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Classic Book Discussion > How to get started with classic literature

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message 1: by Faye (new)

Faye I need some help with my Christmas shopping, everybody!

I have a 14-year-old niece who has been a reader her whole life but is only just starting to show the first glimmers of interest in classic literature. She's home-schooled, so she isn't getting instruction on classic lit from English teachers, which makes it feel like it's up to me to steer her down this road.

Problem is, I don't know where to start! I cut my teeth on classics as a kid, so I already owned books by Dickens and Charlotte Bronte and was starting on Shakespeare by the time I was her age, but I'm not sure that she would be quite ready for something so far removed from modern literature as they are. Does anyone have any suggestions? Do you remember what classics you read and loved in your early teens?


message 2: by Chatterjak (new)

Chatterjak | 33 comments When I was at school we studied Romeo & Juliet, and A Midsummers Nights Dream at about this age - I think they thought the 'lighter' stuff would ease us into it gradually. I think Romeo & Juliet has a natural appeal to teenagers - young star crossed lovers and all of that! Also there are lots of modern adaptations which are probably helpful & more appealing at that age - certainly I've always found if you're able to watch a play it really comes to life & helps you understand it much better. That said, we did have a very good teacher who guided us gently through the early readings & beginning to decipher the language! It must have worked though, because we went on to study Julius Caesar later & I loved it!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

What about some Jane Austen and a couple of things by Charlotte, Emily, or Anne Bronte? Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were two of my favorites when I was about that age. She might also like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.


message 4: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberterminatorofgoodreads) I just got into Little Women and am enjoying it. I also enjoyed Little House in the big woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder too and I read that one when I was younger.


message 5: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Little Women, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe.... I'm sure I can think of a zillion others. I'll come back and add some more when I do. :)


message 6: by Faye (new)

Faye Chatterjak - I'd love to get her into Shakespeare! I plan to show her some of the movie adaptations first, which was how I got into it.

Lissa - Those are definite possibilities. I'm not a Jane Austen fan myself, but I was considering P&P. She might read The Scarlet Letter for her schooling at some point, I'm not sure. Frankenstein is a good idea. I'll give that some thought.

Amber - I gave her Little Women a couple years ago, but I'm not sure if she ever read it. Little House... that might actually be a good idea for my 11-year-old niece, who I was also thinking of buying a book for.

Thanks, guys!


message 7: by Faye (new)

Faye Elizabeth - Thanks, that's a great list! I know she already has The Secret Garden and Little Women, but I'm not sure about the others. I'll look into that. Please do add more if you think of them. :)


message 8: by Malcolm (last edited Nov 19, 2013 05:19PM) (new)

Malcolm Massiah Try her on A Tale of Two Cities, which is a good introduction to Dickens. It was his first written as a weekly serial as opposed to monthly, so it is not a rambling potboiler like earlier works.

Also, it concerns the French Revolution so it may tie in with her history lessons as well as her general literature.

Dickens exercises astonishing restraint in ATOTC, so although it is Dickensian, it's quite Dickens-lite by comparison to his earlier doorstop pulpboilers.

Oliver Twist is Dickens-lite too, but is more concerned with social reform with regards to the workhouse system in Victorian Britain and the criminal underworld with regards to the "education" of orphan waifs & strays as thieves.

So I think ATOTC may be the better option as its appeal is more wider, historically speaking.


message 9: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberterminatorofgoodreads) No problem faye. :-)


message 10: by LauraT (last edited Nov 20, 2013 03:20AM) (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 114 comments Lissa wrote: "What about some Jane Austen and a couple of things by Charlotte, Emily, or Anne Bronte? Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were two of my favorites when I was about that age. She might also like The..."

I started my classic love with P&P!


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I had read a few classics before P&P, but that was my first taste of Austen. After that one, I had to read the rest of Austen's novels and, when those were each read, I started in with the Brontes. Austen is like a gateway classic that leads to more and more classics, haha.


message 12: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 114 comments Lissa wrote: "I had read a few classics before P&P, but that was my first taste of Austen. After that one, I had to read the rest of Austen's novels and, when those were each read, I started in with the Brontes...."

Same here! The Brontees are really "romantic"; it could be a good start for a girl! I've tried to make my son read Wuthering Heights but he quit after few pages...


message 13: by Faye (new)

Faye Malcolm wrote: "Try her on A Tale of Two Cities, which is a good introduction to Dickens. It was his first written as a weekly serial as opposed to monthly, so it is not a rambling potboiler like earlier works..."

