the classic question: to read or not to read?

Yesterday’s awesomeness appreciation post on Dylan Thomas received a hitherto unknown-on-this-blog amount of interest. Which was really neat and very much appreciated!

It leads me to the idea that maybe a lot of the people who dropped by love literature. Or good writing. Which leads me to the thought that maybe they also love classics. Or maybe they don’t (but that’s okay). Which leads me to the thought of asking for advice: to read classics or not to read classics?

By classics I mean those kind of books that you are supposed to have read to have a good (classical) education. The kind of books that appear in literary canons. I’m ambivalent about reading them. On the one hand, I think they did not become known as classics for nothing. They are probably really good and have great things to say. On the other hand, there are so many books that are also really good but relate so much more to the world I live in. They just haven’t been endorsed by generations of readers yet.

And really, it’s not like I haven’t read anything. I’ve read quite a bit of the English classics, and I’ve read the usual German ones (Goethe, Schiller, and anything else they wanted us to read at school), and some of the international ones, like the Odyssey, and when I think about it, actually I have read quite a lot. But even as I type, I have the likes of Hebel, Storm, Hesse, Kleist, Stifter, … (= all of them are on the ‘should-be-read’ list of German literary canons) staring down at me from the shelf with reproachful bindings. Not to mention all the American and English ones I haven’t read. 

So, a question to you guys and girls reading this: should I read them? Or may I indulge my secret desire to re-read one of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books without feeling guilty?

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About wordsurfer

writer, ex-teacher, human rights believer & fighter, traveller, adventure-seeker, freedom lover, global citizen. big on daydreams, less so on reality.

Posted on April 24, 2012, in day-to-day and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. It took me 26 years to get to Great Expectations, but when I did I loved it! I say read the classics! They’re “classics” for good reason.

    • I haven’t read Great Expectations yet, but I’ve seen the movie. Does that count? 😉

      You’re probably right. I keep reminding myself of that point. Maybe if I mix it up? One classic, one contemporary, …? I should make a list.

      Thanks for the advice and if you have any suggestions as to what to read, I’m always more than happy to hear them!

  2. Y’know, I have read a lot of the classics, but I still feel like I should read more of them. But there are SO many good books out there…gosh. My GoodReads shelf is overflowing. I say read what YOU want to read and don’t worry about what you “should” be reading. 😉

    • I will be checking out your GoodReads shelf!

      There’s almost always an element of guilt when I decide to read a classic (“You really should know this, how can you call yourself well-read without ever having opened this book?!”), but you’re so right about the abundance of awesome reads… I’ve discovered some amazing stuff in the last months just by walking into the library and picking books off the shelves at random (meaning, based on the title and the cover).

      Then again, maybe I’m missing out on something…?

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