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Is studying or slogging by means of the classics a worthwhile endeavor?

I’ve tried quite a few occasions to learn what are thought of traditional literature. Nevertheless, I’ve not derived a lot enjoyment or perception into these works and have felt them to be a waste of time with just a few exceptions.

Has anybody else skilled this? Is it because of the time interval they have been written in and the overly descriptive and tangential nature of some traditional authors?

Traditional authors I didn’t get pleasure from – Dickens, Camus, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Aldous Huxley, Dostoyevsky

titles I loved – Home of Mirth, Rebecca, Dorian Grey, A Room of One’s Personal, Mark Twain

Comments ( 30 )

  1. Sometimes, I’m just not in the right mindset for them. At the moment, I’m going through GCSEs so it’s probably best that I don’t try to delve into the classics and instead stick to some old favourites such as Discworld.

  2. Sometimes you can slowly move backwards through time to get used to the different styles so that you can enjoy them.

    Like read books you like from 10 years ago, then 20 years ago, and so on until you reach those classics.

    Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting used to it *first* before you can actually enjoy them.

  3. Personally, I believe the idea of reading “classics” needs to be broken down a bit in the sense that there are “classics” such as Count of Monte Cristo, War and Peace, etc… then there are what I would suggest are classics in the sense that they are groundbreaking or seminal works in newer genres.

    So with this idea in mind (I’ll use myself as an example again), if I desire to read a classic I would not choose Hamlet, but rather Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep which is a later work, but I would argue a classic nonetheless in science fiction – which is a genre I am more personally interested in.

    I would suggest doing some work to think about what type of literature you enjoy reading, and then possibly explore works in that space that are highly regarded or influential.

  4. Since everyone kind of defines the category differently, I recommend you check out a lot of authors from across the world before you rule out the “classics” as a whole. India, Russia, and China have great works going back centuries that I’ll happily go back to, but I can’t do old British literature for the most part. You may just have to find something that’s more your cup of tea.

  5. It depends what they are. I love Robinson Crusoe, Wutherine Heights, Jane Eyre, all the Jane Austens, but I’ve never managed to finish War and Peace, Vanity Fair or Treasure Island. I didn’t enjoy The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye is infuriating, but I did like House of Mirth.

    I don’t believe it’s possible to dislike *all t*he books viewed as classics, but I also don’t think there’s much to be gained from forcing yourself to read a book you’re not enjoying.

  6. Classic books are in a variety of genres. If you generally read horror, try Frankenstein not Pride and Prejudice.

    Also start with novellas and short stories. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is one of the most insightful books I have ever read with no wasted words.

    These books have survived for a reason and human nature hasn’t changed. But there is no need to read them all.

  7. There will be some amazing reads. And there will be some reads where you will say, “Why is this a classic?”

    One thing I did was start working my way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Modern novels about fifteen years ago. A lot of them I had read already, but there were some titles that either I’d avoided or just didn’t like in school and needed to give a second chance.

    Overall, I’m glad I did it.

  8. There are things to be learned from them and things to appreciate in them. That’s why they’re classics – because they’re widely seen to have something of value.

    Whether or not you’ll be able to appreciate that value enough to make reading them seem worthwhile is really entirely up to you.

  9. I find audio books great for classics. Because the books are so widely regarded, you can usually find some truly great narrations that will keep your attention, and also help with some of the more archaic language, as the narrator will usually be skilled and/or coached with using the correct inflection.

  10. Don’t do something if you truly don’t enjoy it— that being said, I wouldn’t immediately write off all classics. Its not like classics are all one genre, theres something for everyone. I used to read pretty much only murder mysteries, so I started with Sherlock Holmes and got into other classics from there. If you give us some books/genres you read and like, I’m sure people on here would be happy to recommend some classics that fit that!

  11. I’m a big believer in not obsessing over reading something because it is a classic. Read what you like. Read trashy romance novels or YA or true crime. Audiobooks are great. E-readers are great.

