Is It Possible to “Hate Classics?”

Is It Possible to Hate Classics

It’s a common statement: “I hate classics.  They’re boring and old and difficult.  I only read [age range or genre].”  However, a classic is not a specific type of book.  It does not mean one written in old-timey language, nor does it mean literary fiction.  A classic is a book that is considered to have stood the test of time.  That’s it.  That means in a few decades The Hunger Games, Twilight, or Divergent could be considered if they last long enough.  We’re all constantly in the act of reading potential classics!

However, since we cannot predict what will be considered a classic years from now, we can still take a look at the wide array of books considered classics.  It’s quite possible that most readers have read and enjoyed at least one of these books–scary classic status aside!

Fantasy Classics

  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

Science Fiction Classics

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Romance Classics

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • North and South by Elzabeth Gaskell
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot

Modern Classics

  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  • My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

Adventure Classics and Swashbucklers

  • The Three  Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
  • The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Mystery Classics

  • Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton
  • Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie
  • Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie
  • Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

Children’s Classics

  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Conclusion

Classics encompass every time period, country, and genre.  You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that, even if you thought you were a classics hater, you’ve read and loved some of these titles!

 

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45 thoughts on “Is It Possible to “Hate Classics?”

  1. Rachael Corbin says:

    Great looking list! I used to consider myself someone who hates classic. I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy them was because I was forced to read them in school. Most classics I’ve read of my own volition I have enjoyed, or even loved.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think that’s a common experience for many students, which is why I don’t think it will be useful to stop assigning classics in schools just because students don’t like them. I think you could assign Harry Potter in schools and the fact that it was assigned would make students dislike the books!

      Like

    • Briana says:

      I go back and forth on this myself. I kind of hated a lot of the classics I read in high school. But I also don’t think my teacher was a very good one in the end. There are tons of books I’ve read for college classes that I initially didn’t like, but when I went to class and we had a discussion with a professor and students who really enjoyed the books, I saw them in a totally different light. Suddenly people were pointing out all these interesting aspects of a book I thought was totally boring when I read it myself.

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  2. Paula Vince says:

    I agree that instead of claiming to hate classics in general, we could consider our feelings about the genres into which specific examples fall, and see if that has anything to do with it. These lists of examples provide some good TBR choices too, for people who want some idea of what to try and avoid. Great post.

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    • Krysta says:

      Right. Someone might hate stream of conscious novels or science fiction. But surely there is another classic out there waiting to be enjoyed!

      Like

  3. Tiana (The Book Raven) says:

    I don’t think I could ever say I hate classics because I honestly love so many of them, but there was a time where I did think I hated them and well all reading until I finally caught the reading bug with Twilight if all books. I’ve lost myself in stories ever since.

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  4. Bionic Book Worm says:

    Classics are NOT my favourite. I sometimes find that the writing style is a little dry and hard to get into. There are a few classics that I enjoy (1984, and The Great Gatsby), but I DNF more than I actually finish.

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    • Krysta says:

      I find that writing style varies greatly by author but also by time period and genre. I’m not a huge fan of Virginia Woolf or Hemingway’s prose, but I like Dickens and Montgomery, for example. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not liking certain authors.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I think fantasy fans count the novel as a “fantasy classic,” though it’s true you might have a hard time convincing people that it’s a plain “classic.” But I agree the film is also a classic!

      Like

  5. Beth @ Fuelled by Fiction says:

    Yeah I agree with you about broad brushing “classics.” I think there is kind of an understanding though when people talk about classic literature they’re referring to canonized English books from, mostly, the 18th and 19th century, because these books were revolutionizing the writing of the novel. The idea of a novel was still pretty new. I do think it’s important though to change our thoughts about this. Especially because these “classics” are mostly by men and almost exclusively by white people. When we widen our understanding of what it means to be a classic novel we get a better understanding of what diverse authors and genres have to offer, and have offered, us and society. I also think that it’s better to say that perhaps we don’t *enjoy* certain classics. Because even classics in the same genre and era can be so vastly different. Not only so, but whether we enjoy them or not, it seems unwise to say we “hate” them, because no matter our personal feelings, we can’t discredit the impact they’ve had on the evolution of the novel, genre, and culture.

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    • Krysta says:

      Oh dear. It seems your comment went to spam, but it’s been rescued now!

      That’s true. I’ve noticed people seem to assume classics mean 18th and 19th century novels, but I was never sure why, unless it was shaped by their school experiences. Maybe it does have something to do with how we view the history of the novel!

      And I agree. Even while making this list I noticed I was struggling to find more diverse authors to list. Because right now we don’t talk about a lot of diverse authors as classic or canonical authors. But I am glad that this a discussion that is being had and that we can continue to widen our definition of what a classic is and who can write one!

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  6. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I love how you approached this! So much truth and great list 😉 It is impossible to claim a dislike for all classics as this is such a broad statement. But I appreciate many of them and a lot that appear on this list. Regarding your comment above about Goldman- the book is definitely a classic for those of us who have read and hold it dear. I am certainly one and know many who agree 😉 But the film was amazing as well.

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    • Krysta says:

      To me, saying you don’t like classics is like saying you don’t like any book unless it’s been published in the last twenty years or so, which is a bit of an odd statement. Just because the books have the same label doesn’t mean they are all the same genre or are written in the same prose style or consider the same types of themes!

