Reading Classics: Beginner’s Guide

Over the last couple of months, Bee and I have really been trying to widen our reading pattern, and experience some of the great literature out there that wasn’t published in this century. We’ve had to do some reading for school, of course, but we’ve also been doing a lot of reading for our book club and just in general. I am in no way an expert on these classics, but I thought I’d give a few tips if you’re interested in trying out something new (even though the books are old!)

1. Read small books. This may seem like a cop out, but it is the perfect way to widen your reading without committing yourself to 800 pages of Charles Dickens. You really feel enriched afterwards, even if it’s only taken you three hours to read! Try: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (who also wrote Treasure Island?!) or Animal Farm by George Orwell.

2. Read books that you know something about. Everyone is familiar with certain classic tales, even if it is the watered-down version presented in the media. Try: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or Dracula by Bram Stoker.

3. Read the books that have lots of adaptations. This can really help to bring a story to life with costumes, setting and lively dialogue! If you’re finding the content of the novel hard, as well, then an adaptation can really help to firm up your understanding of the text. Try: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

4. Don’t limit yourself to only the genre of novels. In order to really read widely, why not trying reading plays or poetry instead? This can be much quicker than reading a novel, but equally as enjoyable. Try: Any Shakespeare play (although I’d recommend the comedies!) or the poetry of the Romantic era, like John Keats. 

5. Finally, read classics with others. There’s nothing better to talk about than books, and to actually discuss the classic that you’ve chosen to read will further your understanding of the text to an even greater extent. Listening to what others think of the novel could possibly influence your opinion of it. Share recommendations and enthusiasm!

I hope this inspired you to go and try out classics, remember, they’re not as scary as they look!

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