Probably most readers of this blog would be surprised to know just how influential I consider classic literature. That’s because I haven’t read much, let alone talked about it, in the past few years. But the fact is, I was raised on the classics. Not all of them–there are significant gaps in my knowledge, like Hemingway and Faulkner. Dickens, on the other hand, or Austen, or Gaskell, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or Ransome. Yes.
So, why do I love them? Because often they touch something deeper. It’s not that I think all older books are golden, or that all modern books are trash. Far from it! But I do think that the books we consider classics are considered that for a reason. Sometimes it’s a silly reason, sometimes I don’t agree. But for the authors who I love, I think that there is something that catches at my heart.
Here are the classics I love:
– Our Mutual Friend, Little Dorrit, and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: I don’t always agree with Dickens, but I do love him.
– Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I love Austen generally. It’s these two, though, that I keep going to over and over again.
– The Rosemary Tree, City of Bells, and Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge: My grandmother loves Elizabeth Goudge and introduced me to her work. These three have always been my favorites
– North and South and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell: Gaskell is wonderful–in some ways a bit like Austen, although she wrote quite a bit later. She has some extremely depressing books about the working class, but North and South and Wives and Daughters are serious without being depressing
– China Court and In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden: I love Rumer Godden’s books–she has a very particular and interesting style where everything seems to happen at the same time
– Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson: You can’t get much better than Stevenson for pure adventure, and Kidnapped is probably the best of all of his books. Although I do like The Black Arrow a lot too.
I haven’t read very many classics recently, for two reasons. In some cases, I have loved the books, and yet I’m sure I wouldn’t have the same reaction to them now. I’m afraid that if I re-read them, I would lose that memory of loving them. The other reason is that I don’t have nearly the time or attention span that I used to and, as much as I would love to re-read some of my favorites, I haven’t managed to get through them recently.