Classics never go out of style. Here are a few suggestions:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is the perennial tale of a little girl, Francie, growing up in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. Her mom struggles to make ends meet by working as a maid, her dad is a perpetual drunk and entertainer—but generally a nice guy—and the family endures significant hardship while Francie dreams of a future in writing out of the confines of her impoverished life. The characters in Francie’s family are colorful and the story thought provoking. Originally published in 1943, it has been a favorite for years.
- Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote The Little Prince in 1943 as well. The classic tale, which is technically considered a children’s book, is a fable about how to live your life, listen to your heart, and use your imagination. The book is a short read, and has lessons for young and old alike.
- I have read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, no less than 10 times. I’ve never forgotten Scout, or Jem, or Atticus. Those characters live on in the book, published in 1960 and immortalized in film by Sidney Portier and Gregory Peck. If you have young children, you’ll love the rawness and honesty of Scout as she learns about life—and death—in this book. Particularly if you never got around to reading it before. The character, Atticus in the book gives this advice, “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.”
- A newer classic is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. McCourt’s most popular book—and a Pulitzer Prize—winner is about his coming of age in Ireland, and later move to the United States. He’s funny, wry and poignant. His characters, many of them drunken half the time, jump off the page. You are instantly transported to the stinky, damp, poverty-stricken neighborhood that McCourt called home as a child. You feel his pain with every last potato or bread ration he had to consume. McCourt died in 2009, so we can’t look forward to any more books, but this one and two others he wrote, “Teacher Man” and “Tis” are well worth the read.
- The last suggestion is not a happy read, but it is an important one. I think every person on the planet needs to read Elie Wiesel’s book Night. If you have ever been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the images will never leave you. Wiesel’s words and imagery will never leave you either. The book won the Nobel Peace Prize and rightly so. The book is so beautifully written, and raw, and powerful that you will be left wondering what power enabled him to survive such horrifying images and torture and emerge from it.