Sure, it’s annoying when people start to talk like literary snobs, but maybe if you joined the conversation, it might be a little more fun than you expected. First step? Read these books that are sure to make you smarter in one way or another. It’s pretty likely that you’ve been asked to read a few of these books along the way, but maybe boredom set in and you gave up too soon. I’m here to tell you that, upon a closer read, these books are important pieces of western civilization. Meaning, ahem, get your brain going with these 20 classics. Surely you will sound a heck of a lot smarter, and hey, you’ll actually be a lot smarter after you dig into these literary treasures.
‘Pale Fire’ by Vladimir Nabokov
You might remember Nabokov after reading (and probably re-reading) Lolita , but have you tried the wacky world of Pale Fire ? It features a 999-line poem by a recluse named John Shade, and then a that narrative takes a lot of twists and unexpected turns. Reading this book is like solving a riddle — one that will make your brain work harder than it ever has before. And while it might feel like a dense read, remember, it’s actually funny — something to surely bring up in your snobby conversations from here on out.
‘The Tempest’ by William Shakespeare
Listen, Shakespeare is perhaps the greatest writer of all time. Though his very last play, some say The Tempest is his best work. Assuming the dude had been writing for most of his life by the time he debuted this stellar play, it’s no wonder it’s a literary masterpiece. It’s got all the juicy stuff Shakespeare is made of: Corruption, power, innocence, and more. Get moving.
‘Middlesex’ Jeffrey Eugenides
Read Middlesex because it’s great, but discuss it in public because you will sound super cool. Why? Not only is this book a thrilling read, it happens to feature one of fiction’s greatest narrators: Cal, a young girl who must uncover a family secret. This epic novel didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for nothing!
‘As I Lay Dying’ by William Faulkner
This Southern Gothic classic novel is not only dark and mysterious, but it broke the mold. A different family member of the Bundren clan — a broken family that must bury their wife and mother in the South — narrates each chapter. Each offers a totally unique voice, some ranging from one line to many pages. Faulkner really changed the game when he decided to play with form in this classic tale. Also, James Franco made it into a movie, but I’m too afraid to see it to tell you if it’s any good.
‘The Collected Short Stories’ by Eudora Welty
You probably recognize her name, but have you actually read Eudora Welty yet? This woman is awarded with much more literary awards than you can possibly imagine. I suggest her short story collection because her talent really shines in the many diverse points of view. She’s got a special voice that deserves to be mentioned on your next blind date.