Beginner’s Hack to Reading Classic Literature

One of the most common misconceptions of being a lover of books and reading is that you must love the classics. Sure, when you really start getting into reading, you may find yourself reaching for Austen, Dickens, or similar, but that doesn’t mean you are required to read any of these books to be a fellow bookworm. 

*Screeches to a halt.* Let’s take a moment to define what makes a book a classic, shall we? Honestly, I did some searching and found a ton of articles, websites, and blogs with varying degrees of answers. The gist of it all seems to be that there are no clear cut answers besides, maybe, suggesting that the theme remains of interest to generations of readers. Do with this information what you will. I tried, dear reader. 

Back to what I was saying — if you are someone who is just getting into reading or has been an avid reader for years and are finding yourself interested in dabbling in the classics, don’t be intimidated. Often, when I talk to fellow readers and ask if they have read this or that, they hesitate. 

Hey, no judgement here! I am just looking for another person to talk to about books. 

So, if you are someone who is intimidated by the classics, I’ll share my simple hack to help you get into it all! 

Watch. The. Movie. 

(Crouches down to dodge the spoiled tomatoes being flung from a disappointed crowd.)

I know, I know. Suggesting that you should watch the movie before reading the book is blasphemous to many book lovers. But, I promise, there is a method to my madness. 

One of the benefits of reading a classic is that they are old. Some are really, really old. That being said, the odds of there being a movie adaptation is highly likely. Your homework, then, is to find this movie (in any way you know how), grab a few of your favourite snacks, and settle in to your favourite part of the couch or bed. 

Now, I wouldn’t suggest this if I didn’t try it first hand. When I was in grade six, I started to really get into reading after receiving Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s me, Margaret. Before this, my interest in reading was nonexistent, but I soon found myself going through books faster than my parents could get them for me. That’s when I started grabbing books I found around the house. 

I wouldn’t call my mom an avid reader, but she does enjoy a good book every now and then. I can’t say that Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of her favourites, but I can tell you that she loves A&E’s 1995 limited series adaptation (Colin Firth is everyone’s reason). Before I ever opened what would become my first introduction to Austen, I had watched this version of Pride and Prejudice, not once, not twice, but countless times. It also helps that I am a sucker for period pieces in general.

Everyone’s favourite scene *heart eyes*

The benefits of watching the movie first is that, when it comes to classics, the writing isn’t exactly what we are used to. The references to, well, everything isn’t something that will be easily recognizable to us today. If you read through your first book without doing one Google search, I bow down to you. 

Being in a different time period is different, period. (See what I did there?)

Another aspect that you may not be used to is the endless number of characters. Sure, there are modern books that have a long list of characters, like Game of Thrones, but these darn books don’t use first names. It’s Mrs. This and Mr. That and Miss. Whoever You Are. It gets incredibly confusing very quickly and you are still on page one! By watching the movie, you are at least able to put faces to all these people – people who don’t often get a full physical description in the book. 

I used this method well into high school and university. If there is a movie adaptation, you better believe I watched it. I will say this, though, once you get used to an author’s writing style, you may find you don’t need to do this for the rest of their books. For instance, once I understood Austen’s world better, I didn’t find myself reaching for the remote before I reached for, let’s say, Northanger Abbey or Emma. I just went ahead, read the book, and then enjoyed the movie afterwards. 

Do you read classics and watch the movie adaptations? Which are your favourites? We are always looking for movies to watch! *wags eyebrows*

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4 Comments

  1. It’s on my list to watch more adaptations – I’m not the best at watching movies in general! I find too that, even though I love classics, there are certain types and eras of classics that I prefer over others, and I didn’t really understand those distinctions until I read more of them.

    Like

    1. Yeah, you definitely learn as you read more classics. One of my favourite things when I started studying classics was learning about the distinction and how the eras shaped the stories. Which eras are your favourite to read? My personal favourite is anything Victorian. – Amber

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this post! So I am definitely that person that thinks watching the movie first is blasphemous! Haha but seriously you convinced me that it could actually be a wonderful way to get people intrigued first and motivated to actually read the original book. Love it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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