I haven’t done a discussion post in ages, which is why I made it a goal for myself to post more discussions in 2018. As soon as I started thinking about a discussion post, I knew I wanted to talk about reading classics, as my thoughts on reading classics has really changed over the past year or so. Pretty much everyone has to read a classic book in their lifetime, whether it’s for school or just on their own. I’ve read quite a few classics in my life – most of them have been for school. In the past two or three years, I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to read more classics. In 2017, I made a list of 12 classics that I absolutely had to read that year.
This year, I decided not to make a full list of classics for two reasons. One, I didn’t have enough classics on my physical TBR to make a full list. Two, I really wanted to stop succumbing to the societal pressure that was telling me I must read a book simply because it is a classic. I hate the idea that I can’t be a “real” reader or an “intelligent/intellectual” person because I read mostly YA and not adult “classics” or “literature”. There is not a hierarchy of books that determine your worth in society, and books are not inherently less valuable because they aren’t classics. This is not to say that I don’t like or value classics. Some of my all time favorite books are classics. So this leaves the question – what makes a classic worth reading, and how do I choose which ones to read?
As I said before, most of the classics I have read have been for school. Classics I’ve read for school are pretty hit or miss for me, and it also really depends not just on the quality of the book, but also on my teacher, how they approach the book, and the quality of the discussions that I have in class about the book. Some of my favorite classics that I’ve read for school include: The Great Gatsby, which I will never get tired of analyzing and pondering, and all of the Shakespeare plays that I’ve read (especially Macbeth). Some of the classics that I’ve really hated when I read them for school include: Crime and Punishment, The Sound and the Fury, The Stranger, and The Catcher in the Rye.
As far as classics that I read outside of school, I’ve started choosing classics I want to read mostly based on recommendations from friends and family. I’ve already read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens at the recommendation of a friend, and I have several books on my physical TBR for this year that have been recommended to me by friends or family. These books include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
I’ve also discovered some of my favorite classics on my own. Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, and a Mary Shelley are all authors whom I discovered on my own, and whose books I absolutely adored. I especially love Pride and Prejudice which I’ve read and reread several times since I read it back in elementary school. One of the reasons I like Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein so much is because of how often I see it in other stories (like the TV show Penny Dreadful which I absolutely adore). It was so nice to return to the source material and really appreciate where so many shows and movies have taken their inspiration.
This system of choosing classics based mainly off of recommendations really works for me, because I’m reading books not because they are classics, but because they sound interesting and I want to read them. Reading is a lot more enjoyable when I’m not pressuring myself to read books that I’m not actually going to enjoy.
What are some of your favorite classics? What books did you have to read for school? What makes you want to read a classic? Tell me in the comments!