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Updated by Nadine Mathu on Mar 09, 2015
Headline for Readable British Classics
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Readable British Classics

Sometimes readers think that classics are too tough or too inaccessible, but often it's simply that certain classic reads aren't a good match with their reading preferences. When picking a classic read, just
as with any reading choice, it's important to choose one with a style, protagonist and genre type that you enjoy.

1

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen

A young woman is persuaded by her godmother to turn down an offer of marriage from a man she desperately loves because he has no fortune. The action begins when the two meet again several years later. This is a Comedy of Manners which satirizes the upper classes' preoccupations with wealth and status.

2

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This story is dark and dramatic and is equal parts revenge and love story. It examines the dark side of human nature. Occasionally you'll want to shake these character and say "No! Don't do that," or "What did you think was going to happen?"

3

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre, a young orphan, obtains a postion as a governess. Unfortunately, she falls in love with Mr. Rochester, the man who employs her. This is a tale of secrets and forbidden love, and Jane is more than a little naive.

4

1984 by George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell

This novel coined the phrase "Big Brother is watching." This is the grand-daddy of today's dystopian novels, and is probably Orwell's best piece of writing.

5

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This book is often read and enjoyed by younger readers, sort of like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe minus the magic. It's a realistic tale of a young girl who is orphaned and whose circumstances change as drastically as her disposition. She rescues a young boy and rescues herself in the process.

6

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

An orphaned girl goes from the lap of luxury to being a lowly servant to those girls she used to rule over. Through it all, she perseveres, and eventually succeeds beyond her wildest dreams. This novel is emotional--the reader can't help but root for the main character.

7

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Great example of sci-fi so important it helped define the rest of the genre and is still influencing it today. The events in this book cast eerie parallels with our own modern society--you can't help but notice them as you read. You will recognize figures and issues that are prevalent today.

8

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Pirates, mayhem, danger and adventure; easy to read. 'Nuff said.

9

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

This is the story of a shipwreck survivor, told in such a way that you'd swear it was all true. In Castaway, Tom Hanks' character talks to a volleyball. In Robinson Crusoe, he talks to a parrot. There are a lot of similarities in the stories, and both are easy to get interested in. What makes life worth living and how to survive in an alien environment with almost nothing.

10

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Set around 1066, this novel tells the story of Ivanhoe, who returns from the Crusades. There's a love interest and lots of intrigue. I think to like this book, you have to enjoy historical fiction, as the setting and time period are really important. If you don't like history, the Middle Ages, and knights in shining armor, steer clear of this title.

11

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Imagine a world turned upside down where firemen create the fires instead of putting them out. And what is the fuel for the fire? Books. 451 degrees, the temperature at which paper begins to burn. This story chronicles the misadventure of a man who thinks he has the world all figured out, and then finds out nothing is the way it seems.

12

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

David, young and orphaned is kidnapped and made to become a cabin boy on a ship. He is a good person who is constantly being plunged into new and dangerous situations and he must think on his feet. This story can be enjoyed by readers of almost any age, and the emphasis is clearly on action.

13

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Cassandra, the protagonist in this book is talented and headstrong. She lives in a picturesque, but somewhat crumbling castle with her eccentric family. This book is entertaining and character-driven.

14

The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This is a modern classic, set in a small town in England. The main character, Christopher, who has Aspergers, discovers his neighbor's dog, which has been brutally killed. Christopher investigates the crime and finds out more than he bargained for.

15

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

This story is told in flashback form. The heroine of the story is the young wife of a wealthy man named Maxim De Winter. However, most of the story centers around the mysterious life (and death) of Maxim's previous wife, Rebecca. Dark and mysterious, this story comes together like a puzzle. Recommended for those who like mysteries. (But this is not the Scooby-doo-Detective -I-solved- it sort of mystery. It unwraps more gradually. Jamaica Inn by this author is also a good read.

16

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In this book, Elizabeth Bennet is second-oldest in a family of all daughters. There's not enough money for dowries and her only hope of maintaining a decent level of status is to marry well. However, Lizzie refuses to marry unless she can love and respect the man. The sisters in this family are all memorable, some of the suitors are ridiculous and Lizzie's mother is slightly crazy. So all in all, it's a totally normal family. It's also a Comedy of manners, so the jokes are witty, sarcastic and subtle. Not an easy read, but a good one for a strong reader.

17

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is known for being unconventional. This book is packed with one-liners and is macabre. In it, Dorian Gray is good-looking and privileged. He's drawn in into a wild lifestyle and his reputation suffers. He literally becomes something hideous....

18

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Half-animal, half human beings discovered by accident on a remote island. How could this be boring? Definitely sci-fi.

19

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, an unlikely hero who takes on an even more unlikely quest. Shows that sometimes the most unextraodinary people are capable of completely extrordinary things.

20

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galxy by Douglas Adams (or any of the sequels)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galxy by Douglas Adams (or any of the sequels)

Arthur Dent is rescued from Earth just seconds before it is detroyed. Together with his friend, Ford Prefect, he journeys through the galaxy meeting colorful and often hilarious characters. This novel has a very dry sense of humor. It's Monty Python meets space travel.

21

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The monster begins to show up about the same time Conor finds out that his mother has been diagnosed with Cancer. He is the Green Man and as the tale unfolds, the reader begins to understand the reason for this visits.

22

The Alchemyst: the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst: the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

This book is like a cross between Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series. Both magic and mythical realities converge on the two twins, Sophie and Josh Newman, who are the main characters. How would you react if you suddenlty found that the sorcerer's stone, Nicholas Flamel, and the Elixir of Life were all real?

23

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Okay-- I'm bending the rules a bit here. Technically, this author is Australian, but Australia was a British colony for a looooong time, so there are plenty of British influences. This is the poignant story of a young girl who endures the loss of her brother, abandonment by her mother and countless horrors during WW II, but she survives. This book shows how life, despite its hardships is eminently worth living. It's sad, but uplifting. It's also told from the perspective of Death, who narrates the story.

24

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa is born into a world where particular people are endowed with graces, or special powers or skills. At first, it is believed that Katsa's special Grace is killing, and she is used an assassin. As the story progresses Katsa and the reader begin to realize that her true Grace is something else entirely--something more positive and more powerful. This is a fully imagined world with interesting characters and lots of detail. There's also a fair bit of action. This novel will appeal to those who like fantasy and enjoy reading about a strong female protagonist. If Graceling isn't available, consider reading the companion book, Fire. You can read these out of order and they still make sense.

25

Sherlock Holmes Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle

You must like traditional "Whodunit" style mysteries in order to like the archetypal mystery stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The eccentric but brilliant Sherlock Holmes might make the reader feel sort of stupid, but the reader can always out-think Watson, who grasps things quite slowly. They're very British and they'll make you exert every vocab muscle you own. If you're a patient reader and you love mysteries, give one a try. You'll know right away if these stories are for you.