Here are my October reads (with Villette, a paced book club piece, still in progress).
In glancing through this bundle, many of these selections are considered to be (or to involve) ‘literary classics.’ This begs two questions.
1. What defines ‘classic literature’?
Collins dictionary offers this simple definition:
“Classic literature is of very high quality and has become a standard against which similar writing is judged.”
Summarizing some of the longer, more complicated explanations, I would add:
“Classic works have withstood the test of time. They have ignited or influenced literary trends, styles and movements.”
2. Why should we dust off our old classics and read (or re-read) them?
With the above definition in mind, here are my top ten reasons for loving, reading and recommending classics. Classic literature:
1. Helps us to slow down. (Most of us could use a good dose of this in our fast-paced world.)
2. Is timeless, has universal appeal and is relevant to multiple generations.
3. Transports us to faraway places and long-ago times. It intimately reveals harsh contrasts and striking similarities to our current, everyday lives.
4. Engages us with the thoughts of some of the best thinkers and extraordinary minds.
5. Helps us to ponder life’s big questions.
6. Reinforces that no single piece of writing stands in isolation. All writing is part of a much larger literacy legacy.
7. Provides aha moments. It helps us make connections to history, philosophy and social movements (to highlight just a few areas). The classics help us to uncover profound influences upon other books that we’ve read.
8. Nourishes our brains. According to researchers, close reading of quality literature serves as cognitive training shaping how we read and pay attention while encouraging us to use new brain regions (This is Your Brain on Jane Austin).
9. Reminds us of the joy of being read to out loud. Classic Literature translates very well to audiotape (at least IMHO). Thus we reap the pleasure and benefits of active listening, information processing, creativity and critical thinking.
10. Most classics are much less challenging to read than your HS English teacher made them seem. The pleasure gained by reading classics likely goes far beyond what your teenage self remembers. (No offence meant to any individual HS English teachers. I was one myself!)
If you would like to supplement your reading list with more classic literature, here is an excellent place to start: 100 Books You Need to Read.
In case you thought I forgot, here are my quick reviews of this month’s reads. Just click on the titles below.
In Search of April Raintree
Flashes of Life (by writer and fellow blogger, Pam Wright. HIGHLY recommended!)
Our Souls at Night
The Call of the Wild
Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart
Villette – Our book club has just finished reading Chapter XXX. This novel began very slowly for me. It took me quite a while to catch on to the narrator’s cagey style. I am now finding the story to be completely addictive. The autobiographical details sewn into Villette are fascinating. Reading Claire Harman’s book alongside this one opened brand new doors for me. Mind blown!
What’s your favourite classic novel? What’s been on your bookshelf recently?