Ten Classic Novels I’ve Never Read

One of the first tenets in the writing world is to be well-read.

It’s one of those givens…in order to be a good writer you must read – a lot.

What should prospective writers read? you ask…

The accepted philosophy is anything and everything – whether it’s Gone With the Wind or the back of your cereal box.

Just read.

should be reading

Well…I have a confession to make, but before I bare my soul…I want to say that I do love to read. I read as much as I can (when I’m not writing) so I would like you to take that fact into consideration as you read on.

This is my confession (I feel like I should genuflect and cross myself or something)…

There are many great…no CLASSIC works of literature I have not read.

Sometimes when I’m with other writers I feel somewhat ashamed when the conversation turns to Dickens or Shelley or Verne, because I’ve never read them, but I hide it well and I’ve learned to bluff my way through the conversation.

Now it’s time to ‘fess up…I’m going to list 10 classic novels I have never read.

Why am I doing this?

Well, ordinarily I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I think when 2015 gets here I am going to make a concerted effort to read more – starting with some classics.

So, without further ado…


10 Classic Novels I Have Never Read


10) Pretty much anything by Charles Dickens. I’ve seen many of the movies/plays, but I have never finished a Charles Dickens novel. They were assigned reading in high school (David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations) but I could never get past the first few chapters. I blame it on the distractions of youth.


9) Ditto for Ernest Hemingway. More assigned reading in high school (The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms & The Old Man and the Sea) which I never bothered to read. Once again…chalk it up to a wandering teenage mind.

8) 1984 by George Orwell. Another example of assigned reading that took a back seat to girls and baseball. Even though I’ve learned a great deal about the story by osmosis I have yet to actually read it.

7) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I’ve never even seen the movie. Horror just isn’t my thing – although I do appreciate the metaphor of people creating a monster and not being able to deal with it afterward.

6) On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Even though I’ve always considered myself more of a hippy than a beatnik – Kerouac’s handbook for the Beat Generation seems to be going strong even after 57 years, so it must have something really cool to say, daddy-o.

5) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. More classic literature I was supposed to read in high school. Judging by the classroom discussions, it’s a fairly interesting story, but I still don’t know for sure. I’m not really a high society kind of guy.


4) Animal Farm by George Orwell. Naturally I’m familiar with the concept, and I love political satire, but the fact remains I’ve never read a single word of it.

3) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I’ve heard many things about this book. Unfortunately, thanks to some of the more deranged members of our society, I have avoided reading it. That needs to change.

2) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. A Pulitzer Prize winning novel written by a Nobel Prize winner, this tale of American history should be a must read for every citizen…at least that’s what I’ve heard.

1) Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I know, probably not the most influential novel of all time, but it’s about the military (I love books about the military) it’s about bureaucratic logic (or the lack thereof) another theme near and dear to my heart. I remember my mother reading this book when I was young and she seemed to really enjoy it. I’ve seen the movie and loved it, so it’s high-time for me to read the book.

catch 22

They say confession is good for the soul…I think it’s true. I feel better now that I’ve come clean about my lack of literary diversity. This is not to say that I am totally lacking in that department…I’ve read many classics, but the majority of my reading is contemporary, and not considered classic.

They also say that knowing you have a problem is half the battle…so I’m halfway home – I just need a good book for the rest of the trip!

road reading

What classics are on your list? Share them in the comments if you dare!


As always – thank you for reading



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29 responses to “Ten Classic Novels I’ve Never Read

  1. You have just listed all excellent books, and a few I want to read again. The list of things one HAS read has to include comics because there was some very good writing in lil Abner…oh sorry Tim, you are much too young to remember Daisy May. 🙂

  2. L. Beth Beekman

    Melville, how I hated Melville,
    I read all of Li’l Abner. We had an anthology at home. Age is just an excuse, Baker. I read the Katzenjammer Kids, too.
    I read Faulkner and Vonnegut, but very little Hemingway or Buck. I did not read Salinger, but enjoyed Tennessee Williams. I still haven’t read Tolstoy, not a single one, but i read every single Rex Stout “Nero Wolfe” book and all of John D. McDonald’s “Travis McGee” books…something i highly suggest anyone writing about Florida, boats and crime checks out. Upton Sinclair still haunts me. Sinclair Lewis I have thus avoided. Thurber was a no-go, but Wodehouse? I devoured Wodehouse.
    I started my son off early. He has read most of the Captain Underpants series. He’s 20 now, and has a healthy appreciation for the absurd. What parent could ask for anything more?

  3. The only one I’ve read on that list is Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. I blame high school and where I grew up. I grew up in the Salinas Valley of California ( of which Steinbeck based his books ) and so therefore Steinbeck has been stuffed down our throats so much we choke on it. BLEH! I rather be pecked to death by a duck than read those EVER again.

  4. There are some great books on your list! I have to admit, I’m not a fan of Catcher in the Rye, and neither of my daughters liked it either (but we all read it). 🙂
    Other “classics”–To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorite books. I also love Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
    Happy Reading!

