Most of us – at least those of us who are keen on reading – are often ‘forced’ to go through abridged versions of classic novels when we are in our school or college years. I say forced as this process is usually part of the academic curriculum and we have little say in the matter. Invariably we end up disliking what we read then, partly because it is like homework or because such books are often not properly appreciated at that young age.
But try re-reading them years later, when you have grown up, and it could be an entirely different (and much more pleasurable) experience. I try to re-read, or read as the case may be, at least a couple of classics every year and it is something I would heartily recommend to any serious reader.
Most of us would know what a ‘classic’ is, automatically – it is usually a work of art that was created decades or centuries ago, but its appeal never wanes. On the contrary, its reputation only increases as the years pass.
A classic could be a wonderful novel or a short-story collection, a memorable pop-music album or an entertaining movie. Many classics are studied and scrutinised, referenced in pop culture and referred to in everyday speech. They are truly timeless in their appeal.
The four classics I re-read recently belong to different genres but all are well-known to most book-lovers. Re-reading them showed me afresh why they are rated so highly as both literary and popular works, and why they have never gone out of print.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Especially beloved by women readers for over two centuries and adapted numerous times for the big and small screens, the charms of this original “chick lit” novel, published in 1813, are numerous. It is a romantic comedy of manners with a feisty heroine at its centre. The language can be a bit convoluted, as was the style then, but the story is very straight-forward and the dialogue is sparkling. Read it slowly and you will appreciate it more.
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – This classic boy’s adventure, published in 1883, is full of colourful characters, including pirates, and features a mysterious island and buried treasure on the tropical high seas. I am always surprised why teens these days never get around to reading the unabridged version of this wonderfully entertaining tale. Filmed and adapted numerous times, like any self-respecting classic is…
- The War of the Worlds by HG Wells – The illustrious writer was a pioneer of science-fiction and this was one of his most famous and influential stories. Since being published in book form in 1898, this yarn has captivated readers with its extraordinary (and very detailed) account of hostile invaders from Mars who have targeted a hapless England (which stands in for mankind, as a whole). The big-screen version inspired by it, directed by Steven Spielberg in 2005, is effective and chilling, though it takes a lot of liberties with the original storyline.
- The Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse – Probably the best of the sublime series of stories featuring the amiable upper-crust dunce Bertie Wooster and his brainy valet Jeeves. It was published in 1938 when the author was probably at the peak of his considerable powers as a humourist. Stars a cast of extremely nutty characters, including the unforgettable Roderick Spode. Read any Jeeves and Wooster story when you need a pick-up – the world always seems a better place afterwards. Wodehouse’s use of the English language is masterly, as always, and the humour is sidesplittingly funny.
By Naveen Verghese
Naveen Verghese is a journalist based in Singapore. His passions are words, books, movies, pop music and sports. He firmly believes that the 1970s was the best decade ever, and hopes to one day open a shop that would feature his favourite things from that era. Some of Naveen’s writings can be found at https://naveensays.weebly.com