5 Classics for Beginners

It’s no secret that I am a great lover of Classic Literature. Anything before about 1940 and I’m sold. Except for Dickens, don’t know why. *shrug* And when you are a lover of the classics, it comes up a lot. Especially on Instagram, for some reason. So a lot of the time I get asked the question:

“I want to read more/some classic literature, but I’ve never really read any. Do you have a recommendation of where to start?”

Why is it so hard for people to find a classic they think they’re interested in? My theory is because so many of them are SOOOOOO long, and people are intimidated by the length, and that they may have a preconceived notion that classics are slow or dull. Well, I’m not going to lie friends, many of them are long. And if your main source of literature is 21st century YA, then yeah, the pace is going to be a lot slower than you are used to. But I think they are worth reading anyway. Once you get used to the slower pace, you’re going to find some amazing stories.

Which brings me to my first recommendation. Don’t stop after one. If you find you don’t enjoy your first classic, don’t give up. Like I said, if you’re mostly used to YA, the different pace is going to take some getting used to. And, therefore, my second suggestion. Don’t read the one you’re most interested in first. I would hate for you to have a bad experience with Pride and Prejudice because you didn’t understand it, or because you were bored. Start out with one that you’re willing to not be in love with.

So, with no further ado, here are my suggestions for first classics.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel is always my go-to suggestion for a first classic. Set in the era of the French Revolution, the daring Scarlet Pimpernel is an English spy who rescues the fleeing French nobility from the very jaws of Madame le Guillotine. French actress Marguerite, who has married into the very British nobility in the thick of these plots, must discover the identity of thy mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, but will doing so forever estrange her from her doting husband?

I always recommend this book for a couple of reasons. The writing style is fairly quick and exciting for most of the book. It opens with a bang, a deception and a chase sequence sure to hook the reader in. By the end of the book I was turning pages so fast I don’t know if I was reading even half the words on the page, so desperate was I to find out what would become of Marguerite. The second reason is that this book has a really nice blend of a great spy story (with all the twists, disguises, and surprises) with a swoon-worthy love story. I think modern readers will really connect with the content of this book, and the writing style is very accessible. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Continue reading “5 Classics for Beginners”

I DNFed a book, but I didn’t hate it…

Usually when I see people talking about DNFing a book, it’s like giving it a rating worse than 1-star. It’s the WORST thing they could POSSIBLY say about the book. I was soooooo terrible that they couldn’t waste their time reading it. It was offensive and all remaining copies should be burnt. The author deserves to be tarred and feathered and THEN drawn and quartered.

And honestly, most of the time when I’ve quite books, it’s been because I … didn’t like them.

Full disclosure, I almost always finish books. I can count my dnfs on one hand. Oddly, all of them have been “Classics”. (especially odd considering the classics are one of my favorite genres…) This most recent dnf makes five even for me. Ever.

Continue reading “I DNFed a book, but I didn’t hate it…”

Maybe I Should be Reading with Cliff’s Notes…

So there I am, reading a classic like Bless Me, Ultima or something. And I’m reading it, and it’s gorgeous, and I can tell that it’s amazing, and I can tell that the author is trying to tell me SOMETHING, but I just. can’t. figure. it out.

I can’t be the only person this happens to, right?

I don’t know what it is about 20th century literature, but I always feel like I’m missing something. I know enough about literature to be able to tell that something is going on, but not enough to tell what it is. Maybe it’s that the literary elements they teach us in school like metaphor and symbolism are more relevant to Romantic literature than Modern and Postmodern. Maybe it’s just that I don’t really know all that much about literature, and I can’t figure it out without a teacher holding my hand.

I really want to like these books. I feel like I almost like them. I just don’t understand them well enough.

Continue reading “Maybe I Should be Reading with Cliff’s Notes…”

Calendar Girls March: Favorite Book with a Strong Female Lead

Welcome to March Calendar Girls! I’m feeling good today. Spring is here, I’m bound to not be sick anymore soon, and the future is looking up! I’m ready to talk about books. Who else is ready to talk about books?

Our theme for this month is Women’s History Month: books featuring a strong female lead. I had to think for a bit about this one. What is a strong female lead?

Typically when we talk about the strong female lead we’re talking about the warrior women. And, of course, the first book that came to mind was my all-time favorite, The Lord of the Rings. Eowyn has long been one of my favorite characters in literature because she rides to war with the men, but does so for love rather than glory. I was very much looking forward to talking about her for a few hundred words until I realized she’s not the lead. *sigh*

Which got me to thinking about my other favorite book: Pride and Prejudice. Because, is Elizabeth Bennett not also a strong character? Strength doesn’t only have to refer to strength in arms. Elizabeth thinks for herself, knows what she wants, and doesn’t let the men in her life tell her what to do. To me that is the definition of a strong female lead!

And yet, there’s also the anti-strong-female-lead idea, which proposes that those characters are just proof of how we prefer men by putting traditionally masculine qualities on to women before we can get behind them. Perhaps a woman like Mrs. Weasley who does what makes her happy and doesn’t worry about what she “should” want or do would be the most appropriate kind of woman to celebrate this month.

As you can see, I am waaaaay overthinking this prompt.

So right now I am stopping and going with my gut. My favorite (or at least a favorite) book featuring a strong female lead is…

.

.

.

.

.

.

Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte

Okay, so I admit that this pick is … unusual. But what I love about Jane Eyre is that she is strong. She takes control of her own life, despite the multitude of people who are trying to set her path for her. She doesn’t let society’s expectations dictate who she is or who she will be. She has the sort of strength of character to say no to something she really wants when she knows it is the right thing to do. Jane is a woman that I have looked up to for my entire adult life.

For those of you who don’t know, Jane Eyre is the story of an orphan raised in terrible, abusive situations, who rises to become a governess in a wealthy home. She falls in love with the master of the house, but there is more to Mr. Rochester than meets the eye. It’s moody, mysterious, brooding, and the original feminist novel. (my opinion)

While I’ve seen modern feminists critique Jane Eyre, at the time it was written it was like nothing literature had ever seen before. Even now, nearly two hundred years later, it remains one of the most celebrated works of literature in history. And it was written by a WOMAN. Y’all, that’s pretty amazing.

Women’s History Month
Favorite Book with a Strong Female Lead

Our Picks

Jane Eyre – Katie (that’s me!) @ Never Not Reading
The Poet X – Adrienne @ Darque Dreamer Reads
To Best the Boys – Teri Polen
Dread Nation – Deanna @ Deanna Writes About
A Court of Mist and Fury – Flavia @ Flavia the Bibliophile
Skyward – Lucinda @ Lucinda is Reading
Harry Potter – Samantha @ Modern Witch’s Bookshelf
A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Sophie @ Beware of the Reader
The Last Letter – Sophie @ Beware of the Reader
Kat and Meg Conquer the World – Dani @ Mousai Books
I Am Malala – Ashely @ Inside My Minds
An Ember in the Ashes – Liz @ Stellar Kitten Book Reivews


Featured Image -- 7584

Calendar Girls is a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books, and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile, and is now be hosted by me (!), Katie, and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads. It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers, and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song, Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favorite book from the theme, and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post. Make sure to post back to the hostess’s post, and I will make a master list for the month. The master lists allow everyone to see the other Calendar Girls’ picks and to pop on over to their blogs. Thus, we all get to chat about books and even make some new friends!

Sign up for the Calendar Girls newsletter.

Thoughts from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

220px-TreeGrowsInBrooklynGenres: Fiction, Classics
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.


I wasn’t sure, before I started, whether I would like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or not. I don’t typically enjoy 20th century American literature, and it’s so LONG. But the longer I read the more enchanted I became. Continue reading “Thoughts from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

Context Matters: Criticizing the Classics

I guess it was about a year ago now that I re-read Sense and Sensibility,. As I do, I went to goodreads to see what the popular reviews were saying. Most were pretty predictable Austen reviews, but one in particular snagged my attention. It made me so angry, and I’m still thinking about it a year later.

I’m keeping the author of the review anonymous, obviously, and I’m only going to quote here a small portion of the review. If you want to read more you’ll have to do your own digging on goodreads.

It said:

Reading Sense and Sensibility made me realize why I don’t like Jane Austen’s books, and probably never will: she was a brilliant author, and her novels are funny and well-written, but at the end of the day, her characters spend 90% of their time talking about boys. Nothing else happens: they go to a ball, where they worry about which boy isn’t dancing with them; they have tea, where they talk about which girls have snagged which boys; and they write letters about which girls have done scandalous things with boys. It’s just pages and pages of “I like you but you hate me!” “No, I really love you, you were just misinformed!” “My, what a silly misunderstanding!” “I agree! Let’s get married!” and all its variations and it bores me to death. I love the humor, and I love the characters, I just want them to do something interesting. This is probably why Pride and Prejudice and Zombies resonated so well with me – finally, the Bennett sisters got to do something besides sit around and mope about the various boys who weren’t talking to them for whatever reason!

Okay. Breathe.

  1. If you don’t like Jane Austen’s novels (or as she says at the beginning of her review, romantic comedies), then why are you reading one?
  2. Saying nothing else in this book happens other than they talk about boys is a gross exaggeration and just plain not true. The very first thing to happen, for example, is their father dies and they are forced out of their home before they are even done mourning him.
  3. Even if that was true and nothing else happens except for boy stuff, it is unfair to place your 21st century expectations for a novel on a book written in the early 19th century.

This third point is the one I want to talk about today. Continue reading “Context Matters: Criticizing the Classics”

Review: My Cousin Rachel

5604250My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Classics
Maturity Level: 3
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


I threw the piece of paper on the fire. She saw it burn …Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet …might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death? 


What a unique love story! Even though I felt like I kind of knew what to expect (curse you movie trailer!!!!!), it kept going in directions that took me by surprise. However, I didn’t find the atmosphere quite as brooding and mysterious as I expected to, which was a little disappointing.

Continue reading “Review: My Cousin Rachel”

Top 5 Creepy Classics

By now you all have probably figured out that I prefer “classic” novels to more modern literature. In particular, I find the older versions of monster novels and scary stories to be fascinating. There’s something about where Jekyll and Hyde started that is so interesting, especially when comparing it to what it’s turned into in pop culture today. I also appreciate that they are usually never TOO scary.

So in honor of the month of October, my favorite month, I’m presenting to you my personal favorite creepy classics.

1. Dracula

41I3WemSw9L._SX293_BO1,204,203,200_I have made no secret that I am absolutely petrified of vampires because of this book. But only because it is so freaking amazing. In fact, for Calendar Girls this month I made a pretty big deal about how fantastic Dracula is. There’s just something so cool about a book that terrifies you but also gets you to fall in love with the characters. No other vampire novel or movie has ever quite stood up to this one for me, though Buffy gets close. Continue reading “Top 5 Creepy Classics”