(My) Tips On How To Read More Classics

Like many readers, I was a bit resentful of the books I was forced to read for English class in school. I liked reading but hated being forced to read on a timeline, reading with a critical eye, & writing essays on a book. I wanted to read for fun and maybe discuss how I liked/didn’t like elements of a story. Therefore, I thought I didn’t enjoy classics.

Related: did you know I have a bookstagram account for classic books?

Nope, turns out I like them just fine when I do it my way. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along my way to loving classic books.

Read What Interests You

This isn’t your literature class! Hate Brit Lit? Don’t read it. Mark Twain make your eye twitch? Move on. You probably have a type of book that you enjoy. Romance? Sci-fi? Memoir? Guess what? There’s classic literature in your favorite genre. Just take time to discover it!

Take Your Time

Once again, this isn’t your literature class. You don’t have to read 100 pages a day. If you can only read for a few pages a day, that’s okay! Read when you can squeeze it in.

Serial Reader

Serial Reader is a great free app that I discovered years ago. Basically, you “subscribe” to a book. The app has broken the story into “bite sized” pieces. You get alerted at a specified time of day to read today’s installment (typically about 10 minutes in length). The books available (for free) are classics that are in the public domain.

Perfect for those who really don’t “have time” to read or want add more books to their TBRs. You likely have 10 minutes of downtime each day that you just scroll on your phone: waiting for coffee to brew; waiting in line somewhere; even reading in the bathroom!

Read At Your Own Speed

There’s no deadline to get a book done. Read a couple of pages a day if that’s what works for you. Many classic books are available in the public domain so you can download them for free from the ebook store of your choice. That way you’re not having to be rushed by a library due date if you don’t own the book.


The language of older books can be a hang up for people. It can be difficult to get a grasp on if you’re not familiar with it. If you struggle with the language, your attention span can wander. Your mind starts to wander and it will take ages to read the book so you give up on it. Sound familiar?

Listening to audiobooks can make the story easier to understand. I’ve been able to complete many series/books that I didn’t think I liked. Turned out reading the story just wasn’t for me. Having someone read to me made a world of difference.

One reason a lot of people hesitate about trying audiobooks is they think their mind will wander when listening & they won’t absorb the story. Every one is different but if that’s a concern for you: try starting with a lighter book & pair it with a mindless task (folding laundry, washing dishes, putting together a puzzle, running). You can do the task without a lot of thought so your mind can focus on the story.

See the Movie First

I know, I know. Seeing the movie first sounds like a big no-no for book lovers. I’d argue for classics it’s almost better to do it this way. You are able to see the main highlights of the story. You meet the characters. You’ll see the plot points. Now when you read the story, you know what to expect. Sure, there might be a few differences between book and movie but typically nothing too drastic. [Of course, there are typically better adaptions than others so maybe do a quick online search to see which is the best adaption.]

Take the Help Available

If you are a reader of certain age, you might remember CliffsNotes or SparkNotes. Well, they’re still around and they’re online now.

I read my first Austen by reading a chapter and then reading the notes for the chapter. Yes, it look longer to read this way but I actually understood what happened. Is it cheating? No more than if I did a buddy read and discussed each chapter with buddies.

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7 thoughts on “(My) Tips On How To Read More Classics

  1. I just downloaded serial reader – thanks so much! That’s really going to help me get some more classics ticked off my very long list!! Do you have any favourite classic novels? I like most of Austen, Jane Eyre, Germinal and David Copperfield. Kat x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post – Summaries are really good for reading classics (and character lists on wikipedia) – Shmoop is great – it gives a chapter by chapter summary for a huge number of classics


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