5 Reasons To Re-Visit The Classics
It was probably not the right time of life for you to read them—those long books filled with big words and strange syntax. But now that you’re older and have seen a bit more the world it may be time to re-visit the classics.
The trouble with reading books such as Robinson Crusoe, Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Sound and The Fury in high school is that there were too many distractions that prevented you from enjoying them. Yes, your current like is filled with all sorts of tasks and impositions. But your life back then, if you recall, consisted of a different kind of busyness. Besides girls and friends and sports and parents, there were other academic subjects to master. If you return to the classics now, you will be able to do so without the social and intellectual pressures you had then.
Indeed, there are good reasons for reading or re-reading the classics of Western literature. Doing so will:
The one factor that makes a novel a work of literature is originality. What all of the books that you read in high school have in common is that in their time they presented a vision of the world so powerful that it seemed to represent the thought and feeling of the age. No writer can do that without employing language in the best possible way. Reading the classics will enable you to absorb the rich rhetoric of the authors who wrote them. If you make it a point to read such books regularly, you will notice changes in your own way of speaking and writing. You will become increasingly sensitive to words and how use them. And this will inevitably make you a better communicator in both your professional and personal life.
Another mark that distinguishes literature from other types of fiction is its ability to give readers a sense of the past. Reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath will give you a sense of what it was like for working people during the Great Depression. Reading Ellison’s Invisible Man will give you a sense of what it was like to be a young black man in America in the 1930s. Classics such as these give you a history of the times by narrating the thought, feeling, and action of individuals laboring under particular social and economic conditions. They are, of course, no substitute for reading standard books of history, but they can compliment such works by giving you a feeling for what it was like to be alive during a particular time.
By reading good books you will become more adept at spotting bad ones. If you occasionally wander through a book store or the pages of Amazon.com, you are no doubt familiar with the varied attempts to push new books on you. After reading the classics you will be able to tell in little time whether a book is worth your time. Skimming the first few pages of a book will give you a sense of how well it reads. You should always be open-minded about new authors and new kinds of subject matter. But you should also be on your guard against bad writing and dull story-telling. Reading the classics will give you a standard by which to judge such matters.
Women love a well-read man. It is a sign of intelligence and sophistication. Said at the right time and in the right place a line from Shakespeare or Shelley or Rilke will make you seem interesting to her. Interesting. Achieving this status will put you on the road to winning her over completely. Showing your love and mastery of literature will give her a glimpse of your inner depths, which will encourage her to get to know you further.
You should never discount the fact that you might just enjoy the classics. Books such as Anna Karenina and Crime and Punishment are long and complex. But don’t let that put you off. They are also filled with intrigue, humor, and ideas and insights into human life that you will be able to relate to. You don’t have to go through such a book in a week. Take your time. Go at your own pace. You should read the book in the way that makes it enjoyable for you.
Most literary classics are available in cheap paperbacks. Some can even be downloaded for free. My advice is to start with some of the shorter works and work your way up to the longer ones. But however you decide to approach it, you should take some time to re-visit the best books ever written.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.