Despite the reward that comes with finishing a classic novel, there is often an equal sense of dread when starting one. Classics can be long, daunting, and harder to read than the average novel. From questioning whether you’re understanding it ”properly,’ to simply struggling to enjoy their tedious qualities, classics aren’t always smooth sailing.
If you know the feeling but still want to ease yourself into them– don’t give up hope just yet! Whether you’re looking for something shorter, more accessible, or something that you can truly lose yourself in – here are some places to begin.
Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
Du Maurier’s Rebecca has been adapted into a film a number of times, most notably in 1940 by director Alfred Hitchcock. The story follows a young woman who marries into wealth and finds herself surrounded by the memory of her husband’s late wife.
The writing, though florid, reads relatively easily and captures readers with its strong voice and storytelling. Rebecca is a valuable read for anyone searching for a rich plot and dramatic narrative that will leave you feeling refreshed rather than drained.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich is perhaps something of a wildcard in this list. The Russian author is renowned for his long novels and complex ideas, yet at just 56 pages (depending on the publication), this is a taster of his works.
Tolstoy replicates human nature and relationships expertly, which is why he is regarded as one of the greatest writers of realistic fiction. Ivan Ilyich confronts uncomfortable ideas about death and by extension, the meaning of life and our roles in society. The writing style might not be to everyone’s tastes, but its short length makes it much less intimidating and definitely worth experimenting with.
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale is a beehive of thought-provoking prose and valuable lessons for humanity. Despite having such deep and intricate themes, don’t be discouraged. In fact, the book is arguably fast-paced and definitely reads smoothly.
This dystopian novel will have you both horrified and hooked, with engaging language that doesn’t feel pretentious and excessively difficult. The Handmaid’s Tale is a quintessential contribution to literature. Its ability to emote so strongly means that it is a great place to start if you find yourself struggling to find a classic book you can really love. Read more about it here.
Lewis Carroll’s classic tale of fantasy and adventure is another great place to begin when reading classics. It is a light-hearted tale with a story that never plateaus and has some of the most lovable characters around. The book is a good length if you prefer a lighter read and is adored worldwide by both children and adults alike.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
When you think of The Great Gatsby
, maybe you’ll think of Leonardo DiCaprio
holding up his drink to the camera with an array of fireworks behind him. The inspiration behind the film, however, simply cannot be dismissed.
Fitzgerald writes with such fluidity and skill that readers feel inexplicably drawn to the mysterious life of Jay Gatsby. The language is beautiful and lavish, yet not in a way that will leave you struggling to read more than five pages in an hour. The book dissects themes of wealth, class and personal ambitions that make you think about your own morality and values, making it an apt suggestion for those looking for a non-intimidating classic to try out.
All in all though, reading is for pleasure– and in any medium, it should be something you look forward to. Finding out what sort of stories you connect with is only part of the fun.