10 Ways to Improve Your Mind by Reading the Classics

The other day I came across some disturbing statistics on reading. According to a Jenkins Group survey, 42% of college graduates will never read another book. Since most people read bestsellers printed in the past 10 years, it follows that virtually no one is reading the classics. Although it’s unfortunate that the intellectual heritage of humanity is being forgotten we can use this to our benefit. By reading the classics to improve your mind you can give yourself an advantage. These examples illustrate 10 ways reading the classics will help you succeed.

1. Bigger Vocabulary

When reading the classics you’ll come across many words that are no longer commonly used. Why learn words most people don’t use? To set yourself apart. Having a bigger vocabulary is like having a tool box with more tools. A larger arsenal of words enables you to express yourself more eloquently. You’ll be able to communicate with precision and create a perception of higher intelligence that will give you an advantage in work and social situations.

2. Improved Writing Ability

Reading the classics is the easiest way to improve your writing. While reading you unconsciously absorb the grammar and style of the author. Why not learn from the best? Great authors have a tendency to take over your mind. After reading, I’ve observed that my thoughts begin to mirror the writer’s style. This influence carries over to writing, helping form clear, rhythmic sentences.

3. Improved Speaking Ability

Becoming a better speaker accompanies becoming a better writer because both are caused by becoming a better thinker. Studying works of genius will teach you to express yourself with clarity and style. By improving your command of the English language, you’ll become more persuasive, sound more intelligent, and enjoy an advantage over less articulate people.

4. Fresh Ideas

Isn’t it ironic that the best

  • http://www.shiatsublogger.co.uk Tony Brown

    John,
    I love reading and my style does change when I have been a lot of one author: I have just finished a PG Wodehouse binge and have to be a bit careful with the “what-ho” and “tootle-pips”!
    Tony

  • http://www.succeedsocially.com Chris

    I find you can gain a lot of wisdom about life from classic literature. Reading them always seems to remind me that some things really never change. Lifestyles we almost feel we invented have been around for hundreds of years, or more.

    Yeah, we have fancier toys now, but a lot of how we relate to other people and make our way through life is timeless.

    • Mikedavidson

       Really something to ponder over. It is a must read for anyone looking for self improvement.

      http://www.englishleap.com/

    • John Coneby

      “There’s nothing new under the sun”
      Ecciasastes

  • http://morningwoodnews.com morningwoodnews

    Great post. I’d love for you or some of your other readers to follow up with some of your/their favorite classics.

    My 8 year-old and I always read the same book at the same time separately. Then, over dinner we discuss it. Nothing formal. He never ceases to amaze me with his perspective.

    We are currently reading Moby Dick. I was astonished how he picked up on the similarities between the personalities of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick.

    • Tina Peterson

      What a great idea to read it separately and then discuss the book. You have your own little book club. =D  I’ll share that on my blog sometime if you don’t mind.

      Tina “thebooklady”
      http://familyliteracy2.blogspot.com

  • http://www.essentiallifeskills.net ZHereford

    Bravo John, a timely and important article. If you’ve been to my website, you know I’m all about studying the classics and how important they are to intellectual development. There is no substitute for what the classics contribute.

  • http://chessthinking.com Chess Thinker

    Nice post! I am re-reading “Think and Grow Rich” to see how it’s applicable to blogging. ;-)
    Anyway, I skimmed it so that I could see what it covers and there is this one section where it talks about ‘applying for a job’ and it mentions sending a copy of your photograph/picture with a job application letter/resume! That is not allowed these days. By reading classics (I consider TAGR a classic), you learn how things used to be. You may then research why things used to be that way and on and on…
    Morningwoodnews: I just wanted to suggest reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Things_Fall_Apart . It is a classic. St Augustine’s “Confessions” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_(St._Augustine) is another one. Enjoy your reading!

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I’d consider “Think and Grow Rich a Classic” too. It may not be one in the academic sense, but in this post I used the term ‘classic’ to refer to all older books of excellent quality.

  • Katy Ballard

    John, may I suggest that you follow Lolita with Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azir Nafisi. It’s a memoir that gets you thinking why we read things the way we do, and how much of a cultural lens we apply. It speaks to the transcendent quality of the classics that you have pointed out above. Thanks for this post!

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Katy,

    I’ve never heard of Nafisi, but after your recommendation I’ll have to check him out. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • http://www.gozino.net gozino.net

    I love to read classics and I agree with you 100% on what you say. My favorites are Thomas Man, John Steinbeck, Dostoevsky, Sartre and Pearl Buck. I think everyone should read at least 15-20 classics.

  • classixnerd

    Good points! A question/observation on terms: “Classics” could mean a range of genres, from Classical Literature (everybody read Vergil!* woot!) to the Dead White Men canon (which, admittedly, encompasses the aforementioned Greeks and Romans) to the formerly extra-canonical books now being recognized as every bit as worthwhile enduring as the above DWMs (and far too few of whom I have read). All of them, of course, offer equally valuable but very different pleasures and lessons.

    *Don’t go all troll on me, I’m a Classics major. Publius Vergilius Maro spelled his name with an “e”; medieval scholars switched to the “i” spelling now accepted in English (“Virgil”) because they believed the poet had prophetic powers, associating him with the word “virga” (here, magic wand). I prefer the “e” spelling.

  • Chad

    Ok, I’m sold. How about a list of suggestions?

