Classic books can often get forgotten when we think of teen reading material. But these are books that stand the test of time, and are a must-read, we think, for all teenagers – a rite of passage, so to speak! We have picked out 10 of the coolest classic books for teens, a mix of old and new:
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#1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
One Thursday lunchtime Earth is unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this is already more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun. And the Galaxy is a very, very large and startling place indeed…
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy became a massive cult success when it was first published and continues to sell all over the world. It introduced such memorable characters as Arthur Dent, Marvin the Paranoid Android, Zaphod Beeblebrox and, of course, the Vogons, and remains one of the funniest, most irreverent and entertaining novels ever.
#2. Pride and Prejudice
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’.
So begins Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, arguably one of the best classics of all time.
Her novel of manners and mores in early nineteenth century England centres on the haughty Elizabeth Bennet and the dashing but aloof Mr Darcy who start as adverseries and develop a grudging respect that blossoms into love.
#3. Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is set in a dystopian post-literate future. Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage.
The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.
Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.
#4. The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is the archetypal coming of age novel. In an effort to escape the hypocrisies of life at his boarding school, sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield seeks refuge in New York City.
Throughout, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection.
Lazy in style, full of slang and swear words, it’s a novel whose interest and appeal comes from its observations rather than its plot intrigues (in conventional terms, there is hardly any plot at all). Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood, it deals with society, love, loss, and expectations without ever falling into the clutch of a cliche.
#5. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.”
At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime.
Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Poetic and powerful, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.
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#6. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
The French Lieutenant’s Woman is an unconvential love story.
Charles Smithson, a respectable engaged man, meets Sarah Woodruff as she stands on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, staring out to sea. Charles falls in love, but Sarah is a digraced woman, and their romance will defy all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age.
Widely acclaimed since publication, this is the best loved of John Fowles’ novels.
#7. A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange by is as brilliant, transgressive, and influential as when it was published fifty years ago.
A nightmare vision of the future told in its own fantastically inventive lexicon, it has since become a classic of modern literature.
It’s also the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s once-banned film, whose recent reissue has brought this revolutionary tale on modern civilization to an even wider audience.
#8. The Bell Jar
A vulnerable young girl wins a dream assignment on a big-time New York fashion magazine and finds herself plunged into a nightmare.
An autobiographical account of Sylvia Plath’s own mental breakdown and suicide attempt, The Bell Jar is more than a confessional novel, it is a comic but painful statement of what happens to a woman’s aspirations in a society that refuses to take them seriously… a society that expects electroshock to cure the despair of a sensitive, questioning young artist whose search for identity becomes a terrifying descent toward madness.
#9. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
In the madness of World War II, a dutiful Russian soldier is wrongfully convicted of treason and sentenced to ten years in a Siberian labor camp. This masterpiece of modern Russian fiction by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is a harrowing account of a man who has conceded to all things evil with dignity and strength.
First published in 1962, it is considered one of the most significant works ever to emerge from Soviet Russia.
Illuminating a dark chapter in Russian history, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is at once a graphic picture of work camp life and a moving tribute to man’s will to prevail over relentless dehumanization.
#10. A Town Like Alice
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute is a tale of love and war. Jean Paget, a young Englishwoman living in Malaya, is captured by the invading Japanese and forced on a brutal seven-month death march with dozens of other women and children.
During this ordeal, she meets Joe Harmon, a young Australian soldier who risks his life to help the women and children but is caught by the Japanese camp soldiers.
A few years after the war, Jean is back in England, the nightmare behind her. However, an unexpected inheritance inspires her to return to Malaya to give something back to the villagers who saved her life. But it turns out that they have a gift for her as well: the news that Joe Harmon had miraculously survived.
Jean’s search for Joe leads her to a desolate Australian outpost called Willstown, where she finds a challenge that will draw on all the resourcefulness and spirit that carried her through her war-time ordeals.
For more ideas, here are 25 Classic Novels for Teenagers.
What is your favourite all time classic? What book would you insist on adding to our list? Tell us in the comments below.