Do you ever feel like there is certain books that you should read, even if you don't want to? For me the so called classics generally fall into this category. Obviously, at school, I studied several of these classics, and I then went on to do an A-Level in English Literature, so I consequently read and studied a fair few more.
Don't get me wrong, some of them I enjoyed reading, but as the course progressed, I started to question how these particular books became classics. They are all so different from each other that there seems to be no classification, no particular elements that need to be checked off. It seems more that some literary professor says it is a classic and the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome kicks in. No one wants to be seen as the uneducated fool that argues against the virtues of these stories.
For me the classics can be hard work, and I read for pleasure. I am giving up on the notion that I should read certain books because it's the done thing. It seems a little pretentious reading something just because I "should"
Just remember, the same people who define these classics and tell you they should be read, are the same people who would class Stephen King as illiterate. Love him or hate him, it is beyond comprehension that someone who has sold over 350 million books worldwide could be called illiterate.
For years I struggled with the notion that I "should" be reading certain texts, because they are classics. I even started some of them, but didn't get very far. I'm not saying they are bad, I'm just saying that no one should tell you what you should or shouldn't be reading.
Here are 10 books I feel I "should" read, but probably never will!
1. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
2. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
4. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
6. Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
7. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
8. Animal Farm by George Orwell
9. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I have chosen the above books, because, of the classics, these are the ones that would appeal to me if I had to choose some to read, but I know I will still probably never get around to reading them.
I think maybe studying literature has put me off them to an extent. If I hadn't heard all the reasons I should read them (not because it's a good story, but because of literary tools used by the author, or symbolism etc) maybe I would be able to read them and appreciate them just as good stories.
I do think teaching literature in schools is important, but I think the wider message should also be emphasised a little more that there are many books out there and you should read what appeals to you, not what you are told you should be seen to have read.
What do you think? Am I a little cynical or do you agree?
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All photos courtesy of Google Books!