Reading the Classics – Tips

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.” Descartes

Do you feel intimidated when someone talks about classic literature? Do you think classics are dull and boring reserved for required school reading and discussion? Fear not fellow readers, speaking from experience, that’s not the way to view these timeless pieces of literature which are actually pretty amazing in their own respect.

Flashback to about 7 years ago, I was probably the ONLY person in my book club who hadn’t read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I was pridefully prejudiced in my opinion of a book I had a vague idea of what it was about. I thought it some sappy love story thinly disguised under the veil of literary masterpiece. I was not looking forward to reading the book at all. Barely made it through the first part, got to the middle and by the end, not bad but not may favorite either. I wasn’t convinced or impressed and figured that’s behind me, I will probably never read another book by Jane Austen.

Fast forward to about 3 years ago when I found bookstagram and the opportunities to read and discuss classics increased significantly. If you can discuss a book as you read, in my experience, it’s much more valuable and memorable. After seeing so many discuss Pride and Prejudice I decided to give Austen another try. I reread Pride and Prejudice (see my tips below) and it was a COMPLETELY different experience, it seemed like I had never read the book at all. I felt much like Elizabeth Bennett when I finished.

“How despicably I have acted! I, who have prided myself on discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! Who have often disdained the generous candor of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameless mistrust! How humiliating is this discipline! Yet how just a humiliation. Till this moment I never knew myself.” –Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Not to mention, my book club read the first book I ever gave FIVE stars (in the book club). This book is one of my FAVORITE classics EVER!! The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I will share more on that book later this year on the blog because I will be helping organize a readalong with a bookstagram buddy.

Increased exposure with notable classics and did I mention The Woman in White? Yes I did (drops the mic 🎤) the book is AMAZING. After these experiences (David Copperfield by Charles Dickens might I add) when I realized I had been limiting myself by not reading these literary gems (in beautiful editions). I think the more you read the classics, the more intune you become with the rhythm of the writing, the pacing of the storyline. You sit up in your chair sometimes and reread a passage and you marvel at its beauty. It’s like a beautiful piece of music enjoyed during a live symphony orchestra; each instrument blending with the composite orchestra, fusing, transforming, taking shape and making indelible impressions on your heart and mind from the melodious synchronicity. That my friends is ‘classic literature’.

Another fabulous thing about reading classics like the ones pictured here is that you get an honorary readers merit badge. Of course we don’t go around bragging about what we’ve read and how long it took us but when you’re at the library or bookstore and someone says, ‘Have you read any good books lately,’ do you not smile and do a bit of a happy dance while you rattle off a laundry list of books?

What about a TOME like War and Peace? Yep, been there, read that! Funny story; I attended a book festival last year and got to ask Elif Batuman (in person) about War and Peace and Russian Literature. Yes, BIGGEST BOOK NERD MOMENT! At that moment in time, I was happy (and excited) to be reading War and Peace.

Without further ado, here’s my top five tips on reading and enjoying the classics.

  1. Pick a book with interesting characters or storyline (one you have or can borrow at your library)
  2. Pick up the audiobook editon of the same book and alternate between reading the hard copy and the audiobook. Important note: narrator is ESSENTIAL to helping the story come to life if you choose to use this as an option
  3. Get a friend or buddy to read with you – nothing compares to reading and discussing the book in real time (more on buddy Reads and Readalongs later)
  4. Take your time and enjoy the scenery – we live in a world where patience is lacking. Many books today are so called face pace page turners! Reading the classics is a rich and rewarding experience; allow yourself time to relax and immerse yourself full into the book to savor the experience.
  5. #ReadTeaRepeat – my formula for reading. Consume a large pot of tea with a cozy blanket and pillow and enjoy!

Join a reading group to give yourself a little push! I’ve taken the plunge by joining a classics club in the blog space. You can see my list of 50 classics I plan to read in the next five years here.

What classics books are your favorite? Which do you feel intimidated by? What tips should I add to this list?

16 thoughts on “Reading the Classics – Tips

  1. Valerie says:

    Great post! I too, was quite dismissive of the Classics before Bookstagram. I figured if I’d watched the movie of it, why did I need to read the book? But now, I see the rich reading experiences that await in the Classics. And I take nerdy pride in all the Classics I’ve notched in my literary belt!

    Liked by 2 people

    • booksbythecup says:

      Thank you! I’m still working on a plan to catch up on some of the movies but I’m really enjoying all of these wonderful books! I can’t believe it took me so long but I’m enjoying every moment!

      Like

      • Kay Wisteria says:

        I’m slowly working my way through Jane Austen’s works: still need to read Northanger Abby, Emma, and Persuasion. And I want to read Jane Eyre before My Plain Jane comes out this summer haha. What about you?

        Liked by 1 person

      • booksbythecup says:

        There’s a list of 50 I plan to read on the blog (if you look at the very end of this post, just above the comments, it’s linked). I actually finished Emma last week! Persuasion and Jane Eyre are two favorites. Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park are the two Austen’s I have left that I plan to read some time later year. My currently reading Middlemarch and will be reading it through April along with The Good Earth (reread) Moby Dick and Hard Times

        Liked by 1 person

  2. alwaysneedmorebooks says:

    I’m not a reader of classics – I feel I should try harder but with so many great contemporary books out there, I don’t feel I have the time. Saying that, I would like to read more classics, and I really like your idea of alternating between an audio book and reading some yourself! Maybe one day…bring on retirement!

    Like

  3. Amba Yalcinkaya (author: TOAB Sydney) says:

    LOVE!!!! I love reading a variety or genres, but always come back to the classics!! I could
    Re-Read Austen’s price and prejudice or Emma over and over again, and still cling to that paperback as if it were the first time I was reading it haha.

    Hardy’s Tess has forever changed the way I see women, men and the world,
    Austen is the reason I fell in love with literature.. her writing.. it’s a shame no one speaks like that anymore… I swear I was born in the wrong decade lol
    Wilde’s works cleverly have revelations of realistic truths in his examples and stories #classicspride

    Liked by 1 person

    • booksbythecup says:

      I feel like the classics have something you can take away each time you read them. I have a few more Austens to read and hope to read them again, especially Persuasion because I love it. I plan to read Tess this year I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.

      Like

  4. Grab the Lapels says:

    I would add print out a list of characters from Wikipedia to consult. You can also write some thoughts at the end of each chapter, right in the book if you own it. I want to read Brothers Karamazov, but I don’t know how to pronounce Russian names. I might try to find an audio book and read along. I’ve tried many audio books of classic British lit, but can’t keep up with the accent and fast-paced reading style.

    Liked by 1 person

    • booksbythecup says:

      Good idea! Narrators with an accent are my favorite. I was wonder if I can manage an audiobook for Russian Literature, I remember I tried it with War and Peace and was terribly lost. So I had to read every single page until I got to part 2 of the epilogue and couldn’t take it anymore.

      Like

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