One of my main resolutions of 2018 was to read more classics. Now I know that it sounds absolutely cliched, especially considering how this goal has been cropping up in every yearly resolution while never showing any inclination to do anything about it. However, something has changed this year. I guess you could say that I’ve reached that point in life where you realise how much you’ve been missing out on a good thing, especially something that I’ve had access to since the minute that I’ve learnt to read.
My first experience with classics goes way back in primary school, where my fifth year teacher used to recommend us books to read for fun. I remember spending days reading Robinson Crusoe, The Secret Garden, Treasure Island, Little Women and The Railway Children, while my homework was piling up on my desk! Back then, classics meant a treasure trove of undiscovered words, places and experiences, so I attended my first lesson of English Literature class in secondary school with high expectations. Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed. I think there is almost a universal feeling between students, that when someone mentions a book that was studied at school, the statement is almost always followed by a groan or a disdainful remark. But is it the book’s fault or something else entirely?
One of my main problems was the quality of the teaching. The lessons were not engaging or stimulating, but usually consisted of an hour long line-by-line analysis of Romeo and Juliet or reading aloud in front of our class [which was akin to public torture]. Having said that, there is one particular teacher who had a knack for making the most boring books in existence a thousand times more interesting. In fact, the books that I studied with her are still my current favourites: Animal Farm by George Orwell and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Her lessons did not only consist of reading from the book but she also encouraged us to make constructive arguments and look at the way the book altered society’s way of thinking at the time. She also invented loads of different games and quizzes and showed us numerous book-to-film adaptions while eating popcorn in class, and that’s what made her lessons more exciting and engaging.
Often time though, it’s not the teacher’s fault that students hate classics so much. It is likely the simple fact that ‘forcing’ someone to read and study a book for an exam makes the whole process of reading it feel more like a chore and takes the fun out of the whole experience. Although if I got to read and study Harry Potter, I’m sure I would have attempted to stay more alert during lessons! To be completely honest though, I definitely did not appreciate the books I was meant to study as I would have done today. I was more concerned with my grades at the time or some drama that was going on in class and I wish I could tell my 12 year old self to just appreciate what I was being taught!
So why did I decide to read more classics this year?
Looking back at all the books that I had been reading, I realised how much I was lacking in variety, both in readership and genre. Eventually I decided to broaden my horizons and explore new genres and that’s when I resolved to read The Count of Monte Cristo. Why on earth did I decide to read a thousand-page book you might ask? Go big or go home right?! In truth, I had been meaning to read it since I watched the 2002 adaption starring Jim Caviezel, who is one of my favourite actors. So I guess it is thanks to him that I am now obsessed both with the book and classics in general!
- The beauty of classics is that they have stood the test of time, and they are teaming with characters and experiences that are still relevant today. One of the reasons why I love reading classics is that they are the perfect window onto the past, providing a better perspective of history and cultures in context.
- The writing is often-times truly beautiful to read. I mean, I could stare at a sentence for hours trying to comprehend it’s meaning, but the words alone somehow still evoke such mesmerising imagery while at the same time allowing me to bask in the beauty of the written word.
- The themes discussed in the books are still relevant today. I think it is truly beautiful to still be able to relate with a character written many years ago and it makes me appreciate the fact that us humans never change in our core. We still seek out love, justice, friendships, a better life or even revenge. Classics are what unites us with our past selves.
- They are fun to read! I’m currently halfway through Pride and Prejudice and honestly it’s hilarious!
Here are some of my favourite classics out of the few that I’ve read so far:
The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas
Animal Farm- George Orwell
Rebecca- Daphne Du Maurier
Mariana- Monica Dickens
The Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis
Little Women- Louisa May Alcott
The Great Gatsby- F.Scott Fitzgerald
I hope that next year this list will be much much longer! I feel like I’m embarking on a journey to the past and I am so excited! The fact that I haven’t read that many classics does not discourage me in the least. On the contrary, this motivates to look out for more books that I wouldn’t have otherwise read before.
Do you love reading classics? I hope you enjoyed reading this post!