Top 6 Books To Ease You Into Reading Classics

Classics can seem a bit daunting. If you’ve picked up War and Peace and put it straight back down again, you’re certainly not alone. Classics aren’t for everyone, and that is totally fine. Absolutely no judgement about what you read here! But if you’re planning on dipping your toe into the water and reading some classics for the first time (or since love for them was bashed out of you at school), here are my recommendations.

I’ll give some tips for reading each one. When you start to read classics, the writing may well seem clunky; it might be tricky for you to get into the flow. But stick with it and you will reap the rewards!

Classics are great, but they do need special care and attention. Keep the TV off, pour a nice cup of tea and let yourself be immersed completely in these picks…

Dracula

Dracula was published in 1897, but it certainly doesn’t read like a book that is over 120 years old. It is creepy and full of character.

You will probably know some of, if not all of, the story (please be aware that the recent adaption does not follow the story particularly) – which is a bonus. You are already part of the way there!

The writing feels fairly modern, and it will keep you entirely hooked.

Pick up a copy here.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

If you like your novels with a healthy dose of smut (that’s probably most of us), you have Lady Chatterley’s Lover to thank. It was first published privately in 1928, but it wasn’t released fully in the U.K. until 1960. It had been subject to an obscenity trial which the publisher (Penguin) eventually won and the book sold 3 million copies.

This led the way for books to include more sex, and laid the pathway to the more open conversations we have today.

Aside from the historical importance, it’s also a great read when you’re new to classics. There’s a love story that will leave you wanting more, and you will continue reading to find the parts that caused it to be banned in the first place!

Pick up a copy here.

Wide Sargasso Sea

You will have heard of Jane Eyre, but as much as I love that novel, I’m not going to include it here.

Instead, I’m offering Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It is essentially a prequel to Jane Eyre and features truly compelling characters.

It’s a feminist and anti-colonial look at the back story to Jane Eyre, published in 1966. Light and superbly easy to read, I highly recommend this one.

You can read it here.

I Capture the Castle

If YA books are your jam, give I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith a try. The protagonist is a teenage girl living in a crumbling castle, and we join her on a journey of growth and learning.

This is a wistful book, full of charm. It was published in 1948 (and that is clear in the way the girls don’t have full autonomy over their lives), but is still resonant and funny today.

You can get a copy here.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

If you want to dip your toe into the classics, why not start with a novel that feels as though it was written today?

George Orwell’s dystopian novel, published in 1949, will feel eerily similar to present day as you read it. You’ll notice all of the resemblances and leave desperate to read more of his work (I’d suggest Animal Farm next).

Pick up a copy here.

The Diary of a Nobody

I included this in my 10 Uplifting Books to Read in 2021 blog post too – and that’s because it’s funny. Properly, rib-ticklingly funny.

It is the diary of a snobbish man, and describes all of the embarrassing and ignominious things he does. It was published in 1892, but it is still so, so funny today. Trust me on this one!

Get your copy here.

Have you read any of these? Or has my list made you want to? Let me know in the comments!

You might also be interested in:

Books To Look Forward To In 2021

10 Uplifting Books To Read In 2021

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books To Expand Your Mind

The Hellion – Harriet Young

Things We Lost In The Fire – Mariana Enriquez

Things We Lost In The Fire – Mariana Enriquez

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“Her body refused to turn around; something was holding her there in the bedroom doorway. But she wasn’t dreaming. You don’t feel pain in dreams.

It is no secret that I am a fan of weird and wonderful short stories (and occasionally enjoy getting my quill out to write some of my own), and the joy of stumbling across a collection which is as good as this one is almost indescribable.

Things We Lost In The Fire is…there’s no other word for it, it’s terrifying. These are modern day, gothic horror stories set in the slums of Buenos Aires. Each is fast-paced, twisting and turning with terror building with each line.

I tend to judge the success of horror stories by the weirdness of my dreams after reading – and based on the disturbed sleep I had, this collection is a winner.

One of my favourites was The Neighbor’s Courtyard, a terrifically creepy yarn which reminded me, with its obsession, of The Yellow Wallpaper. But all of the stories are very good, and all very different.

You know that excitement when you read a book you love, will remember forever, and that you know you won’t stop recommending to people, probably ever? Yep. This is one of them. I’m sad that I can’t experience the joy of reading it for the first time again.

You can find Things We Lost In The Fire here and the book tracker bookmarks here.

Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris

Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris

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My plaid away, my plaid away,

And o’er the hill and far away,

And far away to Norroway,

My plaid shall not be blown away.

Oh, how I love a fairy tale retelling. They are so deeply immersive and, when well-written, pick you up and spirit you away to another world.

Orfeia is a retelling of the Orpheus myth (a quick recap – Orpheus’ wife Eurydice died and Orpheus went to the underworld to beg for her life. The gods allowed her release as long as Orpheus did not look back at her as they travelled back to the land of the living. Unable to do so, Orpheus looked back and Eurydice was gone forever). Orfeia draws on the themes of death and grief, but focuses instead on a mother and her daughter.

As with all of Harris’ work, the story is beautifully told. Magic weaves through it and you question dreams and reality. I rushed through the book in a few sittings, swept away by the enchanting tale, and it would be perfect for a chilly autumn evening- by the fire with a glass of wine.

The book is illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins (who also illustrated A Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road) and the beautiful drawings bring Harris’ words to life.

Highly recommended!

You can find Orfeia here and the book tracker bookmarks here.

Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions

Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions Winter Summer

Last winter, the publishers Thomas Nelson released the Winter Seasons Editions, a set of four books with glorious laser cut cover designs. They are limited edition, with just 10,000 copies of each book available to buy. You can see in the picture above that I managed to get my hands on three of the collection – Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and A Tale of Two Cities. I missed out on the fourth! Little Women sold out very quickly and, although I have alerts everywhere for a copy, I haven’t been able to find a second hand one for under £200. That’s how special they are.

So when I received the news that the Summer Seasons Editions were on their way, I was determined not to make the same mistake again. Thomas Nelson were kind enough to send me this copy of Jane Eyre to feature on my Instagram, and let me tell you that the Summer Editions are even better than the winter ones, so I think they will sell out quickly. They have listened to feedback from their first set and these ones have a thicker protective wrap. They also each come with a laser cut bookmark. As with the winter books, they’re all individually numbered too.

The Summer Seasons Editions are being released on 30th June, so you can preorder the set now and make sure you don’t miss out. Although I’ve preordered the rest of the set from Amazon, and they won’t be delivering to here in the UK until 23rd July. Still, the wait will make the anticipation even greater!

Here’s where you can get the collections from:

Winter Seasons Editions:

Pride & Prejudice

Wuthering Heights

A Tale Of Two Cities

Little Women – this link is to a currently (at the time of posting) available secondhand copy for £207.45. I am not sure how long this will last!

Summer Seasons Editions:

Jane Eyre

Persuasion

Wonderland Collection

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions Winter Summer

A Thousand Ships- Natalie Haynes

“But this is a women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s, and the poet will look upon their pain – the pain of the women who have always been relegated to the edges of the story, victims of men, survivors of men, slaves of men – and he will tell it, or he will tell nothing at all.

There are good retellings of Greek myths and legends – The Song of Achilles, for example. There are good feminist retellings – Circe and The Penelopiad. And there are (I’m sorry to say it) not so good feminist retellings, such as The Silence of the Girls. With A Thousand Ships, we thankfully have a feminist retelling which falls into good – if not excellent- category.

The book follows a mostly chronological story of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ (and other ‘heroes’) various meanderings afterwards, told solely through the eyes of the women involved. Some are well known to fans of the immensely popular recent novels, others were new to me.

A Thousand Ships flits between many of the women involved in and affected by the war, and I have read several views that suggest the book was the worse because of this. I found the opposite- perhaps it’s down to my lack of focus at the moment but I loved gaining a wider perspective through multiple viewpoints.

I gave this book 9/10. Will it win the Women’s Prize? Probably not. It may not be as in-depth and focused as some people would prefer, but it was the perfect read for me at this time. If you want to escape into the world of Greek myths and legends, this is the book for you. And on that note, if you have any other recommendations for myths and legends retellings, pop them in the comments!

You can find A Thousand Ships here.

Glorious Neutral Spines

White books with flowers

Bright, light books should grace everyone’s shelves. These are six of my particular favourites. The Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice are part of the glorious Thomas Nelson Seasons Paper Cut series. These fall under winter – the summer set is available for preorder now. They are some of the most gorgeously intricate designs I’ve ever seen. Also included are my incredibly special Anna Karenina and the Knickerbocker Jules Verne collection.

