After high school and college, most young adults are busy working, maintaining their home, and trying to ﬁnd time to visit with friends and family. Reading? Most of it is work-related, or the news, or books with titles like 10 Effective Leadership Strategies, 100 DIY Home Projects, or How to be a Better Person in 90 Days. Reading all those things is well and good, but mostly boring and repetitive. If you went for a long period of just reading the news and self-help books like I did, you might start to question why you ever liked reading. You might even wonder how to effectively implement the strategies in those self-help books. So if you really want to enjoy reading and learn more about yourself and who you want to become, maybe it is time to (re)introduce the Classics.
For the purposes of this article, the Classics are books that have withstood the test of time. They may have been written in Ancient Greece or 19th century Britain, but their stories have captivated and instructed readers across times and cultures. They were penned by Homer, Charles Dickens, Owen Wister, William Shakespeare, James Fenimore Cooper, Jane Austen, Louis De Wohl, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, L.M. Montgomery, Harper Lee, and the list goes on. You may have read some of their works in high school or college, but you probably were not that interested in them. Even if you were an avid reader and enjoyed these books, there are so many more lessons and subtleties that you will understand better now than you did then.
So why should you read the Classics in particular? First of all, they are well-written. Nothing is a bigger turn off for a reader than a poorly written book. The Classics are still around because they draw in and engage the reader. The various plots in the book weave together seamlessly, creating a story that keeps the readers interested and appeals to their intelligence. The vocabulary is rich, with none of the dumbed-down slang we use today. Since they are well written, reading the Classics often can help you to develop a richer vocabulary and improve your own writing skills. This can be valuable in your career, since employers nowadays have a difﬁcult time even ﬁnding young adults who can write professionally.
The Classics also help you to see humanity in action. You can read business books on leadership, but pick up the works of Homer or Shakespeare and you will see examples of good and bad leadership in play. You may be struggling in your faith journey, but reading one of Louis De Wohl’s novels on the saints can help guide you. You may have a difﬁcult time realizing your potential, but sitting down with Owen Wister’s The Virginian shows how a typical cowboy can grow into an effective leader. As people, we learn best by examples. Did you learn more about how you should be by what your parents said to you or by what they did themselves? It is the same with books. The example of a ﬁctional character in a novel can teach you more about how you could and should be than a simple step-by-step guide ever could.
Also, for the most part, the Classics are not their movie counterparts. Very often, you will learn different lessons from the book than the movie. A good example of this is The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. The movie is good, the book is better, but the characters get mixed up, resulting in different storylines. Movies can also be poorly made or reconstruct the story, which can leave you with a bad impression of a book you have never read. So do not judge a book by its movie, but read it on its own merits.
So when can you ﬁnd time to read these books? Just read a chapter or two in between your activities, while waiting at the airport or DMV, or read a book instead of watching a TV show. You’ll probably sleep better after reading Pride and Prejudice while sipping some red wine than if you had just watched The Walking Dead anyways. One other bonus is, since the Classics are so old, most of them are available for free from Google Books. If you are philosophically opposed to e-books though, they are available at the library or for a bargain price at used and new bookstores. So whenever you ﬁnd that niche of free time, relax, enjoy and learn from one of those stories that never grows old.