Are you ready for a bit of juicy gossip? A shameful secret I’ve carried with me for years? Are you prepared for me to admit to a source embarrassment? Well, friends, here goes: I’m not well read. Wait, what? I know, I read an awful lot of books, but when it comes to the classics—the books that everyone has read, the ones English professors lecture about and PhD students write theses on—my “has read” list is quite lacking. Like many people, I don’t like it when I’m forced to read something. Don’t push me around when it comes to my TBR. Thus, when teenage Aubrie tested in to honors English class in high school her response was, “UGH, I don’t want to read all of those old books! I’ll stick with the regular English class.” Oh young Aubrie, you foolish, foolish girl.
Granted, my chosen class did read some of the classics, but not nearly the volume or breadth that the honors English class covered. So having missed out on many of the classics in high school, and not having been an English major in college, I was left with a gaping hole in my reading background when it comes to the classics.
For the past few years, I have set about fixing this problem. Yes, it is partially a pride thing—I’m tired of just blinking and nodding, and hoping no one asks my opinion when they discuss their favorite classic works. But more than that, I do recognize that for the most part, classics become classics for a reason. And I want in on loving them too, because…books!
The most surprising part of the journey is that to some extent, I’m happy that I waited to read some of these novels. The perspective I have now is a world away from the perspective I had in high school (and college). Although a good English teacher would have explained, I’m certain that the humorous social commentary offered by Jane Austen would have been lost on the younger iteration of me. But now? Austen burns are right up there with Shakespearean burns! And there is no chance that George Orwell’s 1984 would have terrified my teenage self the way it terrified me two years ago, when I read it for the very first time.
This year, in addition to setting a general reading goal, I picked a short list of classics that I would like to read. And even if you read many classics in your teens and 20s, I encourage you to start revisiting them now that you are older and hopefully wiser. My same general reading rule applies: if I dislike the book and it is miserable and painful for me to read, I will put it down. There are too many books (and too many classics) to spend my time on ones I am not enjoying (I’m looking at you, Anna Karenina). I will, however, give classics 50 pages to grab me, rather than the typical 20 that I grant to everything else.
In no particular order, here is the list of classics I would like to read this year, that I came up with after consulting friends and the interwebs:
- Little Women
- A Tale of Two Cities (this is the book that my bestie Tim often cites as his favorite)
- Vanity Fair
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- Hercule Poirot (one of these Agatha Christie classics, not sure which one yet)
- Brave New World
- To Kill a Mockingbird (yes, I’m a civil rights lawyer and I’ve never read this book. I told you, shameful!)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
- Crime and Punishment
So, that’s it. This year’s list. Are you planning to read any classics this year? Which ones? Have a favorite that I need to add to my TBR? Let me know in the comments!