‘Classic’ literature: must you read it to discuss it?

Mark Twain quote

What is your immediate reaction to that quote? Do you agree or disagree with his words?

I came across this quote recently and it stopped me in my tracks. It really got me thinking and stayed with me enough to make me compelled to write this post.

It made me realise how many ‘classic’ books there are out there that I know the author of, the title of, perhaps even a brief synopsis of, and yet, I am guilty of having never read them. I would happily engage in conversation agreeing that certain titles are ‘classics’ and yet, I must be somewhat of a fraud because I haven’t read a single page. There are many that I have delved into and I have enjoyed every one, there are more still that are on my bookshelf waiting to be read so I have good intentions when it comes to experiencing ‘classic’ literature but I admit that for a bookworm the number I have read is far eclipsed by the number that I haven’t.

Therefore, my question is: are you justified to discuss a ‘classic’ that you haven’t read yourself? I also wonder if it matters. Shouldn’t reading and the discussion of literature be about the enjoyment overall? Do some people read ‘classics’ just because they feel that they should? When I look around me, lets say when I’m out having a coffee, I wonder why the readers I see around me have selected the titles that they have their nose stuck in. Did they simply pick up their current read with no shame or did they pick a particular title because of how they wanted to be perceived by the general public?

Perhaps I’m overthinking this but I must admit, I myself have picked up what I believe to be more ‘appropriate’ to be seen reading in public before I have ventured out. Now, this is not to say that I read inappropriate literature, far from it, but I would prefer to have somebody see what book I am holding and not think “why is she reading that?!”

It really shouldn’t matter though should it. The majority of people wont even give my book a second glance let alone a second thought and even if they do, why should I care? Why should it matter?

Before I began writing this post I had so many questions (as you can see by reading to this point) but now that I have written it my mind is far clearer. I conclude that we should be able to read what we like, discuss whatever literature we wish to and not worry about perceptions or the risk of coming across somewhat hypocritical.

brown book page
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on

So, thank you for your words Mark Twain, they certainly got me thinking, but overall, I’m going to continue on as I have before; reading what I like to read. One change I am going to make however is to stop worrying what the reaction of my chosen read will evoke in complete strangers. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. I will grab whatever book I want to when I want to and that may well be a ‘classic’ but if it is it is simply because I want to read it.

What is your opinion on what I have written? Do you agree or disagree with the points that I have raised? 

I would love to hear your thoughts so please get in touch!

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Thanks for reading!

Until the next time…Jess x


11 thoughts on “‘Classic’ literature: must you read it to discuss it?

  1. you’ve explained it very well. But I feel, most of the people start to read classics just to impress the others. I mean, this is how it starts most of the time. But then, when you start reading it, you automatically get dwell into it. The way I see it, as long as you are reading the books, the feelings behind it shouldn’t matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good point! Books and literature as a whole should ultimately be for enjoyment and as you say the feelings behind it shouldn’t be what we focus on. Thanks for your comment!


  2. Interesting points! I agree that people should read what they want to read – classic or not. The reason some books are described as classics is that they still seem relevant or iconic, perhaps at the time they were published they seemed new and original so they have filtered into the public consciousness.
    I think it’s acceptable to discuss classics you haven’t read but only if you’re genuinely interested in them and not just to make yourself look smart 😉


    1. I must admit that I do worry sometimes that people discuss certain literature just to portray themselves in a particular way and that’s such a shame because ultimately literature should simply be enjoyed. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Agreed! I think that screen adaptations make people more likely to talk about classics – which is good in a way, but also it means that their idea of the book is based on the film.


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