Reading the Classics

A year of classic books

by Brave Writer summer intern Amy Hughes

I’ve always been a goal and projects kind of gal, so it was hardly surprising that the year I turned fifteen I decided to read my way through the classics. After taking some Boomerang classes the year before, I decided that I would ‘educate’ myself through reading through as many classical books as I could, and keeping a list of the titles. Some books I read for homeschooling, and others I dipped into myself.

It was a great experience, and I read a lot. I read my way through nearly the entire works of Jane Austen, after discovering I was a Jane Austen fan, and educated myself on as many movie adaptions as I could lay my hands on. I read newer classics: The Great Gatsby, Murder on the Orient Express, but also older books such as the Aeneid and the Odyssey.

I discovered heroines that I admired – Jane from Jane Eyre, Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice, and heroes that I fell in love with – Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I read through books I loved, and I made myself read books I truly hated. Yet this was very valuable. Often, if I read on my own, I edit the books I read. I find myself selecting the books that I love, and not finishing the books I didn’t enjoy as much.

However, this is not very helpful. There is achievement and learning in finishing a book that I didn’t enjoy (cough, cough, the Aeneid, cough, cough). There is knowledge that I’ve learned something new and stretched my brainpower. Even in the books I really didn’t enjoy, I had motivation to finish because I was reading them for my list. I couldn’t add a half-finished book to my list: did I really want to get half-way through the book and have all my time reading it wasted?

While shameless egotism in being able to boast about my list isn’t a great motive, my year of reading classics was still valuable in broadening my mind and my reading scope. I’m really glad I spent a year reading the books I loved and the books I loathed. It opened my eyes to beyond what I’d normally read, and led me to new experiences. Some were not so good, but some were fantastic. And for those fantastic experiences alone, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a year of reading the classics to anybody.

Image by Leyram Odacrem (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

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