Getting Into Classic Literature
I read my first non-school classic lit book when I was eighteen. My friend was obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and I figured I should just go for it and give it a read. I’ve always been a voracious reader so I didn’t have a huge struggle, but it definitely took a bit of time to get used to the language.
I’ve grown to love classic literature. Not only do you feel smart reading it, but you’ll pick up on modern references like you wouldn’t believe. Clueless is an adaptation of Emma. There are more Sherlock Holme’s allusions than I could ever know. Once you start reading classic lit you’ll find weird mentions and things that completely went over your head.
I don’t recommend jumping right in with some Austen or Dickens. Most books written for adults are going to take some serious mental gymnastics if you’re not familiar with the time period. Language is a living, evolving thing and we’ve changed our speech so much over the years. I think the best way to transition into classic lit is to read stories that were written for children. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of my favourite books of all time. The Secret Garden and A Little Princess– both by Frances Hodgson Burnett are amazing. The entire Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis will keep you busy for a while. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll will blow your I’ve-only-seen-the-disney-version mind.
All of these are amazing, well written, and often referenced stories that will get you used to the style and language of the past. Once you can wrap your head around it then pick up the Dickens, Bronte, or Tolstoy with confidence.
Also, one last note. Pick up a copy of Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charle’s Dickens Knew. It deciphers Victorian culture in an approachable way. I also learned that the card game I learned while travelling and was calling strip jack is actually very old and called beggar thy neighbour. Who knew?