Why Everyone Should Read the Classics

by | 16 February 2018 | Books, Writing | 26 comments

Why are the classics called the classics? What sets them apart from the books written today?

‘The classics’ can easily set the modern reader groaning at the very thought. Long, boring books, full of huge long paragraphs and complicated words and weird, confusing phrasing.

These books can be viewed so badly, that people can say they hate the classics without even having read them.

 

I can see where those readers are coming from. I’m all for the short paragraphs and lots of action that’s commonly found in modern fiction. However, I still make a point of reading classics.

The classics still have plenty to teach us—they’re not unrelated to writing today.

Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. What do they have to teach us? Why should we be reading their works?

 

1: They are the roots of modern fiction

The origin story of all the books written today is here. If you’re trying to write a dystopian novel, shouldn’t you read the very roots of where the genre came from? Fahrenheit 451, Nineteen Eighty-Four. There’s novels out there thatย started modern fiction as we know it, and there’s so much we can learn from those novels.

 

2: The classic authors were masters of theme

If there’s one thing that the classic authors were amazing at—it was theme. Some of them had slightly more iffy story lines, some had boring sections, but in general the classics are huge, deep examples of well-crafted themes. The authors knew what was important, and they studied and wrote and learned to do itย well.

A lot of modern authors could take a hint from these guys and put a little more meaning into their stories.

 

3: The more you read, the more you know

If you only read contemporary fantasy (for example), you’re going to end up with a small-minded view of fiction. But if you read all the genres you are so much better equipped to write any one of them, than if you’d only read a narrow selection.

‘All the genres’ includes classics. If you only read modern books you won’t get to see the charm and beauty that is in these older books.

 

4: The classics are actually good stories

One of my favourite classics is The Three Musketeers. Sword fights, witty dialogue, true love, poison, revenge. The story itself captivated me, despite the older writing style.

Fahrenheitย 451 was the same—unique, intriguing, and definitely worth reading just for the story. AND the fact that Ray Bradbury wrote the entire novel in NINE. DAYS. That’s better than my NaNoWriMo record. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

If you pass off these novels as ‘boring’ and ‘too old’ before you even try them, you’re missing out on the stories they have to offer.

 

5: A Unique Point of View

I’m not talking about the character’s POV here, I’m talking about the view from the author. They lived in the same world as us, but there was a lot of different things. Culture and rules and etiquette. Different than what today’s authors have to offer, simply because we didn’t experience those time periods that the authors of the classics were writing from.

I enjoy the Percy Jackson series, but Rick Riordan very clearly comes from this modern age. I know about this culture. I know about these political ideas. But with an older book Iย haven’t experienced that age personally. It’s like a little window into the thoughts and ideas and morals of that time. As a history nerd, I really enjoy that side of these books.

 

Reading the classics shouldn’t be a thing of the past. As writers, we need to read them and learn from them. As readers, we need to read them and learn from them.

Because the theme and writing style can teach us new things, and expanding reading horizons and growing vocabulary and understanding is always a good thing. Read these books so you can appreciate the roots of today’s fiction.

Even if they can be a little boring sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Your turn! Have you read many classics? What’s your favourite ‘old book’? Do you prefer short paragraphs or long, flowy paragraphs?

Jane Maree

Jane Maree

Jane Maree is an Adventurerโ€”exploring the endless wonders of Godโ€™s beautiful creation. She started writing by accident, but since the very beginning has loved the enchantment of words on paper. If you say anything about pizza, superheroes, books, or any of her many, many fandoms, sheโ€™ll come at the double. Aside from crafting worlds using only twenty-six letters, she is a passionate Jesus-lover, freelance editor, self-trained martial artist, songwriter, and musician. In her spare time, she's often off on random adventures in the name of story research. She seeks to inspire her readers to step out and become the heroes of hope this world needs.

26 Comments

  1. Clare L Farrelly

    Theme is about the only thing going for War and Peace, but there are some good classics out there, George Orwell for example, I’ve read at least three of his books, and some of the old science fiction is great!

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Haha, that is one classic that I almost died trying to read. Fortunately I stopped reading before I drowned completely. ๐Ÿ˜›

      George Orwell has some really interesting books! Animal Farm is probably the weirdest… XD Old sci fi is pretty cool. Particularly seeing the roots of where today’s sci fi stories originated from.

