Classic books are intimidating, I know because they intimidate me.
One has to get over the issue that we were forced to read them.
Who wants to read a book that you hated in high-school?
Hated it because you were too immature to understand it.
Hated it because you couldn’t wrap your hormone riddled head around the petty lives of characters who make a big deal out nothing (so, you’re a bastard – big deal).
Hated it because it wasn’t relevant to you and your trivial problems.
Hated it because it wasn’t “cool” to like it.
Or simply hated it because you were forced to read it.
My advice – screw them, you’re not in high school anymore, get over it.
You have to get over your fear of legitimately hating a classic.
Are you not smart enough to like it?
Are you not intelligent enough to understand the complex undertone of humanity involved?
Maybe you simple don’t have the right vocabulary to enjoy it?
And maybe, just maybe, it’s a crappy book – classic or not.
My advice – Don’t worry about it.
So you didn’t like a classic. Guess what?
Nothing will happen and no one will think any less of you. Get the extended versions with a scholarly preface and maybe some essays about the book. Honestly, most of them are very interesting (but you’d never know because you always skip them – admit it) and give the reader a great background to start reading the books.
C.S. Lewis said that the simplest student will be able to understand Plato, but only few will understand modern books about Platonism.
You have to allocate some time.
Many classics are long, anywhere from 500 pages to 1,000 pages or more and are not a quick read. Many classics have to be immersed in, not simply “read”, but understood within the context of the storytelling and time frame. You’ll soon find that you will be pleasantly surprised as many of the classics are a pleasure to read and surprisingly fresh.
My advice – if you are having problems reading the whole thing at once, read the book in short bursts. I read War & Peace book by book and enjoyed it very much.
It’s OK to be intimidated; there is nothing wrong with it.
My advice – not all classics are taught at school, actually many of them you might have not even heard about. I read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins for a classics book club, I never heard about this book but tremendously enjoyed the read.
By the way, a classics book club is a great way to read them!
Reading classic literature will not only make you a better reader, it will give you historical perspective on the times we live in as well as insights into your own soul. If you find it difficult just practice. Like any hobby you take on, practicing will enhance your experience and level of skill.
Once you read the classics you’ll have a wonderful moments of reversed reference in pop-culture. You’ll finally be able to understand the genius and “Hemingway-esque” references in The Simpsons episode “The Daughter Also Rises”. You’ll be able to discuss Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” in the context of C.S. Lewis’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (it’s a classic), or Led Zepplin’s “Ramble On” and how it relates to Lord of the Rings and why “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police is based on Nabokov’s Lolita.
And best of all…you’ll have bragging rights!
Now that’s got to be worth something.
Zohar – Man of la Book