How to Understand and Enjoy Classic Literature

Reading classic literature can be an enriching experience. Unfortunately, much of the language in classic literature can be obscure and hard to read, even for an intelligent person or dedicated reader. Because we don't use this type of language on a daily basis, our brains need a little training to be able to not only understand classic literature, but to enjoy it as well. Here's how to train your brain to do just that.

Read Summaries

Before reading a classic work, go online and find a detailed summary of every chapter. This seems like cheating, but it's not as long as you actually read the original text afterward, too. Because you've read a detailed summary and know exactly what's going on in the story, you can more easily pick up on the nuances of the old language used until it almost becomes second nature. If you're worried about spoiling it, look for basic premise summaries to determine if the book intrigues you.

Watch Film Adaptations

Either right before or right after you read a piece of classic literature, watch a good quality film adaptation of the story. This can help you understand the basic story better, and hearing the characters speak will help you hear those sounds in your mind more easily while you're reading. In addition to this, since many film adaptations change at least a few things about the story from the book, you can use it as an exercise to determine what scenes are unique to the book and which ones are unique to the movie.

Audio Books

By reading along with an audio book, you don't have to worry about the different pronunciations of the words you're not familiar with. The tone inflections and different voices that come into play in an audio book can also help you get swept up in the story. Just make sure you have a book in hand to read along.

Start Small

Don't break out War and Peace right away. Start small by reading classic poetry or short stories. The themes in these shorter pieces are often easier to follow, so you can slowly work your way up to reading longer pieces.

Join a Book Club

Participating in a book club will not only allow you to hear the insights of other people on the themes of the book, but it will also motivate you to keep reading so that you can be ready to participate in the discussion. You'll find you enjoy the book more if you really think about it critically and exchange your opinions and theories with others. It's really enjoyable to debate author's intention, because it can be interpreted a ton of different ways.

Don't give up on reading classic literature just because you find it difficult to understand at first. The more you practice reading the dense material and difficult language the easier it will become. Soon enough, you'll find yourself pining to read more and more classic literature, because you took the time to truly appreciate it.