Formal Canon List
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien is one of the most renowned books of the 20th century. Not only did lay the groundwork for all fantasy works, but it also tackled the ideas of industry, industrialism, nature, religion, and God in a way that no other work had done before. Even today after over 80 years after its release, it still resonates with readers young and old alike.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Hamlet by Shakespeare is one of the most well known literary works of all time. The play tackles important ideas like identity, existentialism, and existence. This play is an important read because understanding Shakespeare is still relevant in our society. His works have influenced thousands of writers, artist, directors, and musicians, so it is essential that you understand his best works (Hamlet).
1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell's 1984 is one of the most amazing and essential books to read, and understand. Not only is the book referenced constantly like "2+2=5" and "Big Brother's watching" in mainstream media, but the book brings up very important topics for readers to understand like identity, art, power of the government, language, critical thinking, etc. Understanding these references and concepts are important because 1984 and the concepts it contains are still relevant in our society.
The Odyssey by Homer
One of the most famous works of all time, Homer's The Odyssey is the epitome of classical Greek literature. Understanding Greek literature is important and having a concept of knowledge about Homer is also important since he, and his work, inspired so many other works. Homer and The Odyssey are constantly referenced in pop culture, films, and shows, which is why this book belongs on the literary canon.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
What makes To KIll a Mockingbird by Harper Lee essential to this list are its themes. The book brings up race and racism, youth and innocence, morality and ethics, fear, and even feminism. To KIll a Mockingbird is a very emotional and humbling reader, and should be read by all because of the themes and ideas the book is about, and discusses.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a very easy read, but that does not take away from it merit. Every aspect of the book, from each individual characters to the setting of the novel represents something. Major themes in the novel which make it a vital read are the themes of civilization, government, religion, war, innocence, humanity, and morality.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is still very prominent in our society. The Monster is constantly referenced in other novels, movies, plays, games, etc. The themes of playing God and man v. nature are also very important. The themes of Frankenstein also influenced works like Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, as well as thousands of other works. Frankenstein also makes critical allusions to other works like to the story of Prometheus and to Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a fantastic and hilarious read. This play serves as a great entry level read into understanding satire in a literary sense. It's important for students, and everyone, to have a strong grasp on satire since it is so common in every aspect of our lives (news, tv, film, literature, etc).
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dracula by Bram Stoker is a classical tale involving good, evil, and the undead. Not only is Dracula excellently written, but it's also become a staple in pop-culture, with films, plays, toys, games, and other novels referencing or based of the Irish authors classic. Understanding and reading Dracula will help you better understand literature and the many aspects of modern day culture.
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke belongs strongly on this canon list, not only because it's an excellent book, but because it challenges the reader to think of man (and his place in the universe) life (on Earth and beyond) technology, morality, God, and philosophy. Challenging readers minds on these sometimes controversial and deep topics is essential for a more in depth understanding of life in general. 2001 has also gained some ground in modern culture with the film adaptation of the novel by Stanley Kubrick.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison discusses how race and racism influenced American society in the 1930's-1940's, and beyond. The themes of man, equality, rights, etc, are still greatly important today. We as a people have a lot to learn from Ralph Ellison's work and every student (and adult) should seriously read Invisible Man. Invisible Man was recently placed on a "Black LIves Matter" reading list among other books like the Biography of Malcolm X.