6 tips to help you tackle a classic novel

classic book spines on a window sill

Bookworm confession: as a teen reader, I was less-than-enthusiastic about the books my English teacher put in front of me. Because I was a conscientious student, I read the assigned books anyway—but too often they seemed opaque, and I wonder how much went over my head when I read those books back then. Or, which books I missed out on because they weren’t included in the curriculum.

That’s why one of the prompts for the 2020 Reading Challenge is to “read a classic you didn’t read in high school.”

I’ve sometimes felt pressure to read classic literature in order to prove myself a serious reader or to check off my list of “books to read before you die.” But the truth is, you don’t have to read classic literature to call yourself a bookworm. Picking up a classic can be a rewarding, enjoyable endeavor, but they’re not the only route to being an avid reader. That’s why classic books make up just one item on this reading challenge list.

The definition of a “classic book” is up to you here, but I tend to think of classics as books that were published over 50 years ago—though you’ll often hear me use the phrase “modern classic” about more recent releases—and remain in our literary consciousness. From Jane Austen to James Baldwin, classic books have staying power because of timeless themes, great writing, or an important place in pop culture.

If you want to tackle a classic novel this season—particularly an older classic with tricky, outdated language to navigate—these are my tried-and-true tips to get more out of your reading experience:

My favorite reading practices for classic books

6 tips to help you tackle a classic novel

1. Immerse yourself in context

One of the trickiest parts of reading a classic, whether it was written in ancient times, the 1760s, or the 1960s, is encountering outdated language and unfamiliar settings. Familiarity with the customs, historical events, and social structures of the time helps me comprehend what’s happening in a story, even if I’m struggling with the language. For example, just a little bit of background knowledge on entailment and Regency-era etiquette illuminates key plot points in Pride and Prejudice and makes Austen’s humor and social commentary shine.

You don’t need to spend three days researching before you read a classic (but if that brings you joy, I’m cheering you on!). Most editions of the classics feature introductory essays from scholars or modern authors that summarize important context, share author background information, and connect the novel to today’s world. Don’t skip these excellent resources!

If you encounter an unusual word or unfamiliar event, go to Google. (I don’t like to have my phone nearby when reading, so I write my questions on a sticky note for later.)

2. Go ahead, use Sparknotes!

I promise, it’s allowed. As long as you’re not using it to plagiarize an essay, Sparknotes is a great resource for comprehending classic literature. Choose your own adventure based on what you want to get out of your classic reading experience:

  • Review the character list and descriptions before you start reading. If it’s especially long and complicated, print it out or write a list of characters on your bookmark to help you keep track of them as you read.
  • Read the plot summary before you tackle a classic so that you can enjoy the language as you read, rather than wonder what’s happening.
  • If you want to retain the element of surprise, alternate your reading with Sparknotes chapter summaries. Either read the book first and then the summary, or vice versa, depending on what works best for you.
  • After reading, visit the themes, symbols, and other analysis sections to see what you missed or what you want to discuss with a fellow bookworm.
6 tips to help you tackle a classic novel

3. Practice annotating (if you want to)

In addition to writing my questions on sticky notes or keeping a character list handy, I love to write in my booksespecially my classics. I underline confusing passages, highlight beautiful imagery and metaphors, and place book darts on memorable pages. For me, the simple act of putting pencil (or highlighter) to paper helps me retain what I’m reading. It also helps me go back and find important passages that I want to discuss in book club or share over a cup of coffee with a bookish friend.

Annotating shouldn’t feel like homework (unless you really like homework). Mark what interests you or sparks your curiosity, not what you feel like you should write down.

4. Absorb the audiobook

Audiobooks are perhaps my favorite way to experience a classic novel. Hearing older language helps me comprehend it better than reading on the page. Plus, skillful narrators give classic characters LIFE! I never would have enjoyed Anna Karenina on the page as much as I did listening to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narration—or understood Zora Neale Hurston’s humor and dialect in Their Eyes Were Watching God without listening to it.