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    That’s a good question, Chad, but very difficult to answer because of the enormous range of options. Is there anything in particular that interests you? A type of book or style you really like?

    One way that I’ve found new classics to read is by browsing famous quotes pages. When I find an author whose quotes resonate with me I dig deeper. One good book always leads to several others.

    http://www.quotationspage.com/

  • Jeff Bauer

    I’d recommend Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian”. It will expand your vocabulary.

  • Bob

    Having completed engineering schools and a 40 year career as an engineer, I missed out on most of the classics.
    I am now reading the Great Books series that starts with Homer and am amazed at what I have missed, even including mathematics and science.
    Currently I am reading St. Augustine’s “City of God”, having just completed his “Confessions”.
    I hope others start sooner than me, as the benefits you describe are readily apparent.

    • pedro

      I just graduated engineering school. Like you, I don’t want to miss out on good readings.

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  • Xtal

    What good does an expansive vocabulary do you if people can’t understand what you’re saying? I love using the best, most precise word, but oftentimes it is an impediment to good conversation.

    And, people think I’m a jerk.

    A good education is wasted if you don’t have anyone to share it with.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jorge.sarti Jorge Sarti

      The thing about have an expanding vocabulary is that in novels you see words that people hardly use, I least that’s what I’ve learned over my time of reading mostly classic novels.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I share you’re frustration sometimes, Xtal. Maybe that’s what drives us online?

    I don’t think it’s always true though. For example, there are many words we know the meaning to somewhat, but don’t regularly use. Having a big vocab sometimes means using words that are known but still uncommon.

  • Ibo Wilson

    ‘The Road’ is about style – not substance. It is an over-rated hack novel that appeals to those who suffer from the inability to concentrate. Cormac is a hack – plain and simple. There are better short stories written by children in grammar school.

    The comparisons to (the also over-rated) Elliot ‘Wasteland’ never end.

    Please don’t try to compare great (or even mediocre) ‘classic’ works with this novel.

  • george

    i might be blind, just might, but it would be nice, if a listing of some or the best ‘classics’ was provided. rather than writing an article to encourage a call to action without the resourc being avail.

    so, is there a listing of the most relevant classics? or jsut a broaud umbrella of classics? anything of the sort?

    again, i might be blind and not see the link if so i apologize for my douchery in advance.

  • george

    spell check also helps me avoid douchery!

  • C.

    Ah, yes. The classics.

    I find it depressing that we have to convince each generation of the significance of older works. The Asians have got an edge on us in math, science, and…this. As part of the humanities curriculum, for instance, Taiwan MIDDLE schools require students to study Confucius’s Analects until they’ve pretty much got it memorized back to front. Poetry, historical works of significance, philosophy – all this is already REQUIRED reading in other countries in the primary school level! It’s an intellectual goldmine that many, unfortunately under-informed students are missing out on. Why, we praise a kid just for taking up a Harry Potter book! Anyone else catch on to the trend here? I’m worried…

    • Joe C.

      I’ve been living in Taiwan several years and I have to disagree with your overall assessment. Our education (my education anyhow) put a lot of emphasis on reading and thinking creatively. Most Taiwanese people I talk to have only read things for research and study, having a clear goal to accomplish. This isn’t necessarily bad, just different. Overall I really do feel that our education does emphasize reading and creative thought. Our popular culture and parenting on the other hand… I don’t blame the closing of book stores and overall lack of interest in our Nation’s Teachers, The blame lies with The parents and the babysitter (television).

  • C.

    george, the classics is a term that has umpteen meanings (each generation has basically redefined it on the basis of its own whims, the latest being that of “modern” classics like GS), but the two that have generally endured to this day as the most solid (and traditional) are these:

    1) Latin literature (i.e., Greek) – if you hear about someone who has a degree in “the classics”, he/she is studying Greek thinkers like Plato or Aristotle

    2) (the one you’re probably most wanting to know about) literature that is generally acknowledged by the academia as being of the highest standard of writing – Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and so on. This is the genre that constitutes all the famous Victorian authors you’ve heard about, and then some. There are so many that many major publishers (Penguin, HarperCollins, etc.) have specialized lines focusing on these classics and these classics alone. The cheapest, I’ve found, is a series by Wordsworth Press. These retail typically for about a few dollars (I got ‘em at 1.99 Canadian dollars each), and you can quickly build up a reading library. Of course, the public library is always an option, but if you’re loath to go out or spend money, there’s always the Internet. http://www.bartleby.com and http://www.bibliomania.com are two to start with – free online texts that may be considered classic in the conventional sense. There are many, many more – check out http://bookspot.com/onlinebooks/ for the best of the best, and which should last most readers for a lifetime. A word of warning: many prefer to own their own books, to take notes on and such until they’ve ended up with a “personalized” copy – almost a record of their reading/learning experience (for the two often, and should, go hand in hand). You may want to consider ownership as an option, then.

    As for where to start, http://classiclit.about.com/ could be your first stepping stone to literary enlightenment, with all the necessary instruction articles (“How to Read a Difficult Book”) and author/title profiles. Dig a bit, and you’ll find definitions, too. http://classiclit.about.com/od/forbeginners/a/aa_whatisclass.htm

    In terms of lists, this should do nicely. http://classiclit.about.com/od/booklists/Book_Lists_Reading_Lists_Literature.htm

    As should this. (scroll down for the more recent works) http://www.anova.org/

    Happy reading (and hopefully learning along the way as well)!

