The best and worst classic books

Are classics all they live up to be?


by Eliana Megargee, Editor-In-Chief

You have to read this book–it’s a classic!” You’ve likely heard these  words before, whether from an English teacher, parents, or even friends. Maybe you roll your eyes and dismiss these suggestions, or maybe you’re the one making them. Whatever the case, there’s a lot of strong opinions on books that are considered classics, be they positive or negative.. Here are a couple of what I believe to be the best and worst classics. 


“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by 

Robert Louis 

Stevenson (1886)

Regarded as one of the best pieces of gothic literature along with more well-known titles such as “Frankenstein” and “Dracula,” Stevenson’s novella tells the story of scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll in his pursuit to separate the good and evil sides of man. Told as an outsider perspective by Jekyll’s close friend Utterson, this suspenseful story follows Utterson as he investigates the depths of Jekyll’s connection with local criminal Edward Hyde. The book has been adapted into many movies as well as an excellent Tony-nominated musical that I recommend to any theater lovers out there.

“Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare (1598-1599)

Good old Shakespeare… love him or hate him, you’re sure to have an opinion, but you have to acknowledge that there’s a reason he’s as famous as he is. My favorite Shakespeare work is probably “Much Ado About Nothing.” One of his most famous comedies, “Much Ado” follows the story of two young couples–Hero and Claudio, the more traditional love story, and Beatrice and Benedick. The heart and humor of the story lies in the latter couple and their constant bickering. The two swear to hate each other but their friends believe otherwise, scheming to set the two of them up. In an entertaining and adorable love-hate relationship that holds up refreshingly well to modern readers, Beatrice and Benedick alone make this play worth checking out. There’s also a wonderful movie adaptation of “Much Ado” from 1993 that I highly recommend watching.


“The Odyssey” by Homer (~7th Century B.C.) 

I had to read “The Odyssey” in my freshman year English class, though it was removed from our school system the following year. If you never had to read this book, consider yourself lucky. “The Odyssey” is one of two ancient Greek epics attributed to the vague ‘Homer.’ It follows the story of supposed hero Odysseus and his 10-year journey back home after the Trojan war. Along with being incredibly dense and boring, the main issue I have with “The Odyssey” is with Odysseus himself. Considering that the entire book is centered around him and his hero’s journey, he’s a really awful person. Throughout the story we see Odysseus rape, murder, and leave his men for dead without a second thought. Why are we supposed to then cheer him on as one of the greatest heroes of all time? He isn’t and we shouldn’t. If it’s Greek mythology you’re interested in, there’s far more interesting stories than that of “The Odyssey.”

“1984” by George Orwell (1949)

“1984” is probably my least favorite book I’ve ever read. Considering how well-regarded it is in the dystopian genre, I thought there’d be something about the book that made it worth the hype. There really wasn’t. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is one of the worst characters I’ve seen, and he’s supposed to be the hero. Winston does things like fantasize about raping and murdering the woman he later ends up with–and it’s never acknowledged as wrong? Obviously this book is from a different era, but that doesn’t make these scenes any easier to read. Additionally, the character–and book itself–are both incredibly boring. It’s two-thirds of the way through the book before any significant events start happening. The graphic torture scenes are the most interesting part of the whole book simply because things are going on. “1984” may have been important in paving the way for dystopian novels, but the day and age for this book to be relevant has long since passed.