Sometimes, nothing feeds the soul like reading a good novel. It’s the best way to spend a rainy afternoon and simply find solace in your favorite author or genre. No matter the decade, the greatest pieces of literature have the ability to impact your life.
Searching for an honest relationship or doubting the post-grad rollercoaster that is your 20s? Never fear, the classics have got you covered. They will make you realize that you are not – and never have been – alone in your struggles. Although you were likely forced to read some of these books in high school, a second read may give them new meaning.
1. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
In a framed story within a story, the protagonist Janie recounts to her friend her quest for love. Through multiple failed attempts at finding “the real thing,” Janie’s journey is one of self-discovery. In the end, she finds a man that truly makes her happy.
This novel will make you rethink conventional ideals of love, and may even teach you that you are looking for it in all the wrong places. It reminds us that every relationship is a learning experience, and that in time, good things come to those who wait.
2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
No one quite understands and communicates the game of love like Jane Austen does, including all the thrills (and woes) of dating, the art of upholding appearances and attempts at deciphering a person’s true nature. The various relationships of the Bennet sisters play out within the narrative, while Darcy quickly becomes the bad boy we love to hate…or secretly hate to love?
By the end of the novel, Austen teaches us that although dating (or as 1800 youth would call it “courting”) is full of highs and lows, it is important not to judge a person at first glance. Who knows, there might be more to the story than your first impression of someone. And they could be exactly what you have been searching for.
3. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
Told through an interwoven timeline of events, Mrs. Dalloway follows a woman through a single day in her life, as she plans a party and reminisces about past relationships. The unique stream of consciousness in which the novel is written illustrates the depth of human character, far beyond outward appearances.
Showing the discrepancy between the inner and outer self, this novel portrays how disconnected we are from society. In our current digital age where it has become easier than ever to form alternative or disingenuous online personas, Woolf’s revelations may even suggest a 21st century reevaluation of technology itself. Are we now more intimately connected to or in fact more distant from those in the world around us?
4. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger’s coming-of-age novel is a must-(re)read in your 20s. This tale, which follows a 17 year-old boy’s descent into madness, reminds many of us of our own fear of adulthood. The boy attempts to preserve his innocence at any cost, and nostalgically recalls events and people from his past. Growing up can be quite frightening, but Salinger illustrates that eventually we should take the leap into maturity – even if Salinger’s protagonist cannot.
5. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
For those of you nearing college graduation, doesn’t a cross country road trip with some of your closest companions sound like a dream? At least it did for Dean Moriarty, the leading character of Kerouac’s classic 1950s novel (although Dean was more ex-convict than collegiate scholar). Still, the tale highlights the free-spirited nature we have to simply see the world and enjoy life. A narrative of astonishing zeal and self-discovery, this novel inspires us to explore our deepest passions as we embark on a new, independent chapter in our lives.