Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Few authors have captured the essence of Depression-era America with more raw emotion than John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men follows two farm hands looking for work: the protective and sharp-witted George and the disabled but big-hearted Lennie, who doesn’t know his own strength. The two men learn that even the simplest of American dreams are often out of reach before the tale comes to a heartbreaking end. James Franco and Chris O’Dowd starred in a 2014 Broadway adaptation. Though short, this novel packs a serious emotional punch. Here are some more classics you can read in a day.
The Odyssey by Homer
OK, so this one’s technically an epic poem, not a book, but we think it still counts. As an epic poem, The Odyssey was recited, or sung, for years and years before it was written down. It tells the (fictional) story of Ancient Greek war hero Odysseus’s perilous 20-year journey home from the battlefield. He outsmarts a Cyclops, chats with dead people, and endures the repeated wrath of a seriously angry sea god before finally arriving home. The second-oldest known work of Western literature has stood the test of time. The Coen brothers reimagined The Odyssey in the American South in the comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? starring a young George Clooney. Plus, some of the best scenes in the popular Greek myth-inspired kids’ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians were also inspired by Odysseus’s journey.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
This fictional, but meticulously researched, thriller will make you wish you paid more attention in art class. A murder at the Louvre museum leads symbologist Robert Langdon on a high-stakes treasure hunt through Europe with the police on his tail. It’s got just the right mix of page-turning action and brainteasing historical information. This is one book that (Tom Hanks’s coolness notwithstanding) is way better than its movie adaptation. The Da Vinci Code‘s mind-bending “what if” questions will stay with you long after you put it down.