A year of literary anniversaries: here are 5 classics you might want to read

Category: News

2023 is a year filled with exciting literary anniversaries: 50 years since the death of J.R.R. Tolkien; the 125th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s death; the 70th anniversary of the first James Bond novel’s publication; and 150 years since Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days was transcribed into English.

Classic novels can be daunting at first glance. They might remind you of your years sat in an English classroom yearning to go outside and play. You may have unintentionally absorbed key plot points through pop culture and feel like you don’t have a reason to read them anymore.

However, classics are “classics” for a reason, so it might be worth taking the time to reconsider your approach and pick up one of these quintessential works of literature.

Read on to discover five classic novels you may have overlooked that you may want to add to your reading list this year.

1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

You are likely to know the story of Moby-Dick already. The crux of the plot — a man’s quest for vengeance, or his “white whale” — has become a metaphor for hate and obsession’s ability to lead someone astray. But have you actually read the novel itself?

Moby-Dick is an 1851 novel written by American novelist Herman Melville. The book chronicles the quest of the revenge-driven Captain Ahab and his desire to kill the giant white sperm whale known as “Moby-Dick”, who took the Captain’s leg on a previous voyage.

The story is told from the perspective of “Ishmael”, a sailor on board Ahab’s whaling ship Pequod, as the crew navigate the oceans in search of the aforementioned whale.

It is a harrowing tale of a man’s darker instincts and emotions and their ability to consume him completely.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is often considered “the great American novel”. Yet, due to its appearance across various forms of modern media — most recently with Baz Luhrmann’s Leonardo DiCaprio-starring cinematic version — it’s entirely possible you’ve never read the original text.

The novel takes place in a lavish, art deco, prohibition-bound 1920s America and delves into issues such as social class, gender, inherited versus self-made wealth, racism, and the nature of the “American Dream”.

The story of Gatsby, an enigmatic millionaire, and his doomed love story with Daisy Buchanan, is told through the eyes of Nick Caraway, Daisy’s mild-mannered cousin, who soon gets swept up in Gatsby’s indulgent lifestyle and extravagant parties.

Fitzgerald’s classic is an interwoven tale of overlapping storylines that encapsulates the atmosphere of 1920s America. Definitely a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Often cited as one of the leading achievements in the world of literature, Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is a multigenerational story from the Colombian Nobel laureate. It focuses on the Buendía family, whose patriarch José Arcadio Buendía founded the fictitious town of Macondo in which the novel is set.

The book descends down seven generations of the Buendía family, their respective lives, and the story of the town from its initial founding among gorgeous, utopian surroundings to its modern-day state of decline.

The novel delves into heavy topics such as the cultural history of Latin America, fatalism, idealism, imperialism, and a cycle of death, decay, and destruction.

Perhaps the book’s most dominant theme is solitude and what that means to its cast of characters and for a society in general.

4. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

It is 125 years since The War of the Worlds was published in hardcover. The novel from H.G. Wells — alongside the works of Shelley and Verne — helped give birth to the science-fiction genre.

The novel is perhaps best remembered for Orson Welles’ 1938 radio re-enactment, which allegedly caused panic among listeners who didn’t realise the events being depicted were fictional.

The novel focuses on an invasion of southern England by Martians and is a commentary on the perils of colonialism.

Told through a first-person narrative following an unnamed protagonist and his younger brother, the book chronicles the events following the Martian invasion of England, its subsequent occupation, and the atrocities that occur.

5. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

The iconic Spanish novel — originally published in two parts in 1605 and 1615 — follows its titular hero and his adventures alongside Sancho Panza, his squire.

A comedic dive into the era of chivalric romance and idealism, the novel charts the story of Alonso Quijano, a lowly nobleman, who after reading one too many novels decides to take on the mantle of Don Quixote, a knight-errant and champion of idyllic values.

The novel has given rise to terms and idioms now found in the English language, such as “quixotic”, defined as being extremely idealistic, unrealistic, and impractical, or “tilting at windmills”, the phrase which refers to fighting imaginary enemies.

The book had a significant influence on future authors and its ripples can be found within Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.

So, as you plan your 2023 reading list, it might be worth taking a page out of the ultimate daydreamer’s book and disappearing on an imaginary adventure with Quixote and his faithful squire.