    If you want to read some, great, but I wouldn’t beat yourself over it. IMO Crime and Punishment was a classic that is easily readable and super worth it. Moby Dick is worth it but *hard* to get into. (Most) Shakespeare plays are worth it. When I’m feeling like tackling a “classic” I like to pursue Pulitzer and Nobel prize lists and pick one that sounds interesting.

    Whatever you do, support your local library!

  12. Read what you like and enjoy and don’t worry about what others think. If you love classics then read classics. If you love Brandon Sanderson, who is hated by many classic lovers, then read him. If you love smutty romance then read smutty romance. Reading as an adult should be pleasurable, not a chore or tedious. Enjoy what you enjoy and don’t judge others for what they enjoy.

  13. Keep trying different things, some classics are important if you want to discuss lit, or understand where somethings coming from, but for most readers if you dont enjoy something it probably isnt worth your time

  14. Classic literature is such a broad category. It encompasses so many time periods, and then so many countries and cultures. There are all sorts of genres within it. Little women and the iliad are as different as can be and they’re both included in classic lit.

    They’re classics because they *are* timeless and still retain an artistic merit and value. You don’t *have* to force yourself read them ofcourse but if you’re looking to get into it, you will find many recs to your taste from the books suggestions subreddit.

  15. There are too many classics to attempt to answer this. Read what you enjoy! There will probably be some classics you enjoy.

  16. I liked listening to Moby Dick. It’s that chatty, 19th century style, I think.

    I did like reading all of Jane Austen. I like A Tale of Two Cities and especially A Christmas Carol by Dickens, but nothing else by him.

  17. I’ve been reading the “classics” for a while now. Some of them rule (imo) and some are pompous boring slogs (imo). I think it’s cool to find out which ones are which. Even reading a slog can give you insights into the history of literature and your own tastes.

    But if you like Mark Twain and just want to enjoy reading, do that, no reason not to. I’m reading The Prince and The Pauper right now and it’s brilliant.

  18. Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. Keep pushing yourself and try new things, but slogging is not enjoying.

  19. It’s hard to say. I’ve never had a problem putting books onto my DNF pile, as life’s too short to slog through books I don’t enjoy.

    Plus, if I think about whether I like X author or not, much of the time I end up saying, “It depends.” Kurt Vonnegut: huge fan of his novels, not so much his short stories. With Bradbury, I love his shorts, but not so much his full-length works. I *hated* Salinger’s *Catcher in the Rye*, but his short stories are the bomb. And so on.

    Only thing I’d comment on your “dislike” list is about Huxley. I’m guessing you read *Brave New World*, which I lost patience with pretty quickly. But his style then was wildly different to his early work, and then his later style was quite different again. Think Comedies of Manners to Dystopian Sci Fi to the Philosophical Uncanny (if that’s a thing). His first novel, *Chrome Yellow*, is def one of my favourites.

    I’d recommend trying:

    – *A Clockwork Orange* by Burgess (short and sweet)
    – *The Master and Margarita* by Bulgakov (ditto)
    – *Mother Night* by Vonnegut (ditto ditto)
    – *The Metamorphosis* by Kafka (ditto x 3)
    – *The Maimed* by Ungar (a little longer, but this guy doesn’t muck around with long sentences).

    These are modern classics, obviously, but I appreciated them more than some of the 19th-century stuff. You may find them a slog if you don’t like Bradbury or Camus. However, I’m pretty sure you can get Orange and Metamorphosis for free, so it’s NBD if you’re like, “Nah.”

  20. I don’t like Dickens either! Just go with what you like. There’s no exam after reading, no class discussion.

    Please don’t pressure yourself to read a bunch of books you don’t care for, just because they’re on a list.

  21. Years ago I forced myself to slog through Moby dick. I hated it. I decided after that not to waste my time finishing something I’m not enjoying.

