These easy to read classics help you dive into the short classics and other must read classic books for beginners without all the overwhelm and boredom.
This list of the easiest classics to read was inspired by my book club (@TheRoryGilmoreBookClub on Instagram), where we read from the list of 500+ books referenced on Gilmore Girls each month. Many of these books are classic novels, which club members are eager to read.
However, we all know the classics can be challenging. Further, many club members are limited in their free time, and many are also reading these books in English as their second language. So, I compiled this list of easy classic books to help you start reading literature and developing a love in your life for some of the most renowned books of all time.
Deciding on the best classics for beginners made me consider so many factors, including what makes a book a classic and whether to include children’s books. Here’s how I narrowed it down:
First, I decided that most people searching for easy to read classic books would probably NOT be looking for a young children’s story like a fairy tale, so I stayed away from books that are geared towards extremely young readers (though you will find some chapter books for older children that adults also love).
Then, I thought about the most famous classic books that people want to cross off their lists, and whether they qualified as easy classics for beginners.
I also thought about my own classic book list from high school and which novels we considered to be “easy” at the time.
Lastly, I considered the most famous short classic books under 250 pages (some much shorter). For some reason, a short classic book just FEELS like easy to read classic literature — and very often, it is.
With those criteria in mind, let’s explore my list of the best classics that are easy to read (or listen to, as a good audiobook can also make a classic book easier to read).
Top 3 Easy to Read Classics for Beginners
Full List of Easy to Read Classics for Beginners
What is the easiest classic to read?
Below are the best easy to read classics for beginners.
1984 by George Orwell
1984 is a very popular required read for students, nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read. Its reading level is age 13+.
This is often the book that introduces readers to dystopian literature, envisioning a future government (at the time it was written seventy years before 1984) that would do anything to maintain control. Big Brother is always watching.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered one of the easy to read classics because it centers on a boy on an adventurous journey on the Mississippi River in 1840 with a slave seeking freedom.
While it’s not a hard story to follow, it does also instill mature themes for which the classics are also known, like racism.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I wanted to be sure to include an Agatha Christie book on this list because she’s one of the best-selling authors of all time, and her books are generally short and not too hard to read.
(You may need only to keep track of the characters, which can be many.)
And Then There Were None is the perfect place to start the Agatha Christie catalog. It’s a PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick with over 100 million copies sold. It’s also a locked-room mystery, which is a popular genre that classic readers will want to explore.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm is one of the first classic books I recall reading in high school and not feeling overwhelmed. It’s short, and the reading level is age 13+.
It’s a dystopian novel in which a farm is taken over by its mistreated animals. Originally aimed at Stalinist Russia, now it symbolizes all attacks on personal freedom.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Readers of all ages adore the famous fictional protagonist Anne of Green Gables, a red-headed orphan who brings her big, beautiful (and mischievous) spirit to Prince Edward Island at the turn of the 20th century.
A chapter book written for older children, it’s not too complex a book series to start.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I totally flew through The Bell Jar while I was on a school break, so I definitely found it to be one of my favorite easy to read classics.
Written in 1963, it maintains a more modern English language and tone throughout, as it explores a young woman’s descent into her dark psyche.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my personal favorite easy to read classic novels. It’s a brief character-driven narrative about a New York socialite with a lot of emotional baggage.
You can read it in one sitting yet still be captivated by the lush descriptions and unparalleled attention to detail that Capote brings to the one and only Holly Golightly.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Ask any American adult which classic book he or she enjoyed reading most in high school, and there’s a really good chance you’ll hear The Catcher in the Rye. And if those many high school students connect with it, it’s got to be fairly easy to digest. It’s also brief, at just over 100 pages, and has a reading level of age 13+.
It’s the quintessential coming-of-age novel that follows an angsty teen, Holden Caulfield, as he’s expelled from prep school and traverses New York City on his own for three days.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
One of America’s top 100 most-loved novels, selected by PBS’s The Great American Read, Charlotte’s Web is a chapter book written for older children but clearly remains beloved by all ages who connect with its universal themes of life, love, and loss.
It’s one of the most classic tales of friendship, as a spider befriends a pig and they show love for the young girl who saved the pig when he was a runt.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Many readers may already know some version of the most classic of all Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, but have you actually read the original book? It’s surprisingly short and easy to digest, with simple messaging about kindness and Christmas spirit, yet it’s also written in exquisitely beautiful prose that is sure to delight classic readers.
Your familiarity with the plot will go far in helping you further explore one of the most timeless of these easy to read classics.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman is the one play that I recall from high school being both easy to read and meaningful in conveying complex themes. It dives into the mind of an aging salesman who has spent most of his life at work, as he contemplates the past and attempts to reconcile it with the present.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I picked up Fahrenheit 451 recently and found it to be very easy to read (you can even do so in one sitting).
