The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Disaffected teenage narrator Holden Caulfield—thrown out of prep school, surrounded by “phonies”—has touched millions of readers. For decades, almost every good book to read about alienated adolescents was invariably compared to The Catcher in the Rye, but none has matched the original. Salinger had his finger on the pulse of a generation in a way that few writers can match, and he broke with tradition by writing in a colloquial voice, which had everyone wanting to talk like Holden. Have you read these books everyone lies about reading?
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Yes, The Chronicles of Narnia are children’s books and no, they don’t age. These complex fantasy novels, which have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide (and clearly influenced, among others, J.K. Rowling), have been praised and criticized for their Christian themes, but there’s a lot more going on here than simple allegory. Read them again. Better yet, find a child to read them to. You’ll be amazed by the richness of storytelling. Here are some more of the best children’s books ever written.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This much-more-grown-up sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is widely considered to be Mark Twain’s masterpiece. It’s part coming-of-age story, part cross-country adventure, part biting social satire. Twain makes brilliant use of irony as Huck, raised in the pre-Civil War south, gradually comes to understand the evils of slavery. Huck Finn has endured, despite its notoriety as one of the most banned books of all time. Here are some surprising titles you probably didn’t know were banned.