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5 classic books everyone should read

November 25, 2014

There are a handful of books that kids read in high school these days that you may not have thought of in years. They're often included on "must read" lists over and over again, alongside scathes of timeless novels that scholars have determined define American literature across time.

Whether you haven't read these books or it's just been a long time since you visited the stories, consider picking up a copy of these top five classics the next time you're at the library or bookstore.

1. 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain
Although this book has been placed on lists of banned books many times throughout history, the tales of Huck Finn are timeless. The teen travels down the Mississippi River on a raft with his friend Tom Sawyer and a recently freed slave, Jim. The book has been eliminated from some curriculums because Mark Twain used vernacular English including racial slurs that were part of the time period. Some schools use an alternate version that contains altered language, while others maintain that the original version brings important commentary on American culture.

2. 'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller
As a fixture on must-read lists by the BBC, the Guardian, Business Insider, Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" is an excellent novel to get your hands on. It's a commentary on the complications of war, as described by Business Insider. The plot focuses on Yossarian, who flies planes for combat missions during World War II. The title refers to a lawthat traps Yossarian in the military - you can't be excused on grounds of insanity. He finds it difficult to deal with the horrors of war, which leads him to take drastic steps to leave the battlefield. 

3. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
Harper Lee's classic novel brings the Finch family to life as they struggle with bigotry and oppressive social situations. The story takes place in Alabama during the Great Depression and covers controversial topics such as sexual violence and gender roles. Attorney Atticus Finch decides to defend an African-American man, causing a divide in the small town. Finch's kids, Scout and Jem, are taunted for their father's choice as they deal with a spooky neighbor they call Boo Radley. 

4. 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
As a revolutionary female author, Austen put plenty of wit, romance and life lessons into this novel, as well as her other classics such as "Sense and Sensibility" and "Emma." "Pride and Prejudice" was recommended by the Guardian, The Huffington Post, GoodReads and the BBC.

The plot follows the love lives of the Bennet sisters - Lydia, Kitty, Mary, Elizabeth and Jane. Jane begins a romance with a wealthy man named Charles Bingley, while his friend Mr. Darcy takes interest in Elizabeth. Tales from the social scene in England carry the story through mayhem and drama. 

5. 'The Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank
The book was published in 1995, although it was written during the 1940s. It was penned by Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl living in Amsterdam during the height of Hitler's reign over much of Europe. Her family went into hiding, and the teen found solace in her diary. Throughout the time they were living in the annex of a building with another family, Frank documented her daily life as well as her aspirations for the future. Only her father, Otto Frank, survived the concentration camp once the families were discovered. He edited and published her diary in the '90s to help her fulfill her dream of becoming a famous writer.