How To Read Classics
As someone who genuinely enjoys classics, I get asked about this a lot. Most people are either too intimidated by classics, were forced to read one in school and now hate them, or just want to know how do you actually start reading this ancient genre. If you yourself are among one of these groups, then this is the post for you!
1. Pace Yourself
You don’t have to finish Tolstoy’s 400000-word War and Peace in one night, nor does anybody expect you to. Find your own pace, whether that be one page a day or one hundred pages an hour. It’s okay to read an entire novel in three days, but it’s equally okay to finish it after three years. Don’t define yourself by how long it took others to read the same book because everyone reads at a different pace. The last thing you want is to race through Moby Dick and only vaguely recall that it had something to do with a whale…
2. Have a Goal
Divide the book into how every many sections you want, and make a plan to finish at least one section a day. For example, Wuthering Heights has 34 chapters. You could decide to read a chapter a night and finish it in a month, or you could decide to read 15 pages a night of its 250 pages (approximately) meaning you finish in two weeks. Find a number that’s possible for you to complete, and stick with it!
3. Ignore Unsolicited Comments
There’s no “right time” to read a classic, so ignore the people who tell you otherwise. Yes, maybe they read The Great Gatsby in school, but you didn’t, and there’s no shame in that. You want to read Alice in Wonderland or The Hobbit and you’re no longer a teenager? Who cares, go for it! Likewise, if you are a teenager and decide to tackle Ulysses or Atlas Shrugged and find that condescending adults don’t believe you’re able to read them? Ignore them too. You decide what you want to read and when you want to read it, not your teachers, your family, or your friends, and as long as you enjoy the story, then nothing else matters.
4. Don’t Follow Trends
Similar to the previous point, you shouldn’t feel like you have to read the same classics as everyone else. Sure, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and To Kill a Mockingbird are great novels, but that doesn’t mean that you have to like them. You don’t need to enjoy a particular book just because it’s “popular”; just read whatever you like. Maybe you love sci-fi but don’t enjoy metaphors and symbolism, so Animal Farm and 1984 aren’t for you. Likewise, there are plenty of people out there who gush over the trendy classics but can’t hack sci-fi, so they’ll never enjoy Dune or War of the Worlds as you will. Read what you enjoy, and don’t let anyone else sway your decision.
Don’t worry, you read that correctly. If you don’t enjoy a novel, then stop reading it. Don’t be afraid to put the book down, whether you’re on page 10 or page 100, whether it’s the most read classical novel out there or not, even if everyone else has already read it (because they probably haven’t). There’s no shame in stopping partway through a book; it’s not “giving up” or “failing”, it’s simply you stopping something that you don’t enjoy. You wouldn’t continue eating a horrible meal after the first few bites, would you? No. So why continue reading a book you don’t like?