Why Everyone Should Read the Classics

Good Sunday afternoon,

This past week, while roaming through the stacks of my college library, I was impressed, once again, with the sheer volume of literature that has been written and published in the world. Strolling through the dimly lit aisles, my coffee cup precariously balanced on 5 books I was clutching to my chest, I was overwhelmed with the thought of how many books I have yet to read and discover. So many books, so little time!, I thought as the fingers of my free hand lovingly stroked the bindings of the books to my left. Though I was on a mission to find resources for a paper I’m writing on Dante’s Divine Comedy, I allowed myself a few seconds to soak in the grandeur of all that surrounded me.

Strolling through the library also got me thinking about why I read (and why I began a blog about reading in the first place!). As I mentioned in my first post, classical literature is one of my favorite genres, and as an English major I spend a great deal of time studying the likes of Austen, Hugo, and Dante. Though I’m certainly not an expert on the classics, I thought it would be fun to share with you 5 reasons why I believe everyone should read a classic or two in their lifetime.

1. First, the classics are so named for a reason; they will never grow old or “out of date” because they convey universal truths concerning life and humanity that most everyone has/will experience to some degree in his/her lifetime. Whether you’re reading Pride and Prejudice or Les Miserables, I guarantee you will find quintessential themes such as love, hate, joy, or suffering hidden within their pages. While such themes will resonate differently in each individual, the bottom line is that the classics are just as relevant to today’s culture as they were centuries before.
2. Your favorite modern fiction novels were probably inspired by one of the classics! While we know J.K.Rowling’s Dumbledore has an uncanny resemblance to a particular grey-bearded wizard in Lord of the Rings, you might be surprised to discover that Suzanne Collins was influenced by Homeric mythology while writing the Hunger Games. If you have a particular love for a certain YA novel, you might enjoy its equivalent in the classics section!
3. Due the “old English” language found within much of older literature, reading a classic will improve your concentration skills. Whether you love this style of writing, or find it yawn-worthy, reading a classic now and again will heighten your reading skills and cultivate some serious mental willpower.
4. Reading books from the by-gone ages gives us a better understanding of who we are in the grand trajectory of human existence. Ever since the invention of the computer, informational data is constantly changing and updating, and online records are not always preserved….you might say history has become a thing of the past (pun intended). Thus, the “here and now” mentality is more prevalent in society than ever. Reading classic literature then provides us with a sense of reality. History does not begin and end with us; people lived before us, and people will probably live after us as well. Reading the classics reminds us of who we are, individually and universally, and gives us a better understanding of cultures that existed long before us.
5. Last by not least, reading the classics can be fun. Don’t let bad memories of high school English class discourage you from picking up Dickens or Bronte; give classic literature another chance. Just because your 9th grade teacher forced you to write a ten-page paper on the ethics of Mr. Rochester’s decision to marry Jane does not mean the story itself is boring!

Reading the classics can be fun. Really! Next time you find yourself watching reruns of Friends on Netflix, turn off the tv and grab a book. It might be just the thing for a rainy day 😊

P.S. I’m not discouraging watching reruns of Friends…It’s pretty hilarious.