A recommendation: celebrity narrators make for fun listening experiences. Juliet Stevenson will always be my favorite narrator for the classics.

6 tips to help you tackle a classic novel

5. Watch a movie

Check out the movie version of your classic—really! Of course, some movie adaptations ring truer to the book than others. But overall, movie adaptations help us see the story, the time period, and the characters. When our 21st century minds get stuck on the tricky older language, hearing and seeing the words roll off an actor’s tongue can make all the difference for understanding and enjoyment.

This is especially true for works like Shakespeare’s plays, which are meant to be performed, not read on the page. Or for our beloved Austen adaptations, where actors’ facial expressions bring a lot of subtext to life.

6. Read with a friend

Let’s be honest. Some classics can be slow and difficult to get into. Partnering up with a friend to read, discuss, or hold each other accountable can be a fun way to motivate you to tackle that classic on your shelf. Not only do you get the external push to turn the pages—you also get the benefit of two different minds approaching the same story. Your friend might notice something you missed, or she might happen to be an expert on an obscure 16th century custom (you never know!).

If you’re in need of bookish community, consider this an invitation to join us in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club where we’re learning to read better, together. Over summer, several members enjoyed reading and learning about Emma by Jane Austen. Right now, we have a group of members reading Jane Eyre together. We’d love to discuss books (classic or otherwise) with you.

I’d love to hear your tips for reading classic literature in the comments. Plus, if you’re participating in the reading challenge, please share which classic you decided to read!

PS: Still deciding which classic to read this year? Check out these 25 classics that aren’t remotely boring, plus 10 comforting classics to read when you run out of Jane Austen novels.


Leave A Comment
  1. Beth Roireau says:

    Thank you so much for the tips. I have a number of classics that I have been eyeing but have been worried I would get bogged down in the 1800s language and meaning. I have used audiobooks and movies in the past but haven’t used Sparknotes Study guides to keep me interested. I think it will help greatly!

  2. Paam says:

    Great tips, Anne! I’ve used Coles Notes (Canadian reference!) or similar sources several times when a book initially intimidated me, and found it really helpful.

    For the classic in your challenge, I listened to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, narrated by Scott Brick, another well-known audiobook narrator.

  3. Katie says:

    Great tips! I’m trying to tackle Les Mis this year and I’ve just really fallen off the wagon. A free audiobook has been helping. I may try looking up spark notes to keep me going.

    • Amy G says:

      Les Mis is so wonderful but it took me a couple runs at it, and anytime a book is in translation, choosing _which translation_ to read is super important to me. The first one I picked up (E-book) felt dry and wooden. I finally gave in to lugging around that huge paperback and it made all the difference. (I don’t remember the names of the translators right now.) Bon chance!

      • Terry says:

        I read Les Mis in high school, as a junior, I think. We read it in class, with teacher and students taking turns reading it aloud. I don’t so much remember the details of how it was administered, whether she explained the unfamiliar, but I fell in love with it. We also read Fiddler on the Roof, and likewise, have loved that story – and musical – ever since. She was an excellent, young English teacher.

    • KT says:

      My mom is a voracious reader but she is not so much into classics. She read Middlemarch this year (I gave it to her over 10 years ago) as part of her library challenge and she said that an approach that helped her not get bogged down was giving herself more time to get immersed in it. She doesn’t typically sit and read for a few hours at a time, but she found that when she did that with Middlemarch she had more success. I have found that method worked really well for me when I was trying to get through Les Miserables. It took me 2 1/2 years, but once I finally set aside some blocks of time I made it through a lot quicker and I loved it!

    • Jennifer Young says:

      I listened to the musical incessantly while reading Les Mis. I love the music so it kept me engaged and singing the whole time!

  4. Melody says:

    I 100% agree with watching the movie before reading a difficult book – perhaps the only time watching the movie first is a good idea. Pride and Prejudice would have been a very difficult reading experience without a previous introduction to Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.

