Classic Novels That are Still Major Page Turners Today

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m reaching the end of my Netflix-binge-in-quarantine rope. There are only so many times I can while away the life-at-home hours watching drama-free episodes of “Friends” and “The Office” before my brain turns to total and absolute mush. So in 2021, I hereby vow to read several classic novels (what else am I going to do with my free time while I wait for the next “must-watch” streaming release?). Here, I rounded up a few favorites of SwearBy editors, all of which are page-turners—and antidotes to doom scrolling. 

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I was surprised by how fresh this 1938 novel reads—like it could have been published today. The writing is nothing short of candy. Katie Macdonald calls it a classic for a reason. “This story of a woman who marries a mysterious widower captures the anxiety of living in another’s shadow—but it’s not just self-doubt that the protagonist must battle,” she says. “Even though this novel is nearly a century old, it contains twists and bombshells that feel modern as ever.” Once you’re done reading, be sure to watch the movie; one starring Lily James was released on Netflix in October 2020, and Hitchcock directed an absolute jaw-dropper in 1940.  

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Written in 1939, this murder mystery by Agatha Christie is like a great whodunit sprung to life. The plot, in short? Ten strangers are invited to a private island estate, then slowly begin dying (while a squall rages cinematically in the background, of course). “This was the first Agatha Christie and first mystery novel I ever read,” says Margot Kravchuk. “Needless to say, it sparked an interest in mystery novels and a love for this amazing female writer.” A moody mystery thriller that qualifies as a “classic”—and has sold over 100 million copies? Sign me up.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Does a book written in 1977 count as a “classic”? I don’t care, I’m counting it (because #ToniMorrison. Also, it won The Nobel Prize, so it’s kind of a big deal). “I read it when I was growing up in Ghana and this book became a very influential part of my youth,” says Natasha Nyanin. “It’s a phenomenal work of fiction.” Did we mention it has 35,409 five star reviews on Good Reads?

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt

This is far and away one of my all-time favorite books, and not just because it perfectly captures my beloved Savannah, Georgia in the most transportive, cinematic way possible. Emily Manatan is right when she says it’s a non-fiction book for people who only like fiction. “[John Berendt] manages to take a true story and make it read like the most fantastic fantasy. Each character is painted so clearly and their personalities come alive. Spooky, flamboyant, and mysterious, this is one of my favorite non-fiction works.” When you’re done, be sure to indulge in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie, starring a young Jude Law and John Cusack. 

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Ok, I realize this makes me sound like an idiot, but when I hear the words “Monte Cristo,” I think “Sandwich.” Delicious, delicious gruyere, ham, white bread and butter sandwich. I may just rectify that this year by reading the 1844 novel, which was based on the true story of a wrongly imprisoned man. “My mom is an avid reader so she has always encouraged me to read and this happens to be one of her favorite stories,” says Margot Kravchuk. “Dumas chose a specific period in history that serves as the setting for the story which follows the titular character over nearly two decades as he survives prison, acquires great wealth and plots revenge on those who wronged him.” Ah, the promise revenge—that’s a page turner all right.

Hi! [Insert waving blonde emoji here] I'm a Colorado-based freelance writer, and I'm Niles Crane-level picky about everyyyyything.