Reading The Classics: Why You Need to Read Them Now (& Not In High School)

Reading The Classics and Why You Need To Read Them Now!

Most readers will tell you that in order to be a well-read person, you need to read a wide variety of books. But does that include reading the classics?

Classics tend to have a bad reputation; they’re dry, they’re boring, they’re long, they’re not that interesting, or they’re not at all relevant.

But what if I told you that there are loads of classic books out there that are exciting, engaging, and interesting? Plus, what if those classics weren’t the long tomes you thought they were?

Reading the classics is not essential reading.

There, I said it. There is no rule saying that you must read the classics. However, reading the classics can be immensely enjoyable when you read the right ones.

Let me tell you a story. I remember years ago when I was in the hospital for a family member. Thinking I needed something to occupy my time in the waiting room, I brought along a copy of The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway to read. I should get more into reading the classics, and I thought this classic tale of a man and a boat (and the sea) would be riveting.

It was not.

As a classic lover, I will tell you that I was so bored reading this book that I could barely stay awake. The idea of ever diving into another one of his best-known works, such as The Sun Also Rises or For Whom The Bell Tolls, would not be on my list anytime soon.

So what does this tell you? Not all classics are for everyone.

But when you find the right classic, the magic happens.

For now, though, we will talk about why you should read the classics now and not necessarily in high school.

1. Classic books have many different genres.

I was surprised when I realized that not all classic books were like The Old Man and The Sea. Weren’t all classics written very densely with lots of alliteration and descriptions?

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Classics such as Agatha Christie‘s mysteries are fantastic for readers who enjoy a good mystery novel. They’re written in an accessible way and are published these days in a way that is visually appealing to the reader.

Where To Start With Agatha Christie Books

If you enjoy science fiction, John Wyndham has some great classics, such as Chocky or The Day of the Triffids, that are engrossing and intriguing.

Or, if you like to read horror stories, a collection such as The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton or The Doll: Short Stories by Daphne DuMaurier would be just the ticket for a spooky fireplace read.

Maybe you like to have humour in your reading. In that case, The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery or Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson are sure to have you laughing as you read.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

And maybe you don’t quite know what you want to read, and that’s where collections such as Penguin’s Little Black Classics would be a great place to find what genres and authors work for you.

Like the modern books we read today, there is something for everyone’s tastes in reading, and exploring different authors to find what works for you can be fun.

2. Classics come in various sizes.

Storytime: I was an English minor in high school, and I loved taking courses that allowed me to read books. I signed up for an English course with students reading six books throughout the term; however, when I went to pick up these books, they were enormous! Also, the font was so small inside these books and so densely packed that I immediately withdrew from the course.

But aren’t all classics long?

Absolutely not.

Depending on where you start when you read the classics, a book can either fly by or seem like it’s taking forever. For example, I appreciate Jane Austen’s work, but I find that I have to get into a particular headspace to read it and even then, it takes me forever to get through them.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

However, reading a serial novel (initially published in parts weekly) grabs my attention immediately and has me hanging on at each chapter’s end. So, a Victorian serial novel such as Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White clocks in at 702 pages and is one that I will fly through, whereas Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which is 236 pages, will take me forever to read.

But as reading is very personal, this is different for everyone, so it’s crucial to find the classic authors who suit your reading style.

Start with short classics such as The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, or Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This way, you can taste what classic literature offers without feeling like it’s a slog.

3. Classics are better with age (that is, YOUR age.).

When I think of the classics, I think back to my high school days and the required reading we had to do. I was not a big reader in high school, so reading these books wasn’t very exciting. So, when we had to read classics such as The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck or Lord of the Flies by William Golding, I just … didn’t. In fact, I wrote a paper on The Grapes of Wrath without even reading the book.

But everything changed when I picked up The Grapes of Wrath in my 30s.

A book that seemed so dry, so long, and so weird (especially the very end) ended up being beautifully written, not long enough, and so emotional when I read it later in life. It actually meant something to me, and I was able to feel those emotions and connect with the characters. I did not have the life experience to do this in high school.

Consider revisiting the classics you read in high school or even middle school. Pick up those books intended for a younger audience and see if they have meaning for you now, or the books you might have wanted to throw in the garbage in high school and see if you can connect with the characters.

So, should you start reading the classics?

As they say, the classics are classics for a reason. There’s a reason they continue to get printed today. Some might not be for you, and that is okay; even with today’s authors, I think I should read some, but I can’t connect with their writing, and that’s fine. There are millions of authors in the world, and it’s up to us to find the ones we want to read and rave about.

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