With so many different books to choose from, some people are moving away from the stories that are considered “Classics” for a number of reasons. Some people think they are outdated and irrelevant, some think they are too hard, and others say that we need to expand our reading horizons beyond words written by dead white guys. I do not necessarily disagree with these or any arguments that people make against Classics, but I also think there can be many arguments made for why we should still include them in our reading repertoire.
Challenging yourself makes you grow as a reader. One of the main things that helps people of all ages to grow as readers is reading, reading, reading! Reading is a great way to increase reading speed and vocabulary. One of the reasons people struggle with reading Classics is because the vocabulary sometimes acts as a barrier to enjoyment. But reading books that have unknown words is an important step in allowing your vocabulary to grow.
Even from a young age, students are taught to choose “just right” books, meaning not too easy or too hard. Sometimes it is nice to read books that are below your reading level (or those where you already know all the words). But every so often it is important to mix in a more challenging text. Even as an adult!
You want to be careful not to choose books that are too above your reading level though, and that’s where Pontes Books can help. Since we offer seven different versions of books like The Prince and the Pauper, it’s possible to find one that is “just right” for any reader. Parallel text versions add another level because you can challenge yourself to read the original version, but can have a modified version there for support when you need it as well.
Read the original in order to understand future iterations and allusions. Once you’ve read a Classic, you tend to notice it being referenced all over the place. References to Shakespeare plays pop up in a variety of different places, including tv shows, advertisements, song lyrics, and more! Whether it be the settings, characters, famous quotes, or major plot points, it’s always exciting to be able to be able to identify the source of the allusion. Literally as I type this there was just a Julius Caesar reference in the show I am watching (Community S4:Ep. 10 – “Beware the ides of March”).
In addition to references, Classics are often remade and parodied over and over again. The Prince and the Pauper, as an example, has lead to a multitude of different remakes. There are things like The Princess and the Pauper, a Barbie version (there’s also a Barbie version called The Princess and the Popstar) and Freaky Friday, the story of a mother and daughter switching bodies. These and so many more are examples of modern-day retellings of Mark Twain’s classic tale. Reading the originals allow you to understand the modern stories on a deeper level.
The stories have been around this long for a reason. Speaking from experience, not every Classic I’ve read has been added to my top 10 book list. Some have dragged on and on and it’s been a struggle to finish them. But the vast majority that I’ve read have been exciting, funny, and full of depth. People wouldn’t still be reading these old stories if there wasn’t something good in them! Of course there are pieces of the stories that have become outdated or even offensive by today’s standards. But at the root of most of these stories is a lasting theme that still rings true today.
Take The Prince and the Pauper as an example. One of the main themes is the concept that the grass is not always greener on the other side. This idea of wanting a life that is vastly different from your own is not a foreign concept. I would imagine that virtually everyone has wanted fame and fortune at some point, and those that have it probably wish for a “normal” life, at least from time to time. There’s a reason this story keeps being retold again and again; it’s something that everyone wishes they could do in real life! These stories can suck you in and transport you to a different time and place in a way that modern novels sometimes cannot do.
In addition to lasting themes, Classics include descriptive language that is almost poetic to read. Although it may sometimes take some effort to decipher what the authors were trying to say, they truly treated the page like a blank canvas to fill with their beautifully artistic words.
Here are some lists of must-read Classics created by other people if you’re looking for one to read next…besides the Pontes Books versions of The Prince and the Pauper, of course ;-).
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