It doesn’t have to be boring! ~10 Tips for reading classics

swirl-divider4reading-oncosecThe first time we come into contact with classics is at school, where novels are thrust upon us. We are expected to write essays, sit exams on them, (honestly, 3/4 we don’t read but end up wiki-ing the plot.) Some of us never pick up a book again.

I am pretty sure this is not what our teachers wanted our education to lead to. The purpose of these books is to cultivate our love of reading and bring us into contact with inspirational material that will make an impact on our future lives…(maybe.)

So here are some tips that can help you with your transition to reading classics- whether you are just starting or want to get back to reading on a regular basis. So, let’s go!


1) Try to get into a routine- may it be reading 1 chapter a day or every night before bed.

2) Start off with easier books. If you want to keep to classic lit, then start off with ones with simpler, uncomplicated writing styles and plot lines. Usually, we have memories of books we read at school, that have put us off evermore. This doesn’t have to be the case. NOW, nobody is forcing the books on you- and you get to choose the one YOU want to read and appeals to you.

3) Genres in books are just like that of films-adventure, action, romance, comedy, sci-fi…they are endless. And this goes for classic literature too. It is hard to know the best books to read, so you can either do some research online for recommendations, or just go to the book store and read the blurb (back cover!) Imagine them screaming ‘pick me, pick me!’ Now generally, classic lit blurb’s don’t have a lot of glossing on them like many modern novels. Some editions are long (with unattractive covers) which can put you right off. But the great thing, is how publishers are ‘re-vamping’ covers making them bright, colourful and appealing that are supposed to look nice on the bookshelf- taking content aside.

Tip: Buy one with a nice cover. Yes, it is undoubtedly true you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But there’s no harm in choosing an edition that is attractive to you. Not only does it improve the reading experience, but also your chance of going back to it in the future, trust me.


4) Classics are easier to access- you got it, a library! Some of my best memories are of libraries- I’m not even kidding. They always have a little corner, a comfortable place to sit and get away from the world. It’s also somewhere to meet like minded people (theoretically speaking…)

5) There’s a reason why they are called classics. Passed down through the ages, they remain people’s favourites and have been so…for a reason. In some cases, you won’t agree, and think a book people champion as amazing is utter……well you get the picture. The point is that you made the effort to read it, to find out for yourself. That way, not only can you say ‘I’ve read it, and I disagree with you’, but it gives you something to talk about.

6) It might be interesting to keep an ‘old language’ vocabulary notebook. It comes in handy, and teaches you new words all the time. Words like alacrity and auspicious and sanguine. They exist, but sure, most people don’t use them any more. But treat it as a brain exercise, and it can improve your language skills- no matter which classics (or any book for that matter) you are reading.

7) All reading requires patience, the act of picking up from where you left off, the desire to continue reading, no matter what it is. It’s so easy to become sidetracked in the busy routine of day to day life. But a lot of things require patience, and in a society where we rely on phones, laptops, ipads etc to get by, most people would rather choose a game or watch a TV show (yes, guilty!) rather than do something more time consuming. Especially if you’ve had a tiring day at work, there’s nothing better than catching up your latest TV show rather than reaching for a book (depending also on how fast a reader you are) But that doesn’t matter. It’s the point of persevering and not giving up on a book you like.

8) Kindles and other electronic devices are taking over actual books, equalling to less of us reading hard copies. Yes this is an issue for book lovers, as nothing can beat a hard copy. There are many advantages to using a Kindle, it can store thousands of books, easy to access and bookmark, light to carry. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re reading something.


9) This may be less a tip and more an observation- but keep a hard copy of the book by your bed, or on your desk, somewhere you can see it. I’m more motivated to read if there’s a book that’s there right in front of me, rather than on a kindle or other device which I can just tuck away.

10) Last but not least, why readers are scientifically proven to be the best people to fall in love with…uh huh, it’s true. Fellow book readers, this is the moment you have been waiting for…

So what do you think? Do readers make the best lovers?

And what are your reading tips?


“Barnaby Rudge”: A tale of violence

swirl-divider4Dicken’s review number 2, comes “Barnaby Rudge“. It is not as famous as his other novels, and quite understated. To give you an idea of what it’s about if you haven’t read it, firstly, here is a SUMMARY:

“Dicken’s first historical novel is filled with violence, looting and the terrible deaths of the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots that swept London in 1780. ‘Barnaby Rudge’ tells the story of Barnaby, a simple boy caught up in the riots, and the friends and family who are themselves affected by the strange events in Barnaby’s life, including kind- hearted locksmith Gabriel Varden, dim-witted and egotistic landlord John Willet and the brilliantly villainous Sir John Chester. This is an unforgettable novel of conspiracy, blackmail, abduction and Gothic melodrama.”

gordon-riots-newgate-prisonHere are some bite sized facts:

1. This is the 5th book Dickens wrote, after “The Old Curiosity Shop”. 

2. Like the rest of his works, it explores the inequality between social class. Ordinary citizens are seen to rise up and loot, steal, burn down houses and prisons; a total anarchy where they themselves perished- the poor, vagrants who have nothing to lose. (Those who are forerunners of the riots seem not to have a purpose for following the cause, in the case of Hugh and the hangman Dennis)


“The Gordon Riots” by John Seymour Lucas

4. It is comparable to his later novel “A Tale of Two Cities” detailing the tumultuous period of the French Revolution and the danger of a disruptive society and mob behaviour.

