We love to re-read a classic. Sometimes our life experience is different than it was the first time we read a book, and we get to look at the story in a whole new way. Other times we rediscover a passage that we’ve long held close to our hearts without realizing it was from a particular book. And then there are those rare moments when revisiting a classic work brings us right back to the person we were the first time we opened its pages. So if you’re feeling a little nostalgic—or just looking for a bit of comfort—pick up one of these books and get reading!
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To F. Scott Fitzgerald’s bemused narrator, Nick Carraway, Gatsby appears to have emerged out of nowhere, evading questions about his murky past and throwing dazzling parties at his luxurious mansion. Nick finds something both appalling and appealing in the intensity of his new neighbor’s ambition, and his fascination grows when he discovers that Gatsby is obsessed by a long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan.
But Daisy and her wealthy husband are cynical and careless people, and as Gatsby’s dream collides with reality, Nick is witness to the violence and tragedy that result. The Great Gatsby‘s remarkable staying power is owed to the lyrical freshness of its storytelling and to the way it illuminates the hollow core of the glittering American dream.
In one of the greatest American classics, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery of the terms of his identity. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist’s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.
With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin tells the story of the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Originally published in 1953, Baldwin said of his first novel, “Mountain is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else.”
Mrs. Dalloway chronicles a June day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway–a day that is taken up with running minor errands in preparation for a party and that is punctuated, toward the end, by the death of a young man she has never met. In giving an apparently ordinary day such immense resonance and significance–infusing it with the elemental conflict between death and life–Virginia Woolf triumphantly discovers her distinctive style as a novelist. Originally published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf’s first complete rendering of what she described as the “luminous envelope” of consciousness: a dazzling display of the mind’s inside as it plays over the brilliant surface and darker depths of reality.
The early collection of short fiction that first established Ernest Hemingway’s reputation, including several of his most loved stories.
Ernest Hemingway, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, did more to change the style of fiction in English than any other writer of his time with his economical prose and terse, declarative sentences that conceal more than they reveal. In Our Time, published in 1925, was the collection that first drew the world’s attention to Hemingway. Besides revealing his versatility as a writer and throwing fascinating light on the themes of his major novels–war, love, heroism, and renunciation–this collection contains many stories that are lasting achievements in their own right, including the Nick Adams stories “Indian Camp,” “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife,” “The Three-Day Blow,” “The Battler,” and “Big Two-Hearted River.”
Here are all the poems that Langston Hughes published during his lifetime, arranged in the general order in which he wrote them. Lyrical and pungent, passionate and polemical, the result is a treasure of a book, the essential collection of a poet whose words have entered our common language.
The collection spans five decades and is comprised of 868 poems (nearly 300 of which never before appeared in book form) with annotations by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel. Alongside such famous works as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and Montage of a Dream Deferred, The Collected Poems includes Hughes’s lesser-known verse for children; topical poems distributed through the Associated Negro Press; and poems such as “Goodbye Christ” that were once suppressed.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding New York Times bestseller transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.
Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
No novel in English has given more pleasure than Pride and Prejudice. Because it is one of the great works in our literature, critics in every generation reexamine and reinterpret it. But the rest of us simply fall in love with it—and with its wonderfully charming and intelligent heroine, Elizabeth Bennet.
We are captivated not only by the novel’s romantic suspense but also by the fascinations of the world we visit in its pages. The life of the English country gentry at the turn of the nineteenth century is made as real to us as our own, not only by Jane Austen’s wit and feeling but by her subtle observation of the way people behave in society and how we are true or treacherous to each other and ourselves.
In 1855, an unknown but wildly ambitious young poet self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass, consisting of twelve untitled poems and an explanatory preface. Walt Whitman spent the rest of his life engaged in expanding and revising this work, through six editions and nearly four decades, establishing Leaves of Grass as one of the central works in the history of world poetry. This edition reproduces the magnificent “death-bed edition,” published in 1892 a mere two months before Whitman’s death at the age of seventy-two.