4 Easy Classic Works of Literature (My Gateway to the Classics)

Want to start reading classic books but aren’t quite sure where to start?

I was once in your position — about five years ago to be exact. 

Having recently graduated from a dry and technical econ program, I felt the urge to read the classics, to explore what literature had to offer, but didn’t know what books to start with. I was excited but confused. 

Fortunately, my mom has been reading fiction her entire life, and pointed me in the direction of some easy-to-read classic novels, novellas, and short story collections for beginners. 

Today I’ll share the four easiest and most enjoyable classics with you, so that you can begin your journey studying the classics, build some confidence and reading skills, and move on to harder and longer books.  

I’ll also call out who should read it so you can easily pick the ones that’ll most resonate with you and your interests. 

Without further ado, let’s jump into the best classics for beginners. 

The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

Who Should Read it? People who love dogs (the main character is a dog), harsh climates, survival stories, and beautiful prose that often checks you onto the ice with its force and power. 

Jack London’s The Call of the Wild tells the story of a domesticated house dog’s arduous journey into the world of the Alaskan gold rush as a sled dog. It’s a story of bravery, friendship, growth, and survival of the fittest. 

It’s pretty short, clocking in around 200 pages, making it an easy read. Plus, the language isn’t difficult and there’s very little to be confused about. 

The plot is also gripping, so you won’t have that challenge which usually stuns new classics readers and causes them to give up. 

If you really like this book, you can then go onto reading White Fang. I actually own a book that contains both novels. 

Oh, and, if you haven’t guessed it already I’m a huge Jack London fan. He really was my gateway drug into serious literature. I even have an article on three reasons all autodidacts should read his other book, Martin Eden, which is also pretty accessible to beginners. 

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

Who Should Read it? People who like short story collections, sci-fi, mars expeditions, aliens, humor, horror, and unpredictable wackiness. 

The Martian Chronicles remains one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a collection of fictional short stories about a time in the future when Earth is exploring and settling on Mars.

The stories range from nightmarish to downright hilarious, and often they’re a mixture of both. I’d say the major feeling I got from this book is a delightful uneasiness — “what the hell is going to happen next in this insane world?” was a common thought. 

This is a great book for beginners because you can easily pace out your reading by reading one story per day. 

And finishing that story can be super motivating and make you want to read the next (if the content itself isn’t enough to make you want to skip the television and grab the book). 

If you want another book by Bradburry, which I’m sure you will after reading this, check out his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. That one was also pretty easy for me as a beginner. 

Animal Farm, by George Orwell 

Who Should Read it? People with an interest in politics and communism, a strange affection for farm animals, and a desire for a short easy book they can read in a day or two. 

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is about a group of farm animals who concoct and execute a plan to take over control of a farm. 

It’s silly in premise, but incredibly important in its effect. Orwell had fought in the Spanish revolution, and was a foe of totalitarianism. He uses this novel to illustrate his views about the dangers of both, and it has definitely revealed to generations the dark side of all revolutions.

I polished this one off in a few days. It’s perfect for beginners because the story is interesting and the book is super short. 

At page 50 you’ll note that you’re halfway done and probably will just want to keep flying through and finish it. 

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The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway 

Who Should Read it? People who appreciate a simple prose style and love the ocean, fishing, and feats of will.

The Old Man and the Sea is a novella by Hemingway that tells the story of an old man in a fishing drought who’s on a mission to catch a giant marlin. 

It’s about 100 pages so it’s super easy to read. Plus, Hemingway is known for his small words and simple sentences. 

The story is also highly relatable to anyone who’s in a bit of a drought of any kind. With my freelancing business floundering a bit, maybe I should give this one another read…

In all endeavors we experience highs and lows. We all get stuck in a rut. And this story really encapsulates that feeling of being in one. 

Honorable Mentions: Other Easy Classics to Start With

I read so many great, accessible classic novels early in my career as a reader of the classics, and it’d be silly not to mention them to you. 

Here are some other easy classics to start with: 

  • 1984: Great for people who like dystopian novels and have an interest in totalitarian regimes.  
  • Dharma Bums: You’ll love this if you have an interest in Buddhism and are or have experienced being a young vagabond party-animal. 
  • Pride and Prejudice: The prose is a bit more difficult than others on this list but if you love romances then this is for you. 
  • The Handmaid’s Tale: If you love dystopian fiction about horrible oppressive regimes and those who stand up to them, this is for you. 
  • Black Boy: A story about growing up in the American South as a black man during a time where racism reigned. 
  • The Hobbit: If you love fantasy, this is for you. 
  • Night: This book, a first-hand account of time in a concentration camp, is short, terrifying, and moving. 

Of the list above, my personal favorite would have to be either Night or 1984. 

P.S. Regardless of how easy the reading is, you still might run into challenges while reading a classic. Check out my article on the 8 most common challenges for new readers of the classics and how to overcome them. 

How to Find Your Perfect Starter Classic Book  

In case you can’t choose between the recommended classics, or you want to go search for another book not on the list, I’ll give you some factors to consider in order to pick the right classic book for you. 

Here are some qualities to look for in your first classic book: 

  • Short: The shorter the easier in most cases. Longer books can be intimidating and cause you to give up (trust me, I’ve experienced this many times before). 
  • Simple Prose: Look for authors whose prose is straightforward and free of hard vocabulary words and too much poetic expression. Hemingway and Orwell are often good places to start. 
  • More Modern: Typically, you’ll have an easier time with newer books than older ones, as the references are more relevant to you. Of course, some of the postmodernists might pose a challenge, but read reviews beforehand. 
  • Fun Plot: Gripping plots keep you motivated to continue reading the story. 
  • Matches Your Interests: If you find war fascinating, read a novel about war. If you love humor, read a satirical classic. Google “classics about x” where x is your interest topic. 

Reading reviews by other readers is often going to be your best way to research a classic to see if it’s the right fit for you and your skill level. 

Pro Tip: If you’re really struggling to finish books, consider consuming them through audiobook form. That’ll be easier since you can do it while commuting, walking, or doing other chores around the house. Audible offers a 30-day free trial where you get a free audiobook. Check it out. That’s what I use for audiobooks.  

Breaking into the Classics 

Hopefully this has helped you pick a classic to get started with. 

If you want more guidance on how to actually finish the classic book while finding the reading process enjoyable, check out my ultimate guide on how to start reading classic novels

There you’ll find ten steps that’ll take you from a non-reader of the classics to someone who reads them regularly. 


After graduating college with an econ degree I realized I was still anything but well-educated. Over the last 4 years, I've been trying to fix that, autodidact-mode — by reading books and engaging in self-directed study across multiple subjects. On this blog, my goal is to share my learnings and help others get a well-rounded education outside of school. Education, after all, is a lifelong process, one well worth the investment.

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