      Reply
  2. Brie Donning

    I’ve not read a huge number of classics. Five of Jane Austen’s novels, the beginning of one Dickens novel, everything by Louisa May Alcott, a few books by Jules Verne and a smattering of other things. Okay, maybe more classics than I thought. Still I’m more likely to have read 19th century girls literature, than the heavier classics.

    I don’t think the Elsie Dinsmore books really count as classics. At least they’re not great on theme. Martha Finley’s other books have some great themes though, so I expand my number with them.

    Henty is good for absorbing historical cultures, but there’s very little subtext, and not a much theme either.

    The way I make it through classics is with audio books. Sometimes I can charge through a novel, but if it’s heavier, the time of an audio book is worth it.

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Nice! Hehe, personally I’m more likely to be found with Alexandre Dumas than with Jane Austen.

      I haven’t actually read anything by Martha Finley. I’ll have to check those out.

      Henty, I have read. He has a huge world of historical fiction that can be quite informative and interesting. But yes, I agree. Not much subtext or theme.

      Ahh yes that’s a really good idea actually. I’ve actually never listened to an audio book before (*gasps*) but I might have to do that someday…

      Reply
      • Brie Donning

        Have you come across the Henty Audio adventures? About eight books now have been adapted as audio drama’s and subtext has been added. It was actually in an interview about them, that I first heard someone say Henty had no subtext.

        I’ve listened to so many audio books. I’ve even had a go at recording them, but the editing got too much for me.

        As for Finley, my favourites are ‘Signing the Contract and What It Cost’, ‘Wanted: A Pedigree’, and ‘The Thorn In the Nest’. They’re all long out of copyright, so if you don’t mind ebooks they’re free.

        The first can be found in a number of places online, ans is a young woman’s search for her family. The second is a bit of a mystery and can only be found on Google books, and as an audio book on librivox.org. The last is definitely the most exciting, and is about a hero on the frontier with a big secret and people trying to murder him. It’s on gutenberg.org

        Reply
        • Jane Maree

          Ah that sounds really interesting.

          Editing recordings is always the downfall. ๐Ÿ˜›

          Ooh, I’ll definitely look those up, thanks!

          Reply
  3. J.A.Penrose

    YES! Classics are definitely something that people really need to read more, but very few actually do. I love the modern day writing and that style, but there is something in the classics that we really don’t have in modern books.

    Yessss, old sci-fi is the best. I love it so much because it is always so meaningful and epic and well written! *claps happily*

    Heh, sometimes I like to read pretty description, but normally I prefer short paragraphs.

    Awesome post as per usual! And yes, classics are so good!

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Yes yes yes. I agree to all of that.

      Pretty description is good…in short amounts. ๐Ÿ˜›

      Thank you!

      Reply
  4. Izzy McFadyen

    I could agree more Jane. You can get a lot out of “the classics”
    Some of my favorites are Call of the Wild, Gulliver’s Travels and Treasure Island

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Exactly. ๐Ÿ™‚ They should never be overlooked as good reading choices.
      Call of the Wild was a really cool book, by my recollection. I really liked the story. Gulliver’s Travels…I don’t think I’ve read that for YEARS. I have the vaguest memories of the story, but not much to be honest. ๐Ÿ˜›

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    Yee, loved this. ^-^

    I can’t tell if they’re my favourites because I genuinely liked them, or if they’re the only ones I can reference back to actually reading them– but I have a certain fondness for the books ‘Wuthering Heights’ (Emily Brontรซ) and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (Pretty sure we all know who wrote that one xP). I also had to do both of them for school so…. *shrugs*

    Dunno why, but I also really want to
    attempt ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ for some reason. ^-^ ….To be honest, I probably wouldn’t get past the first few pages, and would have to switch straight over to an audiobook version. But oh well ๐Ÿ˜›

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Aw thank you!

      Haha, that is always a problem. Remembering the books you’ve read can be a challenge. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’ve not actually read that one myself either (though I have it on my shelf) so maybe we could read it at the same time and keep each other motivated, huh? ๐Ÿ˜›

      Reply
  6. Hannah Gaudette

    I’ve been seeing this type of post on so many blogs lately, it looks like I won’t have much choice. ๐Ÿ™‚ And classics are kind of a school requirement for me, soooo . . .

