Reading Tips

How to Read Classic Books: The Ultimate Guide

Learn how to read classics, get started with your own reading list, and enjoy reading them.

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

How to Read Classic Books The Ultimate Guide

We all know how important it is to read more books.  But classic books seem daunting and impossible to read for some of us.  Some readers feel like they’re reading a completely different language altogether.  Some feel like they don’t have enough time to get into classics, or they are not smart enough.  Let me dispel those myths for you right now: everyone can read classic books, and there are plenty of ways to make time for them!

In this guide, we will break down how to read classic books so that they are enjoyable and rewarding.  We also dispel some common myths about reading classics, provide practical tips on getting started reading classics, and how to stay consistent and read more classics.  So let’s get started!

First, what is a classic book, anyway?

A classic book is generally defined as a work of literature that has been read, studied, and appreciated for generations.  It is a book that has withstood the test of time and continues to be relevant in the present day.  In addition, classic books are often thought-provoking, insightful, and opinionated, tackling universal themes that we can all relate to.

Historically classics were limited to works written in Ancient Greece and Rome, but the definition has expanded to include works from all over the world and from different time periods.  There are classics in every genre, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, and more.

Classics have also started to include work from diverse voices and perspectives previously excluded by the literary community.

What is a classic book?

Popular myths about reading classic books

Now that we have some understanding of what is considered a classic book, let’s dispel some myths about reading them:

– You need to be smart to read classics.

FALSE! Classics are written for everyone to enjoy. They tackle universal themes and we can usually find something we connect with or can relate to.

– You need a college degree to read or appreciate classic books.

FALSE! A college degree is not required to read classics. In fact, many people who have never even stepped foot in a university have read and enjoyed classics. All you need is an interest in the subject matter and a willingness to engage with the text.

– Classics are difficult to read.

FALSE! Authors who wrote classic books wrote them in the language common at the time they were written. However, there are plenty of resources to help you understand classic books. These include study guides, notes, and annotations.

– Classic books are dry and boring.

FALSE! Yes, some classics can be dense and challenging reads, but they can also be incredibly rewarding. Many classics are funny, heartwarming, or suspenseful. And because they deal with universal themes, they can be relatable even if they were written centuries ago.

– You need a lot of time to read classics.

FALSE! There are plenty of ways to make time for classics. You can read a little bit at a time, or opt for the audiobook version.

– You need to read classic books in their original language.

FALSE! While reading classics in their original language is undoubtedly beneficial, it is not necessary. There are plenty of translations available that help to make classic books more accessible.

– You’re not a serious reader if you haven’t read classic books.

FALSE! While we encourage you to read classics, it is not necessary to be considered a “serious” reader. You can read whatever you want, whenever you want, and as much or as little as you want and you’re still a reader.

Popular myths about reading classic books

Getting started with reading classic books

Now that we’ve dispelled some myths about reading classic books, let’s talk about how you can get started reading them:

– Start with a list.

Make a list of classic books that you want to read. Don’t worry about whether or not you think you’ll like them; just choose a few that look interesting to you.


– Set aside some time.

Make time for reading in your schedule. Whether it’s 30 minutes a day or two hours at the end of the week, set aside some time that you can dedicate to reading.

Check out: Finding Time To Read When You’re Extremely Busy.

– Get a study guide.

If you’re feeling intimidated by a particular classic, consider getting a study guide. These can be helpful in providing background information and context for the book.

– Find a reading buddy.

Reading classics can be more enjoyable if you do it with someone else. So find a friend or family member who is also interested in reading classics and start a book club.

Looking for an online space where you can read what you want but still have a monthly book club and community where you can share?  Check out the BiblioLifestyle Community!

Getting started with reading classic books

Practical tips for reading classic books

Once you’ve chosen a classic book to read, there are a few things you can do to make sure you get the most out of it:

– Start with a book that interests you.

Classics cover a wide range of topics, so make sure to choose a book that piques your interest. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming bogged down in a book that you’re not enjoying.

Check out our: How to Start Reading Books You Love article.

– Start with a shorter book.

If you’re new to reading classics, consider starting with a shorter book. This will help you get a feel for the style of writing and the type of language used.

– Immerse yourself and get context for the book you’re reading.

Before you start reading your classic book of choice, spend a little time reading background information on the author, their life and inspiration, the political state of the world at that time, how things have changed or stayed the same, and the effects on our contemporary understanding. Classic books usually have introductions written by literary scholars and authors. They typically provide summaries that highlight key points and themes, plus they provide historical and contemporary context. So don’t skip reading introductions. If your book does not have a good or recent introduction, opt to do some research online.

– Read with an open mind.

Be open to the idea that it may take you some time to get into the language. Don’t be discouraged when you re-read passages or consult a dictionary. The effort will pay off in the end.

– Read knowing you might not like every classic book you read.

Just because a book is considered a classic doesn’t mean it’s going to be your new favorite. But that’s okay! The point is to read and expand your horizons.

– Read knowing you won’t understand everything.