It’s another dystopian novel, this time about a fireman who destroys books and the homes in which they are stored. When he meets one particular neighbor, however, he begins to question the way things work.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a popular Jazz Age novel in which an outsider watches as a rich and extravagant man falls in peril of his unrequited love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan.
It’s fairly short and definitely easy to read, but there’s also a lot of symbolism about themes like the American Dream, so you may want to explore some analyses as you read along.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes mysteries are widely considered to be easy to read classics, and I particularly chose The Hound of the Baskervilles because I recall reading it myself in high school and finding it to be both interesting and simple to read.
After Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead, memories resurface of a hound that tore out the throat of another Baskerville. Holmes is on the case to determine whether the younger heir to the estate is in danger of this howling beast.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is my personal favorite easy classic book. While longer in length, it’s still technically an older children’s book and, thus, is not at all hard to read.
In fact, all ages can find comfort and warmth in this cozy family story of four sisters and their matriarch at home during the Civil War, coming of age and exploring their unique creativity. It’s a must-read novel that has captured generations of classic readers.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I have such a clear memory of easily reading Lord of the Flies as a young adult, a short book that follows a group of schoolboys stranded on an island. At first a cause for the boys’ celebration, their uncontrolled independence eventually becomes the very source of danger.
Often referenced in pop culture, it’s one you will want to cross off your list of classics for beginners to read.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men was one of the first books that came to my mind in compiling this list. It was both short and easy for me to read as a young student, and it was also an easy first Steinbeck book to read.
A story of friendship between two unlikely men who are migrant workers during the Great Depression, it does have some dark themes, but it is still recommended for ages 13+.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway is known for his short, concise sentences, which make his writing easier to digest than that of other authors. While he has written many classics, I selected The Old Man and the Sea for this list of easy classic novels, as it’s short in length and was the first Hemingway work I was able to read and understand early in my reading career.
It’s the simple story of man vs. fish, symboling so much more about life for the reader to think about.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice just may be the LEAST easy classic book on this list, but because I know beginner readers of literature so often want to dive into Jane Austen’s beautiful and timelessly classic romance novels, I wanted to offer you one, along with my reasoning behind selecting it.
Pride and Prejudice is the most famous Jane Austen book, so while all contain flowery, vintage prose that can feel slow and difficult, at least many readers may already know the general plot of this one going into it. You can follow along with one of the many movie adaptations and/or modern retellings as well to make Austen easier.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
If you’re looking for an easy to read classic thriller, look no further than Rebecca, a PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick.
It’s moody and atmospheric, uncovering the truth about the mysterious death of the first wife of a wealthy man to his new, lower-class wife. It’s not that hard to read AND it’s super indulgent and intriguing.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare is never extremely “easy” to read, but since so many readers generally know the storyline of the ill-fated lovers, Romeo & Juliet, this may be his easiest classic to sink your teeth into. It was the first I read as a high school student myself.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Technically a children’s book, adults still regularly read The Secret Garden too. Regardless of your age, it remains a simple and classic novel about an orphaned young girl who explores a garden on her uncle’s property and learns to blossom in spite of her circumstances.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorite authors and, while I have found all of his books to be easy classics, I have selected Slaughterhouse-Five since it is the most popular one and the one I devoured earliest in my reading life. I also recall my high school class really liking it.
One of Modern Library’s 100 best novels of all time, it’s an anti-war novel focused on the World War II firebombing of Dresden. It bends genres and combines historical fiction, science fiction, autobiography, and satire, as it follows the fictional Billy Pilgrim, a barber’s son who becomes a draftee, optometrist, and alien abductee who time travels.
This unique storyline keeps you quickly turning the pages for more.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Many classic readers will want to read Poe’s work, and The Tell-Tale Heart is a great place to start. It’s a quick short story (as well as one of his most famous works) about a murderer who becomes increasingly paranoid about his misdeeds.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Voted America’s Best-Loved Novel in PBS’s The Great American Read, To Kill a Mockingbird is clearly a must read classic book, and luckily it’s easy in that it’s modern in language, fairly short, and told through the eyes of a child, who watches her lawyer father defend a Black man unjustly accused of a crime in the racially divided South.
As you may expect, the themes and content are darker and more complex than other books on this list, but it’s not hard to read and is very well worth your time.
Those are the best east to read classic books for beginners. To recap and help you decide what to read first or next, my top three picks are
Need more help getting started with these easy to read classic books? Check out my tips on how to successfully read classic books.