AToTC is my favourite book of all time, so I would have to agree! I hope to get her to read A Christmas Carol this December, and if she likes it, I'll definitely start giving her Dickens novels one by one. :)

Laura - I'm not sure that she's into "romantic" literature, so I'm hesitating over P&P and Jane Eyre. She's more into action-packed fantasy at the moment, so I feel as though those might feel a little boring in comparison.


message 14: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 114 comments Faye wrote: "Laura - I'm not sure that she's into "romantic" literature, so I'm hesitating over P&P and Jane Eyre. She's more into action-packed fantasy at the moment, so I feel as though those might feel a little boring in comparison. "

Mmm, could be.


message 15: by Faye (new)

Faye You guys, I think I've settled it... I was poking around on Amazon and found this - Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde all in one volume, with an introduction by Stephen King. YES PLEASE. :D

If this manages to get her hooked on the classics, I'm totally using the rest of your suggestions for subsequent gifts. Thanks, everyone!


message 16: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberterminatorofgoodreads) Awesome Faye! I hope she likes it. You should get her on classic Stephen king too. ^_^


message 17: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth That sounds great. I was going to come back and add the Anne of Green Gables books to the list, but then saw you were looking for adventure..... Maybe that might suit better in the future (or for the littler one).


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

If she likes adventure, she might like The Scarlet Pimpernel. I just finished that one and it was fantastic. And there are more of them if she likes the first one enough to want to read more.


message 19: by Faye (new)

Faye Elizabeth - I got her Anne of Green Gables a few years ago, but I don't know if she ever read it. If she had, I would have given her the entire L.M. Montgomery library by now, haha! Those were my absolute faves as a kid. :)

Lissa - There was more than one book about the Scarlet Pimpernel? I had no idea! My mom LOVES that book, so that might actually be a good idea for her Christmas present...

Thanks!


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

She did write a bunch more. Most of them revolve around specific people he was smuggling out of France. Here's a list of all the ones she wrote after the original: https://www.goodreads.com/series/4919...


message 21: by Faye (new)

Faye Lissa wrote: "She did write a bunch more. Most of them revolve around specific people he was smuggling out of France. Here's a list of all the ones she wrote after the original: https://www.goodreads.com/series/..."

Awesome, thanks!


message 22: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Massiah Lissa wrote: "She did write a bunch more. Most of them revolve around specific people he was smuggling out of France. Here's a list of all the ones she wrote after the original: https://www.goodreads.com/series/..."

They look like fun romps. I've not read the original. Would you say she is as heavy a writer as Dickens or lighter? As much as I like Dickens, I think he can be a little heavy handed and self-indulgent generally.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I would say she is definitely lighter. I really do love Dickens and enjoy reading his works, but The Scarlet Pimpernel was a lot more fun to read than his novels. It is predictable and it is fairly simple, but it's enjoyable, fun, and well written. A nice break from the more serious and heavy novels I've had on my plate the last few weeks.


message 24: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Massiah Lissa wrote: "I would say she is definitely lighter. I really do love Dickens and enjoy reading his works, but The Scarlet Pimpernel was a lot more fun to read than his novels. It is predictable and it is fairly..."

Thanks. I'll see if Project Gutenberg or Kindle has any.


message 25: by Pamela (last edited Nov 21, 2013 04:10PM) (new)

Pamela | 11 comments Faye wrote: "I need some help with my Christmas shopping, everybody!

I have a 14-year-old niece who has been a reader her whole life but is only just starting to show the first glimmers of interest in classic ..."


She might like 20,000 leagues under the sea. It's one of my favorites. Treasure Island is also a good read.

I also loved The Once and Future King.


message 26: by Faye (new)

Faye Ohh, good ideas. Thanks, Pam!


message 27: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 11 comments Faye wrote: "Ohh, good ideas. Thanks, Pam!"

No problem. I do like Wilkie Collins too. I just read the Moonstone which is a mystery and the Law and the Lady which is a bit of a mystery too. I recently read the Illiad and the Odyssey, and I loved them.


message 28: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Massiah Pam wrote: "Faye wrote: "Ohh, good ideas. Thanks, Pam!"

