Monday, September 9, 2013

Loving Classic Lit

I believe there are different types of reading. First, we read to gain information. Whether it be textbooks, the news, or an appliance manual, we read in order to learn something. Then there is leisure reading, solely for pleasure with no goal in mind. But to some, reading classical works or anything deemed too difficult or "dense" can fall into a subcategory of boring. But I'd argue that classical works are far more interesting than many contemporary works. 

Though I am often found reading recent best-sellers and contemporary fiction, I find love reading classic, seemingly difficult texts. High school and college forced me to branch out and read books I otherwise would have ignored. Now I find, outside of an educational environment, that I don't read them as often as I once did (part of my motivation behind Anna & Me). So, recently I've been trying to read new classics and find more must reads for my ever-growing list of favorites.

One main reason I want to continue reading classic books is the recent downward slide I see in high school English curriculum. My younger brother isn't required to write a single paper in his college course, and his writing skills are a little shaky. A friend of mine who is a high school English teacher, was reprimanded for assigning her students homework. In college I discovered some of my classmates had read The Notebook in their high school classes (I love Nicholas Sparks as much as the next girl, but does his work really have a place in a classroom?) Meanwhile I read 1984, The Scarlet Letter, The Things They Carried, more Steinbeck than I care to remember, and plenty of Shakespeare and Dickens - all works and genres I assumed were part of every high school. The funny part is, seven years after high school and three years post college I can't even begin to consider myself to be well-read. There are so many books, so many genres, so many authors, I can't even imagine how one could get through them all.

I love to read contemporary fiction, chick-lit, the occasional horror novel, fantasy, young-adult fiction (Jessica Darling, what-what?!), cookbooks, historical fiction, memoir, self-help, trashy romance novels - basically I will try anything once. There is just a part of me that misses being required to read older texts. I believe there is so much to learn from older books, about society and culture and humanity, that is seems a shame to discount those works because they have a reputation for difficult. When I began reading Anna Karenina I was admittedly intimidated. Not only is Tolstoy's novel heralded as a masterpiece in literary achievement, but Russian is not exactly my native language (obviously I am reading the English translation). But, you know what? It's not difficult. The language in AK is no more difficult to comprehend than Austen's novels. This realization just reaffirms my beliefs - if we learn to disassociate certain texts with "learning" and "school" and "grades," they can become something great. 

All this to say: if you haven't read classic literature since high school, make a change now. There is so much to be learned from their pages. And if, in the end, you still don't like classic lit, you haven't lost anything - classic books are practically free these days.

p.s. Is anyone else excited about the new Paperwhite? I haven't even had my Kindle for a year and I am already chomping at the bit like an iPhone addict for the new upgrade.

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