    • Lalala

      By the way, Greek literature comes from Ancient Greece and Latin literature comes from Ancient Rome. You cannot say “Latin literature (i.e. Greek)” and no I did not misunderstand you.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Thanks for answering that, C.

  • kokopelli

    And who decides what the classics are?

  • James

    The best, and most comprehensive *set* of lists (e.g., asian classics, western classics, etc.), which can be viewed also as a chronological listing combining all lists, is at:
    http://www.interleaves.org/~rteeter/greatbks.html

  • Rick Taylor

    I’m sorry, but this is idiotic. Suggesting that older books — “classics” — are more important and intellectual and of greater value to personal improvement while more recent best sellers are just pulp is like suggesting that only history that occured more than five hundred years ago is important and that focusing on the history of the last two hundred years is frivolous. As if studying ancient Egypt or the period of the black plague is somehow more valuable to humanity and personal development than studying the Revolutionary War and the Industrial period.

    As for not reading after graduating college – that’s ridiculous. I never went to college. In fact, I dropped out of highschool in my first year. I suppose you’ll look down on that as well, even though I’m a recognized contributor to my entire field (and also a published author). I can tell you that I read an enormous amount as an adult. I suspect that most people in other fields do, too.

    Sure, we’re not sitting around reading Wuthering Heights (and really, why would you?), but I probably read more than 98% of the population each year. My material just happens to be hundreds and thousands of pages of technical and field related material. I’m sorry if I don’t have two days to trudge through Fannie May so I can be an elitist when discussing literature, but that time is valuable to me and I would rather spend it reading material that actually matters toward my professional growth and knowledge.

    Yes, I’m sure we all wish we had endless hours to read a bunch of Victorian romance crap — but we don’t. We have lives and careers. More importantly, spending two days reading the dullest books just because you hope that there may be one or two occasions in your life where you can recall an item from said book to make yourself look smarter and more sophisticated than you are in front of other people is a poor investment.

  • Rintrah

    The Road was great. I loved everything about it. It’s the bleakest, most soul crushing book I’ve read. In fifty years it will be considered a classic.

  • http://www.essentiallifeskills.net ZHereford

    Reading the classics is about understanding the life, the human condition, and the challenges we as humans face. It’s not about being better than anyone else. It’s also about sharpening our thinking, reading and writing skills.

    If we spend a little less time watching TV and playing video games we would have more of it to read. Of course, it is entirely up to the individual how they choose to spend their free time.

  • http://onebreathatatime.wordpress.com Shannon

    I have to say that I think the statistics you link to are highly suspect. What raises the red flag for me is that 80% of the population wants to write a book, yet 43% will never read another book. Why would so many people want to write a book if they never read?

    Also, if none of these people are reading or buying books, then why is Barnes & Noble always so crowded?

    Now if it was 80% of people want to be on TV, I might believe it.

    I think what this all points to is that we learn how to be better critical thinkers, whether that’s by reading classics or some other means.

  • http://www.productivity501.com Mark Shead

    @Rick — Regarding your disagreement that older classics are more valuable: If you have to pick a good book from 25 books that are well know after being in print for 300 years as opposed to picking a book from 25 that are well known after being in print for 2 months which one do you think is likely to be of better quality?

    It isn’t that no books from the present are of enduring quality, but it is going to be very difficult to determine which books these are. I haven’t read anything printed in the past 2 years that I expect to still be in print 200 years from now. Have you? Of course if all you read is technical documentation, it is unlikely that anything you read is going to be in print 200 years.

    Also regarding the fact that you didn’t go to college: According to the statistics, people with only a high school education are more likely to read another book (66%) than a college graduate (58%).

    @Shannon — I share your feeling that the statistics seem hard to believe. I’m guessing that there are specific definitions used. For example, it might only count non-fiction books with more than 200 pages that are read straight through within 3 weeks.

  • http://www.clarkebruce.wordpress.com Bruce

    Great post John, you’ve inspired me to pick up something ‘classic’ to read over my forthcoming holiday. Might also check out ‘The Road’ to see what all the fuss is about.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Bruce, that’s great. I hope you find a good read. The Road is definitely worth picking up. Even though it’s not one of my all time favorites, it’s very readable and definitely has some powerful passages.

    Regarding the stats, I agree that they may be suspect. That’s the nature of statistics, they’re easy to manipulate. I used it because it’s provocative. Regardless, I do believe people are reading less and less.

  • http://AhmadK.com Ahmad K

    I’ve been meaning to read The Road for a long while now… how is it?

  • arin

    hey if we all had time then we just might
    think abt picking up some oldies, but going too far back, please
    just blog me the bits that excite you abt your selections.
    maybe i just want
    to be a global citizen with friends from all over
    telling me about their places, food, etc but Rick, i
    have moments when i will need to be as focused as you are,
    and to everyone, thanks for the bits and bits..
    so now i am thinking where i can get free reading
    for The Road. But Aristotle and Socrates is sooooooo
    taxing especially that you have to turn out some philosophical
    stuff and pretend to get it….haaaa, that’s hard for me.
    as to Og Mandino stuff, you peek and say ahhh.
    As to Konosuke Matsushita story, he never got to College,
    but wow!!!
    Hey maybe you just muddle through life this way?

  • http://afowles.blogspot.com Aaron

    Funniest quote of the post:

    You’ll be able to communicate with precision and create a perception of higher intelligence that will give you an advantage in work and social situations.

