It’s time to move past your high school English class.
If the last time that you read a classic novel left you scarred from trying to pull symbolism from the pages of an almost unreadable book, then it’s understandable that you might think you don’t enjoy classics. A classic book isn’t necessarily just a novel that was written a long time ago or a novel that is impossible to comprehend. Instead, a classic is a book that readers continue to decide is worth reading throughout the years.
Yes, those books do tend to be older because there is no way of knowing that a book will remain important when society changes until time has passed.
Classic books do sometimes have language that doesn’t exactly mirror the language we use today, and the pacing doesn’t always line up with what we expect in a world where media has to catch your attention in 5 seconds before you swipe over to something else. This can make reading those books a challenge.
If you don’t read a lot of classics but want to read more, it can be daunting to know where to start. Here are 5 classics that are relatively easy to read and that deal with issues that still resonate for readers today.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Thanks to movie adaptations, there’s almost no way that you haven’t heard of this novel before. Jane Austen is a beloved author for many reasons, one of which is her ability to write prose that is delightfully sharp and witty. Even from the first line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” you can tell that you are in for a romance that is the furthest thing from sappy. Austen effortlessly brings nuance to the life of a specific class of people in Regency-era England.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
If you have never actually read Frankenstein before, then reading this book is going to be a shock. For some reason, Frankenstein is associated with Halloween, gore, and monsters, and while it is technically about a monster, that’s not really the point. The book deals with the understanding that a person’s decisions and choices have consequences that affect both themselves and others. Added to all of this is the fact that this classic novel was written by a teenage girl. Her perspective and voice give this novel a very different feel from most other books that are regarded as classics.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
First of all, don’t read this novel at night. The problem isn’t that the story is creepy, although it is a little bit creepy, the real problem is that once you get into the story, the events start to seem possible. No reader today is surprised to learn that Dracula is a vampire, but the rest of the characters have such “modern” thoughts that it never occurs to them until one character makes the discovery. To add to the tension, the story is told through a series of letters and other written forms of communication. This choice keeps you constantly wanting to read just one more section to find out what happens next, and before you know it, you’ve finished the entire book.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I spent years not reading Agatha Christie. I just assumed that her books would feel too outdated to read today (even though she is one of the best-selling authors of all time). It turns out that I was incorrect. Her novels remain some of the best mystery novels and are perfect for anyone who loves today’s mystery and thriller books. Many critics claim that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is Christie’s best work. Not having read all of them myself, I cannot confirm that statement, but I can confirm that once you begin reading, you won’t be able to put this book down.
1984 by George Orwell
For readers who still aren’t over the Hunger Games, take a look at this classic dystopian novel. Even 70 years after being published, some of the issues brought up in the novel are still around today. Right now might not be the best time to read about a society falling apart, but if you decide that you want to read it, you’ll begin seeing references to this classic novel featured in so many places, including reality tv.
Pick one novel to start your journey into classic literature. You don’t have to become a person who only reads classic books (because that would mean missing out on all of the good books that are being written now), but once you start wading back into the pool of classic novels, you’ll find more and more that you want to read. Only this time you don’t have to write a 5-page essay at the end.