If you let go of the idea that you will understand and grasp everything you’re reading, you will have a more fulfilling reading experience with the classics. Instead, focus more on the flow of the novel and allow it to take you where it may. Save the critical analysis for future re-reading and discussion. It is common for readers to read a book more than once to understand it fully.

– Take your time.

Don’t feel like you need to rush through a classic book. Classics are meant to be savored, not read as quickly as possible. Give yourself time to really think about the book and what it’s saying and immerse yourself in the language and the story. If you need to take a break, that’s okay.

– Use resources.

Don’t be afraid to consult study guides, notes, or annotations. These can be helpful in understanding the book and can make the reading process more enjoyable.

– Talk about what you’re reading.

Discussing classic books with others can be a great way to get more out of them. See if your local library or bookstore offers book clubs, or start one of your own.

Looking for an online space where you can read what you want but still have a monthly book club and community where you can share?  Check out the BiblioLifestyle Community!

Practical tips for reading classic books

How to make reading classic books enjoyable

One of the best ways to make reading classic books enjoyable is to find ways to connect with the book. Here are a few tips:

– Listen to the audiobook.

Listening to an audiobook can be a great way to enjoy classic books. This can be especially helpful if you’re struggling with the language or find yourself getting bored. Plus, with the right narrator, it can really bring the story to life!

Check out: How Audiobooks Can Help You Read More: A Beginner’s Guide to Start Listening

– Watch the movie adaptation.

Watching the movie adaptation of a classic book can be a great way to enjoy and connect even more with the story. A movie adaptation can also be a great incentive to read the book first so you can compare and contrast the two.

– Read a contemporary adaptation.

Reading a contemporary adaptation or retelling can be helpful if you’re looking for a different perspective on the story. It may also help you understand the themes from the original story better.

– Host a themed dinner party or book club meeting.

This is a great way to get creative and have fun with friends while also connecting with the classic book. You can create dishes inspired by the book or characters in the book. Or you can dress up as your favorite character!

How to make reading classic books enjoyable

How to stay consistent in reading classic books

One of the biggest challenges in reading classic books is staying consistent. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:

– Set a goal.

Having a goal is a great way to stay motivated. Whether reading one classic book per month or per year, setting a goal will help you stay on track.


– Find a reading buddy.

As we mentioned before, finding someone to read and discuss classics with can be a great way to stay motivated.

– Join a book club.

Book clubs are another great way to stay motivated in reading classics. Not only will you have people to discuss the book with, but you’ll also be held accountable for reading it. So consider finding or starting a classics book club.

Looking for an online space where you can read what you want but still have a monthly book club and community where you can share?  Check out the BiblioLifestyle Community!

– Take breaks.

Don’t feel like you need to rush through reading all the classic books from your list. It’s okay to take breaks and come back to it later. In fact, taking breaks can help you retain more information from the book.

– Incorporate contemporary novels.

Reading contemporary novels in between classics can help break up the monotony and keep you interested. In addition, you can read books similar to or different from the classics you’re reading.

How to stay consistent in reading classic books

How to read more classics books

So you’ve made it through some classic books, and you’re looking to read even more, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

– Start with books with themes you already love.

If you’re a fan of crime fiction, start with Sherlock Holmes. If you love romance, read Jane Austen. Reading books with themes you’re already interested in will help you get through them.

– Utilize classic book lists.

There are tons of great lists of classic books out there, and it might be overwhelming knowing where to start. Check out our classic literature book lists if you’re looking for a low-pressure entry point!


– Get recommendations from friends.

Ask your friends what their favorite classic books are and get their suggestions. This can be a great way to find new classics to read.

– Read short classics.

If you’re struggling to get through longer classics, try reading some shorter ones. There are plenty of great short classics out there that you can read in a day or two.

– Try different genres.

If you’re getting bored with the classics you’re reading, try something new! Classics come in all sorts of genres, so there’s bound to be one that you’ll love.

– If the book you’re reading isn’t working, give yourself permission to set it aside.

There are so many great classic books out there, and you don’t want to force yourself to read one you’re not enjoying. So if you do not like the book, try something else!

– Have fun with it.

Reading should be enjoyable, so make sure to find ways to have fun when you are reading classic books.

How to read more classics

Don’t forget to expand your classic horizons!

As you’ve worked through some classic books, don’t forget to expand your horizons and diversify your reading list.  Historically the definition of a “classic” was extremely limited, so it’s important to include work from diverse voices and perspectives.  There are tons of great classic books written by women, people of color, queer authors, authors with disabilities, and more.  So make sure to expand your reading list to include these important voices.

Reading classic books doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

Classic books can be a great way to learn about new cultures, gain new perspectives, and escape into a different world. With a bit of guidance, anyone can start reading classics and enjoying them.

We hope this guide has helped get you inspired and ready to start reading classics. Following these tips can make the process more enjoyable and get more out of the books you read. So go out and explore the classics!

What is your relationship with classic books?

Do you read classic books?  What are some of your favorite classic books?  Do you have any tips for how to read classic books?  Let us talk about classic books in the comments below!

How to Read Classic Books - The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

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