      I think there is a distinction being made between fantasy classics and classics but I still think Goldman counts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        • Krysta says:

          Fantasy and genre fiction in general have traditionally struggled to be recognized as real art in some quarters. Adding an adjective in front of “classic” does imply that it’s a lesser book than if you didn’t have the adjective. It doesn’t make sense, but here we are.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

            I love how you stated that! Although I often find myself in agreement with you 😉 Yes, I am not sure why adding an adjective seems to be a game changer, but so true. Yet no one seem to argue about Tolkien 😉

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            • Krysta says:

              I think Tolkien’s seen an increase in legitimacy in recent years, but he did go through a rather interesting process to get there. I can’t seem to find the reference I want, but at one time his books won a poll for favorite books and some of the reactions among the literati were..a bit condescending towards public tastes.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Ravenclaw Book Club says:

    I’ve only read the Harry Potter series and the first two Sherlock Holmes novels from all the books you mentioned, but there are so many I want to read!
    I also really like The Picture of Dorian Gray!

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  8. ikramreads says:

    I used to think that I hated classics but it turns out I just hated being forced to read them for school. I feel like people say they hate classics because they are somewhat difficult to read, but it’s true that Harry Potter might be a classic in the next 20 years and you won’t hate it then. 🙂

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    • Krysta says:

      I think that’s not an uncommon experience. I’m sure I could assign Divergent to a class and that alone would make a number of students hate the book!

      But I would disagree that all classics are difficult to read. Authors who have been labeled classic in retrospect don’t share similar prose styles or interests by virtue of that label. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is quite a different classic from James Joyce’s Ulysses!

      I would also argue that Harry Potter already is a modern classic. At 20 years old, it’s certainly looking like it will stand the test of time and it’s definitely an influential book, one that both inspired a host of similar fantasy titles but also convinced publishers that the page count on YA could be increased and readers would still, well, read the books.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. braveliteraryworld says:

    I think that people think they hate classics because they don’t know how to read them. For example, you listed Jane Eyre. Usually, a person who has only ever read Young Adult can’t just pick up Jane Eyre and love it. You have to be prepped.

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  10. saraletourneau says:

    I think this might be my favorite discussion post here to date. (OK, it’s not a true discussion post, but it’s certainly thought-provoking.) When I was a high school / college student, I often said that I didn’t like classics. My impression of what classics were then was anything published before 1900. Since then, I’ve read a LOT of books, and not only do I agree with your definition of classic literature, but some of my favorite books of all time could be called a classic of its genre. LOTR, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, A Wizard of Earthsea… and these that weren’t mentioned in your post:

    – The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
    – Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    – Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (that could be considered a modern classic, right?)
    – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I admit it’s more of a list than a discussion, but I’mg glad you found it provocative anyway. 😀 I think that our idea of “classics” is often shaped by school, but there are so many other options out there! I haven’t read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn yet, though, so maybe I’d better get on that!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Laura says:

    This is so true! ‘Classics’ in itself isn’t really a genre, it just encompasses books of many genres that are widely loved and/or have stood the test of time. I think everyone can find a classic they love, if they get over the whole ‘classics are boring’ thing.
    Great post! 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it’s like as soon as we put a label on the book people think it morphs into something boring, probably involving nineteenth-century prose! But that doesn’t have to be true at all!

      Like

  12. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    I’ve never considered myself the type of person who hates classics, but I do think the older classics have the language hurdles to overcome and that’s the reason many people don’t enjoy them. “Old fashioned” language puts some people off and they just have a hard time getting past that.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think many people associate classics with the nineteenth century or earlier, but fortunately we have options for people who aren’t so fond of the “old-fashioned” prose!

      Like

  13. Anj @ seaweed books says:

    I gobbled up Peter Pan; was bamboozled by Agatha Christie from time to time and of course, managed to DEVOUR THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS. They’re so beloved to me and I cannot imagine what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t read the Harry Potter books. Classics take you to an era where everything was different and they also give you a glimpse into the world that existed, some 50-100 years ago. I think that is the main reason why I have a special place for classics in my heart.

    Like

  14. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight says:

    Ok you proved me wrong lol. I’m someone who does say I tend to dislike classics, but you make a good point that “classics” is such a fluid term since there are classics from all different genres and time periods and in the future some of our current books will even be classics. I’ve just found that I’ve yet to connect strongly with characters in older books and really feel much emotion, and I prefer books that make me feel. But I did enjoy Peter Pan. And I loved both Catch-22 and Dorian Gray in high school even though I didn’t like either one as much when I reread (or tried to reread, in the case of Catch-22 since I ended up DNFing). But I thought The Princess Bride was hilarious when I read it a few years ago and loved it. I kinda forget about that one when I think of classics!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I find that my reaction can vary from time period to time period or genre to genre. Also that it can help to have someone explain to me why they like a work. Sometimes I don’t initially connect with a work, but I can still understand why someone else found it exciting.

      I’ve never read Catch-22, but I do like Peter Pan! Dorian Gray is also a good one, but I tend to favor happier books and that one’s a bit rough. 😀

      Like

  15. mphadventuregirl says:

    I love reading the classics. When I think of classics I tend to think of those books from 1800s and before. I only read classics in between semesters as those are the only time for them. I have read Les Misérables, Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Don Quixote, and currently in middle of Oliver Twist. My classic list is going to eventually expand to having read Hunchback (Christmas 2017) and Nicholas Nickleby (Summer 2018).

    I guess the classics are known as the older classics. The link below is my blog post today about my journey on why I love the older classics in the first place.

    https://megsdailymusings.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/what-caused-me-to-love-classical-literature/

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it can be quite difficult to find time to read! I have a bunch of books I’d love to read, including a bunch of Henry James novels, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to sit down with them all! I do love Dickens, though, so I’m excited to see you’ve read a few of his works.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

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