So you want to get into Classic Literature

So you want to get into Classic Literature


Hello and welcome to Spinster’s Library!
I’m Claudia And I’ve heard you’d like to get into classics
but don’t know how Well, I’m here to help with this video But before I get into my tips for
how to get into classics Let me just give you my
personal definition of a classic And that is – Any book that was published or written before 1960 You can argue with me in the comments about that definition, but I’m not going to change it So my definition of a classic is fairly arbitrary, but then, any definition of a classic is fairly arbitrary And that is partly why I wanted to make this video Because people treat classics like this almost unapproachable, higher form of literature Whereas what it actually is,
is just an old book that people quite like So, the 1st question you want to ask yourself is
“Why do you want to get into classics?” And that is an important reason because that will help you pick out which classic to start with Reasons to get into classics are, for example, that you want to know what people thought and how they lived and how they wrote in the past That is a really big draw for me
when it comes to classics I love knowing that the words I’m reading
were written decades or even centuries ago and I love figuring out what people of the past were thinking, how they were thinking and how they saw the world This is why I am an historian, I just love imagining the world as it was in the past Another reason for you might be that you just
want to see what the fuss is about You’ve heard the word Orwellian a lot recently in
the news to describe our current affairs So you want to check out and see what exactly is Orwellian about the year 2019 So you want to go and read some George Orwell
and see what the deal is Or maybe you really like the retelling of a story, you really like a story archetype
that you know is based on a classic Maybe you’re of my generation and you really liked Bridgett Jones when it was out in the cinemas Maybe you’ve seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube and you think “You know what? Maybe I should
read Pride and Prejudice” One reason that you shouldn’t pick to read classics is because you think that it will make you more well-read The only thing that you need to do
to be well-read is read And it doesn’t matter what you read You can be very well-read if
you read nothing but crime fiction You can be well-read if you know the
genre of romance inside and out, but have never read anything else So don’t feel like you need to read classics
for some imagined scoring system To think that you have to be into classics
if you’re a reader Don’t read classics because you expect to find some profound truth on life in them In some, you will But in the same way that you can find profound truths on life in contemporary fiction Classics are just books,
old books that people like So them the next step is, once you’ve figured out why you want to read classics, is- -to pick the right classic for you Like I’ve said before, I’m really interested in
how people lived their lives in the past So I like classics that are
set in everyday life That’s why I’m such a huge fan of
Jane Austen, for example Because her books are slice of life I mean, slice of privileged-rich-white-english-life,
but still a slice of life kind of setting I also really like books that are
set in boarding schools So, I’m really drawn to classics that are set in boarding schools as well Like, for example, “A Little Princess”
by Frances Hodgson Burnett Or “The St Clare’s Series” by Enid Blyton So you need to figure out what you like about a contemporary book and then transfer that to a classic And that can be about genre For example, if you like crime fiction, you might want to try a Sherlock Holmes’ story or you might want to try an Agatha Christie novel If you like dystopian fiction, then you could check out Orwell or John Wyndham or H. G. Wells If you like an adventure story, then you might want to read “Robinson Crusoe” or “Treasure Island” There’s lots of different “genres” of classic, because “classic” in itself isn’t really a genre And there’s lots of different types of books
that fall under “classic” People think that classics are slow and inward-looking, and not very fast-paced or plot-driven But there are books that are! And you need to pick those out
if that’s what you like There is a classic for every reading taste out there, whether you like satirical fiction or horror or romance Whether you like books with little plot
or books with a lot of plot Whether you like books with large casts of characters
or books with small casts of characters Similarly, when it comes to perspective, do you like first-person narratives or do you like third-person narratives? You will find a classic that will
match your exact reading tastes The important thing with classics is
to find something to connect to So, when you read the blurb of a book,
just forget that it is considered a classic and just think about whether
it sounds interesting to you Let’s do a little experiment: I’ve got plenty of classics on my TBR, so I’m just gonna pick one out, read it out to you, tell you my thoughts of it
and then I want to hear your thoughts on that as well Let’s see what’s here Right This is “Robin Hood” by Henry Gilbert, I believe this is early 20th century, round about the turn of the century Yes, 1912 I’ve not read this yet, but, even without having read this, I know what this is about I’ve seen the Disney version,
the one with the fox And I know the story of Robin Hood, so I really fell quite comfortable with this book,
