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GUEST POST: Why we should read classic novels by Melissa Chan

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Why We Should Read Classic Novels by Melissa Chan

Before answering the question of why we should read classics novels, we must first define or at least distinguish what a classic novel is. Classic literature is a key aspect of history and culture. Well known authors are some of the most famed individuals remembered throughout time. But what exactly defines a classic novel? A book or story that has been around for a while? Does it have to be famous, old, celebrated? Every reader has a general sense of what defines classic literature, that a title such as The Iliad by Homer is a classic, while a more recently published and lesser known title is not as classic, or perhaps not even considered literature at all.

Indeed, what is considered a classic in one reader would not be considered a classic to another another. For the purpose of this argument on why we should read them, I will define classic novels as any work of literature, whether it is book, collection of stories, or poem, that is in the general sense, noteworthy, well-regarded, and considered by most individual readers, news outlets, and the general public as a classic.

Why should we read classic novels? I would like to discuss just what exactly makes them so special, and why we go out of our way to read them. I expect this question is many readers ask themselves when considering any new read. Here are a few reasons why you should consider adding a classics to your ever growing future to-be-read pile.

There is no denying it, some of our best loved stories are everywhere. Told, and retold, translated, adapted for younger readers, older readers, and readers of different genres. And as a result these treasured tales are passed onto future generations. We see them everywhere, in movies, TV, and even in music. One should read classic novels because it better helps us see and understand the variations and re-tellings.

Take the case of the vampire, although the idea of the vampire has been crafted, rewritten, and retold countless times especially in the recent years, Bram Stoker's Dracula is still one of the most recognized stories about vampires. I enjoyed reading Stoker's novel immensely, not only for it's suspense and horror, but as an in-depth understanding of the general concept of a vampire. Reading it has helped me to understand and appreciate the recent renditions more than if I had not read it beforehand.

Many readers are also writers. Classics are not only treasured for their quality of writing, but also for the fact that they represent paradigmatic and iconic instances of these stories. In case of Cinderella, it is a tale still very much enjoyed to this day. One of the most well known re-tellings was that of the Brothers Grimm in Grimms' Fairy Tales in 1812. Reading and understanding these paradigms, can help strengthen your writing as an author.

Most classics were written such as long time ago that their copyrights have long expired. While this is great for the distribution and sharing of the works, it also means that fewer or in many cases no one has anything to gain by promoting by these works. Especially in the sea of brand new books with all the hype and advertisement that goes along with them. Classics should be read, or at least given a try alongside these newer options. They have been enjoyed by so many other readers in the past, that perhaps you might enjoy reading them as well.

The books we still know about and read are the ones that have lasted through the ages. They are not necessarily better but worth a look to see why they may have weathered the test of time.

It was my love of reading classic literature that led me to start Literary Book Gifts. I design each and every piece to suit the characters, themes, and stories in each particular novel. In the case of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, I designed it to capture not only the idea of childhood exploration but the feeling of flight. It has been a joy to recreate some of my favorite books into artwork for shirts and totes. I started this company because I believe that classic literature deserves a place in modern day society, that it should be appreciated and ultimately shared with others. Perhaps the Pride and Prejudice T-Shirt will help spark a conversation about Jane Austen's classic, and maybe a new reader will pick up a copy.

For Kate Forsyth's readers use the exclusive code KATEFORSYTH20 at checkout to receive 20% off on your order! There is no minimum and this coupon code does not expire.

Do you read classics? Share your favorites.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I had to re-read this book after reading Helen Macdonald’s extraordinary memoir H is for Hawk, which revealed much I did not know about T.H. White and his life and sorrows and struggles. 

A classic of children’s fantasy, The Sword in the Stone is a funny and inventive story of King Arthur’s childhood. It was first published in 1938, but it feels incredibly fresh. Much of the book is made up of a series of set pieces in which Arthur (known as the Wart) is changed into different animals like a fish, a falcon, and a badger, and meets various comic or menacing characters, such as Robin Hood (cleverly disguised as Robin Wood). The underlying idea is that the Wart is being secretly prepared to be king by his tutor, Merlyn. The book abounds in comic anachronisms (ostensibly because Merlyn lives backwards), but it is also filled with acutely observed historical details about medieval times. No attempt has been made to simplify the language, and so one of its joys is the multitude of strange words and terms, which I remember delighting in as a child. 

A wonderful, strange and memorable fantasy, perfect for any clever child.


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

A fictionalized version of Noel Streatfeild's childhood.

Noel Streatfield is a British children’s’ writer, most famous for her 1930s and 1940s children’s books (often called ‘the Shoes’ series, as many were published in the US with similar titles such as Ballet Shoes, Party Shoes, Skating Shoes, and so on.) She’s one of my favourite Golden Era children’s authors, and I’ve been collecting her books since I was a child.

A Vicarage Family is an autobiographical novel inspired by her own childhood growing up as a vicar’s daughter in the early 1900s. It gives a great deal of insight into the attitudes and beliefs of the British middle-class at the turn of the century, and into the forces that shaped one of the world’s most revered children’s writers. 

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