Ten Classics to Read During a Gap Year

PicMonkey Collage So my neighbor’s middle child is currently postponing college for a year to pursue his dream of playing professional hockey. While he spends the year in Alaska playing for the junior league, she asked me to recommend ten classics he might read during some of his downtime to keep his mind active. Here’s what I recommended, keeping in mind that I’m catering to a male teenager/young adult (and my apologies for any gender generalizations I make):

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I’ve mentioned it here before, as always one of my favorite books. One of the first true crime books – eloquently written with eerie details about this awful southern tragedy. There have been at least two movies (that I know of) made about this book and Capote himself – read to see how he can possibly come to empathize with these convicted murderers.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

As I heard it said on NPR today, it’s not that Frankenstein the monster was created, it’s that his creator abandons him. This is a short but powerful read.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

What better time to learn about and ponder existentialism when you’re shacked up in Alaska with a lot of down time?

Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck

Another original memoir about Steinbeck’s travels by car around the country with his dog, Charlie. Yes, I’m a girl, but I remember reading this book as a freshman in college and relating to many of his observations for the first time from the perspective of an adult.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Okay, maybe I’m stretching the term “classic” with this one, but it’s certainly a modern classic. Ask anyone who has read this one and they’ll likely give you a pensive stare. It’s hard to explain what makes this dystopian novel so compelling. Skip the movie; this one is all about the writing.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Again, a seemingly obvious choice for someone whose life may be in transition or momentarily uncertain.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve personally never been a huge Vonnegut fan but he’s a popular favorite among many (male) literary readers.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

From my husband, a former teenage boy: “It’s part of a series with these characters; a great western; great storytelling – this is the era I’d love to visit if I could travel back in time.”

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

And for the polar opposite of Lonesome Dove, if that’s not your thing – this modern classic is worth reading just for the reference points you’ll encounter throughout the rest of your lives, especially in this post-2008 era we’re living in as so-called “Masters of the Universe” are called into question.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Another modern classic in my opinion. I saved this one for last because if I’ve hooked anyone on reading from any of the previous suggestions, keep riding the literary train with this page-turner (but oh so well written) that spans decades in NYC and deals with comic books and magic. What more could you ask for?



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