For the last five years or thereabouts most of my leisure reading has been reading books that are known as “classics”.
How you might define a classic book or what distinguishing feature allows you to say with confidence, “that’s a classic book” I simply do not know.
I am sure if I searched online and elsewhere, I would find a wide range of opinions.
Presently I am reading “The Return of the Native”, by Thomas Hardy and I can confidently say it is indeed a classic book. The writing is powerful, sparkling, detailed, literal, descriptive and most enjoyable once you have acquired a taste for reading classic books by authors like Dickens, Austen, and authors of a similar vintage.
My reading of what I consider to be classic novels started with “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens and progressed to everything Dickens wrote, to Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Emile Zola, Hemingway, Honoré de Balzac, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, George Orwell, Turgenev, Graham Greene, E.M.Forster, Victor Hugo, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Steinbeck, Herman Melville.
Developing the taste and necessary patience to read these books took time but was well worth it. The beauty in the written words, the narrative, characters, places, epochs, and geographical locations to which I was introduced gave me a greater appreciation of history and how humankind has developed and evolved.
Once you have read and liked or loved these types of books it is difficult to overlook some of the poor, turgid writing in certain types of modern novels. My tolerance level is definitely lowered.
I get quite a lot of satisfaction when I can, occasionally, use a word or phrase or construction I have encountered in these books in my daily work as a solicitor; this might be in correspondence or even in a submission for the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
I need to be careful, however, of ensuring my communication does what it is intended to do: advance my or my client’s position or argument.
Classic Book Recommendations
If you want to start reading classic literature and don’t know where to start here is a list for your consideration. There is no scientific or profound critical basis for this list and the numbering is not intended to be an indication of anything:
- Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
- Bleak House by Charles Dickens
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Germinal by Emile Zola
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
This is just ten books I have picked off the top of my head-I am sure there are some howlers I have not included but these books will be a good starting point if you are interested in developing a love for classic literature.
You will need to be patient and be prepared to give whichever book you choose some time but I firmly believe the time and effort will be a worthwhile investment which will stand to you for the rest of your life.
I hope you have as much enjoyment as I do in reading these books and trying to unearth some underrated gems by some of these great authors. For example, I love Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens but when people speak of Dickens’ best or favourite work Dombey and Son would not be at the top of the most people’s list.
Let me know what you would recommend in the comments below.