Classically Cool- Let’s Talk Classics!

I think classics tend to get a bum rap. Possibly because of the way they’re taught in schools (being told to examine the minutiae of any book is enough to kill enthusiasm, in my opinion); possibly because some people just resent being told what to read by a teacher. Either way, I disliked most classics when I read them for school. Reading them on my own, however- that’s a different story.

I’m going to bore you by telling you about some of my favorites. You’ll notice that I don’t have any books involving brooding or swooning. I’m also sorry to report that, after reading it three times, I still don’t like Dracula. So, which classics stand out to me? Well, here goes:

The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After by Alexander Dumas. Well, buckle my swash! I’m pretty sure everyone knows at least the general gist of The Three Musketeers, but I think the flat-out fun of this book is often left out when people talk about it. Also, Twenty Years After needs to be more widely read. It follows the characters from The Three Musketeers, and what happens- you guessed it- twenty years after the events in that book. It’s got a few sad moments for me, but in a good way.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. I have no idea why this book isn’t more widely known. It feels very much like an early version of Batman (minus the wonderful toys), with the hero passing himself off as a useless fop in order to help those in anonymity. It’s a blast to read! Plus, saying you’re reading a book written by a Baroness is just awesome.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I love this book! It’s so nuanced, with a delightfully creepy feel to it. It’s incredibly well-written and surprisingly short. It’s easily read in a day, which is a good thing, because it’s hard to put down.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. If you’ve read much of my blog, you’re probably aware that I love all things fantastical. This carries over to classics. I love this epic poem so, so much! If you read this and enjoy it, I suggest watching The 13th Warrior, which is a movie adaptation of Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, a book that is partially based on Beowulf.

Alice in Wonderland, and Alice, Through The Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. Okay, I might be stretching by putting this in the “classics” category. I’ve seen it discounted as a classic, but others say firmly that it is. I’m in the latter group. The delightful nonsense in this book is anything but nonsense. I’m not going to go into the whole “this means ___” of the book because that’s for the reader to decide on their own. I just find it absolutely fantastic.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. First of all, Frankenstein isn’t the monster! Except that he is. You can tell that pseudo-joke at parties and your friends will probably roll their eyes, just like I’m sure you did just now. This book is a little bit heartbreaking, but so well-written.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I think this is another one of those books that some people argue isn’t a classic. Regardless on where you stand on this very important issue (ha!), these mysteries are bloody brilliant. I’ve reread them more times than I can count.

So, what about you? What classics have you found to be classically cool? Which ones do you hate? Let’s talk!

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45 thoughts on “Classically Cool- Let’s Talk Classics!

  1. I recently read Anna Karenina and found it absolutely tedious. Told my friend who knows Russian what I thought. Apparently linguistically, it’s beautifully written in Russian. I’ll have to take her word for it, but the translation to English did nothing for me.

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  2. I read some good lesser-known ones at uni – The Beetle by Richard Marsh is weird and creepy, and outsold Dracula at the time. Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon is super dramatic (and Robert Audley’s laziness really tickled me).

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      1. I read Lady Audley’s Secret for a Victorian women’s lit class. It reads like a melodramatic romantic suspense and it was a lot of fun to read for class. Not the typical “literature class” fare at all. Enjoy!!

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  3. Great idea for a post! I should really catch up on some classics. Interestingly I did reread Treasure Island back in January before a trip to Jamaica. I loved it as a kid but this time around I was just kinda “meh” about it which really surprised me.

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  4. I adore many classics! I don’t get when people say they don’t like classics – it’s a matter of finding the authors, styles and time periods that you enjoy.
    I think what some people resent is certain books being presented as ‘the canon’ – what we *should* be reading.
    My favourites are Villette by Charlotte Bronte (which I recommend to everyone who has liked Jane Eyre), The Time Machine by H G Wells, Emma by Jane Austen and Evelina by Frances Burney.

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  5. I’m with you – I hate being told what to read in general so I really struggled with all of the books that were assigned in High School – with the exception of Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice.
    Something about how messy Catherine and Heathcliff were, and how headstrong Lizzy Bennett was just called to me.

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  6. I totally agree! My school didn’t have that much required reading until we got to senior year. So I read a bunch of classics on my own time and I really enjoyed them! I loved The Three Musketeers, and I did actually read Alice in Wonderland when I was younger on my own, and then again in high school for class, and I really despised it when I had to read it for class. Great post!

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  7. I love some of the classics. You are completely right about how teaching them in schools can make them a lot less enjoyable though. It is a shame that people are put off just because they didn’t enjoy the one they pulled to shreds in class. Alice in Wonderland is a classic as far as I am concerned 🙂 I always hope that when people read retellings that it will encourage them to go and pick up the original book.

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    1. Retellings are great in that way!
      I hope that no-one thinks I have anything against teachers, I just think that picking a book apart so much, looking for specific themes, can dampen the fun of reading a book for the first time.

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  8. I love Classics. My favourite is Jane Eyre. I like Hardy except I’m reading underneath the greenwood tree and thinking of stopping can’t get into it. I like Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, Dracula was ok. There’s loads I haven’t read and I’m always looking for recommendations. I’ve read all Jane Austen but it would be good to read some like The Three Musketeers as I usually read gothic or romantic or Thomas Hardy 😂

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    1. When I started my blog, I thought I’d be witty and sarcastic, but I didn’t factor in how hard that is when I’m tired. All I can manage is obnoxious and semi-coherent. That might need to be my blog name from here on out. 😂

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  9. Totally agree about the way they are taught. We do Beowulf. I do it over 2 weeks – mainly focused on the gory bits 🤣 Other teachers take about 6 and last year my son started off really into it but totally lost interest.
    Sometimes the school system sucks the enjoyment from pleasure reading.

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  10. Sherlock Holmes IS absolutely brilliant! And I have a soft spot for most Bronte stuff. I do not enjoy Dickens though xD but I absolutely loved the Three Musketeers! Didn’t dig the sequel though, unfortunately.
    I think a lot of people dislike ‘classics’ also because most of them are so hard to relate to nowadays. And I don’t know why they are still presented like the “model life” when our lives and virtues are so different now. Teaching really has to catch up with the times. Classics can be great, but yeah, the way they’re taught, kids just learn to hate them.

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    1. Yes, they’re definitely not “the model life” at all now. I also wonder how many of the themes and intentions that we are taught are there were actually intended by the author. I would love to chat with an author of a ‘classic’ to see if they agree with the way we view their works now.

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  11. Fantastic list! I read Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf recently and loved it!! Dorian Gray is one of my favourite books too! And I really like alice in wonderland and Frankenstein as well (yeah surprising how many people think he’s the monster… except maybe he is 😉 also agree that it’s heartbreaking and beautifully written!)

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