  5. Patricia Hall says:

    I write a Library Corner column for my senior residence. I’d love to quote you (with attribution to you) in a short column for our monthly resident newsletter to 170 residents ranging in age from 71 to 103. I might also ask some of our retired librarians for their suggestions as well.
    May I?

  6. Sofia says:

    This is such a great timing, Anne. I’m currently reading Doctor Zhivago – I read ‘The secrets we kept’ by Lara Prescott and once I finished the last page, I started Pasternak’s masterpiece. I love russian classics but I always need to mentally prepare for the characters list! It’s overwhelming. Every once in a while I google that list just to keep up with all the characters (I dind’t know about Sparknotes, thank you!). So far so good – first 50 pages were hard but I found my rythm now 🙂

  7. Hilary says:

    I love these suggestions .
    I finally read Jane Eyre this year and i did a blend of audio and sight reading and i also looked at spark notes chapter summaries . I thoroughly enjoyed the book but i think it did take a blend of “tricks” to be able to do so.

  8. I have to be very careful with which classics I listen to vs. read hard copy. Newer classics, with more accessible language, are a great listen. When I listened to _Emma_ a few years ago, I regretted it. I needed to rewind frequently (okay…maybe I was multitasking…) and had to check a character tree online more often than I care to admit. So I’ve learned to choose more wisely!

  9. Vanessa says:

    Sometimes I wonder if I am better off just skipping the separation of characters the first time through. I remember the first time I read Pride and Prejudice and was introduced to Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, Miss Bennet, Miss Bennet, Miss Bennet, Miss Bennet and Miss Bennet. And I thought, “you have got to be kidding!” I only got through it because we were at an Oakland A’s game and baseball is so boring, I had no choice.

  10. Austin says:

    These are great suggestions!
    One note on the “read the essay” is that often these scholarly essays assume familiarity with the book and can spoil details and the ending. This can be tricky, because these essays do often have great information about the context and setting that are helpful when diving into the book.
    Maybe just assess your own personal desire to remain “unspoiled” before diving into the essay, or come back and read it later.
    If you don’t care, go for it!

  11. Suzanne says:

    If you want to (or have to!) read Shakespeare, I highly recommend the No Fear Shakespeare series. They’re paperback versions with the original text on one side of the page and a modern version on the other side, to help you understand what it all means. I thought Much Ado About Nothing was particularly hilarious using the No Fear version, since you could better understand Benedick and Beatrice’s banter.

    • Jeanette says:

      My daughter and I used the No Fear Romeo and Juliet for her homeschool English. We definitely got a chuckle reading the modern version. Mr. Shakespeare made us blush on more than one occasion!

  12. Cielo says:

    Another tip would be: don’t think of them as “classics.” Demystifying classics by just calling them books, really helped me get over my fears and read Anna Karenina!

  13. Jessi says:

    As part of my reading challenge one of the last books is reading a classic, mostly because of how intimidated I am by classics. Thanks for these recommendations. I recently picked up The Handmaid’s Tale. Will that “count” as my classic for the year!? :S I did appreciate how Anne pointed out that the definition of a classic is up to me!

  14. Debbie Jenson says:

    I found I need to change my expectations when I read a classic. I read very quickly and often finish books in a day or two. But classics require me to slow down and try to absorb the different context—whether it be unfamiliar humor (I’m looking at you Jane Austen), unique settings or words I actually have to look up. Slowing down is so good but it does require a different mindset.

  15. Amapola says:

    I like these recommendations. I enjoyed classics, but Dickens was a challenge. The tv versions helped a lot. I also struggled with Hillary Mantel’s books about Thomas Cromwell (not classics yet), because of all the historical information. Once again, the adaptations were helpful. On the other hand, I quite enjoyed George Elliot, the Brontes, and others.

