This time of year always has me thinking about snowfalls, crackling fires, decorated trees, and a cozy blanket to curl up in and read a good book. If the hectic holiday season is wearing you out, a classic novel might be just what you need to slow down and relax. Classic literature is often referred to as “Great Books” but why is that? The reason stems from a type of literature that stands the test of time due to classic themes, quality writing and deemed to have great scholarly value. Even though many of these novels were written well over 100 years ago they still have relevance for our modern society. These classics are found by academics to improve language and writing skills as well as critical thinking. Even though some views expressed in the classics may be quite dated or even shocking, it’s also a testament to how society has progressed over the years.
Most classic novels were written before television, many before radio and certainly before the internet. Authors had to use descriptive and precise language in order for the reader to have an accurate understanding of the characters and settings in their stories. Their language is often beautiful, imaginative and thought provoking, every word counts in what the author is trying to convey. Their writing style is also challenging to read so it taxes our brains a bit more causing us to slow down and read more carefully so we can fully understand the author’s meaning. Since classic novels were written quite some time ago, these books also give us a fantastic glimpse into history. You’ll see snapshots of England during the Victorian era in Dickens novels or exotic Imperial Russia in Tolstoy. Gothic and Victorian themes are seen throughout the Bronte sisters works, the “Jazz Age” is featured in The Great Gatsby and the “Lost Generation” is prominent in Hemingway.
While we all recognize the names of classic authors like Austen, Steinbeck and Tolkien, have we taken the time to read their works? Maybe you read them in high school and didn’t enjoy them but have you thought about re-reading these classics now that you are older and bring a different perspective to the work? What about reading more modern classics like Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Morrison’s Beloved, Salinger’s gritty The Catcher in the Rye or Orwell’s 1984. These books all have so much to offer us. They help us build an understanding of a complex world and create empathy towards one another which hopefully leads to a more patient and kinder society.
One of my favorite classic authors is Charles Dickens and this year marks the 150th anniversary of his death. Mr. Dicken’s career spanned close to 40 years with at least 19 novels credited to him which include his critically acclaimed works of A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and, of course, A Christmas Carol. So this year as you sit in front of the fire, consider reading A Christmas Carol instead of watching it on television and just see if it doesn’t spark your imagination and get you hooked on the classics.
Check out this website for a classic novel reading list to get you started-
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