Classic Remarks: Why Read the Classics?

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Welcome back to Classic Remarks hosted by Pages Unbound. This post has been scheduled to come out during my recovery from having a baby. Today I am sharing my thoughts on a prompt from late June: What advice would you give to someone hesitant to read classics?

I thought I would split my thoughts into a few parts. They are not a step by step guide but a few distinct ideas that may help those hesitant to read classics. Hope you find these ideas useful whether you are a classics novice or aficionado.

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First, I say don’t hesitate and don’t be intimidated! You can do this!

  1. Start with something small that you can finish. I think the key to success in reading the classics is to start with a work that you can finish. Then you feel good about your reading and are more likely to try another work. You don’t have to read the unabridged Les Miserables to read the classics. There are plenty of interesting and easier texts out there to get you started. Some of my favorite shorter classics: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.
  2. Branch out into other genres beyond the novel. Perhaps novels are not your favorite thing or you find older novels more difficult to get through. Try something else! Read a play or a collection of poetry or an essay. There are a lot of other options to get you into the classics. A few of my favorite non-novel classics: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake
  3. Read something that you are already familiar with from a movie or other adaptation. Knowing the story line of a classic can be a big help in finishing it. Then you know what is going on and how the characters interact. Often, movies and other adaptations leave out details from the original work so there will still be new details to read for the first time. I find that when I know the main story of a classic already, I can focus on some of those details or the intricacies of character development instead of figuring out what is going on. A few of my favorite classics with great adaptations: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (or any Austen novel), Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (if you’re feeling ambitious).
  4. Listen to an audiobook or read an ebook version of a classic. I am a big believer in switching up your medium to help you read a classic or other hard to get into work. Lately, I love listening to audiobooks of classics because they keep me moving through the text. And sometimes that makes it easier to picture the scenes or understand the dialogue between characters. Plus, it often helps me finish faster especially if I listen to faster than normal speed. Some of my favorite recent audiobooks: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.
  5. Make a goal and reward yourself when you reach it! For me, The Classics Club has been a great way to motivate myself to read more classics and write about them. While I have a graduate degree in British Literature, I don’t think I would read as many classics now without the Classics Club goals (mine is 50 classics in 5 years). Perhaps, that is too much for you. If so, then set a smaller goal. Even if you just want to read one classic this year, it’s worth setting a goal to achieve that. And don’t forget a fun reward when you finish! 🙂

I  hope these ideas give you a little confidence to try some classics!
What advice would you add to those hesitant to read classics?
Happy reading!

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