  16. Lisa F says:

    This is a terrific post and I enjoy reading everyone else’s suggestions! For me, I use small metallic, jewel-toned paper clips (they just look nicer than plain) to mark pages with passages, sentences, or descriptions I want to remember and find quickly and I note unfamiliar words on scrap paper to look up later.
    For Shakespeare, I like the Folger Shakespeare Library editions, which have original text on one page and a glossary on the facing page with illustrations, and also have extensive essays on everything you could want to know about context, customs, and even theater history. However, the Kenneth Branagh films of Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing are hard to beat!

    • BarbN says:

      Agree about Shakespeare! Folgers are great, as are the Signet editions. And No Fear Shakespeare editions are even easier, with a side-by-side “translation” into modern language. Shakespeare is great if you need/want to read a classic because they’re relatively short. You can read and re-read “Much Ado About Nothing” half a dozen times while someone else is only halfway through Middlemarch or Anna Karenina. And re-reading them is actually a great way to appreciate them more. And then, of course, there are the movies.

  17. Anna says:

    These are wonderful tips. I’m finally tackling Mrs. Dalloway and was hooked by the first sentence. What an opening line. I am, however, getting bogged down because I’m not overly familiar with the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Your tips about context have pointed me in a good direction for that — I have a little research to do!

    • Allison says:

      Persevere! Mrs. Dalloway is so good. The closing lines are as rewarding as the opening lines. With Woolf, I also often read passages/sections multiple times.

  18. Maley Brancaccio says:

    Thank you for validating for me my recent use of Spark Notes to read Pride and Prejudice. I’ve tried for years and couldn’t get into it but I truly enjoyed the chapter by chapter summary and analysis. It made it so much more interesting to me and got me excited to learn more about the times and entailment. This is one of my sister-in-law’s favorite books and I loved being able to discuss it with her in detail! I will be doing this for other classics I don’t feel like taking days to read. =)

  19. Alison says:

    As an adult, what really helped me to begin to enjoy classics was starting out with some great Children’s Classics. “The Wind in the Willows” and “Understood Betsy” each opened my eyes to the reality that there were actually funny, endearing books amongst the classics. From there, I branched into other classics as the topics, stories, or styles interested me. I am so surprised at how many classics I now read and enjoy! Just have to find the ones that are right for me at the right time.

  20. Kerrie says:

    The audible version of “Jane Eyre” read by Thandie Newton is so, so wonderful! I highly recommend especially if the classics are a struggle for you like they are for me.

  21. HeatherL says:

    Austin made the same comment I was going to make in introductions. I rarely read them before reading the book itself as, more often than note, the person writing the introduction assumes the reader is already familiar with the book and spoils the ending. If there is separate info about the author, I will read that, then the book and come back to the intro after. Reading 10-12 classics a year has been a goal for more than a decade now. So far this year I have read more than a dozen classics. Don’t forget to add classic children’s books in your reading!

  22. Stephanie says:

    I love using Spark Notes for classic novels. It helps me pick up on symbolism and gives me a concise summary of the chapter. I’m reading this book for enjoyment and to learn something, so I’m going to use resources available to me to understand a book even more.

  23. Erica says:

    This is a great post, Anne! As a former English teacher turned librarian, the only thing I would add is to consider your choice of edition and publisher. Some publishers put out an edition with notes. I find these notes invaluable as they explain archaic words and give context for events, people, places, things that would have been commonplace during the time the book was written. Penguin has a lot of classics with notes. Seek them out when you are reading a classic and you will notice a difference!

    • Jessica says:

      I agree, Erica! I did a great books program as part of my undergraduate degree and I found the Penguin Classics editions as well as the Oxford World Classics incredibly helpful in providing context, historical notes, etc. I think that these notes can be much more helpful than most essay introductions because they are written specifically to provide that context that you might not be aware of, whereas the introductions are often a fascinating literary thesis or commentary on the work, making them a much more interesting read after you’ve finished the book.

