Can you consider yourself “well read” without a strong foundation in the classics? I think about this a lot when I hear readers rave about Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters, none of whom I enjoy in the slightest. I tried, but I always seem to DNF their books.
Praise be! I’m not a big fan of Austen of the Brontë sisters.
I have no idea. I’d say I have a foundation. I’ve read beyond what I was assigned in school and in college, and I actually enjoyed much of what I was assigned, but classics are just not what I want to read right now. I’ve had my fill.
I hear that. I definitely enjoyed a lot of what I was assigned to read in school, but I rarely reach for those types of books on my own.
I think that term means different things to different people. I consider myself to have that strong foundation because I’ve read a lot of classics. What does “a lot” mean? I don’t know. It’s arbitrary, it’s not possible to put a number to it.
Let’s compare readers to other fandoms. Can you consider yourself a true fan of Star Wars if you haven’t watched the original movies?
I think the term “well read” is tied to classics. Reading voraciously, daily, and constantly makes a reader. It doesn’t make a well read reader. A well read reader reads widely, deeply, and closely. Classics are part of that.
While I think that a certain amount of ‘classics’ are part of that… what makes a classic? Honestly I often think that the whole term is largely arbitrary that depends on canon that has been set by the legions of high level English professors and industry insiders.
Katie from Bookish Tendencies wrote a post about this, worried about the fact that her reading didn’t include enough classics, and she makes some good points about how many classics are intrinsic in popular culture…but should we push ourselves to read books we’re not interested in because they’re widely read?
I’m all for pushing ourselves. The worst that can happen is that you don’t like a book/author. Monika mentioned that she didn’t care for Austen or Brontë. At least she knows that. She may have wanted to throw a book across the room but she learned more about herself and her reading style in making the attempt.
I’ve never wished for the hours back that I’ve put into reading Dickens and Austen. However, when I read Robinson Crusoe I wanted to pluck my eyes out. You never know which classic will or won’t work for you until you give it a whirl. I’ve been delighted far more than I’ve been disappointed.
I believe that every book that we read adds to our reading journey, whether we like it or not.
You’re right, I learned more about myself and my reading style. But I still kind of wish for my Austen hours back.
You guys know that I always push myself in my reading, but I have to disagree that every book adds to our reading journey. This is where DNFs can come in if we can bring ourselves to pull the plug. I want my hours from every nineteenth century French novel I’ve read back. (Yes, this includes both Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo.) But back to the issue at hand, I don’t think that reading A Rogue by Any Other Name by: Sarah ……crappy romance author added anything to my journey except to reconfirm that I’m not one for romance novels.
Kind of playing Devil’s Advocate here, but if we apply the “you should keep trying until you find something you like” rule to classics, don’t we have to apply it to other genres (YA, erotica, fantasty, sci-fi) in order to be well-read? That could potentially mean a ton of time reading books we don’t like. I think I’m more inclined to align with the reading widely portion of the well-read argument over depth.
I think the twaddle factor still needs to be considered. There are plenty of examples of “classics” from sci-fi, fantasy, and YA – Fahrenheit 451, The Lord of the Rings, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. These are high-quality novels that have proven their value over many years. Erotica, though? Name one.
Rammed by the Raptor, Abraham Lincoln: Fuck Lord of the Moon. 🙂 But seriously, I didn’t think that Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy was too bad for erotica.
“Not too bad” maybe, but I’m not ready to call it a classic!
What do you think, dear readers? Do you enjoy classics? Are classics a requirement for being considered “well read”?