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Friday, 5 October 2012

The Classics Club October Meme: Why I Read the Classics


I will admit that I've not been keeping up with The Classics Club as I should be, and will probably be doing so even less in the coming months, but then the basis of its initial appeal was its unpressurized nature, and I am currently reading The Grapes of Wrath which is on my list, so. Anyway, the October meme question is Why are you reading the Classics? which is a really difficult one to answer. 

I guess part of why I'm reading the classics is inbuilt snobbery. Having been raised throughout my school life to see the classics as the really worthwhile books; the ones that would teach you things about the world and about people, part of me kind of feels like reading them will make me a better person. Because they have stood the test of time for so many years and are so often such great historical, political, and social portraits as well as just entertaining literature. I guess that if I thought about it, which I haven't really, I would define the classics as books which are representative of a certain period of history; which teach me something about a place that I've never experienced or a time that I've never been. I read them to learn, I guess. When I read classics I often find myself doing background research, which I don't really do when I'm reading otherwise, and I often find that one classic will lead me to another and so on. I forget that the classics take concentration. 

At the moment I'm having one of those jumpy phases where I've started to read about five books and not finished any of them and it's making me feel uncomfortable, but when I started Steinbeck, I had to put all the other books to one side and just concentrate on Steinbeck and it is so worth it. If I read the classics that way, they are immersive and I love that about them. They are transportive (is that a word?) and totally escapist. I also love that there are so many books which could count as classics. I am a totally obsessive list lover, and I adore that there are so many different potential lists associated with this project. I love that if I wanted to I could read purely classics from the ancient world, or only 20th century classics, or only classics by women. I have to constantly restrain myself, or else my already ridiculously ambitious list will get totally out of hand. I love that there's that much potential with the classics. 

So there we go; to learn, to escape, and to make lists. :-) 

10 comments:

  1. :) I love that Steinbeck made you put all other books aside! I'm also having an ADHD book issue at the moment, so hopefully Grapes will have that effect on me too! *focuses brain*

    Inbuilt snobbery too? A bit, yeah. But ALSO I normally find that classics are just the best, and even if they're kiiind of hard to read, at the end of them I'm just like 'that was the BEST EVER!' :)

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    1. Yep I get that. When I finish them I usually feel like I've actually used my time in a productive way you know? Like, I enjoy girlie fluff books as much as the next person, but I usually finish them and feel like I just ate an ENTIRE CAKE ALL BY MYSELF. Whereas classics make me feel like I'm using my brain, which I like.

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    2. Love the cake analogy - it's so true! :D

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  2. I am also building a list for my daughter. She is eight. We educate at home. So we try to pick worthwhile books.

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  3. You're right about the inbuilt snobbery but there's more than that too. A lot of more modern books don't stick in my mind at all, no matter how slowly I read them, but I can remember every single classic I have read clearly. There is something about them.

    Steinbeck is on my list too, I'm going to try Grapes of Wrath soon.

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    1. Yes you're right, I also remember the classics much more than a lot of modern books even if I hated them! You should definitely try it, I'm loving it so far despite it being a little depressing.

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  4. I think for me there's also the idea that I've missed something incredible if I don't read the classics. Admittedly I've not loved every classic I've ever read, but I've usually gained SOMETHING from them. Some knowledge of the period I didn't have before (like you, I tend to do background research as I'm reading), or an insight into the society of the time, perhaps.

    To be honest, I'm not sure why I don't devote more time to the classics. I probably read them more when I was a teenager than I do now, and I have enough of them sitting unread (but highly anticipated) on my shelves! I find I tend to read them more in the autumn and winter, because I can get stuck in at the shop as well as at home. Profits may be way down, but my reading rockets when the town succumbs to the winter quiet!

    I also still get that feeling that if it's a classic it's going to be difficult, despite all (okay, most) evidence suggesting otherwise. So I end up picking up something quicker/easier instead, even though I know full well that most of my favourite books are classics.

    On the plus side, I'm reading 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' right now and very much enjoying it, so clearly I'm getting my autumn off to a good start! :D

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    1. The classics club and the Classics Circuit before it are kind of what made me pick up the classics again. I read loads at uni and then pretty much none since then until nowish. I also have the 'if it's a classic it will be really difficult' apprehension, but I need to break myself of that. Yes, they do mostly require more concentration than reading contemporary novels but they're almost always worth it!

      I have Journey to the Centre of the Earth on my shelf, I must get to it at some point!

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  5. Making lists for the classics I wanted to read was a fun challenge in itself! Hopefully the process helps you to focus whenever you drop off into one of those start-five-and-finish-none phases. I get into that rut sometimes, too.

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  6. I love the way classics bring me to another century, reading classics is a never ending journey :)
    By the way, I plan to read The Grapes of Wrath next month, hope to get the same enjoyment.

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