This post may include affiliate links. That means if you click and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.
If you’re looking for classic novels that will actually hold your attention and keep you turning the pages, try the books on this list of classic page turners.
For readers who typically read contemporary books, classic novels don’t always make it to the top of must-read lists (though they often make it on reading bucket lists and lists of classic books everyone should read).
While I know there are great classics, I sometimes have to push myself to pick up one I haven’t read.
The slower pace and style of language always take a bit of time to adapt to. And, there are definitely classics I’ve either put down or only half-heartedly finished because I felt I “should.”
Luckily, there are also classics worth reading, even for the reluctant classic reader.
The books below are classics that I’ve found to be more “readable” and less dense than many classic novels.
The characters and stories are memorable, the writing is undeniably fantastic, and they are worth setting aside new releases for. Some of these are also comfort reads.
11 Classic Novels that are Surprisingly Readable
Author: Louisa May Alcott
An enchanting story of four sisters and their steadfast mother living in genteel poverty in Concord, Massachusetts, while their father is away as a chaplain in the Civil War.
A lifelong favorite for many readers (including me), the March sisters continue to capture the imagination of readers and filmmakers alike.
Author: Thomas Hardy
Tess’s family’s plot to elevate them from poverty goes horribly wrong. When she has a chance to start a new life, she must decide whether to share her past with the dashing Angel Clare, who seems to be her path to happiness at last.
While this might make you feel a little ragey, you will also admire Hardy’s ahead-of-his-time take on poor Tess’s plight.
Author: Dodie Smith
Aspiring writer Cassandra details the adventures of her family of dreamers and creatives, who live in a decrepit English castle. Full of charming observations and self-awareness,
Cassandra teeters between childhood and adulthood and, through her writing, she comes to realizations about herself, her family, and love. She is a delightful narrator and the English castle is pure fantasy.
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A man who commits a random murder grapples with his growing conscience as an investigator closes in. If you’ve ever wanted to read a Russian novel but have felt intimidated, start here. It’s dark, but Crime and Punishment is a surprisingly accessible page-turner.
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
A spoiled English girl finds a hidden garden on her uncle’s estate, and she discovers other secrets as well. Caring for the garden transforms the sullen child. A must-read for children and adults on the healing powers of nature. Even today, I find the idea of a secret walled garden absolutely enchanting.
Author: Emily Brontë
Bronte’s dark, tragic, and toxic love story of Cathy and Heathcliff and the toll it took on everyone around them. Honestly, this may not be one you love–for me it was more of a hate read. But the vile, destructive characters are hard to turn away from. A good choice for a dark mood.
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables is the charming tale of an orphan girl taken in by two aging siblings, and how her infectious personality and big dreams change their lives. Anne can feel a little over-the-top at times, but she grows on the reader just like she grows on the people of Avonlea. I also loved the Netflix adapation Anne with an E.
Author: Agatha Christie
A man is murdered just as the luxurious Orient Express is stuck in the snow. Twelve passengers were in the train car who could have committed the murder, and Detective Hercule Poirot must solve the mystery before the killer strikes again. A clever mystery, and the audiobook narrated by Dan Stevens is excellent.
Author: Jane Austen
Spoiled Emma wants nothing more than to set up those around her in what she sees as perfect matches–all the while ignoring potential relationships of her own. Emma can be infuriating, but she is well-meaning and often charmingly oblivious to the mistakes she makes.
I enjoyed Emma even more the Pride and Prejudice, and Austen is, as ever, sharply observant of the subtleties of human relationships.
Author: May Sarton
A family on a Belgian farm face a changing Europe and must decide how to face challenges in the years between two world wars. This is an under-the-radar 20th century classic that reads like great historical fiction.
Author: Harper Lee
A must-read of American literature, the story of two children and their lawyer father who defends a black man accused of rape in the 1960s south. Almost universally beloved, this book is worth a read–and reread–for everyone.
Need some help finding your next book to read? Take the quiz for a recommendation!