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Top Five Classic Books that Everyone Should Read

Allen shares his top five list of must-read classic literature

High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby

I was watching TV recently, and caught the movie High Fidelity again. Before anyone can begin their moral assessment of me, I did read the book many years ago, before the movie came out, but the movie is what inspired me to create my own Top 5 List.

We all know the literary canon; the books that we should read but maybe never quite got around to. At a certain point, I’ve found, most readers either read all the important stuff in school, or aren’t likely to read it at all. My list is classic works that I firmly believe aren’t just important in the history of literature, they are actually great reads.


  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
    This is just a tense, nerve wracking story. It pushes the paranoia quotient as far as it can go. It’s got a murder, the anxiety of getting caught, and although it gets maybe a little moralistic at the end, overall it’s a page turner.
  2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
    Really, anything by Steinbeck is infinitely readable, but there’s nothing like Of Mice and Men to pull some tears from even the most jaded reader. Of course, anyone who watched Looney Tunes cartoons will recognize George and Lenny immediately!
  3. 1984 by George Orwell
    It’s a love story, it’s science fiction, it’s got that suspense factor, but mostly it’s a nearly prescient warning about the potential for governmental abuse of power, manipulating information and creating fear as a means to consolidate power. A great read for this election year!
  4. Typee by Herman Melville
    This was Melville’s most successful and popular work within his lifetime. Based on the author’s actual experiences aboard ship, Typee tells of jumping ship on a South Pacific island, and adventures living amongst the native islanders. Before there was the TV series Lost, there was Typee!
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    What isn’t there to love about this book? It’s glamorous, romantic, tragic, and poetic. I also happen to believe that it handles issues of money and class in American society with a deftness that belies the insight that Fitzgerald had. Gatsby is one of my go-to books. The characters, set in the opulence of the 1920’s, represent timeless varieties of Americans.

1 Comment

  • I love these books. They are all amazing and important. But five books by five white men is pretty limiting in scope. Perspective and identity are vital to expanding our understanding of the world. Limiting the background of your author list both disregards the diversity of readers out there and threatens to turn off young people newly exploring literature.

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