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10 Best English Classics

When some people think of the best English classics, they think of books written in a language they can barely understand. You might think that you need a dictionary just to get through the first few chapters. Many of the best books from Britain are both entertaining and interesting as well as easy to read. You might find one that pulls you so deeply into the story that you don’t want to put down the book until you get to the last page. It’s easy to find a book that you love among the top best English classics that are suitable for all readers.

Related resource: 10 Best American Classics

1. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist Best English Classics

Even those with limited literature knowledge know the book “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens because it served as inspiration for so many films and stage shows over the years. Dickens used the knowledge he had of the workhouses and homes for orphans and created a tale that made people care about the plight of those children. Historians now believe that Dickens used some of his own experiences to weave the tale about a young orphan boy who wanted a happy life.

2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre, best English Classics

Written by Charlotte Bronte, one of the Bronte sisters, “Jane Eyre” is a love story that is more than just another romance novel. Jane, the main character in the book, lives a lonely life until she meets Mr. Rochester and falls in love. The novel focuses on the struggles she faces as she realizes that he might not be the perfect man and as she learns that she wants more than what her lot in life provides. It is one of the seminal works by English authors.

3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice best English classics

Even if you never read “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, you’re probably familiar with the story. BBC turned it into a television series that made Colin Firth a household name after starring as Mr. Darcy. He even poked fun at his reputation in the film “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” which was based on a novel based on this book. Elizabeth Bennett and her four sisters must find husbands as they live in the Regency era, but the book makes it clear that Elizabeth is unlike other women of the time in terms of her wants and needs.

4. Doctor Thorne

Doctor Thorne best English classics

Though “Doctor Thorne” is part of a trilogy from author Anthony Trollope, you don’t need to read the first two books to pick this one up. Once you get through the story though, you may want to read all three books to see how the themes and characters connect to each other. This story focuses on the doctor’s niece Mary and the connection she shares with a young man in the same town. It looks at some of the emerging issues of the time, including the way politicians rigged elections and how many treated illegitimate heirs.

5. The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga, best English classics

The three novels in the story of the Forsyte Saga from John Galsworthy come together in this novel, which also includes two short pieces he based in the same fictional world. Galsworthy used his experiences as a member of the upper middle class in Britain at the turn of the 20th century to create a story that is compelling and pulls in readers. It focuses on a wealthy family from new money and the struggles they face as others look down on them.

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6. Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Bleak House, best English classics

Charles Dickens is one of the most famous British writers of all time and the author of “Bleak House,” which many consider one of his darkest works. Dickens placed the action in the 19th century and told the story of a lawsuit between two families that existed for years. The lawsuit is so old that most of the characters in the book aren’t sure what it’s even about. Dickens weaves together stories from the lawyers and other characters to create a work on par with Shakespeare.

7. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales best English classics

“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the most famous books in English history and one that people from around the world read. Though the original book is quite difficult to read, this book allows you to read the stories from a modern point of view. Nevill Coghill translated each tale into the modern language and published those stories in this newer edition. You’ll get to read stories that connect back to King Arthur and stories that pull you into medieval times.

8. Agnes Grey, Anne Bronte

Agnes Grey best English classics

Anne Bronte, another of the famous Bronte sisters, wrote “Agnes Grey” to bring attention to the plight of working-class women in England at the time. Agnes Grey is the title character and a woman working as a governess to a wealthy family. Bronte herself spent many years working as a governess and found that work lonely and boring. She used her experiences to show what Grey went through and to show the differences between the working poor and the wealthy, a discrepancy that still exists today.

9. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights, best English classics

Among the English classics that aren’t boring is “Wuthering Heights” written by Emily Bronte, a sister of Anne and Charlotte. Released just one year before her death at a young age, the novel focuses on the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff. Theirs is a love that lasts for ages and one that goes beyond their deaths. Set on the mores, the story is dark and includes a number of twists you won’t see coming. If you want an English classic that will scare you and make you cry, “Wuthering Heights” is the top book for you.

10. Far From the Maddening Crowd, Tom Hardy

Farm From the Madding Crowd best English classics

English author Tom Hardy wrote and released three books with little success when he decided to take a chance on this book. He published it without his name in a small magazine and gained so much fame that he took the serials and turned them into a book. This is the definitive edition of the novel and includes edits that the author made in both 1895 and 1901. It is easily one of the best English classics that will capture your attention and hold it until the very last page.

Related: 30 Must-Read Novels About the Holocaust

BCR Staff

May 2019