  22. I got the Iliad and the Odyssey as graphic novels for christmas and loved them, the originals have been sat on my to read shelf for years and I just always got put off reading them (to get to soon of course)!

    I know comics aren’t for everyone, especially as am adaptation like these were, but if it helps you dip your toes in to see if you’d enjoy the full novel then itight well be worth the attempt

  23. If you want to read them, yes.

    Not all classics are slogs, though. I would not describe Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, or Ray Bradbury books as “slogs,” Dostoyevsky books definitely are. “Classics” isn’t a genre, either. It’s just a label for books that have stood the test of time for one reason or another. At one point they were writing for a contemporary audience, sometimes a popular one. I would say you may want to read classics in your preferred genre but maybe not those who are of a genre you wouldn’t read if a current author was releasing them.

  24. How about focusing on insight, over enjoyment? I don’t like Jane Austen but if I didn’t appreciate her work at all, I would be the problem. It may even be more enjoyable like that, too.

    Given those you’ve mentioned, maybe try focusing on American literature for a bit (as distinct to the vaguer ‘classic’ label), look into a bit of background. Although if you’re capable of liking The House of Mirth I’m not sure what the issue is tbh, it sounds like trolling.

  25. You answered your own question a bit with noting that there were some you enjoyed and some you did not- classics is a very broad category, and you will like some, love some, dislike some, and hate some. I always think it’s worth trying because you might find that one in the huge stack that you just adore, and you might not have found it otherwise.

    They are also not always overly descriptive or tangential, but many are. So as with basically any book, it’s finding the ones you find to be your taste, for whatever reason.

    I can’t personally think of a classic I thought to be a waste of time, because even if I didn’t enjoy it, I could still see why it was considered a classic in it’s impact (cultural, societal, social, etc.), and then also after having finished it I gained the knowledge that it was not for me (which I couldn’t have known without trying), and possibly might find someone down the road who might enjoy it, and whom I could recommend it to.

    For example I freaking hate Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, but I get why it’s important. (My favorite book ever also happens to be Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; though I admit I didn’t like any of his other works at all).

  26. I recommend two options – 1) listen to audiobooks with lively casts and only choose from genres you already like. 2) read more modern classics, like 20-60 years old, not centuries.

  27. Life’s too short to read books because they are “classics”. Yes they have things to offer, but if it keeps you from reading then toss them out and find something that really makes you turn the pages.

  28. Absolutely worth it. And one of the rewards is that it can be a slog trying to navigate the relatively arcane writing style. It can seem verbose, but quite poetic at the same time.

    Should add that one thing I found quite revealing was that after a certain year, I reckon 1900, the writing no longer appears arcane. Brave New World (1932) even comes across as contemporary.

    But yes, Dickens will be a challenge, but really worth it. The man was a genius.

    Thackery is even more of a challenge.

  29. Oh man, there’s a wide variety of classics, that I found very worthwhile.

    I’ve read Don Quixote, Les Miserables, Three Musketeers, Count of Monte Christo, Arabian Nights, Sherlock Holmes, Crime and Punishment

    One thing I like about reading these stories is that you get some insight into how people thought. Crime and Punishment discusses feminism, which shines light on the fact that gender equality has been a prevalent discussion for hundreds of years despite how little traction we’ve had in resolving the issue

    Three Musketeers was by far my favorite! It reads like a Shonen Style anime where the protagonist angers the three musketeers enough for them issue duels, the protagonist shows up and all three are there waiting – there’s another scene where rival army branches fight each other in a bar style brawl, I loved it

  30. I also feel like there are so many different styles over the centuries, and sometimes you just gotta find what clicks for you. For example, I like more descriptive and atmospheric language so I loved Great Gatsby, Rebecca, Dorian Grey, etc. As opposed to Old Man and the Sea, the spare writing style just isn’t for me! I also love HG Wells, as a fan of sci-fi. So I think you just have to find something that already appeals to you.

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