Are You Intimidated By Classic Books?

October 17, 2012

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

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  • Sharon Henning October 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    And I find that the more classical literature you read the less satisfied you become with anything that’s not well-written. Even if it is a best seller.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book October 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm

      LOL, yes reading well written books would ruin many others. Even though I have encountered a classic or two which, shall we say, didn’t measure up.

  • Alyce October 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    For me it just depends on which classic author we’re talking about, because I like the style of some more than others (I like Dumas more than Dickens for example). I have to be in the right mood though, because even though there is wit and humor in a lot of the classics, you have to be paying attention to catch it, oftentimes it’s because the language is a bit antiquated.

  • Michelle @ The True Book Addict October 17, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Excellent, excellent advice! I totally agree with everything you said. Everyone should read this post!

  • Trev October 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Great post! So many of the classics are full of ideas and really broaden your horizons.

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