without even having read it Now, the blurb reads “Robin Hood is the best-loved outlaw of all time. In this beautifully illustrated edition, Henry Gilbert tells of the adventures of the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest, Robin himself, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and Alan-a-Dale, as well as Maid Marian, good King Richard, and Robin’s deadly enemies Guy of Gisborne and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.” So, I’ve not read this book, but this already sounds so familiar to me and I’m sure it will to you as well, Because we all know the story of Robin Hood: that’s another thing about classics A lot of the time they are familiar stories, because they make their way into our common cultural consciousness Even before I picked up “1984” by- -that guy, Geoge Orwell I knew some of the things from the book. I’d heard about room 101, I’d heard about Big Brother I already had a sense of familiarity with the book without even having read it and that made the reading of the book
so much easier for me You don’t have to have read “Pride and Prejudice” to know about Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy You know, the entire hate to love trope
is one that goes back centuries So whether you read “Pride and Prejudice” or whether you read “Much to Do With Nothing” by William Shakespeare Those tropes and those story elements
will be familiar to you I think a good classic has a sense of familiarity and a sense of newness A sense of discovering something
you didn’t know before Now, it can be really disheartening to pick up a classic, be fully enthusiastic about it and then just not get it So, what I would recommend is
to try some classics for free The good thing about classics is that a lot of them are out of Copywrite, so you can just- -if you have a Kindle, you can just get them for zero pounds, zero dollars, just download it from Amazon. You can also look at classics on the Project Gutenberg website, which I will link in the description box and on Google Books.
You can just get books for free! So, a lot of books that are out of copyright, that are,
I believe, a hundred years or older You can just get for free, check them out,
see if they’re for you and if you read the 1st chapter or two online and you enjoy it, you can get yourself the print version You can get yourself a nice, nicely bound edition Another good thing about classics is that they often come in really gorgeous editions If you have the opportunity of visiting a 2nd hand bookshop or a charity shop, you will find so many more classics, because 2nd hand bookshops and charity shops tend to be full of them So you likely won’t really have to spend a great amount of money on classics anyway But, really, I would just look at
some of the ones you can get for free Read a few pages, read a few chapters
and see if it’s for you. And if it’s not- -then just move on to the next one. Like I said, there is a classic for everyone. Another way of getting into classics without feeling too intimidated is to try children’s classics And No- I don’t think children’s classics are inherently more simple than adult classics I think that is a huge misconception, but what children classics have in their favour is, again, that sense of familiarity So, a lot of children classics you will have seen, maybe, adapted into a stage musical or a film or a TV show For example, I grew up watching the Japanese-produced TV cartoon for Heidi, Right? I watched that growing up,
both in German and Italian, and I loved it And I knew all the episodes by heart because they were just basically getting repeated over and over again So, a few years ago, I thought
I could actually pick up the book, the original 20th centruy novel that Heidi in based on, by Johanna Spyri, and I read it and I loved it And what made it so easy for me to get through was that I was already so familiar with the characters, with the setting and with the stories So many Disney films are based on classics, for example, and specifically, children’s classics are one of those types of books that have often been adapted and that you will already know. Another way that, I find, makes classics more accessible is to listen to them on audiobook And I do that quite a lot with older classics, talking early 19th century and late 18th century classics Because that’s when I find that the language can get in the way of my enjoyment of a book Old English is harder to read
than modern contemporary English, but I find that having someone read it out to me makes it much easier for me to understand, because the person reading out will have already split the long sentences into smaller bits, and knows how to pronounce some of the funny, archaic words and knows how to read some of the
weird spellings for other words. So having a classic read to you can make it easier to understand as well And then, one final piece of advice that often goes against what other readers say and do is to watch adaptations
before you get into the classic. A lot of classics have been turned into
films or TV series and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching the adaptation before reading the book, especially because, as I’ve said
many times before in this video, the sense of familiarity
will make it easier to get through the book So, once you already know what happens- -the book will be easier to understand
and easier to enjoy, because you don’t have to focus on understanding it, you can focus on all the other stuff. The language, the jokes, the fun details, the characters, all of that stuff If you don’t want to watch an adaptation, you could also just read the plot summary on Wikipedia Again, nothing wrong with that, it just helps you focus on the details of the book, rather than having this panic about
not getting lost in it. So, finally, I want to say that
classics are not intimidating and the reason why they are presented as being intimidating is because there are some people who enjoy making themselves seem more important because they’ve read classics And these are often people in privileged positions, people who are wealthy and well-educated and people who just feel like they are better readers for having read classics. That is not true. Even if- -you give classics a go and you decide they’re not or you, there’s nothing wrong with that. One doesn’t have to have read classics, it doesn’t make you a better reader,
it doesn’t make a more intelligent person, it just makes you a person who enjoys classics,
like me Thank you for watching!
Bye

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