I’m a mom. Which means I stay busy. Which also means I don’t get to read a lot. Or if I do, getting through a book can take me a very long time. For one, I am notorious for keeping about four books going at any one time, which is great if you like variety in your reading, but lousy if you want to get through books quickly! But even if I’m only reading one book, I’m still not a fast reader.
Oh, but summertime is here!
Summer offers me a little break from my routine of homeschooling and usually affords me a little more time for reading. I have a stack of books on my To-Be-Read list, and I’m not sure where to begin, but among the mix will be at least one classic book.
So if you’re a reader, and even if you’re not, have you ever considered reading a classic book? This summer may be the perfect time! No question there are some good modern titles out there, but, generally speaking, few books can compare to the classics.
Now obviously I can’t recommend every book that is considered a classic. In fact, with the exception of C. S. Lewis, I don’t really recommend any books that are considered modern classics. This usually refers to “classics” of the 20th century, and though I have read several of them and even taken some good things away from some of them, I WON’T read many others and certainly wouldn’t suggest that you do! And even the good ones I have read don’t compare in my mind to the older classics.
So why should you try reading a classic this summer? Here are 5 reasons I think you should:
The language is beautiful. Richly, profoundly beautiful.
Languages evolve over time: That’s a natural, normal occurrence.
But there’s no question that language as an art form is being lost to our culture. In a world that’s so crass and clumsy in it’s use of language, it is so incredibly refreshing to open an old book and read rhythmic, eloquent writing that celebrates the English language, rather than demeans it.
Honestly, it’s something to enjoy. Like good music.
Classic books challenge the mind.
I’m not going to lie to you: Reading a classic novel can be a lot harder than reading a modern one. You’re not going to glance over it the same way you can glance over this blog post, hitting the high points and clicking away again with a pretty good gist of what’s been written.
Classic books generally demand your full focus and attention. The more difficult language and obscure cultural or historical references can slow reading significantly, but they stretch your intellect in some pretty significant and brain-healthy ways.
Reading classics will naturally increase your vocabulary.
I’ve watched this with my own children. When I expose them to good books with advanced language, they very easily and naturally begin to pick up new vocabulary words and start using them correctly! A larger vocabulary can make you a better thinker, a more effective speaker, and a much more eloquent writer.
No question: When I’m reading better books, I’m a better writer. The vocabulary words and usage I’m taking in as I read naturally translates into better thoughts and expressions on paper, (or screen, actually,) when I go to write.
A classic novel can teach you more about history than a good history book.
Classic books can offer a unique and very thorough glimpse into the people, times, and cultures of the past. Learning history doesn’t have to come in the form of a dry, dull account of the facts, but can also come through fictional people living out fictional stories.
Believe me nothing, I mean nothing, could have brought me to understand the horrors of the French Revolution better than Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. And it stirred an interest in me to read even more about an era I understood very little before I read the novel.
Every modern book, play, or movie plot is somehow, some way, based on a classic book.
Okay, I can’t really prove this one. And I’m not trying to say that people today aren’t capable of creating anything new and innovative when it comes storylines and plot twists.
But it’s still true that the overwhelming majority of things you see or read today that seem so unique and original, have probably been done before in the form of a good classic book. Those amazing ideas are rethought and reworked and reinvented into something a little less recognizable, but very much the same at heart. So why not go back to the originals?
I once heard somebody say they never read fiction books because they “prefer to learn something when they read”. I have to confess I took offense to that, especially as a person who reads more nonfiction than fiction myself!
But fiction doesn’t have to be mindless. Reading a novel doesn’t have to be a waste of valuable time. I can learn and better myself in so many ways through the reading of a classic novel.
So do you read classics? If so, please share your favorites with me in the comments below so I can add them to my To-Be-Read list!
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