5. You feel for Barnaby, a simple boy who takes comfort, joy and happiness in his surroundings. His loyalty and kind heartedness makes him a target. He follows his ‘assumed’ friend and does all he is bidden without question, hoping it will bring his mother and himself into the path of riches, and ultimately, a better life for them both. The story of Barnaby is very touching, and emphasises on how innocence can be corrupted by those with their own agenda.


The rise and revolt of the people


6. Though”Barnaby Rudge” took me longer to read than “Our Mutual Friend” (and this can be due to other contributory factors)- I enjoyed it a lot.The beginning was quite captivating and portrays a ‘different’Dickens, a step away from the frivolity, and often comical vanity of the upper class. It creates a comparison between the peaceful, pastoral life versus that of the bloodshed in the streets of the city, sparked by the 1780 anti-catholic uprising. This was led by Lord George Gordon, leader of the Protestant Association of London. The riots were a wave that swept over London- the power of persuasion and word of mouth, growing out of proportion to make law abiding citizens rise up and revolt. The novel depicts violence fuelled by poverty and the influence of those in position who abuse their power.

7. Yet aside from all the violence and turmoil of the riots,this is a Dickens book like all the others,and his characters are no less developed. You come across characters like Sir John Chester who you really hate and whom you hope gets dealt the justice he deserves (but of course, this is a Dickens so ultimately, good always triumphs over evil) and relationships that always undergo a long, painful trial before the ‘light of happiness’ is finally revealed.

All in all, “Barnaby Rudge” is another satisfying Dicken’s novel, and the 5th one… that I have binge read over the summer!


“Our Mutual Friend” Dickens

Finally, I have found time for a Dickens Review! I put these in small bite 20140804_144457sized chunks, for easy viewing…so here begins;

  • Summary as taken from the blurb of Our Mutual Friend: “Dicken’s last completed novel and one of the greatest books about London, ‘Our Mutual Friend‘ is a dark, enigmatic portrayal of a city corrupted by money.When a body is pulled out of the Thames, it is presumed to be John Harmon, drowned under suspicious circumstances before he could claim the fortune his father made from rubbish heaps. This mystery impinges on the lives of the naiive, hardworking Boffins, the riverside scavenger Gaffer Hexam, his beautiful daughter Lizzie, the mercenary Bella Wilfer and the doll’s dressmaker Jenny Wren, in a story of greed, death and renewal.”16

1. A dark story, it is considered one of Dicken’s most “sophisticated works”, though perhaps, one of his least well known.

2. The novel has a vast array of memorable characters which, through his wit and humour; you soon grow attached to.Though the language is less straight forward compared to his earlier novels, don’t be put off. The narrative is very well thought out and incredibly complex with intricate and unexpected plot lines. Compare the layers to an onion…

3. Death, intrigue, mystery, romance – it has everything. You are fooled along with a great number of characters along the twists and turns of a very complex narrative.Very satisfying as characters get their just rewards and no evil deed goes unnoticed, or unpunished. For me, the reading experience has to hold a variety of things, just like my favourite films. Action adventure mixed with fantasy and a bit of romance. It’s great how though Dickens manages to portray the worst of human nature in squalid London and the boundaries of social class- there is a particularly heart warming scene between John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer that I always find myself going back to and just melts my heart (yup, I’ve bookmarked the pages)

OMF-Lodger-and-Daughter4.Like each of his books, there are some great characters- no matter what shape or form they take, from the devilish and hideous dwarf Quilp in “The Old Curiosity Shop” who delights in playing tricks on others and getting the better of them, to the one legged and villainous Silas Wegg who circulates the pages of “Our Mutual Friend.”

5.However one thing about Dickens most people notice, is that his female characters are often under developed. They either hold supporting roles, as spinsters, the frugal or the vain and frivolous, or proud mothers. Young females are all dignified, elegant, pretty who undergo some tragedy or suffering which make them all the more beautiful and heroic; sought after and admired by men of all ages.

6. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed. They really bring the characters to life and gives that something bit extra to your reading experience.

177.The novel exemplifies on the corruption money can bring, the greed it excites, and how it effects the lives of those it touches.

8.After finishing the book, I thought up a hierarchy of wealth of all of the characters in the novel, taking into consideration their fluctuating social position. This may seem a bit time consuming and superfluous, but the story made me think long after I had closed its pages,(often as I was lying awake at night) and it was my way of sorting through the vast array of characters in the novel. I don’t want to give away spoilers by laying it out in all its glory. So I will let you read it first…

(Follow for more bite sized reviews on “Barnaby Rudge”, “Nicholas Nickleby” and other Charles Dickens novels.)