• Kathryn Houghton

Why Classics Have Become My Favorite Genre

Updated: 11 hours ago

Photo by Kathryn Houghton

For most of my life, I have limited my reading to YA novels that you would probably see on the first shelf walking into Barnes & Noble. I’m what’s known as a mood reader, so I never bothered to expand my horizons and try new genres. Until around 2 years ago, that is.

It started when I got introduced to the dark academia aesthetic. It was this romanticized outlook on life involving constant study and devotion to literature. I loved the idea that our lives could be enhanced by reading, that we could become better individuals just by meditating on other stories.

Photo by Kathryn Houghton

The first novel that I ventured out of my comfort zone with was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Tartt’s novels are highly praised, so I had higher expectations. After about 100 pages into the book, I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. The bad language and message it gave off disappointed me and was a bad start to broadening my reading tastes. But, nevertheless, I tried again!

A friend of mine introduced me to the classics community on YouTube, telling me one of the YouTubers there reminded her of me, and, of course, I was hooked. One book, in particular, seemed to catch my attention, which happened to be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I decided to watch the 2011 adaptation first to really make sure I wanted to read a fairly big novel.

Right afterward, I dragged my mother out to the closest B&N to find the prettiest copy of Jane Eyre. While finally discovering the classics section of a bookstore, multiple books seemed to call out to me. Had I really regained all my reading motivation in one moment? I picked up Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, and a pocketbook of long ago poetry.

Photo by Kathryn Houghton

A month later I was back out picking up all of Jane Austen’s novels, starting with Persuasion. I devoured story after story, eager to get my hands on more. Soon enough, I was learning about Elizabeth Gaskell and Thomas Hardy.

Fast forward to the present, and I read contemporaries, historical fiction, and more classics. But if you were to browse my bookshelves, there’s still a genre that takes precedence over the rest - classics. Why is this? What seems to continue to draw me in the way no other genre can?

Photo by Kathryn Houghton

I think part of the joy that comes when reading classic literature is the idea that these works have stood the test of time. It‘s like picking the minds of some of the greatest authors who ever lived, reading about some of the things they cared about the most.

The historical take plays a huge role personally. Going back in time to Victorian London, the Georgian countryside, New York City in the 1920s, etc. is so fascinating. And it’s authentic, a preserved moment or story that feels like its own time machine.

Photo by Kathryn Houghton

If you’re also someone who isn’t comfortable with profanity or morally upsetting stories, classics are (usually) a safer option. There may still be novels about affairs or murders and such, but it’s never really as gruesome as a modern novel would make it out to be. And yet, they make you feel just as much reading them.

We can also learn a lot from the classics. Sometimes these works were made for us to strive to do better in the world. If we take a look at the class differences and society during Dickens’ time, it’s amazing how we can compare them to our time today. We still have a lot of the same issues they had in the 1800s. It helps us remember that our lives still have progress to be made.

Whether you are new to the classics community or have had a long past reading them, there’s some force that draws you in. Autumn may be leaving us, but winter is still a great time to get back into classic literature. Light some candles, make some hot cocoa with your fuzziest sweater on and immerse yourself in a world from the past.

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