The Crow's Dream

Philosophy, geekery, and the meaning if life, and what I read this week…

How to enjoy literature

with 5 comments

Great literature is available everywhere. If you are reading this post, I am sure I can assume that you are interested in finding out more about the classics. The following list of ideas comes from the things  I wish I had known when I first began to explore literature and the classics.

1) Start early

Some studies have shown that reading to children from a very early age can help them to develop their minds in ways that will make them a lot more successful in the future, no matter what their background is. If you have children you  should be reading to them. There are a lot of very good classics for kids out there. Reading aloud can also help you to appreciate them better. Some times I find myself making voices and acting out scenes as I reread some of the same fairy tales my parents used to read to me. It’s embarrassing, but that’s how I learned to speak English. If you need an excuse to read the Grim Fairy Tales, reading them to your kids should be a good start. There are a lot of non western classics for children out there, if you are looking for something alternative to offer your kids. 

2) Read only stuff you enjoy

When I was in school I had to read a lot of books I didn’t like. I even forced myself to read books that I thought would make me smarter. In some cases, the books captured my imagination, but most of the time they did not, and they turned in to a futile journey though dusty and gray shelves. Do not ever read anything just because someone said that it was a classic. Read it because you couldn’t help yourself. Like many other things, literary taste evolves with time. I started with comic books, and worked my way up to some of Shakespeare. I used to not like Emily Dickinson, but I am beginning to love her. Trust yourself, you’ll get to the stuff you need to get to when you are ready. I continue to read what others would consider escapist literature. Escapist literature makes the bulk of my reading experience, but as we’ll see on idea number four, that is a good thing, since it has opened the door to many life changing books. 

3) Do not confuse enjoyment with ease

Although I love science, there are a lot of scientific ideas that continue to elude my untrained mind. It doesn’t mean that I’m stupid, it only means that I need to learn more in order to really understand what the authors are trying to convey. I avoided the science classroom for a long time because it contradicted some of my religious ideas. Eventually, I got over it and found that science was amazing, but that I had a lot to learn. Physics, for instance, was hard. Reading the more scientific works of Carl Sagan, or Charles Seife was very difficult. I had to read only one chapter a day, and I used the wikipedia a lot, but in the end, my view of the universe was completely transformed. Do not let difficulty trick you in to thinking that you may not like a book. 

4) Follow your bliss

This one comes from Joseph Campbell, but I’m going to use my wife as an example. She is a librarian, which means that she has one of those amazing minds that are capable of making connections between things very quickly. It also means that she goes on obsessive literary excursions once in a while. It all may start when we go see a really bad vampire movie, for example. Next thing I know she is reading Dracula again. She may even start researching the ancient Balkan nobility, which eventually may lead her to read some more classics. I recommended you read what you enjoy because it will guide you to deepen your literary muscle. It is nice to find out where science fiction and comics come from. Like Thor? Check out the Edda. Think The Sandman rocks? Check out the Divine Comedy.  Some authors are wellsprings of classic allusions and are worth following. Neil Gaiman, for instance, is very good at leading you down the Rabbit hole. Follow the white rabbit! The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Fables are two examples of culturally rich escapism.

5) Converse with the authors

Keep a journal. The classics are like a letter from the past. Keeping a journal will help you to become a part of the conversation. You can write imaginary dialogs with the authors, or simply jot down your thoughts on them. If you can, find people who have read the same books. A lot of my friendships are based on similar reading habits. I do not talk about the books, but the common references make my conversations a lot of fun. Admittedly, almost all of the aforementioned references fall within the geeky vernacular. I have met a lot of new unexpected friends after finding out that we have a classic book in common. Writing and talking about the great books helps to keep them alive. 

6) Think for yourself

I love Mark twain, and I love Ben Franklin, as well as many other authors, but just because they are wise old men who wrote a while ago, it doesn’t mean that they are always right. Be willing do disagree, ad be willing to be shown new ways of thinking, some times you are the one who is wrong. 

7) Make time

Give yourself time to read, wether on audio, a device, or a book. Find the time. Keep your reading by the toilet if you must, but develop the habit of reading every day. It will spread to the classics if you gently guide it the same way a gardener guides a plant. don’t force yourself, but once you get there, make the time and enjoy the world that will open up before you.

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Written by Hector

November 10, 2008 at 9:00 am

5 Responses

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  1. I love this article. 🙂 It’s so useful and true!

    distracted spunk

    November 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm

  2. You make some great points!
    I’m getting back into reading everyday…I didn’t realize how much I missed it.

    Flayrah

    November 11, 2008 at 3:16 am

  3. Yeah… I had missed reading as well. Luckily, I take the bus every day now, and get to get some good reading in. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of most classics, but I could give a few of them a try again. I’ve been curious about the Divine Comedy. The last book I read that was similar to that was Faust, and it took me months. Of course, I’ve got to finish Haunted first…

    Drew

    November 11, 2008 at 5:37 pm

  4. Spunk, Fly, Drew–I’m glad you you guys liked the post. Thank you for your comments!

    Hector

    November 12, 2008 at 11:08 pm

  5. Great suggestions! I recently made a post about this topic myself, and it’s good to see you make some similar points but nicer to see some new things I didn’t consider. 🙂

    Kelly

    November 13, 2008 at 5:28 am


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