    Should we be concerned about the perception of intelligence or the reality of the thing?

    I prefer to view it in terms of marketing. In my humble opinion, most modern books become best-sellers because they can either be read in a single sitting or they are so darn episodic that one feels like one is watching television. Take the Dan Brown or Harry Potter books as an example. Each chapter, as short as it is, conveys a quick scene or an exciting tidbit. This really draws the reader in, but it erodes our ability to appreciate subtlety.

    There’s no finesse in modern literature. You’re either hit on the head with a brick or left out to dry. Then again, I’ve been out of the mainstream English literary scene for a while as I’ve been living abroad. The last modern book I’ve read was The Historian. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, but I wouldn’t call it exalting. It was something you read as a very long dessert.

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  • http://tomeofknowledge5.blogspot.com Adam

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Project Gutenberg yet. It’s THE place for classic literature. Essentially, they digitize literature in the public domain (which many classics are, since the author’s copyright has expired) and store it in ASCII (plain-text) format for download.

    http://www.gutenberg.org

  • http://www.brokeass-student.com Jennifer Lynn

    All disputing aside, this was an intriguing post. Reading in general does unfortunately appear to be on a steady decline.

    I’m an avid reader, and it’s not unusual for me to devour two or three books a week. Regardless of what topics or genres are chosen to satiate frenzied appetites, reading is still an excellent way to tantalize the intellectual taste buds. As far as the Classics, I say Bon Appétit!

    =^..^=

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  • Robert

    I couldn’t disagree more. Classics are classics because other people think so. To that end many people are only espousing their “classicness” to be in the intellectual group.
    Reading books from our past is a great way to unify the human condition, you see the similarities that occur now in a completley different setting. But why would you want to have another writer’s voice? and how could having someone else’s ancient voice make you a better writer.

    Also, why would knowing more words give you an edge? If you’re the only person who knows what euphonius means why use it? It’s as effective as a made-up word. Get off your high horse and read what you like and find out why! If that’s the classics so be it, but don’t read them because other people say you should, or because it will give you an advantage.

    You make reading look like body building.

  • http://www.FreeTechBooksonthenet.blogspot.com FreeTechBooks

    Biographies of great men also helps.

  • Mark

    Awesome post. I had someone turn me on to the classics a few years ago and have enjoyed the experience immensely. I wanted to add a few things.
    First:
    Classics are not just in literature. Every field has it’s classics. Literature has Shakespeare, Dickens, Pope and Swift. Philosophy has Socrates, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. Biology has Darwin and Agassiz. Physics has Kepler, Newton, Galileo, and Einstein. Music has Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. Find the works that everybody quotes and refers to and to you will probably find the classics.
    Second:
    There are several reasons to read the classics, but the two most important are: they are old and they are difficult. Unfortunately these are also the reason most people do not read the classics. But classics are classics because they last. Three hundred years from now people will still be reading Shakespeare and Euclid; they may not be reading The Road. The classics last because they are the best. But they are also difficult. At first, reading the classics is hard. In the case of Newton, almost impossible. But the more you read the easier it gets. In the process you learn to think deeply. After reading Newton or Shakespeare you begin to think somewhat like Newton or Shakespeare. Once someone reads Shakespeare, they begin to recognize carefully crafted language. Once someone reads Newton they begin to understand problem solving. Hard? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
    Last:
    In its strictest sense the Classics are the Latin and Greek writings from the around the time of Homer, Socrates, Aristotle, Livy, etc. If you were to major in “The Classics”, you would be reading these authors. A good source for these is the Loeb Classics Library published by Harvard University Press: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/loeb/index.html. This definition is no longer used very often.

  • http://sunil-parmar.blogspot.com/ Sunil Parmar

    Thanks a lot John,
    It’s an amazing article & soon i’ll be taking up my first classic. Probably Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. :)

    • Smith

      I read Anna Karenina a few years ago, and it is one of the best books I have ever read.

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  • http://www.superdead.org Sapphire

    Classics do enlarge your perception, by its conception and inspiration from a different age. There is only one thread common in the fabric of present and past, the human condition and each time period provides titillating insight into it, by unique circumstance. It is these insights, as applicable yesterday as today which survive, which continue to provoke. There’s two paths to personal development: observation and experience. With the latter, there are limitations, your life has limitations. With the former, by accessibility to entire landscape, the opportunities for growth are innumerable. It can also be said observation (reading a subdivision) is an experience itself.

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  • http://AhmadK.com Ahmad K

    damn dude, you’re getting a whole lot of link backs to your site…. I bet you’re making bank with all the ads and stuff now..

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Haha. This post did pretty well ;). Though believe me, the money isn’t too big yet. It takes years for that to build up and I’ve only been going 6.5 months. Hopefully the site will continue to grow at the same rate.

  • http://mwpettet.blogspot.com michael pettet

    I found your blog through some links Ziki sent. Glad they did. Good stuff, and I heartily agree with your points. I can attest to the fact that the latest generation are not up on reading. I have recently gone back to school and from what I have encountered in my English courses, their reading skills leave a lot to be desired. They are a very intelligent group overall, but they do not care to read anything other than what their teachers have had them do. Scary stuff.
    Thanks for the post.

  • http://hacktheday.com Alex

    No way can I believe that statistics. Really now. 46% of college graduates never reading a book afterwards? No way. No.

