Reasons to Love the Classics

Book 8

Photo CC- by Brenda Clarke

“We use the word “classics” for those books that are treasured by those who have read and loved them; but they are treasured no less by those who have the luck to read them for the first time in the best conditions to enjoy them.”

-Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics?

I decided to plan my independent reading project around classic literature.  I looked at many different types of reading plans, but decided to come back to the classics.  Here’s why…

Reason #1: I just like classic literature.

No matter how many times I reread a book, I get more out of it.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer makes me laugh – out loud – each time I read it.

I have read Pride and Prejudice a dozen times and still love it.  Jane Austin uses words like vexation, felicity, ardently, and nonsensical.  Nobody speaks like that anymore, maybe they never did, but I love it anyway.

Dracula gives me tingles down my spine.  (This is the only vampire book I have ever read.  As a former Utah housewife, it gives me great pride to admit that I stood firm in the face of Stefanie Meyer mania.)

Each time I read classical literature, be it the first time or the fifteenth, I always learn something new about the world or myself.

Reason #2: Reading classic literature makes you smarter.

Thinking About Political Psychology

Photo CC- by Truthout.org

It has been studied at Liverpool University, and research has shown that reading the classics causes the brain to function differently than when reading modern literature.  The result is learning takes place each time one reads classical literature.  In the classics, one is being introduced to new vocabulary, causing the reader to learn new words and make associations between familiar and unfamiliar words.   Also, the sentence structure used in older literature is different and it takes more work to decode the meaning.  Reading classic literature also leads to greater self-reflection.

For the study, brain scans were taken while people read classical literature and modern translations of the same content.  More electrical activity took place in the brain when the classical literature was presented, particularly in regions of the brain associated with memory.  Also, the electrical activity lasted longer when reading classical literature as opposed to modern literature.  In regard to vocabulary and brain activity, when reading an unfamiliar word in classical and modern literature, the left part of the brain associated with language lit up, but in the classical literature, in addition to language, the right side’s emotion and autobiographical memory portions lit up as well.  All the information showed that if you read classical literature, you use more of your brain to do so.

For a brainer version about this, read the article, “Shakespeare and Wordsworth boost the brain, new research reveals” from The Telegraph.

Classic reading so far

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights

Photo C- by Beth Dunn

I love Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  This is a story about redemption and second chances.  At first it is a little depressing, but the trials the characters go through are made beautiful in the end.  Everyone is happy, and that’s how I like endings.

Since I enjoyed Jane Eyre, I chose to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, the sister of Charlotte Brontë.  I thought it would be more of the same.  I was wrong as the depressing part never ended, but the book did.  This is a story about love, jealousy, hatred, and revenge.  Maybe I just did not have the right attitude while reading it.  Maybe I did not understand the story.

If anyone has read Wuthering Heights and liked it, please tell me why and change my mind.

Coming up next week

I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.  Most people read this in high school, and it tops most lists of best classic books.  I will share my thoughts about this book next Sunday. I know, you’re all on pins and needles as you have to wait a whole week to read my thoughts about this book!  I hope I like this one.

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Photo CC- by Bear

If you have any suggestions for classics, please leave me a comment.  I am always on the lookout for a good read!
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10 thoughts on “Reasons to Love the Classics

  1. You have picked quite the independent learning project! Reading is so very relaxing and peaceful, and I also love sitting down to a good book! I’m glad that you took your post this week through the classics, because to be honest, before you post I had never given them much consideration. I have always been into books that are either real life (A Child Called ‘It”) or pretty much anything written by Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks! They are wonderful, and I get caught up in their pages whenever I get the chance(: You have really opened my eyes on some of the classics, and I can feel a better appreciation for them now. They always felt like a drag in high school, but I wouldn’t be opposed to giving them another shot now. I do have one book suggestion for you that I actually did enjoy in high school, and that was “My Ántonia” by Willa Cather. Maybe it’s because of her roots or it was just one that I found some connection with, but it was a good classic in my eyes. I wish you the best in this next week and hope you are able to sink into “To Kill a Mockingbird”!

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    • Thanks, Shelby. I did not like the classics at all in high school. I saw “Animal Farm” on the list and my first thought was, I will never read it again! I was into completely different books then, and classics had to grow on me after I grew up a little. I will have to look at the Cather book, I have never heard of the book or the author… I love discovering new authors!

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      • You are very welcome Sarah! I wasn’t too big on reading any books that were required in high school, but for some reason hers seemed to stick with me. She has several good books that give a person a new perspective, if you ask me. He is a Nebraska author that lived in Red Cloud. There is also a fantastic historical museum and her house in Red Cloud for tours and information that I’m sure you would find fascinating, if not for her books, but just the ‘antique’ and history behind it!

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  2. Dr. Ellington knows, I have always been a stark enemy to the classics in literature. That being said, your post does them great justice. When I see someone with such an enthusiasm for classics, it reminds me that they do have merit, they do have a reason for being so widely praised, and I don’t know everything about everything (it’s good to stay humble. lol.)

    Have you already given Steinbeck a swing? When it comes to canonical “classics,” he’s one of my favorites. Jack London as well, but a lot of people aren’t a fan of his “kill or be killed” tales.

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    • I have read “East of Eden” by Steinbeck. I think that book has the strongest villain of all time in Cathy Ames. She is evil. I have been thinking of reading “The Grapes of Wrath” and I should try some Jack London. I like new novels too, and can get lost in Grisham or Clancy, but the classics are my favorite. Thanks for adding to my list of classics!

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  3. I am a fan of the classics. Mark Twain defined a classic as “a book which people praise but don’t read”. And he’s kind of right. Many people will say they love “Pride and Prejudice” and never actually read the novel. As for Jane Austen, I actually enjoy “Persuasion”. I have read “Wuthering Heights” and, no, I don’t like it; I appreciate it for what it is, but I don’t like the characters, even though they work well with a research project I’ve been conducting this year (Anti-heroes find their parentage in Milton’s Satan). The story is fine, but the characters are so unlikable. I do enjoy Jane Eyre, and have loved it since I was thirteen (It’s also part of my research project). I think it’s nice that you’re reading the classics. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of my favorites. As for classics to read, I suggest “Middlemarch” by George Elliot, “Tess d’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly, and “Vanity Fair” by William Makepeace Thackeray. They’re kind of intense reads. I hope you enjoy!

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  4. This is such a great project. I love classic literature too (just not in the high school or middle school English classroom as required reading for all students!). EMMA is probably my favorite Austen novel, though they’re all good. My mom is very partial to PERSUASION and MANSFIELD PARK. She rereads all of Austen every year except for SENSE & SENSIBILITY which she doesn’t much like. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is very good–I think you will like it. MIDDLEMARCH is a great choice if you like big fat Victorian novels. What about GREAT EXPECTATIONS?

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  5. I read Austin often, and I agree with your mom and I usually skip “Sense and Sensibility.” I read “Great Expectations” last summer and I would like to reread it to get more out of it. I have never heard of “Middlemarch” so I will add it to my list. Thank you!

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