Classics for the young

by |February 28, 2018

Classics for the Young

Some classics are best suited to young minds. This isn’t to say older readers can’t enjoy them, but a younger mind is often a prerequisite for full immersion.

A younger reader will fall in step more readily with Sybylla Melvin from My Brilliant Career or Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye and experience life as they do, which is to say, for the first time. The new is new for the protagonists and the reader alike. And I suppose this is the key.

These special classics below actually reward naivete. No wonder they have all been set texts at high school at some point in their lives.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Hobbit
by J. R. R. Tolkien

Reading The Hobbit was my first experience of not being able to put a book down. I had read engrossing books before, books I had stayed up late reading, but I had never read a book like The Hobbit.

I would read it obsessively even while walking along the street. I once loitered under a narrow awning for an hour while it rained heavily standing on barely a foot of dry ground because I couldn’t bear to close the book for as long as it took to dash fifty metres to the bus stop.

I wouldn’t have called myself a reader before The Hobbit. I was certainly a reader after it. Learn More.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger

There are three stages in life when we can get away with being truly obnoxious – during the terrible twos, in our teens and in our old age. The rest of the time we have to suck it up and present a false picture to the world.

The Catcher in the Rye is an ode to our obnoxious teenage years and has been devoured by teenagers since it was first written in the fifties. Holden Caulfield is a hero to some, a villain to others and a twit to others. One thing he is not, is forgettable.

Love the book or loathe the book, most people can tell you with certainty whether they have read The Catcher in the Rye or not, and in this overcrowded information age, that is something. Learn More.

My Brilliant Career by Miles FranklinMy Brilliant Career
by Miles Franklin

In 1901, Miles Franklin bottled youth in her extraordinary novel, My Brilliant Career.

For the old and weary, like myself, just opening the pages can revive body and soul. For the young, My Brilliant Career can refine the senses, broaden horizons, sharpen the wit and confirm what they always suspected, that the old should be ignored.

Bright, clear, vibrant and shocking in its determination to represent women as having choices of their very own, My Brilliant Career, is a novel which needs to be recommended and read more often. Learn More.

Lord of the Flies by William GoldingLord of the Flies
by William Golding

Every child knows what happens when a group of kids is left unsupervised. All hell breaks loose. But few kids are given the opportunity to experience the mayhem to its bitter end. An adult always turns up in time to restore order. With Lord of the Flies, William Golding imagines a scenario where no adult can come and restore order.

A plane full of young boys crashes on a deserted island. The pilot doesn’t make it. The boys have no master. Uh-oh. Learn More.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

How do you convince a world gone mad to see itself for what it truly is? You send in a child. Children see things as they are and ask annoying and direct questions. They are not satisfied with clever and subtle evasions. They will not be quiet.

In Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, with the child Scout Finch, we wander wide eyed into the segregated south of the USA in the 1930s. This multilayered and impossibly complex period is unpicked strand by strand by the events that play out until the reader is left with the plain truth, and it isn’t pretty. Learn More.

Animal Farm by George OrwellAnimal Farm
by George Orwell

If I hadn’t been told Animal Farm was about totalitarian regimes like Stalin’s Soviet Union, I don’t think I would have guessed. Not that it changed my reading of the book in any great way. I didn’t know much about Stalin or the Soviet Union then. I just remember enjoying the story. I do remember thinking it was not dissimilar to the way my school was being run. And I recognised in some of the school bullies the character of Napoleon.

What stuns me now, is how such a simple piece of writing can still, generation after generation, unmask tyranny in all its forms. But then power and corruption has many different faces. There is no surprise that in the age of Trump sales of this powerful little book have soared. Learn More.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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