  • David

    I’m surprised at the rant from Rick, especially the swipe taken at Wuthering Heights.

    A few years ago, I started on my own journey reading the classics. I discovered Anna Karenina (now a favorite), Les Miserables (unabridged – and a favorite too), Ethan Fromme, and more.

    One that I liked was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by one of the Bronte sisters: so I say, don’t knock it till you’ve read it.

    Secondly, “What are the classics?” is a fair question. In my mind (and my journey) it is mainly 19th century fiction – which includes Ethan Fromme, The Raven, The Scarlet Letter (a favorite!), and more. It does (for me) leave *out* Catch-22, Of Mice and Men, and Stranger in a Strange Land.

    Personally, anyone reading “the classics” will have to make their own determination: what are the classics they are interested in. Some folks would find Ethan Fromme and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall boring (both are mostly romantic novels) but what about Dracula, Les Miserables, or even Mallory’s Morte d’Artur (the story of King Arthur as told by this 16th century author). There is The Raven and Annabelle Lee (both by Edgar Allen Poe) and The Invisible Man. None of these are exactly romances.

    I also have found myself reading old children’s classics (find them in an unabridged form!) such as Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland (Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice is wonderful!), Through The Looking Glass, and Peter Pan. Remember: original and unabridged….. might be harder to find some in this state than others.

  • http://www.persistenceunlimited.com Brad Isaac

    Before you dismiss Cormac McCarthy pick up Suttree. That is a challenging title. Most people give up during the first 3 pages.

  • http://www.MotivationalSpeakerSource.com Dave

    Great post. You certainly make a good writer and reader based on your tips.

    I haven’t considered reading classic books. With all the new books available to read, it’s definitely an easy choice between new and old books. But since you mentioned it, I think I’ll try it too.

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  • http://www.honeypot.net/ Kirk

    I read Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” on a whim last summer. It was not only a wonderful book and completely enjoyable, but thoroughly modern. It could have as easily been taken place last year as in 1800s Russia. The classics are famous for a reason.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I totally agree. “Crime and Punishment” is one of my all time favorites.

  • David

    One word of advice (from one of my favorite authors, CS Lewis): many classics will start with an introduction or a guide to understanding the book and the author. While they are sometimes useful, if you find your eyes glazing over by the second paragraph, immediately skip the introduction and go straight to the book itself. Chances are it will be clearer and easier to understand than anything Professor J. McStuffypants had to say about it.

    • Saqib shehzad

      i condum this because introduction is most important for the students.

  • n00b

    One cannot think about things for which there are no words. Rick should consider how his attitude may be limiting his thought patterns.

  • http://www.taureandevi.blogspot.com Danielle

    I am a nontraditional student and have benefited enormously by a World Literature Course. Reading The Odyssey, The Aenid, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, and other classics has brought home to me and my writing the importance of poetic prose, utilizing pyschologically embedded themes and motifs to make a modern connection and it has helped in developing my critical thinking skills.

    Excellent article.

    For my own Modern Musings http://www.taureandevi.blogspot.com

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  • http://www.psych101online.com Helen

    You certainly made a good point regarding ideas. Since almost everybody is reading new books, it would be hard to come up with a unique idea.
    Our source is very vast and we have to search on areas where less people are searching..

    • http://pickthebrain.com olmuyiwa odubela

      hi
      i think i have ideas on the mind reading thing i will like you to get me some stuff about it i can really think fast i wish i could be great in this field i am really a computer guru i wish i can lay my hand on your shuff i could make dream wish can come reality not only to me but to the generation.
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  • http://www.HowToGiveABetterSpeech.com Barb

    You are right about old books which offers a wide variety of words. As long as we enjoy reading it, it doesn’t matter if it’s old. It’s even better if we are learning much more when compared to new books.

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  • http://gunny93.blogspot.com/ GUNNY HARTMAN

    Lists aboud, apparently, but I found the stuff I read (or was supposed to read) in high school did nothing for me in my teens, but tends to do a little something for me in the my 30s.

    Clearly, To Kill a Mockingbird would not be considered one of the “Classics,” but such is some good literature.

    I actually do read a lot of the Classics as well (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, etc.), but my impression from the post was to read and not just read new stuff.

    Of course, being new don’t make it bad … any more than being old made/makes it good.

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  • Jason

    I went to a school – St. John’s College, where all we did was read the classics. Here – http://mtprof.msun.edu/Fall2001/BrannArt.html is a great speech on why classics should be read.

  • Francis X. Bushman

    Hi Rick. Knock the chip off your shoulder. Hope this helps.

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  • med

    we analize your article mr john in OUM EL KOURA estab .for learning English in morocco. the more important is that we criticize it so much .

  • Anton

    Also, try listening to classical music and classics and at the same time read poetry, and foreign literature, like Russian, or something from France and Italy fro the last say 500 years. This is just an example of course but the more you read something from the past, the more intelligent you become.

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  • Rabid Bibliophile

    I’ve returned to this site to add a bit of commentary: reading ‘great’ books has also added a depth of understanding I tend to take for granted when reading more current literature. The specific book I’m thinking of is “Ghost Map” by Steven Johnson, which details the history of a cholera epidemic in London, in 1854. The author does a marvelous job of ‘setting the scene’ for the later outbreak, but I didn’t *NEED* an enormous amount of detail because I’d read Dickens, RL Stevenson, and AC Doyle (both writing a couple of decades later), along with reading about Florence Nightingale (who was a very renowned figure at the time of the outbreak).

