How to Read and Enjoy the Classics

A Community of Great Literature Readers

Circular Reading Room of Stockholm public library.

About This Blog, Plus Site Index

Hi, I’m MJ! This is a blog about Great Literature in the Western tradition. I have read the classics since youth, obtained advanced degrees in English, taught literature in university classrooms for seventeen years, and talked about it with many other literature lovers. Through all, my enthusiasm for “the Greats” has only continued to grow.

I am here to share that enthusiasm with you, drawing on my conversations about literature with people ranging from beginning university students to expert readers. I will also share some tips for getting more out of what you read, and some of my own thoughts about some of my favorite classics.  On occasion, Guest Writers may appear as well, to share their ideas about literature with you.

What Can You Find on the Site? Click “Continue Reading” for index:

What’s on the Site Menu?

  • HOME: Click to reach the front page of the site. Links to all the blog posts are listed, the most recent at the top. Scroll down to see all. Click “Continue Reading” to see all of any post that looks interesting.
  • THOUGHTS ON THE GREATS: Posts featuring thoughts and ideas about famous authors and works, with the purpose of helping you read and interpret them.
  • LIT 101: GET MORE MEANING: Series of posts to help you learn to read classic Poetry or Fiction (still in progress), step-by-step. Also includes a Reading Resources category.
  • WHY LITERATURE?  Posts focusing on reasons to read classic literature and what qualities make it classic.
  • LISTS AND TIMELINES: What are the classics? Here, find annotated lists of works I consider essential reading, listed according to era they were written. (Work in progress.)

Come on in, click around, and enjoy the site! I hope you find something here to help you read and enjoy great literature.



  1. April

    Been interested for a long time and enjoy a variety of Literature

    • MJ Booklover

      So glad to hear that! Welcome to our site. Maybe our literary timelines will give you some ideas what to read next–click on “Lists and Timelines” in the site menu for an index. Also check out the “Lit 101” menu for some articles on all kinds of literature. Happy Reading!

  2. J. Keith Irwin

    Hello, can any English Literature professors or experts out there help with my question?

    Do you know the main differences among Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism?

    If so, I’d really appreciate your input. I’m in a Literature class now, and these terms are being thrown around; and sometimes there seems to be overlap in the three.

    • MJ Booklover

      Hello! Yes, I can help you with those definitions–they are already here on the site. Read this article to learn about Realism and Naturalism, important in American literature from 1860 until Modernism began trending: New Reading List on America’s Gilded Age Literature. Read about Modernism in this article: How to Read Modernist American Literature from our New Reading List. To drill down more into how Realism began in English fiction, read this article on how Daniel Defoe helped invent this mode of fiction (includes detailed definition of Realism): Daniel Defoe and the Invention of Realism.

      Hope these help! If you quote any of this material, please give credit to, since the material is copyrighted. Feel free to share links to the sources.

      To your point about overlap: very rarely does a work of art or piece of writing adhere completely to any theoretical definition, so these modes of fiction could overlap within any given work. But within each of these different modes, the exact purpose of the work and the particular themes tend to be similar to other works in that mode. After you read the articles I linked, come on back with any thoughts or questions you have!

  3. Rakshya

    Wanted to join literature major in college but because i was good in studying,my family decided to send me to medical college but im still interested in literature so i hope this website doesn’t disappoint me

    • MJ Booklover

      Hello! I hope you find a lot of information and encouragement on our site to learn about classic English and American literature. Visit the “Lists and Timelines” menu to find recommended reading lists of important works from each era. Each Timeline has a link to an article providing an overview of that era–important trends in culture and literary style that should assist you in reading literature from that time period. There are still two timelines remaining to be added to the site, but the American timelines are complete to 1950, and the English timeline through the 1830s. Visit the “Lit 101: Get More Meaning” menu for specific advice in how to read and enjoy both poetry and fiction from any era. “Thoughts on the Greats” includes a variety of posts on many different famous works. You can use the site Search tool to find whether there is anything on the site about a specific work you may be interested in. Welcome to the site. I hope it helps you enjoy exploring Great Literature.

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