Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

12 High School Books You Should Re-read as an Adult

Image credit: Found on Tumblr

Did reading High School books feel more like a chore rather than a thrilling past time? Or maybe you were too young or too impatient to fully appreciate the humour and the drama of an adult life? Then perhaps you should consider giving these 12 books a second chance. After all, some books only improve with age- the older you get, the more enjoyable they become.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Image credit: Viking Press

This multi-award winning drama is nothing short of remarkable. Set in the 1950s, Arthur Miller’s masterpiece follows the life of an ageing salesman Willy Lowman who becomes disenchanted with elusive American Dream. For Lowman, a forty-year ‘rat race’ spent chasing the promise of financial prosperity comes to an abrupt and tragic end. At his deathbed, surrounded by friends, the salesman comes to the realisation that his plans to provide a better future for his family have not materialised. Brilliantly written, the play exposes the flaws of the class system through the life of a blue-collar worker, who falls a victim of industrialism in his desperate attempts to shake off the inferiority complex that has pervaded the American nation since 1930s.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Image credit: Scribner

One of the most powerful novellas ever written, The Old Man and the Sea represents Hemingway’s last literary gem published during his lifetime. Inspired by real events, the story is centred around a Cuban fisherman Santiago who is considered to be cursed failing to catch a fish for weeks. In his strive to redeem himself, the old man ventures into the Gulf Stream where he encounters the largest marlin he has ever seen. The next few days can only be described as an agonising battle to bring the marlin to the market in one piece. By the time Santiago reaches the shore, the giant fish has been devoured by sharks leaving nothing but a skeleton as a reminder of the fisherman’s stoicism and courage.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Image credit: Penguin Publishers

Set in the 1830s England, this gothic romance novel has delighted generations of readers with its portrayal of a woman’s quest for independence. Upon the graduation from a strict charity school for orphans, Jane secures the position of a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she encounters its enigmatic and misogynistic master with a dark past. An advocate for gender equality, Jane Eyre tears apart all misconceptions that Mr Rochester so proudly manifests. Jane’s refreshing honesty, integrity and sharp mind bewitch Edward as he accepts Jane as an emotional and intellectual equal. But will the secret hidden in the depths of Thornfield Estate threaten their chance for happiness?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Image credit: Grand Central Publishing

Published in 1960, this quintessentially American novel instantly shot to fame winning the Pulitzer Prize and inspiring a myriad of film and stage adaptations. Set in the 1930s Alabama, Harper Lee’s iconic story explores the racial tensions in the midst of the court hearing. Insightful and compassionate, the novel portrays the moral values of Atticus Finch and his family that stretch far beyond the colour of the skin.The only defence attorney willing to represent a black man accused of raping a white woman, Atticus battles hostility and inequality during the trial. This poignant tale of innocence, cruelty and hatred delights the readers with the description of human courage in pursuing justice and overcoming the prejudice in the 20th century America.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Image credit: Simon and Schuster

The famous quote "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” encapsulates the essence of this timeless classic. This splendid comedy of manners revolves around the Bennet sisters who face destitution upon their father’s death once the estate falls into the hands of their distant cousin Mr Collins. For young women, the only hope to overcome the forthcoming hardship is to seek a “suitable match”. Soon the opportunity presents itself when two eligible bachelors rent the Netherfield House for the summer. Much like mild-mannered Mr Bingley and seemingly arrogant Mr Darcy, the older Bennet sisters could not be more different! While Jane’s beauty and kind nature attracts Mr Bingley, Elizabeth’s sharp tongue and bright mind “bewitches Mr Darcy’s body and soul”. Enriched with drawing room intrigues, secret affairs and selfless acts of redemption, this charming novel deftly illustrates the complexity of human nature, shattering preconceptions.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Image credit: Penguin Classics

One of the most prominent literary works of the 19th century, this thrilling tale of crime, revenge and triumph continues to capture the imagination of modern readers worldwide as overarching social issues remain as relevant today as they ever were. Having spent years dreaming of becoming a gentleman, an orphaned Pip suddenly finds himself in possession of “great expectations”. In his attempts to uncover the true identity of his benefactor, Pip learns how his act of kindness towards an escaped convict has shaped his future. From dark streets of London to the somber Satis House, the gloomy setting contributes to the creation of such memorable characters as embittered Miss Havisham, cynical Estella and fearsome Magwitch. In the best tradition of romanticism, the author skilfully interweaves different subplots into one story that are coalesce at crucial intersection points through a series of coincidences and improbabilities.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Image credit: Naxos Audiobooks

This blood-curdling tale of terror and fear represents a recollection of chilling events that took place in the isolated country mansion in Cornwall. As the young bride of Maxim De Winter assumes her new responsibilities, she receives a cold reception from Mrs Danvers , a sinister housekeeper who goes to great lengths to preserve the distant memory of the former mistress of the house. The remote coastal setting contributes to the feeling of unease and imminent danger for Mrs de Winter filling her with the suspicion of foul play. Will she ever discover what lurks behind the grand estate of Manderley or is she destined to live in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor?

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Image credit: Canada College

Written at the turn of the 19th century, The Importance of Being Earnest tackles come moral issues satirising the customs of Victorian England. This lighthearted farcical comedy about mistaken personae and secret affairs follows the lives of immoral, yet charming Algernon Moncrieff and seemingly responsible John Worthing. Two bachelors switch their fictitious identities in order to avoid burdensome social conventions by escaping to the countryside and back to London. When plotting and scheming become their second nature, the two gentlemen become inextricably entangled in a web of lies, where a pure miracle is their only hope. Brimming with witty banter and sharp humour, the play mocks the upper classes and its obsession with conformity to Victorian social standards.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Image credit: Penguin CLassics

Set in 17th century Boston, this novel portrays Puritan society with its prejudice against women committing adultery. Following the affair with Dimmesdale, Hester gives birth to a baby girl, Pearl. Publicly disgraced, she is forced to wear a scarlet letter “A”, branding her as an “Adulterer”. Incredibly insightful, Hester makes acute observations of female predicaments that disadvantage vulnerable women. Hawthorne describes a strong female character who lives through years of shame and scorn in exile drawing on her fighting spirit to deal with personal dilemmas.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Image credit: Mr Mullen PB Works

One of Shakespeare's four great tragedies, Macbeth encompasses witchcraft, bloody murder, ghostly apparitions as well as high poetry. The tale focuses on a Scottish General, who encounters three witches casting a prophecy. Despite the warning, the main character lets his power and ambition blind him, turning him evil.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Image credit: Dover Publications

Canterbury Tales has earned its worldwide reputation for popularising the literary use of Middle English defying the predominance of French and Latin languages in literature. This delightful collection of short poems follows a group of Pilgrims brought together by a twist of fate on their way to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket. Each of the travellers is offered a chance to win a free dinner in exchange for a tale. From knights and monks to friars, these richly textured characters represent all layers of society, which are reflected in the stories they tell. Infused with subtle humour and satirical undertones, this storytelling competition offers a fascinating glimpse into Medieval England and will appeal to anyone who would like to revisit the most influential book of the 15th century.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Image credit: Literatureiscool on Tumblr

Anna Karenina is one of the most complex female literary characters. Trapped in a passionless marriage, Anna finds joy in her son Seryozha, who she cares for deeply. But her life is irrevocably changed by a hurricane of emotions when she meets Count Vronsky – an eligible bachelor with military aspirations. The love affair prompts our heroine to re-evaluate her commitments and abandon her family. Rejected by society and denied access to her child, Anna is consumed with despair and heads toward self-destruction.