    I didn’t even *see* the depth of intercontextualization at first. I felt that the modern book spent ‘too much time’ trying to explain the day-to-day difficulties which contributed to the cholera outbreak, simply because my picture of ordinary life in the era was fairly well-developed.

  • Jim

    I’m a big fan of the classics, but I stopped reading in the first paragraph with the obviously and demonstrably wrong statistics.

  • http://lehammurabi.blogspot.com Raphel S

    I totally agree. In fact, from Jan 1 – Feb 1 I’m reading a book a day: mostly biographies and, of course, the classic books. There’s a great list, for anyone out there who wants to read them, on anova.org. Cheers!

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  • http://tagrblog.blogspot.com/ TAGRMASTER

    You got to read the classic Think and Grow Rich. Its the book more rich people in the world have read than any other.
    Ive read it 25 times, and I share my insights with you (for free) at http://tagrblog.blogspot.com/

  • http://pickthebrain.com arein

    classics are great at least to enjoy also to improve writing and skills

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  • http://www.selfhelpblogger.com David @ selfhelpblogger

    Totally agree. All the new writers pattern after them anyhow. I know I do.

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  • http://facedestiny.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=59&Itemid=49 Maggi | facedestiny

    An interesting post that’s definitely provoked the whole range of replies. The comment regarding including words which may no longer be widely used in your writing seems to go against other internet writing wisdom, where the suggestion is to write for maximum understanding, which usually means using more simplistic language.

    I am an avid reader – like a chain-smoker, no sooner do I finish one book than I pick up another, and I get withdrawal symptoms if there’s nothing around to read. While I agree with posters who describe, Dickens, Austen, Brontes etc as part of the ‘classics’ there is good writing that spans a far wider time frame than this, including modern writers.

    For some years I avoided most newly published literature, preferring to re-read older favorites, but more recently I’ve got more into modern authors, particularly because I’ve moved to Greece and couldn’t bring many of my own books with me, so I’m relying on the ‘libraries’ of friends.

    It was a good step, my horizons had started to become narrow and I was missing out on a lot of good reading.

    I’m pleased someone mentioned Project Gutenberg, an excellent free source of older books, including many that wouldn’t be regarded as classics, but may be a good read nevertheless. It’s well worth a look for the non-fiction titles it holds. I’d guess it could be a treasure trove for many authors.

  • http://www.LikeSoup.com LikeSoup

    My personal favorite is “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” -Dr. Joseph Murphy. I believe it was written around 1961; absolutely fascinating what goes on in these minds of ours, what we’re capable of and how to create fruition…….

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    The style of writing is very familiar to me. Did you write guest posts for other blogs?

  • http://www.ebook-of-the-week.com/blog/ Naveen

    As someone who has a website dedicated solely to giving away self help books in the public domain written by the greatest thinkers in history I could not agree more with Einstein’s observation.

    For example I read Dr Conwell’s book ‘Acres of Diamonds’. Using stories and personal anecdotes he talks about market research, about overlooking business opportunities right under our nose and many other things.

    Another book that resonates strongly even in this age is ‘The Power of Concentration’.

    I give away all these and more including ‘Think and Grow Rich’ at my website:

    http://www.ebook-of-the-week.com/CoachInABook.html

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  • VLP

    I truly love your article. I’m a writer, and when I was young I just could not write anything that was good. But after studying the classics I felt like a door had been opened. I studied the prose and style. It’s more beautiful than anything I had read that was modern. I can’t help now, when I read anything modern, to study and scrutinize the style of the book before I can even enjoy it.

    • Aaliya

      true….i have same story=)

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  • alice

    wooow… that’s very interesting.thanks

  • http://revoseek.com Revoseek

    In my Opinion The Improvement of Emotional Intelligence Is also Necessary.

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  • LitVol

    Read not to contradict and confute, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.    -Sir Francis Bacon-

  • http://customizedfatlossreview.net Jack’s Customized Fat Loss

    True! I am a book lover and i often visits a bookstore who sells a lot of old books, and i find a lot of good novels there. And indeed reading it open up a new world of vocabularies for me, and it helps me a lot.

    - Jack Leak

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  • http://www.Jonericbohman.com Joneric Bohman

    Its truly sad how few people read a book after high school.  As not all those that attended high school go to college, I wonder what that 42% would be?  Reading is a great passion and hobby of mine, and I’m very grateful that I got interested in reading books that help to increase intelligence.  Some books I never would have read on my own are Think And Grow Rich, For The New Intellectual, Why We Want You To Be Rich, The Law and many others.  I highly recommend them to everyone.

  • http://www.youtube.com/thirdactco thirdact

    Great piece of information. really liked the post.

  • Youth Voices Magazine

    I love your Article, still reading “The Great Gatsby” one classic I have and yet finish .

  • Ajka

    Am Said from Somalia, Reading is better for everyone who reads any book, he/she may gets benefit from the book they read or capacity building of the language they may want to improve, for instant, I’m Somali, am not a native speaker with English language when I read novel probably I have gotten many vocabularies when am read the novel.
    I advise those reluctant for reading should be started, and others keep on their reading.

    thanks

  • Ajka

    Am Said from Somalia, Reading is better for everyone who reads any book, he/she may gets benefit from the book they read or capacity building of the language they may want to improve, for instant, I’m Somali, am not a native speaker with English language when I read novel probably I have gotten many vocabularies when am read the novel.
    I advise those reluctant for reading should be started, and others keep on their reading.

    thanks

  • http://familyliteracy2.blogspot.com/p/who-am-i.html Tina “the book lady”

    Hi! thanks for writing this. I added a link to this article on my blog and will tweet it out too. Thanks again! Tina “the book lady”

    http://familyliteracy2.blogspot.com

  • Mick Anderson

    I simply adore this site, i just stumbled on it randomly.

