I came across an interesting article in The Guardian recently, which notes that “only 4% of Brits have read War and Peace, although 14% wish they had; 3% have read Les Misérables, although 10% want to; and 7% have read Moby-Dick, with 8% aiming to.” The list of books on Britain’s 19th Century fiction wishlist is filled with books considered classics: War and Peace, Great Expectations, Bleak House, etc.
“The list has, it’d be fair to say, irritated a few authors – including our own Stephen King expert James Smythe, who took issue with YouGov’s description of its lineup as books people would read if they had ‘the patience’. ‘Saying that patience is needed to read those books both demeans the books, and suggests that you’re not mentally able to read them … Here’s a novel thought: stop acting like a book is a mountain. Start acting like they’re a thing people read for fun, in their free time,’ wrote Smythe on Twitter.”
I have met readers who absolutely love classic books. They swoon over Austen. They wax on about the merits of Tolstoy, and can rattle off quotes from Twain. However, I have met an equal number of people who shy away from the classics. Whether it’s because they had an excruciating experience with one in school (which happens to a number of people, it seems), or they have a perception that “classics” = “boring,” they just don’t try these books. I, myself, have read some, but haven’t returned to them since. Would I enjoy A Tale of Two Cities now that I’m not in high school? Hard to say. However, this February, our Goodreads discussion group will be chatting about Jane Austen (any Austen, including spin-offs). So, what better time to rise to the challenge of a classic than now?
Any thoughts of your own on reading, or revisiting, classic books?