Library pumpkin (noun): a person that flourishes best between bookshelves.
Classics. When said in the context of reading, the word classic -which in life I find generally has a jocular kind of tone: “Your bank account is empty and it’s only the 11th? You spent it all on clothes and then food so you don’t fit into those clothes? Classic Sophie” – takes on a new, onerous meaning. CLASSICS. Oh, GOD, no.
Well, snap out of it! Classics are great. There’s a reason people are still reading them hundreds and thousands of years later. (Disclaimer: some classics are awful, and one day I will share with you the classics that I think are crappics, but lots are excellent).
Reading classics takes some getting used to though. So, without further ado and waffling, please find my top five tips for reading classic books.
Don’t expect a fast-paced thriller, because most classics that I have read are much slower paced than I would normally read. They definitely build up more, so enjoy it! Take your time to take in the characters, learn who they are (which will save much confusion later on in the novel when you suddenly realise that Lady Chinless has been in it for ten chapters and yet you have no idea who she is and why she matters to the story.) It’s the reading equivalent of actually listening to a new album, rather than skipping forward to that one song that they’ve had out as a single.
2. Take your time
Some people gobble all books up at the same speed; I personally read classics/older books a lot slower than modern ones. That’s okay. Don’t get frustrated if it takes you longer to read a classic; often the language is not what we use now, and it takes some getting used to.
3. Look on it as challenge
Yes, it’s wider than your head. Yes, the font is the tiniest size possible. Try not to be daunted though; the book isn’t out to trip you up, or make you feel like you are a bad reader. It wants to challenge you, and tell you a good story, not make you feel daunted.
4. Carve out decent chunks of time to read
A lot of classic books can be difficult to read in one go, because they are so long, or dense, or require more concentration, but personally I would recommend committing to reading for a decent length of time, or big chunk of pages – say, 50- so that you give yourself time to get into it. Especially when you are at what seems like a much slower part. It can be easy to dip in and out, read a chapter here, a chapter there, but that also makes it easier to loose your thread, and interest, in the story.
5. Say hello to all the books, but also know when to say goodbye
Look, books are for fun. Dickens didn’t write his novels to make you read with the enthusiasm of a zombie. He wrote to entertain (I assume so anyway). Keep your mind open, and try lots of different types of stories, but also know when it’s time to shut a book (hints include: staring at the pages instead of reading every time you open it,; hatred for the characters/plot/author that frequently degenerates into hatred for all writing ever; crying). Not all books are for everyone. It’s okay to not like a classic book, or writer. Just don’t be put off by the word CLASSIC and not give it a go.
What’s your favourite classic book? Do you only
read classics for homework, or do you like to read them
for fun too?