Must read classics and modern classics

One must find time to nourish one’s soul; there is no better way to do this then by reading some of the finest literature.

Secondary school often puts many a young person off reading, it can be difficult at a young age to appreciate the likes of William Shakespeare or Emily Bronte for example (me for one in the case of the latter) and at that age it is often the case that once something is disliked, it is unfortunately disliked forever. Undoubtedly, anyone who declines themselves the pleasure (which it will become when you read the greatest books) of reading loses out on a great deal, not least the fact that reading improves ones physical and mental health, and it has also been proven to help career growth.

If you are under the impression that classic literature is mundane, dense and outdated, then it could be the case that you remember classic literature from your early school days, or you simply are under a false impression. The truly great classics are works of genius which are often uniquely profound and almost always unforgettable. Fyodor Dostoevsky, for example was described by the scientist Albert Einstein as a man who “gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss.” Whilst the German author Franz Kafka’s works, which have a nightmarish yet comically dark appeal, inspired a new word in the dictionary – Kafkaesque.

For your consideration and enjoyment, we have put together a short list of four must read classic works of fiction. All of the books below are sure to nourish you and provide you with shear moments of delight, despair, melancholy and inspiration.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Do not be deterred by the first few chapters or the long and seemingly changing names of Dostoevsky novels, there is an argument to say that all of the Russian geniuses’ novels are masterpieces, but if there is one that stands out among all of the other, it is Crime and Punishment. The novel is intense from beginning to finish with the authors layered commentary on religion, philosophy and psychology. In fact, it is the psychological depth in Dostoevsky’s characters which alluded to Einstein stating that Dostoevsky gave him more than any scientist. Dostoevsky’s own life, which was full of hardship and struggle, enabled him to portray characters which were spiritually downtrodden with sympathy.

Crime and Punishment partly showcases that human suffering can be transcended. The novel begins with the financially destitute but intelligent and family devoted Russian student Rodion Raskolnikov. Due to conflicted ideas about himself, Raskolnikov kills a dishonest and unprincipled pawn broker with the idea that he would use the money he gains from doing it to start over his own life and his families (his sister is set to marry a sexually depraved and wealthy businessman in order to ensure her mother and herself have financial security) and to also help those who are in need of money. The novel follows Raskolnikov’s decline into madness and his psychological state of mind before, during and after the murders (Raskolnikov also kills the pawnbrokers mentally handicapped sister).

Anyone with even a remote interest in psychology, the hazards of nihilism or the struggle of everyday life should read this breath-taking novel. Famous intellectual Dr Jordan Peterson recommends no fewer than four Dostoevsky novels on his list of influential books everyone should read.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Kafka’s short novel, full of imagination, bizarreness and surrealism underlies its themes of alienation, existential anxiety and guilt. The term Kafkaesque is now in the English dictionary to describe the situations which can be found in his writing. The Metamorphosis begins like something from a bad dream or an odd children’s book. The main character Gregor who awakes one morning to discover that he has transformed into a giant insect like creatures ‘something like a man-sized Beatle.’

Gregor quickly discovers that he is stuck on his back and unable to move and realises that he cannot travel to his job as a traveling salesman, a job he hates due to it being full of temporary human relationships which “never come from the heart.” Gregor would quit his job if his family did not rely on him. What follows is the alienation of his family towards Gregor with only his sister, Grete, caring for him as best she can. Although Gregor still thinks like his normal human self, whenever he talks, all that is audible is insect like squeaks and scratches. Gregor’s family is deprived of financial stability due to Gregor’s transformation and they keep him locked in his room.

Over time, each of the other members of the household find jobs and they increasingly neglect Gregor, although they leave the door open in the evenings so that Gregor can hear his family talking. Many authors and critics have discussed their interpretations of the story which is still open to debate.

The Metamorphosis is an incredible novel written by perhaps the most unique and original author to have ever been born. If you visit Prague, be sure to check out the Franz Kafka Museum.

I Claudius by Robert Graves

Robert Graves’ classic work of fiction tells a story written in the form of an autobiography of Roman Emperor Claudius. The novel tells the history of the early years of the Roman empire and all of its debauchery, violence and scheming to boot. This is a work of fiction, but the events are depicted from historical accounts and include Caligula’s assassination and the events of the Roman Emperor Augustus (of Stoicism fame). I Claudius is highly regarded by readers and critics alike and is regarded as one of the best English language novels from the 20th century onwards, it was published in 1934 and is therefore regarded as a modern classic.

Ancient Rome and antiquity has long been a period of time which fascinates and I Claudius provides an abstract, entertaining and superbly written story which will provide you with an insight into what it may have been like to be a fly on the wall around one of Rome’s most powerful and influential families.  I Claudius gives us a much more creative way of the story of ancient Rome, even greater than films such as Gladiator and Ben Hur or the best online slots which are sometimes themed on Ancient Rome.

There is a sequel to the autobiography, Claudius the God which covers Claudius’ accension to Roman Emperor up to his death.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A novel surrounding fierce and vicious pirates with a coming-of-age theme, Treasure Island is an adventure novel which is sure to ignite the imagination. Treasure Island has been the base for a whole load of dramatizations including films, plays and other novels. The novel begins with an innkeeper’s son called Jim Hawkins who is warned by an old sailor named Billy Bones that a “one legged seafaring man is on his way”.

After discovering a treasure map which pinpoints where the infamous pirate Captain Flint’s treasure is hidden, Jim takes the map to the local physician and squire, and they decide to search for the treasure with Jim serving as the cabin boy. They set sail on a ship which already has its own crew. Unbeknown to Jim and his team, much of the crew is made up of pirates who served under Captain Flint. What follows is an imaginative and thrilling story of mutiny, treasure and murderous intentions.

The book has inspired a generation of children and adults alike, as well as numerous films and even a ride at Disneyland!

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