Tips for Reading Classic Books

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by: Madison Beckman

Classic books are classics for a reason. They tell timeless stories that have helped shape our culture, for better or for worse.  Deep down, we would all like to be able to say, yes, in fact, I did read (insert name of a classic book here,) but that is easier said than done.

 

It’s difficult to sit down and read a book that was written so long ago because it seems like it’s in a completely different language.  This is especially difficult if you are just trying to read for enjoyment.

For those of you who want to stop hating to read, or even for those of you who love to read but just want to make it more enjoyable, here are some tips for reading classic books.

  1. Do some background research: Some classics are centuries old. Take some time and look up historical context, especially about the author and the time period. The more background that you have, the better you will understand what is going on.
  2. Listen along: There are plenty of versions of audio books that you can listen to. You can buy them, get them through your local library or find them on YouTube or a podcast. Listening along takes a lot of the work out of reading. Instead of sitting down and struggling over the meaning of the words, you can listen to the words and try to figure out the overall meaning.
  3. Take your time: Don’t expect to read and immediately understand the whole book all at once. Take your time and enjoy the adventures you will go on.
  4. When in doubt, look it up. SparkNotes is your friend. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to look it up. Our high school teachers drilled it into our head that we couldn’t rely on online summaries as a replacement for reading. But, there is no reason that you can’t use them to supplement your reading.
  5. Watch the movie: The book will always be better than the movie, but there’s no harm in rewarding yourself for finishing the book by watching the movie version. You can compare it to the version that you saw in your head, and you can understand what is being told even more.