Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Reading the Classics


February is halfway through and, for some reason, I think today is an appropriate day to look back on the two months I've spent as a classics book blogger. I started Your Move, Dickens in mid-December, the same time I decided to focus on the classics.

My decision to read classics came about gradually. Before, I used to read completely for entertainment, and my reading diet was composed of paperbacks with the words #1 New York Times Bestseller on the cover and YA books about vampires, fallen angels, etc. Sure, I was entertained, but I completely forgot about the plots and characters of these books after a couple of weeks. They didn't stay with me, and it slowly dawned on me that reading isn't just supposed to be entertaining. It's supposed to make you think about life and how you're living it, and make you feel like you've been to new places and met extraordinary people.

So, last December, I made a conscious decision to start reading classics. My reading speed has greatly decreased. Before, I could finish a thick paperback in a day, but that has greatly changed. It took me three days to read something as short as Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and even The Metamorphosis took me two days. I need to reread passages or even entire pages to fully understand a book, and sometimes I stop to think about the page I just read.

That's okay, though. I don't mind reading slowly, because I don't want to feel like I'm missing anything. I might not understand everything, but I want to make sure I take away, at least, something from each book, maybe a new gem about the people around me or a new perspective about life.

So far, Of Mice and Men really affected me as a person, because it blurred the lines between pity and murder. Animal Farm surprised me with its child-like simplicity, while Great Expectations made me feel sorry for a convict. These books intimidated before, because I thought they were boring. Was I wrong or what?

I'm looking forward to the coming months, and I'm really excited about the "new" classics I might discover. I've only been blogging for two months, but I've already met so many amazing bloggers, and gleamed so many insights from the comments. So, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for reading this post. See you at the salt mines.

14 comments:

Bex said...

I totally know what you mean about the reading speed thing. I've started trying to read more classics since I started blogging, and currently it's taken me two days to get halway through the man who would be king, which is 200 pages! It's definitely the increase in concentration that does it I think!

Amanda said...

I'm glad the project is working for you. I went through the same discovery of classics when I was 22 and am always so thrilled when I see someone else doing the same. :)

Zibilee said...

The project sounds like it is going very well, and even if you are reading slower, it sounds as if you are getting do much more out of what you are reading than before. I wish you tons of success with it, and am eager to see what you will be reading in the future!

Emilee said...

Your quantity of book consumption may have gone down, but the quality has definitely gone up. I've gone back to reading more classics this year myself because my goal this year is to work on my TBR shelf, which is mostly made up of classics that I've always meant to read.

Teacher/Learner said...

I'm also more intrigued by classics nowadays than all the populist fiction out now, but every once in a while it's fun to let loose. Balancing entertainment with enlightenment is my reading mantra :) I also agree that reading shorter classics takes longer than whipping through a several hundred page mystery-thriller. I recently finished Rabbit, Run by John Updike, only 264 pages, but it took me almost 8 days--definitely sluggish!

Ben said...

Books written before the age of television were written for people who had a bigger concentration capacity than us. Want it or not. They are still readable and thanks to people like you, still approachable.

Sam said...

I'm glad it's working out for you, and agree that classics do take a bit longer. I'm trying to read one a month this year at least (so far I've read Jane Eyre and Dracula) and I am enjoying it. What classics are you going to read next?

Allie said...

I love bloggers who focus on classics. :)

I know that when I started, my reading pace also slowed down. I used to read a book every day or two, but now it can sometimes take me weeks. I'm okay with that since what I am reading is MUCH better quality than some of the other things. That's not to say I won't read that stuff ever again, but I will read it in moderation.

Good luck as you keep moving forward!

Sharon said...

I have been trying to read more classics and finding that I enjoy them. I've also made an effort to read more serious fiction rather than just the "fun" books. I look forward to reading your reviews and thoughts on the classics!

Erin said...

I used to think classics were boring, too. And I'm sure some of them are! But as I've been working on my own classics project, I'm discovering most of them aren't boring at all. They do take me longer to read, but perhaps that'll change with practice!

Brenna said...

Great post. I'm happy to have found you in the blogging world.

Jillian said...

Yay!! I'm as excited as you, to be a new classics reader. You're right: the classics stay with us.

Glad to have met you, Darlyn.

I like Of Mice and Men, too. Disturbing and sad...)

Avid Reader said...

I'm thrilled you're becoming a classics addict and tha tI found your blog! It's so easy to forget that classics have stood the test of time for a reason, they aren't just stuffy books we read in school. I'm constantly surprised by the beautiful writing and powerful stories I find in 200 year old novels. Happy reading!

Emma said...

I had a similar sort of revelation...mine happened when I joined goodreads.com and realized that the 'classics' I did read, I'd read only excerpts from in elementary or middle school, or otherwise didn't have a mature enough viewpoint of the world to understand. This is also why I decided to start blogging. Not only to share what I thought of books I read, but to remember for myself. I was a new blogger (this was December two years ago), and just last week decided I needed a make-over and a more consistent approach.

I love you blog, I'll be coming back to read some more :-)

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