The struggle to read classic books, but why bother?

8 February 2022

Alison Flood, writing for The Guardian in 2016, on the topic of classic books because there is some sort of obligation to do:

This week, YouGov tells us that only 4% of Brits have read War and Peace, although 14% wish they had; 3% have read Les Misérables, although 10% want to; and 7% have read Moby-Dick, with 8% aiming to.

Aside from my school days, when reading some of the classics was requisite, I’ve made little effort to pick any up since. That’s probably not the sort of thing I should write on website dedicated to books, but there you are. I did try though. Moby-Dick. The Great Gatsby. Pride and Prejudice. The Grapes of Wrath. Vanity Fair. East of Eden. War and Peace. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Much to my (sort of) shame, they were all DNFs, each and every one. All are great books I’m certain, and all contributed to making contemporary literature what it is, but they were titles I could not get into. But I didn’t start reading them because I felt an obligation to, I read them because they were hailed as highly revered works of literature. But most did little for me, and so be it.

Life is too short to read books you don’t want to, no matter how acclaimed they are. But maybe it’s me. I also have difficulty listening to a lot of music — some of which is considered classic — that was recorded prior to the turn of the century. Besides, it not like there is a shortage of contemporary works to read, there’s several lifetimes worth. If the classics aren’t for you, it’s simple, don’t waste time on them.

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