Reading classics is probably one of the most intimidating things for a bookworm. Even though I have studied literature for 3 years at university, I still feel impressed by clasic books sometimes. First, let’s define what classic literature is for us today. I will give a definition for the sake of that post, but I think it deserves a whole discussion post in itself. Let’s say that classic books are books that have been considered, through the ages, to represent their time. A classic book is one that ages well and gets deeper and deeper each time you read it. It is a book that gets read and read again. Nonetheless, I am one to think that contemporary classics do exist and thus, a classic book does not have to be serval centuries old. It can definitely be a contemporary book that’s become a monument of literature. Now that the definition is (kind of) given, let’s dive deep into the ways you can actually make reading classics easier (and less frightening).
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Read a spoiler-free summary of the book
Do you remember boring literature classes you had to read classics for? Of course you do! And do you rememebr reading summaries on Sparknotes instead of opening the actual book? With time, you even came to look like you had actually read the book, right? Today, let’s go back to reading summaries, but let’s choose them well. You want to find a spoiler-free summary as if you know the end of the book from the very beginning, why reading it in the first place?
Read about the historical & political context
The hardest part about reading a classic is, in my opinion, the lack of historical context. Sometimes, these books have been written hundreds of years ago, in foreign countries, so how might we be aware of what was going on at the time? Thus, I feel like the complexity of the writing style is not the biggest difficulty, far from that. You might tell me that conteporary classics are more accessible, but reading The Handamid’s Tale withtout being aware of the political context or Translation without knowing a bit about Ireland feels really complicated to me.
Read the author’s biography
This goes hand in hand with reading about the context. I really think you can’t undertand a classic withtout knowing a little bit about the author of the book. How can you understand the depth of Jane Austen’s criticism if you have no clue about her personal story? I am one to think that there is always a little part of the author’s personality in the book created, and this is extremely important to keep in mind when it comes to classics.
Make sure the topic discussed is something you may like
That may seem obvious, but really think about it. When you choose a contemporary book at the library, you choose it according to its plot, right? Thus, why not doing the same thing when it comes to classics? We tend to grab calssics for the sake of reading classics, but the point is that we can’t enjoy reading something about a topic we have no interest in. Thus, try choosing your next classic book the way you would choose any other book (aka according to your tastes) and see how that goes. You might be surprised of how easier it feels!