  24. Liz says:

    I don’t have any new comments to add but just wanted to say that my 10th grade world literature teacher applied all of these rules to get us to read war and peace— it really worked! Especially using cliffs notes to keep track of characters (we wouldn’t have known that Russian characters can have 3 names depending on who is talking to whom) and plot points. This was over 30 years ago and I still remember it as one of my best, most immersive reading experience . You’ve inspired me to try it on my own!

  25. Megan says:

    I agree with Austin and HeatherL…read introductions with care. This summer I tried to read the Iliad and got totally bogged down in the historical information and never got to the actual text! Many of it was interesting and valuable, to be sure, but I think looking things up as I go works better for me.

  26. Denise says:

    My hiking trio evolved out of our book club. Last year, we decided to read a book that sounded really interesting, but that the club didn’t pick. We decided how much to read each week, and then talked about it during our Sunday hike. I am a fast reader – I love, love, love to just gobble books up – so slowing down and discussing characters and plot developments while they are still fresh in my mind has been enlightening and fun! We are all over the map with our books – we did read Pride and Prejudice earlier this year, and just finished Shantaram. (Just, OMG, READ IT!!!). Now we are on to Pillars of the Earth. We’ve decided to take on some gargantuan novels that we’ve always wanted to read, but felt intimidated by due to the length. I’m loving it!

  27. Malissa says:

    Classics are my jam, so this was an easy category for me. I was so close to being an English major, and though I’m glad I picked what I did (interior design), I am tempted to go back and receive another degree in English! The book I should’ve read in high school (I literally wrote a book report on it, but I did not technically read it…) was A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. And Oh. My. Goodness. It was magnificent!! I don’t know if I would’ve appreciated it as much as a teenager, though I suspect I would’ve enjoyed it. Dickens has long been a favorite author of mine but this book left the rest in the dust.

    • Jessica says:

      Malissa, have you read Bleak House? I think that Tale of Two Cities has Dickens’ best ending by far, but I felt that Bleak House blows it out of the water in terms of characters and character development.

    • Lisa F says:

      I wrote my senior thesis on A Tale of Two Cities for my English degree! It’s one of my all-time favorite works, but I can second Jessica’s opinion of Bleak House–amazing.

  28. Jessica says:

    The only way I managed to get through Middlemarch a few years ago was by combining audiobook and a physical copy. I would listen to my audiobook on my 20 minute commute to and from work, and when I was in a particularly gripping place in the plot, I would pull out my hard copy when I got home. I don’t think I would have finished it otherwise just because of my schedule at the time, but I am so glad I did because it’s now one of my favorite books! The hard copy had notes in the back as well, so I was able to go back and read through them if I was confused. I have to say that I would never use spark notes for reading a classic because I hate having the plot spoiled for me. I tend to do as little “pre-reading” as possible–I love to jump into the book and just let it speak for itself!

    I would say that my other tip for reading classic literature is to take a recommendation from someone you know and trust (and someone who knows your reading habits!) as to whether you might enjoy a novel. Then you have someone to talk with about the book, or to prepare you for potential difficulties in the reading (for example, Moby Dick is definitely worth the read, but be prepared for all the “whale commercials” in the text!).

    • Laura says:

      The narrative parts of Moby Dick are so good! The actual plot would be quite short if it wasn’t interspersed with all the whale textbooks. It’s one time I might recommend an abridged version. Listening on audio helped to get the cadence of the writing- it’s a very lyrical story. My husband and I really enjoyed the humor and poetry (though I did fall asleep during some of the whale anatomy).

  29. Penny Gembarosky says:

    I think sometimes the designation “classic” brings up echos of “duty,” as in home work or chores, or “good for you” as in vitamins and exercise. I found my attitude changed when I discovered the definition “a book that many people have read with pleasure for many years.” Dust off those covers and enjoy!

