Don’t be Afraid of the Classics

I recently decided to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence and despite wanting to read it for a long time now, this decision has significantly slowed down my reading. It turns out that my motivation to read has taken a serious hit partly because I am intimidated by the prospect of reading a classic novel and partly because part of my brain still believes that the classics are boring.

Now I know that this is not the case and that the classics are fascinating pieces of literature that I am more than capable of reading but I am not a literature student who has been an avid reader of them from a much younger age. Instead, at some point I decided that the classics were difficult (probably from trying to read them too young) and as a result they would be dull to read and I still can’t seem to get past the idea that they just aren’t fun to read (despite being apparently older and wiser now).

A part of my subconscious decides to switch off any motivation to read (one of my favourite pastimes) as soon as I decide to finally take on a classic novel I’ve been meaning to read for years. My brain simply decides that the book isn’t for me and I find it incredibly difficult to bring myself to sit down and read. But I want to change this, and since I can’t be the only one who has this issue, I thought I would post about my plan to change this.

1: I will start small.

I simply want to read one of the classics before the end of the year. This gives me 6 months to finish one book and allows me to take my time over the book, rather than desperately trying to force myself to finish it.

2: I am not going to only commit myself to reading a classic novel.

This means I will be reading a classic novel alongside another book I want to read, and will therefore not decide that any time I want to read I must read a classic and that I cannot read anything else until I have finished it.

3: I will not force myself to read a classic simply because it is a classic.

I often feel like there are great works of literature out there that I should read simply because they are great works of literature, instead of stopping to consider whether they are actually books that I want to read. So I am going to stop putting pressure on myself to have read Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters, and instead focus on reading the books that I find interesting and accepting that I might just prefer contemporary fiction to a classic novel.

Therefore, going foward, if they sound like genuinely interesting and enjoyable reads then try not to be afraid of them. They are not as overwhelming or as difficult as they seem. At the end of the day the classics are just books. They are very good books, but still just books and if you wouldn’t read them if they weren’t classics then don’t worry about reading them. Afterall, I absolutely adore Little Women but The Catcher in the Rye is by far the dullest book I have ever tried to read and I will never go back and finish it.

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