No problem. I do like Wilkie Collins too. I just read the Moonstone which is a mystery and the Law and the Lady which is a bit of a mystery too. I re..."


I've a love hate relationship with Collins. I loved the Woman in White and couldn't wait to read more. However I only enjoyed The Dead Secret and The Moonstone. The Law and the Lady has it's good points. It's quite funny in places and there is a really nasty scene involving brutal cruelty to a servant girl, if memory serves.

However, I found the premise of the story a bit hard to swallow. I certainly wouldn't marry or go on honeymoon under such uncertain circumstances. But it was entertaining which is all such an author can want or perhaps expect.

I've only read Alexander Pope's translations of the Illiad and Odyssey, which I can recommend.


message 29: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 11 comments Malcolm wrote: "Pam wrote: "Faye wrote: "Ohh, good ideas. Thanks, Pam!"

No problem. I do like Wilkie Collins too. I just read the Moonstone which is a mystery and the Law and the Lady which is a bit of a myster..."

I do wonder if I like Collins because he approaches some of the story telling like an attorney. Tell me, how plausible did you find the Illiad and Odyssey? If I wanted what could only happen in the real world, I'd stick to non-fiction. But alas, I am a dreamer..........


message 30: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Massiah Pam wrote: "Malcolm wrote: "Pam wrote: "Faye wrote: "Ohh, good ideas. Thanks, Pam!"

No problem. I do like Wilkie Collins too. I just read the Moonstone which is a mystery and the Law and the Lady which is a..."


How plausible lol. You're playing with me surely. As plausible as any Roman or Greek myth. But I really do not expect much reality in myths - some universal truth, perhaps, if one looks hard enough. But I read those poems for amusement merely knowing beforehand that they would be fairy tales for old time schoolboys and adults alike :o)


message 31: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 11 comments Yes, Malcolm, I couldn't resist! Anyone insults my Collins, you are going down! Lol!


message 32: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 114 comments Pam wrote: "Yes, Malcolm, I couldn't resist! Anyone insults my Collins, you are going down! Lol!"

Unother Collins lover?


message 33: by Malcolm (last edited Nov 22, 2013 07:07AM) (new)

Malcolm Massiah Pam wrote: "Yes, Malcolm, I couldn't resist! Anyone insults my Collins, you are going down! Lol!"

Insults what insults? I found his novel The Law and the Lady 'funny in places' and 'entertaining'.

Perhaps your monitor needs a quick wipe over with Mr Sheen or something? ;o)

I suggest you don't read Why I love/hate Charles Dickens on my blog www.thenovicepapers.blogspot.com


message 34: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 11 comments Malcolm wrote: "Pam wrote: "Yes, Malcolm, I couldn't resist! Anyone insults my Collins, you are going down! Lol!"

Insults what insults? I found his novel The Law and the Lady 'funny in places' and 'entertaining'..."


Hate and Dickens do NOT go together!


message 35: by Pamela (new)

Pamela | 11 comments LauraT wrote: "Pam wrote: "Yes, Malcolm, I couldn't resist! Anyone insults my Collins, you are going down! Lol!"

Unother Collins lover?"


Isn't everyone?


message 36: by Malcolm (new)

Malcolm Massiah Pam wrote: "Hate and Dickens do NOT go together!"

Tell that to the schoolkids!


message 37: by Faye (new)

Faye Malcolm wrote: "Pam wrote: "Hate and Dickens do NOT go together!"

Tell that to the schoolkids!"


I do, on a regular basis. ;)


message 38: by Amber (new)

Amber (amberterminatorofgoodreads) The Mask of Zorro was pretty good too with Peter Pan and Little Men. The Bat was a great classic mystery with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.


message 39: by Larry (last edited Feb 10, 2016 09:35AM) (new)

Larry I'm not sure how we really get started with classic literature ... it seems we get started and then restarted over and over. But I know for me, I remember encountering English literature in a whole new way in a class at N.C. State University where the professor (Williiam Bell Toole) was just so overcome with the love of what he was teaching that all of that came out in his classes. He was the best professor I ever had, and even though I went on to get a Ph.D. in Economic History, I never had a better professor than he was. I went to summer school in the summer before my senior year--this was 1970--just to take his Shakespeare course. And that was the best course I ever had in my life. And that truly left me with a love for the classics--Shakespeare but many other works--that has lasted now for more than 45 years.


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