    I browsed some of the articles real quick and i just want to say wow!(content & quality)

    Thank you for such an AMAZING website

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  • Mike C

    I completely agree with this article because it points out easy ways to increase ones vocabulary. Idea that fascinated me was, the creation of new ideas. i had never thought about the fact that our culture’s books express the here and now ideas while books that are centuries old have ideas that people have forgotten about.  
    Mike C. 

  • milica t.

    I agree with the aspects conveyed in this article.. most people who actually read books are reading fiction that fits into the current fad of pop culture.  Books that fall under this category mimic classics but are translated into our modern day language, and because people have grown to be lazy, they read books that don’t challenge them to think as a classic would.  True, I do associate classics with my previous literature classes, but I do appreciate what I was forced to read because it made me appreciate classics more and motivated me to start reading more like them!

    -Milica T.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MDR27NBJTAAVBILBM22PZPTLEE Amy

    I believe that reading in general would just improve writing skills. I don’t necessarily believe that classics or new books of this generation are much of a difference. I mean Shakespeare is very difficult to read and I found Romeo and Juliet to be a difficult read and didn’t quite understand much of its content, but reading is reading. The only thing that matters is what interests the reader, personally. 

    -Amy Fuentes
    English 160 UIC 

  • Jenna Blake

    I totally agree! I love the classics and have so much trouble trying to find people to discuss them with. Most people aren’t reading at all let alone reading the classics.

    Jenna
    http://closetclassicist.blogspot.com/
     

  • JaneEyre

    I have a masters in computer science and am working as a software developer. I have always been passionate about the english language and enjoyed writing – whatever little that was while at school.But never really thought of pursuing writing until now. I just do not know how to start and am getting immensely discouraged by the fact that I do not have a degree in english and that most great modern writers have had formal education of some kind or on some level in english. I just want an opinion as to whether my fears are genuine or completely unfounded. Any suggestion would also help — JaneEyre

  • Aaliya

    Aamaaazing …..PS=i needed some ideas to write my speech about reading classics!

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    boo

  • Anonymous

    Great motivation – thank you for this post. I’m going back now and tackling the classics that I was “forced” to read way back when. Now that I’m out of school and actually writing, I’m finding that the <a href="http://www.ranker.com/list/5-hardest-books-to-read-_that-are-totally-worth-it_/tyvick"hardest books to read are often the most rewarding (and very, very much worth the effort!)

  • Rukiddding

    best article ever!!! it inspired me to read more <3

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    hi im lewis

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    im beautiful and i know it

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    gota love em
    trix r for kids

  • Elxsinup

    wow! Great post keep it up. i was

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    wow, Great post

  • PrabhatyZ

    any one can tell me from which book i have to start reading.

  • Jackdalin

    make me feel good at understanding something new to me…:)))

  • Jackdalin

    make me feel good at understanding something new to me…:)))

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  • hogg.jenny

    This is really a great post very informative one ,I appreciate y0ur  great effort to make this useful post and share here with us .Great work keep going it.

  • hogg.jenny

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  • BonSueB

    Excellent points. I like many of the classics – in fact, “Tale of Two Cities” is one of my favorites. But I will admit that if the verbiage is too old, it can make it difficult to follow the story.

    I write paranormal fiction. I read every other genre except that one because what you say is true… you absorb other writer’s styles and I don’t want my writing to be influenced by others.

    You also make a wonderful point in that being alive today feels exactly like it did 100 years ago. That is a point I regularly make in my writing.  

    P.S. -  I hope your statistic about 42% of college graduates will never read another book isn’t true! How sad.

  • avani

    i want to improve my writing and speaking by the vocabulary any suggestion fox

  • R Vaishnavi

    is everyone’s brain are same?
    Ex; my frnd can persue wel than me everytime in every things.
    this is becoz of what

  • Eric

    Speaking of classics, I found this list of the 25 best classics of all time at:
    http://nerdsguidetoreading.com/Nerds_Guide_to_Reading/Classics.html

    Anyway, I got several great suggestions there I wouldn’t have come across otherwise, and ended up reading about 5 of the books.

  • http://www.100greatestnovels.com/ thereaderintheattic

    Superb post – I couldn’t agree more.  Reading the classics is such a powerful way to expand your world.  I especially agree with #10 – it’s amazing how much we can learn from stories that are hundreds of years old.  The settings may change, but human habits, emotions, and struggles all stay the same.

    One recommendation for your readers – I found it really useful to pick a classic book list and randomly start reading titles off of that list.  That way, I didn’t get stuck in the habit of just reading the ones that everyone talks about all the time.  I found some real gems that never would have come across my radar (most recently Hunger by Knut Hamsun, for example).  

    If you’re curious, I share my reviews on http://www.100greatestnovels.com.

