These books have held a special place in the hearts of readers for generations, and they stand out not merely as firsts and bests, but also as surprising and challenging. That is why we keep reading them.

Whatever criteria you use, these works of ancient literature have stood the test of time—and continue to do so—which is why we believe they should be on your must-read list.

1. Emma by Jane Austen 

Emma Woodhouse entertains herself by meddling in the romantic affairs of her neighbors. As with so many of Jane Austen’s classic comedies of manners, Emma is as relevant as ever.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved Jazz Age novel captures the desires and decadence of the 1920s through the pursuits and parties of Jay Gatsby and his West Egg neighbor Nick Carraway.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte brings to life Jane Eyre’s titular heroine through a vivid internal world, one as dynamic as the wild English landscape, but one often at odds with the social strictures of the novel’s early-19th century setting.

4. Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

The bonds of the four March sisters and their mother are at the heart of this classic novel, which unfolds the courses of their lives and imaginations across Civil War-era Massachusetts

5. The Odyssey by Homer

Homer’s Odyssey is an ancient Greek epic detailing the adventures of Odysseus and his crew as they attempt to reach the shores of Ithaca, their home, in the decade after the Trojan War

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