OPL has compiled a list of our top 10 most circulated classics (2004 – present). The themes in these novels have stood the test of time (What makes a book a classic?). No matter when they were written, each one remains relevant today.
How many have you read?
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caufield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set in Jazz Age New York, the novel tells the tragic story of Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire, and his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy young woman whom he loved in his youth.
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads--driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Steinbeck's powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.
- Animal Farm: A Fairy Story by George Orwell
A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With idealism and slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned.
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
This bible of the Beat Generation is a modern classic of the unforgettable exuberance, poignancy, and passion of the 1950s.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. The period is the ancient time between the age of Faerie and the dominion of men, when the famous forest of Mirkwood was still standing, and the mountains were full of danger. In following the path of this humble adventurer, you will learn by the way (as he did) -- if you do not already know all about these things -- much about trolls, goblins, dwarves, and elves, and get some glimpses into the history and politics of a neglected but important period. For Mr. Bilbo Baggins visited various notable persons; conversed with the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent; and was present, rather unwillingly, at the Battle of the Five Armies. This is all the more remarkable, since he was a hobbit. Hobbits have hitherto been passed over in history and legend, perhaps because they as a rule preferred comfort to excitement. But this account, based on his personal memoirs, of the one exciting year in the otherwise quiet life of Mr. Baggins will give you a fair idea of the estimable people now (it is said) becoming rather rare. They do not like noise.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Also available as a Book Club set.)
In Margaret Atwood's dystopian future, environmental disasters and declining birthrates have led to a Second American Civil War. The result is the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that enforces rigid social roles and enslaves the few remaining fertile women. Offred is one of these, a Handmaid bound to produce children for one of Gilead's commanders. Deprived of her husband, her child, her freedom, and even her own name, Offred clings to her memories and her will to survive. At once a scathing satire, an ominous warning, and a tour de force of narrative suspense.
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future--to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire--both scientists and scholars--and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a fututre generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.
But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: Submit to the barbarians and be overrun--or fight them and be destroyed.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Told in language of great simplicity and power, the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal--a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream, on the water for months without a catch, but refusing to stop trying.
Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the timeless theme of courage and commitment in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss. Written in 1952, this hugely successful novella confirmed his talent and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Want more? Here's a list of Books Everyone Should Read Once from Goodreads.