Some people define classics as “the book that everyone knows well but no one does read.” This ironic statement is really true! We are frequently encouraged to read calssics and those who went to high school can pretend to know The Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau or The Prince by Niccol? Machiavelli. However, in fact, it is hard to meet students who have turned the pages of those classics. Some students often ask me which books can be recommended for reading. Needless to say, it is hard to select some books among a number of books, but I used to recommend classics which are related to their interests. Why do we need to read classics?
Firstly, it is the safest choice to read classics. The reason that classics are called ‘classics’ is that they have been nearly completely verified over the course of history and they have been
generally accepted as being worth reading for all ages and countries. What a safe way to choose books!
The second reason is the value of classics will last long (maybe forever) in your life. This means that not only have classics been so far valuable, but also they can maintain their social values . There are many books which have useful information such as “how to make money” or “how to success in life” when you check out a list of bestsellers. However, how long will such information included in bestsellers last in the future? Their available periods may not be over ten years. In comparison, classics which include fundamental questions in one's life and basic points we have to make in society do not have any the fixed term of their validity. It may not be exaggeration to say that the value of classics will be kept forever. What about a Russian Novel, War and Peace, written by Leo Tolstoy in 1869? You can indirectly experience feeling of love, animosity, hope and frustration, all of which you may face in your life. Also, in one’s life, it would be inevitable for us to confront countless forms of “pride” and “prejudice” which are incorporated into an English Novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. What a practical choice to read classics!
Lastly, it is a good starting point to read classics first. The Republic by Platon actually includes most points in dispute about the role of the state; these are still important issues in contemporary politics. The same is true for Leviathan which was written by Thomas Hobbes in 1651. There are no introductory books for politics without reference to the Republic and Leviathan. In addition, you can refer to abundant materials which give an (re)explanation of classics and show many important aspects in classics. Are you interested in cultural studies and film theories, influenced by contemporary figures such as Foucault, Deleuz, or Zizek? Do you know these big guys' theories are actually based on modern philosophers such as Kant and Hegel? No matter what kinds of subjects you want to approach, classics in relation to your subjects should be the first to read. What a fast track to address your subject to study!
If you are still considering which books you should read, just pick up the titles you are already familiar with but you have not so far read. However, classics are, unfortunately, not easy to read. This cannot be denied; you may fall in difficulties in understanding them. This is because wisdom and knowledge at the time are incorporated into classics. Truly, classics are “treasure houses of knowledge.” It is natural that they are not easy to read at one try. If you fail to understand them or to reach to their last pages on the first try, you should read them twice and more; finally the condensed knowledge and wisdom will be magically disclosed.