I’m a worst offender when it comes to “waiting till I’m ready” for this classic or that classic. In fact, I’ve been psyching myself up for Jame Joyce for over ten years! So in the spirit of “don’t be like me” I thought I’d share five of my favorite intimidating classics that don’t deserve their stonewalling rep.
- Julius Caesar. I think this is a great start if you’ve been avoiding Shakespeare for the bulk of your natural life. Here’s the thing about Shakespeare, by the way: he trades off of emotions and situations we can all relate to and, believe it or not, he’s entertaining first, good for you second.
- Robinson Crusoe. I read this last year for the first time. It’s now my favorite puritanical page-turner post Pilgrim’s Progress. Perfect? Probably.
- The Bible. Speaking of puritanical page-turners — OK, this isn’t exactly a page turner. But, like Shakespeare, if you’re not familar with the Bible you’re sort of not familiar with your own culture. Just don’t read some weird, weepy modern translation of it. Yech. Read the NRSV or something (you won’t finish King James’ Bible). Those English have a history of doing this sort of thing right.
- The Brother Karamazov. Surprisingly just a soapy murder-mystery. Of course it’s a soapy mystery written by one of the greatest novelists of all time so it’s about everything else in the world. But trust me, you’ll love everyone in this book. I mean it.
- Anna Karenina. Often called the greatest novel ever written but don’t let that intimidate you. Like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy is also a fan of melodrama. You’ve seen this story play out a million times in movies and with your friends but you’ve never had a piercing psychic look at the emotions and thoughts of all the players. A phenomenal example of an ultra-realistic novel. It was Tolstoy’s brilliant efforts that drove me through the book. A rare thing.
Anyone else have any classics that don’t deserve their intimidating rep? I know I could go on and on.