“Classics for Pleasure” by Michael Dirda

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

I’ve always thought of the classics as boring and stuffy books to which I would not relate and would not enjoy. I would hardly pick one up to read for leisure and would only purchase them to add to my bookshelves to show off to friends. My views changed after reading Michael Dirda’s Classics for Pleasure.

I first read this book last year when I rescued it from a Borders sale. Since I was broke with no job prospects, I thought it best to spend my time reading the classics. Being the impatient person that I am, I wanted to know what to expect before I begin. Would I like what I read or not?

I was sucked so deeply into this book that I believed that I would like all the works discussed. Dirda’s love for literature is apparent throughout. And his appreciation for the works selected for Classics for Pleasure drew me in and made me want to experience such magnificence for myself.

Fortunately, I got a job but became sidetracked and forgot about pursuing the classics. Now that things have settled down a bit, I’ve decided to hop on the bandwagon and join The Classics Club, which I believe will be a great way for me to stick to my plan to nourish my reading appetite with the classics. The Classic Club asks that members list 50 or so classics that they plan to read over a 5 year period. After completing a book, members discuss it on their blog and share the review with other members via The Classics Club’s blog.

It’s a great plan and helpful, especially if you’re reading a difficult book that might make you miserable. Misery does love company!

Anyways, Classics for Pleasure is a great source if you’re seeking recommendations of what classics to read. Dirda gives you the gist of the work without giving away too much. And he leaves you wanting more.

Sometimes he seems to lead you right up to the climax and stops, advising you to read the story and experience it for yourself. It’s a bit maddening and makes you want to hop on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and quickly download the e-book.

Hence, his review of She by H. Rider Haggard still resonates within me. I’ve carried the name of that novel and whispers of its review in my mind since the first time I read Classics for Pleasure, last year. And his discussion on Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, was almost as bittersweet as the novel. Dirda ends the review asking: “And what woman has not yearned for a Tea Cake sometime in her life?” At this point I couldn’t help recalling when I first read the novel and how I felt when Tea Cake appeared. I was almost swooped up in him like Janie.

The spirit of Classics for Pleasure is similar to How to Read Literature like a Professor (which also contains great recommendations for the classics) by Thomas C. Foster. The love and appreciation that Dirda and Foster have for literature cannot be contained; it’s infectious. When a reader opens one of their books, she will not be able to avoid soaking in that appreciation and being swept away by their excitement and gusto for discussing what they love.

By the way, Dirda writes book reviews for The Washington Post; check them out here.

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