Why Read (or reread) the Classics

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Lately most of the books I have read are dusty old novels who’s copy writes have long expired. Many of these books I read when I was a kid, but about six months ago I decided to read them again. Why read (or reread) the classics?

From a writer‘s standpoint, the reasoning is clear. Books that have stood the test of time, and writers who are household names many years after their deaths must have something to offer. I find that each writer is really good at something, whether it be character development, setting description, or their use of conflict. We modern writers stand to learn a lot from those of old. And if you read the classics before you became a writer, you probably missed a lot of the really neat things these wordsmiths from the past were profoundly good at.

For example: I just finished rereadingA Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. He has always been one of my favorite writers, but I had not read any of his works since becoming a novelist myself. My conclusions, aside from this being a great book that has lessons to be learned on many levels–sociological, psychological, historical, etc, etc–Dickens is a master of character development and of weaving the lives of multiple characters together for an explosive (albeit heart-wrenching) climax. The way he sneaks his characters into the story, many of them seeming to have less meaningful roles, or perhaps secondary roles that serve only to enhance your understanding to the main characters (MCs) is amazing. He takes that seemingly secondary character and gives them a pivotal role in the story in a way that satisfies the reader’s desire for those twist and turns that leave you with whiplash.

I’m going to be blogging about other classics I’ve been reading as of late, not to give a traditional book review, but to tell what lesson I think a writer can learn from reading (or rereading) these books. With Chuck Dickens, I think the lesson to be learned is primarily in the character development department, though all of the greats have lots to offer in every part of the writer’s toolbox.






About nwharrisbooks

Born and raised in a small town in north Georgia, my imagination evolved under the swaying pines surrounding my family's log home. On summer days that were too hot, winter days that were too cold, and every night into the wee hours I read books. My face was rarely seen, always hidden behind a binding. I was nurtured on fiction. Now it is my turn to create some of my own. I live in sunny southern California with my beautiful wife and two perfect children (I may be biased). I write like I read, constantly. I studied anthropology at UCSB and medicine at SUNY Buffallo.
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11 Responses to Why Read (or reread) the Classics

  1. feltenk says:

    “Great Expectations” is one of my favorite books. I love the movie & the soundtrack, too.

  2. tchistorygal says:

    Chuck Dickens?? hahaha Thanks for stopping by my blog. Congratulations on being a writer. I may get there yet. Right now I’m having a great time blogging. I look forward to getting better acquainted this year through our blogs 🙂 Marsha 🙂

  3. Always have loved some of the classics!

  4. Good plan! I’ll be watching closely. 😉

  5. L. Marie says:

    Love Dickens! Love Tale of Two Cities. I’m very partial to Little Dorrit. 🙂 And I so agree. These books have something to offer the novelist of today.

  6. Pingback: Booking Through Thursday Meme: Books I Always Reread | Allison's Book Bag

  7. Woohoo! I love the classics! They compose the majority of my reading material. I’m horrible about branching out into modern fiction. I grabbed two new-ish novels at the store the other day and come wind, sleet, or snow I’m gonna read ’em! However, I will probably eventually retreat back to my classics. Have you ever read the poem “The Hunting of The Snark” by Lewis Carroll? It’s a very long poem that tells a story – give it a whirl. I agree that the classics have many lessons to impart on writers – excellent insight you’ve brought forward.

  8. There’s a reason they are called ‘Classics’!

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