    I’ve read (a.k.a tried to read) two classics, Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. I failed both times. So I’m thinking I might start with something really easy like A Christmas Carol, or is that cheating? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Wow really? I didn’t even know other people were posting about it. ๐Ÿ˜› Ah yes, good old school-assigned reading. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      A Christmas Carol definitely isn’t cheating. That’s a good short one to get you started. And I also recommend Fahrenheit 451 because it has a good story which makes it easy to read.

      Reply
  7. Jake T.

    YES SAME!!! Although when I think about it i do need to read more of the classics.

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      To be honest I was writing this post to myself as much as other people, because I haven’t read a classic for a while now. XD

      Reply
  8. Jenna

    I tend to lean towards modern fiction, maybe I should read more classics ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Is Sherlock Holmes considered a classic? If it is, I’ve read all of the Holmes stories. love ’em.
    I definitely prefer short paragraphs ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Same here, absolutely. 80% of what I read has been published in the last twenty years, probably. (Although I’m just guessing with that number)

      I would personally consider it a classic, so you can call it one if you want. ๐Ÿ˜› They’re great stories.

      I shamelessly raise my hand in agreement to that. Short paragraphs is me, all the way. XD

      Reply
  9. Kendra Lynne

    Oh I love classics! They can get boring at times and sometimes I need to read a fast-paced book alongside, but I still love them for what they are: masterpieces from another time that can teach valuable lessons even today.

    My favorite classic is Oliver Twist. At first it seemed to drag on and I felt a little depressed reading about each tragic and sorrowful event, but towards the end it got better and some hidden connections between characters were discovered and altogether I really love that book. <3 I am hoping to read Robinson Crusoe soon. Have you read it? This will be my first time.

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Classics – boring, but masterpieces. ๐Ÿ˜› That sums them up quite nicely.

      When I read Oliver Twist a few years ago, I remember my main thought being “this is a weird story” XD

      Robinson Crusoe was a pretty fun book. I think we did it as a read aloud a few years back, and I quite enjoyed it.

      Reply
  10. MiddleEarthMusician

    Ooh, classics! They’re not my absolute favorite genre of books but a couple I’ve read are definitely on my top shelf; such as Sherlock Holmes, Count of Monte Cristo, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 80 Days Around the World, Oliver Twist, and a Christmas Carol. XD I actually don’t have a preference; I can write both long and short paragraphs and I like reading both of them. XP I really liked Farenheight 451. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      They’re not my favourite either, but I can sometimes find myself enjoying them. And I always finish with something new I’ve learned from them.
      Fahrenheit 451 is amazing and cool and a touch of creepy in there too. ๐Ÿ˜› I really liked it.

      Reply
  11. Chelsea R.H.

    Oh, I love classics!! Except for Jane Austen, she turns me cold. But everything else, I love. I don’t even find (most of) them boring.
    And I definitely agree with the thing about theme. The last classic I read was Jane Eyre, which I thought was a bit problematic in certain areas (I didn’t like Mr Rochester and the portrayal of his wife), but the themes were really deep and the symbolism was cool too!
    My favourites would probably be Les Miserables and A Tale of Two Cities, but I read A Christmas Carol about a week ago, and I really enjoyed that.
    I think everyone should read a few classics in their life, especially if they aspire to be a published author. I know the classics won’t be for everyone, but there’s a lot of lessons to be learned in them ๐Ÿ™‚
    Nice post!

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      I’m not going to argue with that. XD

      I’ve found that in most classics too. There’s some really good lessons on theme that can be found through studying these books.

      A Tale of Two Cities has really good theme. *nodnod* I haven’t actually read Les Mis though, but I imagine it’s similar.

      Agreed!
      Thanks, Chelsea. <3

      Reply
  12. Katie Grace

    You raise really good points here, and I do read my share of classics, but… *flops* I just don’t enjoy any of them? I try to see their beauty, but… *sigh* I don’t know. Maybe I just haven’t read the right ones?

    Reply
    • Jane Maree

      Ahh nooo. To be honest, I can’t enjoy about 80% of classics, except for a few select ones. A lot of them are really hard to read though.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Me

Monthly Newsletter

My Postsโ€”Your Emails

Enter your email address to subscribe to my blog and receive notifications of new posts via email.

Recent Posts

Archives

Categories

Pin It on Pinterest