Here’s where you can find them (starting from the bottom):

Jules Verne – The Ultimate Collection

Anna Karenina

Wuthering Heights

Pride & Prejudice

The Beautiful and Damned

Romeo and Juliet

Purple Florals

Beautiful purple books

Late spring is perhaps my favourite time of year. The anticipation of summer and long, warm days ahead, bright flowers bursting onto the scene and chirruping birds. Throw in some glorious sunshine and I don’t think you can beat it.

This is the mood I was trying to convey with this image. Here are the links to the books that I featured (starting from the bottom):

Jane Austen: The Complete Novels

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Jane Eyre

Madame Bovary

Persuasion

Civilization and It’s Discontents

Pink and Purple Pastel Books

Pink and purple pastel books

Ah, this is one of my favourite photos that I’ve taken in a long time. I love the colours, they remind me of spring. Here’s where you can find the books to brighten up your bookcase. They’re a variety of publishers and editions, and I’ve done my best to locate them all for you. Here they are, from bottom up:

Little Women (Leatherbound)

Jane Austen Complete Novels

Middlemarch

Little Women (Flexibound)

Persuasion

Jane Eyre

The Singer not the Song

Civilization and Its Discontents

And my floral bone china tea cup is here.

I hope you enjoy these beautiful books as much as I do.

Beautiful Black Books

Black books and espresso cup

These four black books contain some of my favourite works. The one novel – Dracula – is close to the top of my list of classics I enjoy the most. It is always a delight to read (and the recent BBC adaptation was a delight to watch – amazing for binging!). The other three books contain short stories and novellas from some of the very best authors. The Flame Tree short stories in particular are fantastic value for money.

Here’s where I got them from:

Haunted House Short Stories

Classic Works From Women Writers – currently only £12.99

Dracula

F. Scott Fitzgerald Classic Works

I’m struggling to find anywhere that is stocking my little espresso cup, but the mug version is here. I picked my cups up in a Manchester library.

I’d love to hear from you if you decide to get any of these books!

Quarantine Cookery

I don’t know about you, but since the pandemic started I’ve spent a lot more time in my kitchen. Homemade food is not only good for the body, it’s good for the soul too and cooking never fails to calm me. I’ve used cookery as therapy for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s a quick, whipped together meal or a long, slow cook, the preparation of food has a power that is often overlooked in our usual fast paced world.

My first foray into blogging was a food blog. On What To Have For Dinner Tonight, I shared my favourite recipes. For me, cooking is and always has been cathartic.

If you’re just beginning your cookery journey, or are looking for some inspiration to shake things up, here are my favourite cookery books to bring some fresh ideas.

1. Greenfeast – Nigel Slater

Greenfeast

Nigel Slater’s food philosophy is very similar to my own. Good ingredients, treated well to create delicious meals. His recent offerings are two vegetarian books, one focusing on ingredients in season in spring and summer, the other autumn and winter. These books celebrate vegetables, and make their delicious, varied flavours sing. Even the most dedicated meat eater will enjoy these!

You can find Spring, Summer here and Autumn, Winter here.

2. Persiana – Sabrina Ghayour

Persiana

If you are hankering for travel abroad, these recipes will transport you to the Middle East. Persiana is packed full of fragrant, moreish recipes which can bring some sunshine into your life. From meaty meals to light salads to sweet desserts, there is something for everyone here.

3. 15 Minute Meals – Jamie Oliver

Jamie’s 15 minute meals

People love to hate Jamie Oliver, and both this book and his preceding 30 minute meals book received a lot of criticism about how long the recipes actually take to make. And yes, in real life these recipes do take more than 15 minutes (although I tidy up as I go, and factor that into the time). Despite this, the book is packed full of easy, quick and delicious meals which the whole family will enjoy. You can find it here.

4. SIMPLE – Yotam Ottolenghi

Simple Yotam Ottolenghi

Although cook books which include delightfully complex recipes are great to have around for one-off occasions, SIMPLE has an enormous amount of utility. These are the sort of meals that you won’t just cook once – you’ll make them weekly, add them to your repertoire and enjoy them over and over again. The recipes are simple in various ways – time taken, or amount of pots used, or ingredients, or you can make them ahead of time. If you’re looking for a way to build your skills and become a better cook for the future, have a look here.

I hope you enjoy these books and the recipes they include. Share your favourite cook book in the comments!