    • Susan P says:

      Penny, I agree totally, classics say “intimidating” and “long and boring”. Instead I look at it like, these are books that MANY people really loved, that’s how they became CLASSICS, just like BESTSELLERS today—if many people really love a book, chances are, we will too! Many books disappear into oblivion, but these books endure thru the centuries and delight readers….The best part of many classics, I find, is that people in the 1600’s, 1700’s, 1800’s…were really funny!!! Great wit!

  30. Cathy says:

    #1 is a good one. My husband is a retired high school English teacher; he used to teach Pride and Prejudice in 12th grade. One of his assignments was that the students spend an hour or so on the website Pemberley.com or another similar one then write about how what they learned there changed their impression of one of the characters. Kids suddenly understand why Mrs. Bennet is so anxious to get a few of the girls married and why it is such a bad thing when Lydia runs off with Wickham.

  31. Siv says:

    I couldnt agree more about Juliet Stevenson! I will listen to her readings of Jane Austen over and over. Just love how she captures the snobbish silliness of Mrs. Elton and the delightfully silly chattiness of Miss Bates.

  32. PJ Campbell says:

    This information was so helpful. Please offer more advice for “how to read with more enjoyment” for this and other genres.

  33. Mariah Hanley says:

    Retellings! I was excited to read Pride and Prejudice after I read Eligible and Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. It also helped me understand the story.

  34. Lindsay says:

    Just popping in to recommend the free Serial Reader app. Although it doesn’t help with comprehension, it’s a good way to e-read classics, bit-by-bit. Once you choose a book, you’ll receive an “issue” every day. For example, Pride and Prejudice is 40 issues, so you’d read the book in 40 days.

  35. Leslie says:

    Have you seen the new Netflix movie REBECCA??! So well done! I was glad to have read the book first though. Lily James plays the role of Mrs. DeWinter marvelously!

  36. Lisa Runge says:

    One thing that’s been helpful to me when reading classics is to let myself enjoy them. It sounds strange, but I think I sometimes expect classics to bear this burden of greatness, and if I’m enjoying them too much, I just not be reading them with enough attention. But I read Emma this year, and I actually laughed out loud. Also, if I’m reading a classic and not enjoying it, I put it down. Heart of Darkness is not for me, and I’ve made peace with that.

  37. Rhonda says:

    If most of the the versions are abridged, that might be a clue! I got through all 1000+ pages of Les Miserables and while I love the story, there is a large amount of French history that is superfluous to the story. Next time for a long book, I will check it out ahead of time to see if the fill version is worth it!

  38. Deborah says:

    Another definition of a classic is book so rich that re-reading brings new discoveries. And the more classics you are familiar with, the more you can recognize & appreciate later re-workings–which can be very different in style & content! For example, “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins, considered one of earliest & most influential mysteries.
    Works influenced by it are “Laura” by Vera Caspary (1940’s film starred Gene Tierney), “White Lady” by Grace Livingston Hill, Colombian & Mexican telenovelas “La Viuda de Blanco” (White Widow). I suspect Elin Hilderbrand’s latest may also hark back to WIW. Collins’ “Moonstone” helped inspire Sophie Kinsella’s “Twenties Girl”.
    Talking of telenovelas, one re-made repeatedly, “La Mentira” (The Lie) by prolific Mexican/Cuban author Caridad Bravo Adams, was inspired by Shakespeare’s “Othello”–only with happy ending after mistreated wife teaches misled husband a lesson (and “Mexican Gothic” reminds me of feisty heroine Veronica–a classic name which means true image).
    Criticism of Shakespeare that his work is “full of cliches” was by someone who didn’t realize Will himself created the phrases so often used because these are so perfect.
    Beyond Spark Notes are many enlightening examinations of classic novels. Try “Fine Brush on Ivory: an Appreciation of Jane Austen” by Richard Jenkyns (I doubt Sparks points out that famous opening of “Pride & Prejudice” echoes Church reading & responses (Austen’s father & brother were clergymen). Austen herself hints that her muddled lovers in “Emma” are a nod to Shakespeare’s.
    P.S. I keep meaning to cut down on commenting–but then hope something I say might help others….

