How to Get Into Reading Classics

It is my humble opinion that many people avoid reading classics because the task is daunting and secondary school instills a deep-seated hatred for literature of any kind.

Okay, maybe that second point is a little exaggerated.

Point is, these days classic literature has been left to the education system. Few people reach for a book to read, let alone one of the classics. But with the success of the Little Women movie, I’m hoping that will change.

Yes, the vocabulary used in some classic literature is intimidating; language has certainly evolved with the years. But the captivating stories are worth the learning curve.

So how do you go about reading classics?

Start with a familiar one

Maybe someone in your 11th grade English class gave a compelling presentation for your independent study unit. Maybe you’ve heard whispers of it referenced behind closed doors. More likely, there’s a movie adaptation you can watch before-hand to get a better grasp on the plot before diving in. I only read Pride and Prejudice after having seen the movie, and it allowed me to easily pick up the book from time to time to slowly make my way through it.

Get recommendations from a friend or family member

One of my friends read Little Women growing up and when she mentioned really enjoying it, I resolved to start it. All I had needed was that one source of motivation and I was quickly falling in love with the story. Usually, I can finish a book within a day, especially when I enjoy it. It took me a year to finish Little Women because of how different it is from modern day literature. The entire time, I’d discuss each chapter with my friend, writhing with excitement as she listened with a smile. We both had a connection to the book and knowing that made me more eager to read it. After I finished, I lent my copy to another friend.

Don’t expect to finish it in a day.

Classic literature is not a wham-bam-thank-you-mam situation. I’ve carried the same collection of Edgar Allan Poe around for three years and I’ve yet to finish it. They’re commitments, things to return to. You get swept up in each moment, stumble over every few words and re-read sections because you forgot what happened. It’s a process, but it pays off. Taking time to read classics reveals new depths you hadn’t noticed and that’s because you come back to it with a new mindset. The first time I tried to read Jane Eyre, I thought I could breeze through it in a week maximum. I haven’t touched it since I finished the first chapter. It’s very complex and going in ignorant of that left me feeling rather defeated. You have to be patient and willing to take your time.

Find an app-like Serial Reader.

Serial Reader provides you with bite-sized segments of classic novels that you can read when you’ve got the free time. Each section is meant to take about ten minutes. It makes it easier to read before bed, as well as make lots of progress without noticing it. This was actually how I started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. If you can make a habit of reading just a little bit at a time, it’ll become much less daunting.

Reading classics doesn’t have to be an intimidating affair. You just have to go in with an open mind.