  5. Cheryl Schenk

    My list is quite similar to yours Tim. I’ve always read but for years it was romance & mystery novels. Three or four years ago I attended a week long writers’ conference and was confronted with my narrow reading habits. I’ve since widened my range and enjoyed doing so. I think I may even tackle many of those listed above. Some are already in my reader just waiting for me. I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

  6. Author Rebecca Heishman

    I’ve read all these except Heller. I’m some kind of freak because I simply don’t enjoy reading Dickens and I gave up trying. (Intellectuals of the world, sue me!) Jack Kerouac opened an old country girl’s eyes to the beauty of individual thought and total freedom. My fantasy was to go on a road trip with him. I graduated high school in 1968 and I was ready to head out. (I’m not kidding!) He died in 1969 – dammit! Thomas Wolfe is one of the most lauded writers in history and his cumbersome adverb/adjective-laden writing gives me a massive headache. Hemingway? I don’t understand how he became so highly-regarded as a writer. I believe he was a master of self-promotion and that was his greatest strength. One day, I gave myself permission to read whatever makes me happy. I’m a happier person since I chucked everybody else’s reading lists. I think some of the greatest writers are ones who will never make a classics list. Fannie Flagg, Erma Bombeck, Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz, and Gary Larson are my heroes. They taught me more than anyone about how to best make it through this life. They taught me to laugh.

  7. Grapes of Wrath was perhaps the saddest book I’ve ever read. I’m glad I read it, but would not want to read it again. Catcher in the Rye was one I had to put down. The writing style blew my mind and was against everything I had been taught about good writing. The Great Gatsby? Both the book and the movie left me feeling confused. The Bronte sisters and To Kill a Mockingbird were both favorites of mine, as well. And I’m just one of those people who can’t understand how anyone could not enjoy Dickens. I have to confess, I was a bookworm in Junior High, but didn’t do much reading in High School. But I did see Foghat, Aerosmith and Uriah Heep in concert together at the Omni in Atlanta in 76, and left the burning back seat to a Chevy Impala on the roadside of I-20.

  8. Reblogged this on Libbie the Lobster and commented:
    My friend and fellow author Tim Baker humbly makes a confession.

  9. I had the idea the other day that I want to reread Wuthering Heights. I loved it many years ago and others like Jane Eyre and anything by Edgar Allen Poe. I have read some of the classics but I don’t remember them well. I want to read more of them too. I’d like to read Moby Dick and Gone with the Wind and some others but I think I’ll check with Change Jar Books tomorrow for Wuthering Heights.

  10. Great post, love the open-mindedness! I haven’t read quite a few of the classics like Kerouac or Catch 22. I have read Hemingway whom I really like. Not crazy about Dickens, have hardly read him. See, we all have our little secrets and we all share. 🙂

  11. Oh, the books I haven’t read….
    Moby Dick -turns out, it’s not erotica!
    The Great Gatsby -My wonderful HS English program had us watch the movie instead
    Lord of the Rings-my excuse was that the book’s font was too small
    House of Mirth-with a word like “mirth” in your title, you’ve already got a problem.
    Hamlet-I can dig a bit of exsitensialism as much as the next girl, but whiny angst-ful men just doesn’t do it for me

  12. Reblogged this on The Transparent Author and commented:
    Oh, the books I haven’t read….
    Moby Dick -turns out, it’s not erotica!
    The Great Gatsby -My wonderful HS English program had us watch the movie instead
    Lord of the Rings-my excuse was that the book’s font was too small
    House of Mirth-with a word like “mirth” in your title, you’ve already got a problem.
    Hamlet-I can dig a bit of exsitensialism as much as the next girl, but whiny angst-ful men just doesn’t do it for me

  13. I’ve only read one of the classics mentioned above. That would be The Grapes of Wrath. I think you’d enjoy that one. I’ve read a number of ohter books considered classics but not the ones you’ve listed. These days I have a problem with the older books like Moby Dick. They start slowly and you have to wade through a lot of info before you get to the best part. Agatha Christie wrote that her mother read Dickens to her but skipped some of the parts that she considered dull. I have read Dickens A Christmas Carol. Many classics are a bit rough going is you’re used to books by authors like John Grisham who jump right into the action.I’ve read several books by Jane Austin. I love mysteries.You have to be patient with classics as there is a lot of info on the scenery, weather, etc. I’ve read Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Even they can be slow going at first as he describes scenery and weather a good bit. — Suzanne

  14. You’re very right, Suzanne…the classics don’t read like modern novels. I guess Dickens and Hemingway weren’t concerned with sales numbers and movie rights. Literature is certainly not the same animal it used to be…it has evolved to fit society.
    Your point about weather info is a perfect example…most modern “experts” advise authors to ignore such detail unless it is germane to the story.
    I wonder how today’s works will be looked at by people in 100 years.

  15. Skip ‘Grapes of Wrath’ and read ‘East of Eden.’ One of my all time favorite novels.

    I’ve never read Hemmingway, either… but always feel guilty about that. Hey, life is too short for guilt! 😀

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  18. Where’s Dostoevsky in this lineup?

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