So, you think you’re quite the reader. After many of your most stressful days you plot down into your most comfortable chair, put the hot water on for tea, and reach for your most recent obsession. It is the perfect way to unwind. Your friends and family have labeled you ‘bookworm’ and you’re proud of the title; but then why aren’t you the one buzzing in all of the answers in the literature section of your family cranium game? It’s that darn classic literature.
You decide that the next book you start should be a classic. You read all the time! It only makes sense for you to know the roots of today’s best sellers. So then next time you sit down in your favorite chair with your most loved mug for tea you pull out one of the classics that has been gathering dust on your shelf; Ulysses by James Joyce. “Ah ha!” You say, “This is the start of an educational experience!”
You read a few pages and realize a strange and completely foreign feeling; you haven’t understood a word of what Mr. James Joyce wrote.
Okay, so maybe you were a bit ambitious when you began reading one of the most important works of modernist literature.
You continue to pull the dusty volumes from your shelves, because after all, the perfect birthday gift for a reader is always a classic novel, but even when you understand the words on the page they are dry and uninteresting to you. Soon you fall back into your habits of the hip new novels and look guiltily away from the wonders hidden inside all of those classics.
There is a trick to classic literature. It isn’t some quick cure by changing your way of thinking, but it does get you used to reading in a different style. You must slowly work your way back in time through different novels. If you approach reading from this angle your brain slowly adjusts to the differences in writing styles and it becomes easier to understand the ways in which language has changed.
Maybe begin easy with a book like Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It was written in ’94 so it should be almost no different than the books you read today. Afterward, move on to The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier written in 1974. Now you inch your way into Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. That was written in 1961. See, now you’re smiling ear to ear because you finally understand that reference in that Billy Joel song you once heard. With confidence boosted you continue to 1984 by George Orwell, written in 1950. Then a Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, that book was written in 1932 and you understood every word. Finally you decide that it is truly time to get down into it and you jump into a few Jane Austen novels and voilà, they are no longer boring! You’ve done it. You understand how to get your brain all ready and prepped for some serious reading. Go show those guys in a few cranium games to live up to your bookworm title.
Goodreads.com was used to look up the correct publication dates.