Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Classic novels contain millennial messages

Every couple of months you may find yourself saying, “I should really read more.” But when you try to get to it, you never find the time. And if you do find the time, your parents or professor is berating you to stop reading the latest pop culture fad and focus on the classics. You think to yourself, “Who has time for that?” Besides, how relevant are these “classics?” USA Today has put together a list of four short reads perfect for college students. How relevant and perfect are these books? Relevant enough to have movies adaptations, but everyone should read them first.

The first book on the list is “Animal Farm,” George Orwell’s 1945 allegorical and dystopian novella, which Orwell describes as “un conte satirique contre Staline” (a satirical tale against Stalin). USA Today describes it as a novel “anybody interested in 20th century history will love.” While “Animal Farm” contains quite a historical aspect, it shouldn’t be easily dismissed by those who aren’t interested in the subject.

Besides its historical content, you’ll find a clash of political ideology and how to spot the difference between true political change and empty political rhetoric. Whatever you choose to do with this book, I beg you to stay away from the 1999 live-action adaption.

The second book on the list is Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea.” The title, while not the most riveting, revived Hemingway’s career and won him a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953 and a Novel Prize in literature in 1954. While you won’t find any tips for your angling in the novel, what you will find is the story of a man redefining victory and success.

The story, while simple on the surface, of a man trying to catch a fish, is an existential journey of trying to find one’s place in the world. I recommend you check out the 1999 animated version of the story — it is only 20 minutes long and was done in a paint-on-glass animation style.

The third entry on the list is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” While the story is set in the Jazz Age of the 1920s, the themes and characters of this book have yet to change, more or less.

In this novel, you’ll find a cautionary tale of the American Dream, the ever-so prominent case of people who seemingly have everything but happiness in their lives. It’s still an important read today and a great example of putting down the myth of success being the result of one individual without anyone’s help. The most recent 2013 movie, while nothing to write home about, does provide stunning visuals and an awesome soundtrack.

The final entry on the list is John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” — no, not the hardcore band. Steinbeck’s novella appears on the American Library Association of most commonly challenged books of the 21st century. If that doesn’t incite you to read it, I don’t know what will.

As with some of the other books on the list, it’s all about trying to accomplish dreams. It’s set during the Great Depression and presents us with two men trying to get by in life and the hardships it brings us. You can’t go wrong with any version, really, but if you’re allergic to black and white or technicolor, just go with the 1992 film adaptation.

A book I recommend as a classic that wasn’t included in the USA Today article is “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” an epistolary and semi-autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It is a classic tale of unrequited love.

Also, it is a book Napoleon thought so highly of that he carried it with him throughout his campaign in Egypt and was so popular that young men dressed in the style of clothing described in the novel.

All of these reads have lessons to be learned from. So, put those cell phones down and head to your local library to pick up these classics. You might learn a thing or two.

Email Luis Reyes at

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