author Harper Lee’s tribute to her own dad, A.C. Lee, who had much in common with the character of Atticus.