  • Windsor

    Read the most classic book of all – The Bible
    It will not only improve your mind but may as well improve your life. Below are notes from a friend which I think is worth sharing:

    Literary Genres of the Bible: The following are the literary genres of the different books of the bible, which speak of God as its great Author: 1) Narrative: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, and Acts.2) Law: Leviticus and Deuteronomy.3) Wisdom: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.4) Poetry: Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations.5) Prophecy: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.6) Apocalyptic: Daniel and Revelation.7) Parable: narrative and instruction contained in the Gospels.Epistle: Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, Peter, John, and the first three chapters of Revelation.9) Romance: Ruth and Song of Solomon. Literary Devices in the Bible: The bible contains several literary devices, or figure of speech, which speak of God as an Author, who knows how to compose sentences and paragraphs with art by way of the literary abilities of the inspired bible writers. Let’s take a look at a few of these devices. 1) Simile (Pr 10:26; Js 1:23-24).2) Metaphor (Ps 17:8; Matt 7:7-8).3) Metonomy (Hos 1:2; Jn 6:53-54).4) Synecdoche (Act 27:37).5) Merism (Ps 91:5).6) Symbolism (Rev 8:1-5)7) Idiom (Matt 23:24; Rev 7:1).8) Personification (Pr 9:1-6)9) Anthropomorphism (Gen 6:6)10) Apostrophe (Ps 43:5)11) Allusion (Rev 14:7 an allusion to Ex 20:11)12) Type (The golden snake of Num 21 serves as a type of the cross of Christ in Jn 3:1413) Word Play (sometimes biblical writers make plays on word meanings in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek as in Matt 16:18)14) Hyperbole (Lk 14:26; Mk 9:43)15) Paradox (Jn 3:3; Matt 16:25)16) Alliteration (This is a device in the original languages in which bible writers repeat particular sounds, such as, in Micah and Psalms)17) Assonance (This is a device in the original languages in which bible writers repeat word-internal sounds)18) Numerology (Like 3=trinity; 7=divine perfection; 12=God’s people; and 40=divine testing19) Onomastics (This pertains to meanings of names like Ichabod=glory has departed How do we appreciate the bible as a beautiful literary production, and as an accurate source of information without error? Do we take time to read it and enjoy it? Reading the book of Revelation, for instance, how does its lively depiction of apocalyptic realities help us grasp what God wants us to understand about heaven and the last days? The bible, indeed, speaks of God as Author.

  • Maddie

    I love to read a lot of books I won’t ever quit reading!!!

  • http://www.improvingmind.com/ Improving Mind

    Really great article and a nice read!

  • BookLover

    Loving the reference to Autbiography of Benjamin Franklin! As a tenth grader, I’ve read that book twice and each time I’ve learned an overabundant amount of applicable ideas.  And each time I read that book I learned different things. I remember after setting it down for the first time, I felt guilty for not owning many great works like the ones Ben read lol. I know that after I read that book, I was constantly talking about how great Franklin’s ideas were. My friends said I had a bit of a history crush on Benjamin Franklin, and I suppose I did.
    As for your article, I agree that reading books changes your style of thinking and writing. It’s keeping a hold on all the different styles and blending them together that makes you great. My speech doesn’t change much vocabulary wise, but my thought style and writing style definitely change. I really do need to work on my speech, but I suppose that will come in time. The points you brought up are all true. I find that changing your speech is the most difficult because you have to force yourself to do it. On the other hand, thought and writing come naturally.

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  • http://www.seosandwitch.com/ Seo Sandwitch

    Truly agree, it is for the same reason that children are still taught the classics in the schools.

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  • guest

    number of people have asked for book recommendations. I’m can’t do this

  • John Coneby

    I love reading Robert Murray Mccheyne from the 1800′s his style , poety, and biblically inspired work is nothing less than beautiful. Yes fallible and not sufficient like our scripture but none the less wonderful and holy spirit led. I love
    Many classic writers . Mccheyne is at the moment my favorite

  • http://maimitreviews.wordpress.com Muanthang Tungnung

    I agree with all the points here. Also, one should not ignore contemporary writings. As mentioned in the article, the award wining novels, like Man Booker prize, are incredulously rich too.

  • Fafco

    I love the Classics!  But instead of reading them, I listen to them when I drive to work and back home and when I am out in the garden (and when I get  to the gym, which is infrequent).  I bought a product called The Library of Classics (www.enjoytheclassics.com) and it’s an MP3 player that comes preloaded with 100 classics books.  All unabridged and great narrators.  I have really enjoyed it because finding time to read is always a challenge for me.  This allows me to listen to these books while I’m doing other things like driving or gardening.

  • http://www.tabulyogang.info tabulyogang

    Today I have started my preparation for classical education by reading the King James Bible as a blogger friend suggested to read it first as lot of classics books reference the Holy Bible.  After reading your post i felt encouraged to continue my classical quest. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/GKensington Greg Kensington

    It is funny that most people will never turn their interest toward the classics when, if you look at any list of the best books ever writen, you never find a modern day novel in any list. I credit the expense of publishing a book in the past for limiting this process to only well writen stories. Today anything is published. If you can’t find a publisher an author can self publish, this was not true for classic authors.
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  • B.

    lol ur mum

  • Taylor Church

    I completely agree. I think reading in any capacity is much more important than most people realize. Check out my blog post that speaks more to that point http://billymoney.blogspot.com/2013/03/if-you-dont-like-reading-youre-doing-it.html

  • aaron sharif

    why does the article end at number 4??

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