Literature is such an interesting concept because the same story can have many different meanings. Not only can a book mean different things to different people, but it can also mean different things to the same person at different ages. As an adult, you may find that the literature you read as a youth has an entirely different message now that you are older. Here are some great books to read again as an adult.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Many high schoolers tear through The Great Gatsby because it is a novel of intrigue, romance and lost first loves. The characters are highly relatable to teens and don’t seem all that different to characters in a soap opera.
As an adult, you can give The Great Gatsby a second look and see that there’s so much more brimming under the surface. The novel speaks of issues of class, mobility and the unattainable nature of the American dream, all seen under the eyes of God, also known as Dr. TJ Eckleburg. Read the book now, and you’ll see that Fitzgerald’s criticism of wealth and materialism still rings true today, along with our current issues of classism and racism.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Many children love the fantasy and adventure elements of The Chronicles of Narnia series. The books are often classified as children’s books because the main characters are children and the books are full of talking animals, good vs. evil and other elements typically found in children’s books.
But older and wiser readers will see much more going on in the beloved books. Yes, the story is a tale of good vs. evil, of the fight between good and bad for a land that once resembled paradise. But adults will also see the allegory there. Even if you’re not of the Christian faith, it is interesting to see the way Lewis subtly ties in theology throughout the series.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Younger readers, especially teens, love Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet because it tells a story that is relatable to kids of that age. Two star-crossed levels, nasty parents who wish to keep them apart and a joint suicide to prove their eternal love. It fits perfectly with teenagers’ exaggerated ideals about love.
Read the play as an adult, and you will face an entirely different story. Friar Lawrence says it best, “Wisley and slow, they stumble that run fast.” This is not a story of eternal love. It’s a story of how teenagers leap into bad decisions without much foresight. It’s also a story about how grownups’ pettiness can have adverse effects on their children. You can learn many things from Romeo and Juliet, as long as you read it with an experienced eye.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Most of us read Lord of the Flies in middle school when we are close in age to the main characters in Golding’s novel. For kids this age, it reads something like The Hunger Games: kids stranded on an island, a fight to the death for survival, lots of adventure.
When you read Lord of the Flies through an adult lens, you see a bunch of scared little boys playing at a grownup game. The correlation between these boys and the young men who went to war during WWI and WWII is more prevalent. The book also looks at humanity on an even deeper level. It shows the struggle between the need for order, rules, and the good of the group vs. one’s personal desires and the violence that seems to be part of human nature.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver is the original dystopian young adult novel and is usually read during the middle school years. For young readers, this book comes across as intriguing through a different society where jobs are chosen for its citizens, the people have no memory of the past, and they cannot see color. The breathtaking final chapters probably had you racing to the end.
Give this one another look as an adult, and you’ll see a much different story. The Giver is a tale of Communism and eugenics gone horribly wrong. Just as Communism looks good on the outside, so does this city. Dig deeper, and you find people so afraid of the past they choose to forget it rather than deal with it. There are a few more books in this series, but the first one can stand alone.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is a fun read for teens. In many ways, Austen’s novel is the original romantic comedy, complete with a meet-cute, witty banter and the perfect guy who turns out not to be so perfect.
While the beloved novel is fun and witty, there are also many lessons to be learned. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy make quick judgments of one another and spend the rest of the novel learning that it’s best not to make assumptions. This lesson has never been more true than today when we are still working on learning acceptance.
Austen is also subtly making a commentary about classism and sexism. The Bennet girls stand to lose their home and family money simply because they are women. Austen reiterates the foolishness of this notion by juxtaposing the intelligence of Elizabeth and Jane with the ridiculousness of Mr. Collins. Collins is the man who stands to inherit their home, all due to his gender.
We read so many books as kids that have a more profound or even different meaning for us as adults. These books are classics for a reason and are deserving of our attention and praise, no matter how old we are. For a more meaningful reading experience, how about comparing your reactions to books to see how much or how little you have changed since you were younger.