  39. Camille A Wilson says:

    Skim the less than interesting parts (like the Battle of Waterloo in Les Miserables) and be willing to not understand everything perfectly.

  40. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    Great post and suggestions in comments. I would maybe add at least starting a journey with reading classics by looking for some which correspond to favorite genres from contemporary literature: Speculative Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy, Romance, Horror and so on. I reckon part of the problem with the word classics is that it kind of lumps everything together in one mass, and suggests serious Literary Fiction or Social Problem Novels, and indeed such things do exist within classics and are worth reading, but there are many different genres, so there should be something for everyone to potentially enjoy.

  41. Tonya Turner says:

    Don’t be afraid to take your time. I read Crime and Punishment years ago and I enjoyed the book but it was slow going. It probably took me about 4 months to read. I couldn’t read it strait through I had to take breaks.

  42. Your first tip is the secret weapon, Anne! Reading the introduction, getting the context and background for what you’re about to read, will INFINITELY improve any classic reading experience! I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed Little Women in particular half as much without it – understanding Alcott’s life and family was key to appreciating that book.

  43. Meghan says:

    These are great tips! I also find that sometimes reading a modern re-telling of a classic helps to understand the original version better because we are introduced to the characters in a relatable manner. Then when we read the original, their relationships and storylines make more sense to us. This works especially well when reading a YA version of the re-telling (Anna K: A Love Story is a great segue into Anna Karenina).

  44. Great tips Anne, thank you 🙂
    I sometimes find that reading passages out loud can help, especially with some tricky, dated language. Somehow this can often lift the words off the page and I can ‘see’ it better.

  45. Charity H says:

    Audiobooks have made all the difference for me. Sometimes (like with Anna Karenina) I went back and forth between the audio and the Kindle version. However, for shorter books with a less confusing cast of characters I have found listening to be my best option. I tried reading Pride & Prejudice on paper three times and never made it through until that fourth time on audio. This year I’ve tackled the Bronte sisters and enjoyed them thoroughly. I’m now wondering if I should give Dickens another chance, this time on audio, as I’ve never made it more than a few pages without falling asleep (literally).

  46. Lauren Herth says:

    These are wonderful tips! As a high school English teacher, I can empathize with students, or anyone, being intimidated by the classics. I agree, annotation, context, and discussion are key to truly enjoying the amazing characters and plot lines found within classic literature. I have especially seen this come true in class discussions of works such as Wuthering Heights and Hamlet! Thank you for encouraging the reading of the classics!

  47. Lauren H says:

    These are wonderful tips! As a high school English teacher, I can empathize with students, or anyone, being intimidated by the classics. I agree, annotation, context, and discussion are key to truly enjoying the amazing characters and plot lines found within classic literature. I have especially seen this come true in class discussions of works such as Wuthering Heights and Hamlet! Thank you for encouraging the reading of the classics!

  48. Lisa says:

    thanks for the tips.
    I read somewhere you want to read the count of Monte Christo?
    Good luck with that.
    It is one of my moms favorite books but I did not like it.
    This book basically put me in a reading slump for months.
    I hope you like it tough.
    I am exited to know what you think.

  49. Sarah says:

    One tip my high school teacher gave us for Wuthering Heights was to read Jane Eyre first. It helps as an introduction to the genre. We had to read Wuthering Heights first and I really struggled (like a lot of the class). The teacher, who was a long term sub, lamented that when she used to teach sophomore honors English, she would teach Jane Eyre first. I wish I had at least been given that chance!
    There are some really fun books about life in the regency era! The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World is worth flipping through. And What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved is a must read! It makes you want to go back and re-read. I loved Austen as a high schooler, but this would have made it better.
    [I ended up being an English Major 🙂 ]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.