Classically Underrated

Savannah Boettcher, Rants Editor

If you have any idea who I am, you know that I like books. Big books, small books, new books, old books — all books. The stack of books to read on my nightstand towers high, tilting at a precarious degree, and my list of books I want to read wraps around my bed. And lately, I’ve had an appetite for classic literature.


When I say that I like classic literature, I notice that a lot of my classmates raise their eyebrows and display signs of surprise — “so you like reading school books?”  they ask, grimacing as pictures of Shakespeare and Moby Dick dance across their minds, forgetting that there is more to classic literature than Romeo and Juliet and Herman Melville’s 500 page sperm whale adventures. They forget Hemingway, Orwell, Fitzgerald. Nabokov, Salinger, Stein, and Vonnegut. While Shakespeare and Melville both have their value, they distract readers from the fact that some classic literature can be the perfect combination of enjoyable, painless, and worthwhile.


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

As a coming of age tale, you can’t get capture adolescence more accurately than The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger’s token novel is both enjoyably sarcastic and troubling as his protagonist, Holden, struggles with procrastination, confrontation, and all the phonies in the world. With 214 pages, The Catcher in the Rye is a quick-read, humorous, and any high school student should find it impressively relatable as well as insightful and thought-provoking.


Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

“He lost his Self a thousand times and for days on end he dwelt in nonbeing.”

Siddhartha is a powerful, 152 page evaluation of faith and self written by Herman Hesse, a Nobel Prize winning author. Hesse sends his protagonist, Siddhartha, on a quest to re-evaluate his life: his spiritual standing and who he is as a person. It’s easy to lose yourself in this novel as Hesse’s powerfully effective words draw you into a land where honor and loyalty mesh with greed and lust. When you’re looking for a new direction to take in your life, Siddhartha will be your friend to help you battle through all the tricks and illusions of reality.


“Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

If you love action and hate structure, Slaughterhouse-Five will make you a very happy reader.  Vonnegut’s satirical post-World War II novel is told in the wrong order, with all the pieces jumbled up and mixed back together. The book focuses on the absurdity of time, as it proceeds without a logical timeline. Vonnegut somehow manages to slip a political message about the side effects of war as his protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, becomes “unstuck in time” and abducted by aliens. With only 215 fast paced pages, Slaughterhouse-Five is a great combination of painless, memorable, and refreshing.