The idea of sitting down with a classic book can seem overwhelming if you’re not used to reading classics. But the intimidation factor doesn’t need to be that high. Some books that have become classics might not be the most easy to access, but others are simply good books that have been out for a while. When you think of it like that, they don’t seem quite as scary. Personally I like reading classics, but that’s because I’ve been reading them for a long time, and they no longer feel scary on principle. Changing how you look at the books makes them far easier to read and enjoy. So here’s a list of classics to read if you think you either don’t like classics, or are put off by what they’re called.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Probably one of the more well known classics at the moment thanks to the TV series and sequal that have happened recently, this is a beauty of a book from the ever relevant Margaret Atwood. All of her books are as highly relevant today as they were when written, but The Handmaid’s Tale has that something special about it. Looking at an extreme patriarchal regime where women are reduced down to simply being breeding machines, the book is hard hitting, intense, but also simply incredible in the way it is written. It is perhaps one of the more approachable classics because of the strength of the story alongside importance of the message. Go on, give it a try!
One Day In the Life Of Ivan Denisovich
Some people are put off by the use of Russian names in classic literature, which I can completely understand at first sight. However, this short book is a great way to challenge yourself to something new without committing to a long novel. To be pushed out of your comfort zone without overwhelming yourself, sometimes the brief novels out there are a good way to start. Looking at a day of political victim of 1960s Soviet Union, this insight into a period of history not that long ago gives us so many things to take away, learn about, and be impacted by. It is far more accessible than the name might make you feel, so don’t be nervous.
One of Jane Austen’s underrated works in my opinion, Emma is genuinely hilarious. Once you adapt to the language use, it becomes a journey through the lives of people who you come to know so well you could almost summon them up beside you. People can be stressed out by the idea of reading Austen because the time period seems so far away, but it really isn’t. The language might seem a bit backwards if you haven’t encountered it before, but Austen uses the language to back up her witty tales so well. If Pride and Prejudice didn’t work for you, give Emma a try.
A Christmas Carol
Even minus The Muppets, this story is a tradition of mine. As are The Muppets, but that’s another story. I try to read it every Christmas Eve, as it’s one of the things that makes me feel the most festive; mulled cider, fluffy blankets, A Christmas Carol. But even when it isn’t cold outside, this famous tale is another short and wonderful novel that is easy to get into after a few pages. Similar to Austen, Dickens can seem more scary than it actually is, and a short adjustment period leads to reading a tradition tale of self improvement and awareness. Don’t “humbug!” Dickens until you’ve tried to get into him using this as a pathway.
George Orwell can seem a bit overwhelming when faced with some of the topics he addresses in his works, but when you add in a lot of talking animals, suddenly it is that bit easier to process, in my opinion. Orwell isn’t my favourite author, and there are some of his famous works I really can’t get into myself, but Animal Farm is a great starting point for classics in general, even if you’re not planning on reading any more Orwell. If you’re not the type to jump in head first to something, then starting with Animal Farm could really work for you.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Maybe a bit more intense than some of these, but also worth the effort. D. H. Lawrence’s works were on the banned book list – or at least the ‘severely edited to the point it no longer resembles the book’ list – for some time owing to both his use of sex in his works, and also his use of powerful women, who showed opinions and sexual desire. There was outrage when Lady Chatterley came out showing a woman having sex with a man that wasn’t her husband, and it took a long time before the original version of the story was allowed to be published. Now, I’m not saying you should read it just because it was banned… But you should read it. Brilliantly written with a story woven perfectly, this is an ideal book to get lost in whilst you’re testing your classics tastes.
So there you are. Just a few places to start. There are hundreds of books that are counted as classics, and a lot of them can be found for free on Kindle, too, so don’t be nervous to test out what you do and don’t like. Some authors will feel more natural to you than others, the same as those that aren’t counted as classics, and that’s okay! You don’t have to like every classic out there, but also remember every single book is different.
I really hope this list has been helpful and might help give you the confidence boost you needed to know that you absolutely can cope with classic books. They’re not scary, and you will have a great time experimenting, if nothing else! Let me know in the comments or contact how you get on.