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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Book Review: Starting with the classics
These novels are a great way to start your journey into reading the classics. (Photos courtesy of

Have you ever been recommended a book that sounded perfectly up your alley … until you looked it up and discovered it was an 800-page tome written almost 200 years ago?

This might be intimidating for any reader, but I believe there is a classic for everyone and that getting into classics is all about starting with the right one. Here are my recommendations for some perfect novels to get you started with classic literature.

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

“Jane Eyre” is the story of a young woman’s life as she grows up, finds love and gets placed in some absolutely wild and wonderfully gothic situations. 

This novel is not only gripping from beginning to end but also feels undyingly modern despite its 19th-century publication date. The romance plot is beyond interesting and each and every side character has such life to them, but the titular character of Jane is why this book has been loved for so long and why I think most modern readers would love this book, too.

Jane is so unapologetically herself and strong in her stance that she deserves more. Her first-person narration of her own life is what makes you love her from page one. 

I may be biased as this is a contender for my favorite book of all time, but “Jane Eyre” really is the epitome of why classics become classics in the first place: not just because a book is smart, but because a book makes you feel something. Because of that, I think it’s a must-read for anybody dipping their toe into classic literature for the first time.

“Emma” by Jane Austen 

On a lighter note from “Jane Eyre,” if you’re looking for a classic literature version of a book you might read today, Jane Austen’s “Emma” is the one for you. 

This book is quite literally a sarcastic rom-com set in the 1800s — it is regency-era “Clueless.” In addition to “Emma” being my favorite of Austen’s novels, it is bitingly funny and has some of the most interestingly flawed and human characters I’ve ever read about.

Emma Woodhouse herself is a character you will either love or love to hate, and that’s exactly why I love her so much. She carries the novel with her complexity and her story is surprisingly relatable despite how odd that might sound. 

“Emma” is the perfect foray into Austen’s work and also a great place to start with classics in general. 

“The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins

This book truly is the drama. Don’t let the 600-page length intimidate you because “The Woman in White” reads like a soap opera begging to be binge-watched.

Collins’ mysterious tale begins with young art teacher Walter taking on a tutoring position teaching two half-sisters, Laura and Marian. On his way to their home for the first time, he has an interaction with an almost ghostly “woman in white,” with the story unfolding from there.

This is only the first of many odd events that keep the reader guessing and the book takes what feels like hundreds of unexpected twists and turns as the story progresses. The story is also told in sections, with each of the major characters getting their own section to shine narratively, and all of the perspectives feel so real and distinct.

If you love juicy family drama, outlandishly brilliant plots and distinct narration from multiple character perspectives, this one’s for you. It’s a book that feels as gripping as a modern, fast-paced mystery film, only accompanied by a vividly Victorian setting. You won’t regret giving this one a read. 

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About the Contributor
Natalia Ferruggia
Natalia Ferruggia, Assistant Culture Editor
I pronounce mozzarella correctly!

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