Should I read the classics?

(63 Posts)
Butterflyfriend Fri 15-Jan-16 07:25:08

Hello everyone.
I have to confess, I find reading Austen, Dickens and Shakespeare etc. a chore.
I have an English degree, so I can understand the language and appreciate their merit, I just feel they are mountains to climb rather than a pleasure.
Are they really worth persevering with?

Mrsboathook Fri 15-Jan-16 07:39:47

Austin definitely- brilliant stories, wonderful dry wit. Mansfield park probably my favourite.

I'm sure someone else will say the same for dickens but I can't quite get into them. Ditto hardy.

I feel Shakespeare watches much better than reads!!

mupperoon Fri 15-Jan-16 07:41:28

Depends what you are expecting to get out of the time you're putting in and what you would prefer to be reading, I guess.

I love Dickens and Austen, and will occasionally plough laboriously through a Shakespeare play just for the achievement. After all though the latter were meant to be seen at the theatre, and the one's I've seen are the ones I enjoy reading the most.

What literature did you study during your degree?

hesterton Fri 15-Jan-16 07:42:52

I would consider reading a book or two from each particular period so you have a background for comparison with modern novels.

But then on the other hand, life is short.

Leviticus Fri 15-Jan-16 07:46:51

David Copperfield is laugh out loud hilarious in parts and definitely worth a read. I know what you mean about the effort though.

mupperoon Fri 15-Jan-16 07:48:04

Clucking bell, autocorrect, no apostrophe in ones!

YouBastardSockBalls Fri 15-Jan-16 07:49:58

Austen yes.

Dickens no.

PerspicaciaTick Fri 15-Jan-16 07:52:29

If you've got an English degree then I'd assume you've already read a selection of classics, so no, don't beat yourself up if you don't want to read more.

JapanNextYear Fri 15-Jan-16 07:52:55

I love Dickens and suggested my DH read tale of two cities as its a proper romp and short! He loved it. Hard times (also short) and has themes that seem v modern.

springscoming Fri 15-Jan-16 07:57:13

What lit did you read for your degree?
Austin yes. Dickens no. Hardy maybe.
I prefer to read Shakespeare rather than watch it for tragedies but watch rather than read comedies and histories.

LuciaInFurs Fri 15-Jan-16 07:58:45

Yes! There is so much to chose from, maybe you haven't found one that really resonates with you. I agree with a pp, pick a few from different periods. I love Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is short but a very good read. Would audio books help? Rosamund Pike has just released one of Pride and Prejudice with Audible and she is a wonderful speaker. I also very much enjoyed Hard Times and I think it's a bit easier.

I taught in a not so great school during my gap year and I found that the key to helping students love and understand Shakespeare was a great play. I would also recommend reading some of his lesser known works e.g. Titus Andronicus. TA also has the advantage of borrowing from Greek mythology (which is always fun) and it's very bloody!

timelytess Fri 15-Jan-16 08:04:09

Austen yes. Dickens no.
Sound.

However, I don't much care what you read or don't read. I feel rather put out that you should ask. I'm not sure why that is.

Butterflyfriend Fri 15-Jan-16 09:45:16

At school I read Orwell and Golding and found them so exciting I have never forgotten the experience.
At school and later for my degree I read Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, Othello, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, and Midsummers Night Dream, but were not particularly moved by them. I am not sure why, maybe the language does not 'flow' so well for me and they require such careful reading it feels like an effort rather than a pleasure.

I just wondered if I was missing something. I feel I should like them but I don't.

springscoming Fri 15-Jan-16 09:51:24

No 'should' should influence you really. Read what you enjoy but keep an open mind to your own tastes changing and maybe dip a toe into the classics once a decade to see if you enjoy them more as you get older. I've read some books totally differently with 20 years and some DCs between readings.

Butterflyfriend Fri 15-Jan-16 10:20:40

Good advice, thank you! It makes sense to come back to it, rather than dismiss it completely.

bigbadbarry Fri 15-Jan-16 10:22:53

I love Austen and hate Dickens but I adore Trollope, from the same period as Dickens but so much more fun.

cdtaylornats Fri 15-Jan-16 11:23:20

Its worth reading Macbeth - especially in the original Klingon.

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Fri 15-Jan-16 13:43:06

Austen - no

Brontes - yes
Dickens - yes
Eliot - yes
Gaskell - yes
Tolstoy - yes

Trollope - possibly
Thackeray - possibly

Hardy - definitely. My very favourite author. I read all 14 novels once a year.

However, all of the above is my own opinion, and fortunately the range of literature available is so wide that you could read none of these and still be very well-read. As someone else said, life is too short to feel you 'have' to read anything. The only thing which matters is that you read books that you enjoy and get something from. Preferably in a very comfortable chair with a hot drink close at hand. grin

StitchesInTime Fri 15-Jan-16 22:06:38

I don't think you should read a book just because you feel you have to (unless it's required for work or study, of course).

Maybe revisit them once in a while to see if tastes have changed, or try different authors / periods.

Personally, I enjoy reading Austen. Dickens is a bit hit and miss with me. I have seen and enjoyed Shakespeare acted at the theatre and on TV, but reading plays in book form is never something that I've managed to get any pleasure out of.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Fri 15-Jan-16 23:35:02

I've read most of Austen and thought it a crashing bore - stifling, tiny word with the same story over and over.

Dickens on the other hand is magnificent - huge, sweeping canvases of life from the lowest of the low to the highest. Zola and Balzac and Flaubert are the same, although Zola is terribly bleak.

Fielding's Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews are warm, funny and charming as is Tobias Smollet's Humphrey Clinker.

Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita is a work of genius.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Fri 15-Jan-16 23:37:51

Oh Trollope definitely The Barchester novels and The Pallisers.

Re Thackeray Vanity Fair is a must, Barry Lyndon no but the Kubrick film is ravishing beautiful.

elephantoverthehill Fri 15-Jan-16 23:51:12

I find it hard to understand how you have a degree in English without reading 'the Classics' unless it was an English Language degree, I read many, as 'background reading' for A'level. However my argument is not about that but about what is defined as a 'Classic'. It is now 2016. Surely anything written and good from 1940 onwards should now be considered a classic? BTW I love most Austen, Dickens and Bronte's, but like all writers and books some of it is not brilliant

Themodernuriahheep Sat 16-Jan-16 00:03:34

Read a selection of the Shakespeare sonnets, not all of them, and see the plays. Don't read them. Globe touring did a wonderful R&j, Lenny Henry in the one about two sets of twins was magnificent, globe's hamlet was both bum numbing and great.

But surely you looked at the use of language by those people even if you thought they were poor in plot or irrelevant ( although I would say that Austen addresses done if the kéy issues facing women of all ages), just as much as eg Woolf, Faulkner, Joyce, Beckett, Dickinson , Fitzgerald or whoever? And often the characterisation manages to be both precise and deep. Again I'd quote Austen but also middlemarch.

Lucked Sat 16-Jan-16 00:17:38

George Eliot is my favourite and I like most of Austens but would avoid Northhanger Abbey.

I wouldn't lump the Brontes all together - I adore Jane Eyre but find wuthering heights horrible to read.

I would love a recommendation for the best Dickens to read, I think the only one I have finished is Great Expectations and it was hard work.

Shakespeare is best on the stage or formally studied, I personal can't read a play for fun.

elephantoverthehill Sat 16-Jan-16 00:36:04

Easiest access to Dickens is ' A Christmas Carol'. 'Oliver Twist'is quite easy too. I loved 'Wuthering Heights'. I know it has its faults but the second part of the book really brings resolution.

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