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Features | Classics For People Who Don't Read Classics

I have a confession to make. I have an undergraduate degree in English Literature but I really struggle with 'The Classics'. Oliver Twist bored me to tears, I read the whole of Jane Eyre without taking in any of it, and I have never managed to read past the first few pages of Pride and Prejudice. I love a good miniseries adaptation of a classic novel, but when it comes to actually reading the books I just stall. It made things more than a little difficult when I was studying Victorian literature at university.

(Here's a little tip if you ever find yourself having to write an essay on Great Expectations - the 2011 miniseries uses an alternative ending to the one that is usually studied, so don't think you can just watch that instead of reading the book. Don't make my mistakes.)

I am getting better though. I'm starting to find my groove with a few of the more modern classics and today I thought I would share with you all some of the classics I, a self confessed classics-struggler, really enjoyed.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

One thing you're going to notice about the books on this list straight away is that they were mostly written in the early half of the 20th century. I'm sure no one would argue though, that The Great Gatsby is definitely a classic. The America that Fitzgerald describes in The Great Gatsby feels both old enough to be almost otherworldly and modern enough to be familiar, and that's a balance that will definitely help if books written before the 1990s are a bit of a foreign concept to you.

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is a bit of a divider in terms of opinion. Some people love Holden Caulfield, other people hate him. I'm somewhere in the middle. However, if you're a fan of YA then you won't find many Classics more appropriate to your interests than The Catcher in the Rye. I particularly recommend it if you're a fan of John Green.

3. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I've read a few of Hemingway's books and I love them all but A Moveable Feast, the memoir of Hemingway's time living in Paris, is probably my favourite and it's great fun to read if you're aware of the writers and artists of the time, because a lot of them make appearances. I find Hemingway's work pretty easy to get into because he never uses excessive words like certain older writers *cough*Dickens*cough* so the sentences are usually pretty simple, which, in my opinion, makes it a lot easier to understand what's going on.

4. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

You're probably familiar with the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde even if you've never read it. That, combined with how short it is, make this a really easy book to get into and enjoy for my fellow Classic-phobes. Saying that, what I actually enjoyed most about reading Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was finding out that I didn't know the story anywhere near as well as I thought I did. So even if you think you know it, I bet you'll still be surprised.

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray is another story that I thought I knew pretty well but it turned out there was a lot in there that I had no idea about. It's just as witty as Wilde's plays (and the quotations from his every day life that get thrown about constantly) but it's also pretty dark. A lot darker than I expected, actually. Although The Picture of Dorian Gray is very much of its time, Wilde was a pretty modern person and that definitely comes across in the story.

So those are just a few recommendations for people, like myself, who want to get over their Classics fear. If you have any more recommendations I would absolutely love to hear them! I'm always looking for more Classics to add to my tiny collection.

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