6 Short Classics to Read This Summer

In which I list 6 short classics you can read this summer! 


There’s something about summer that makes us gravitate towards shorter, lighter reads. On a hot summer day, you don’t want to put on an enormous wool sweater or eat a heaping plate of turkey smothered in steaming hot gravy, do you? Likewise, you simply may not  feel inclined to dive into the half-finished copy of War and Peace that’s been looking at you reproachfully for years (or wait, maybe that’s just me who has a half-finished copy of War and Peace staring reproachfully from my shelf).

It can be refreshing to read a book that’s short, sweet, and doesn’t make you think too much. Like a glass of lemonade. But light doesn’t always have to mean thematically flimsy. If you’d like to get a few classics under your belt this summer, here are a few short ones I pulled from my bookshelf. There are a lot more out there, but this is a good list to get you started.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This is the shortest novel on this list; my copy is only 107 pages long. It takes about an afternoon to read, but it’s far from light subject matter. And be forewarned (because no one warned me): you’ll want to have some tissues handy. So maybe don’t read it at the beach. Sand + tears + snot is NOT a great combo.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Okay, this is a play, not a novel, but it definitely belongs on this list. It only took me a couple of hours to read—that’s like watching a movie! And, being a comedy, it also qualifies as light summer reading in that it is a sparkling, witty play that will be sure to make you laugh. So maybe you can cheer yourself up with this one after you read Of Mice and Men. 

Animal Farm by George Orwell

As you might already be aware, this is an allegory for communism. I see several of you getting up and leaving, and I can hear you muttering, “THIS is her idea of a light summer read?!” Bear with me, please. While I’m not telling you to tackle my beloved Les Mis this summer (though you certainly may do so!) you don’t want to switch your brain off all summer, do you? Because this book is so short (my copy is 128 pages), I’d say it still could be considered light. Thought-provoking, but short. What more could you ask for?

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

This is one of my favourite novels of all time.You might not exactly need tissues, but you probably will want to be in a quiet place when you read the breathtaking last paragraph. It’s not really a “light” summer read either, except in length… But hey, it does take place in summer! So there’s that.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another very short book that should take you a couple days at the very most. This novel snaps along at a reckless pace, and is full of delightful, sparkling quotes. And it also takes place during summer! I mean, you just can’t argue with that, now can you?

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This is the longest of the short novels on this list, but being able to say you read an Austen novel this summer is pretty great, right?  Austen wrote this as a satire of the Gothic novels so popular in her time, and it’s probably my favourite of her novels. Funny, gripping—I couldn’t put it down.


So there you go, that’s my list! If any of these books interest you, go ahead and look into them. And really, this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as short classics go. While these might not be the lightest of summer reads, they have the advantage of being truly unforgettable.
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35 thoughts on “6 Short Classics to Read This Summer

  1. I have read Animal Farm and The Importance of Being Earnest, so I agree that those books are great! Will try to read other books soon. Thank you for writing this list:). It’s really helpful for me who recently interested in classics.

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  2. There definitely is something about summer reading – after all, most students dread the thought of engaging in “required” reading during their vacation… Heaven knows I never did… Often when school/college was in session I’d much rather read for fun…

    Anyway, these are some good suggestions, though… Northanger Abbey is definitely more light and fun than other Austens…

    Personally I feel the best way to be introduced to a lot of classics is in school…largely because of the value of the historical content/discussion that comes across…particularly for students who may not read classics to start with because they find that aspect daunting.

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    1. I am so with you on school being a good environment to be introduced to classics, but sadly that is only the case if you have a good English teacher. I really missed discussing books when I got out of school, which is actually why I started this blog!

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  3. I’ve only read Of Mice and Men, and that was during my secondary school years—at the time, I hated it, most likely because it was over-analysing it, rather than just sitting down and enjoying it. If I were to try again, I think I’d have a better experience. I’ve not read any others on this list, but I definitely want to read The Great Gatsby!

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  4. Ah, Animal Farm. Such a fantastic book. It pains me to say this, but… I haven’t read Gatsby yet *gasp!* I am going to be reading it in a novels class this next semester, though, so all is good! I would like to dig deeper and read some more classics 🙂

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    1. Haha, don’t worry, I’m not judging you for not having read Gatsby. I think you’ll enjoy reading it as part of a class, because there is so much to that novel that benefits from discussion. I think reading classics can be very rewarding. They’re the books that tend to stick with me…which makes sense, I suppose; they’ve stuck around through generations, after all.

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      1. Definitely, always a big decision whether to go for a new one or not, I try to do rereads when I am feeling unwell and don’t want to tax my brain too much!

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  5. I actually have a thing about reading classics in summer, so I love this post. I think it’s because I read a lot of classics for school during the rest of the year, so I don’t read any for fun until the summer. I’ve read most of these (though no Austen or Wilde yet), and they’re great suggestions!

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