There are plenty of classic titles we know well. We see their names time and time again, littering our high school syllabi, sitting pretty on the recommended shelf at our local bookstore, and sometimes lingering on our own unread TBR’s. This isn’t a list of your typical classics. Rather, it’s a list of classics time (or at least the modern world) has largely forgotten.
Who can say why some classics pervade modern pop culture more than others? Especially when there are plenty of fantastic, timeless reading experiences that deserve not only to be remembered, but to be enjoyed by readers like you. This is a list dedicated to those oft forgotten but enduring tales.
George R. Stewart
This is one of my all-time favorite books, a book I think everyone should read once in their lives. Earth Abides is a post-apocalyptic work by George R. Stewart from 1949. However, instead of focusing on the disaster itself (like most novels of the genre), this story focuses on the resurrection of the human race in a startling tale of hope and humanity. As I said in my The Literary Edit interview:
“…the evolution of a modern world once ruined by cataclysm and the return to humanity’s most basic being by a new, but stunningly original, Prometheus. I’m sorry if I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent here, but Earth Abides is, in a few words, humanity at its most naturalistic core.”
Hell Hound is a horror classic by Ken Greenhall in 1977 about a sociopathic dog on the hunt for his perfect master, but what will happen when he finds him? A full-circle celebration of violence, of judge and executioner, and a stark exploration into twisted psychology. Why this fantastically written little novel has been largely lost to modern audiences is a mystery. This is the epitome of a forgotten classic and one that deserves to live again in the black hearts of horror readers everywhere.
Ray Bradbury is an extremely well-known author and an important contributor to the American canon. You’ll recognize titles like Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked this Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man. However, many have forgotten his more memoir-like work, Dandelion Wine (1957). This lyrical novel is a love letter to Bradbury’s own childhood, though fictionalized, and takes us to a small town in 1928. I was forced to read this on e-book when I decided to pick it up for the first time in 2018 for a buddy read with fellow book blogger, Tamsien at Babbling Books. I called five local bookstores and not one had a copy. One additional store that I visited on a whim in a neighboring city had not even heard of it! And what a shame that is. This is a wholly wondrous book, one that deserves to be read and remembered as much as Bradbury’s more fantastical works.
A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Most children’s literature lovers know Frances Hodgson Burnett for her celebrated classic, The Secret Garden. It is always a surprise to me how few have read, or even heard of, her other children’s story. A Little Princess (1905) is, in my opinion, far superior in narrative, plot, and pacing than her more well-known work. It tells the story of a young girl, one both quick-witted and delightfully imaginative. This young girl is much doted on by her wealthy father, a British soldier stationed in India, but nonetheless remains an extremely kind and thoughtful child. Years pass at her boarding school until one day her father’s lawyer arrives and announces that her father has died and Sara is now penniless. Forced into servitude and life in a small, cold room in the school’s attic, Sara must learn to grapple with these unexpected changes, testing the strength of her precocious personality in the face of a cruel headmistress. Burnett’s unique style holds a dear place in my heart, her works extremely formative pillars from my youth that crafted much of how I think and live today. The fact the not every little girl will have the chance to read one of her works is, to me, an incredible travesty. Do yourself the favor of reading one of her books or buying one for the little girl in your life.
Gone With the Wind
Not only is this one of my all time favorite classic films, it is also one of my all time favorite books, a sweeping civil war era epic of the old south. Scarlett O’Hara is the definition of a femme fatale. Rhett Butler is the rakish and daring black sheep with whom you can’t help but fall in love. One of the challenges of describing sweeping epics like this one is the fear of explaining too much or saying too little. So I will leave it at this, pick up this book on audio or in hardcover and just start. It is extremely long, perfect for those who love big books, at just over 1,000 pages. Also, please watch the movie at some point in your life—though be warned, this too is extremely long at about four hours.
Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs
If your knowledge of Tarzan, a story about a boy raised in the jungle by apes, begins and ends with the cartoon Disney adaptation from 1999, then you are missing out. This series was initially published serially in a magazine and later composed into a book series, one sure to satisfy any who love a good, old-fashioned adventure story. Tarzan also serves as a fascinating microscope into the public perceptions and ideals of the early 20th century. Burrough’s writing style is surprisingly simple and efficient, a testament to their initial publication style as short excerpts in a magazine. You may be surprised how approachable a classic this is to read. It could be a fun experience to try with your son or daughter, reading a chapter each night.
Perhaps one of the strangest and most meandering books I’ve ever read, but no less enduring. Steppenwolf is about a man drifting into madness, toeing the line between a naturalistic wolf-like man in contrast to the restrained, conventional gentleman with the suffocating twentieth century values he so despises. Hesse is known for works that both blend and divide western and eastern thought. You may know his work from the highly praised Siddhartha, a book that often serves as required reading in schools.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this curated list of forgotten classics and that you’ll find a new-to-you yet timeless book to add to your shelves.
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Til next time,
Bex Skoog (formerly Bex Gorsuch) is a Book Blogger and Instagram Influencer who strives to connect readers with their next favorite book and encourages avid bibliophiles to make use of the inspiration found in fiction by implementing story into their day-to-day lives.
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