SparkNotes Blog

9 Fail-Proof Ways to Enhance Your Reading of Classic Literature

Let’s be honest: classic literature can be boring AF. If you’re struggling to get into a novel, we can help: below are 9 tried* and true methods for easily** transforming even the more torturously dull reading experience into an exciting, interactive adventure***!

*Trying #3 nearly killed us. YOU’RE WELCOME.

**Literally nothing about these is easy.

***We might be overselling this just a tad.

The Scarlet Letter:  Put on a provocative outfit, like a lacy bustier or a turtleneck and a full-length skirt that occasionally reveals a flash of ankle, and go to a public space (preferably a town square) in broad daylight. Stand at the highest, most visible point, and start to read—oh, and infants with unknown fathers will really help set the scene, so bring as many as you can. Every so often, choose a random man in the crowd to stare at, horrorstruck. If he locks eyes with you, gasp as if scandalized and immediately look away.

1984: Before you start reading, run on the treadmill for 3 hours straight, and then do 10,000 burpees. When you are sufficiently exhausted, set up 5-10 surveillance cameras around your room, and read the book while sitting on a cold, metal chair. Make sure that you are in plain view of the cameras, and designate someone to watch the live video feed from another room. Make that person wear a fake mustache. If you show any sign of discontentment, they should squirt you in the face with a water gun, and force you to watch a 30-minute loop of Kellyanne Conway talking about “alternative facts.”

Moby-Dick: Buy a sack of raw fish at the grocery store and dump it into your bathtub, along with a few gallons of freezing, salty water. Then, light an old-fashioned oil lamp, make a harpoon out of whatever materials are available (q-tips should do nicely), and get in the tub. Once you have hypothermia and are overwhelmed by a general sense of hopelessness, crack the book open and start to read. It goes without saying that you should force everyone to call you Ishmael until you reach the last page, and it never hurts to wear a seafarer’s cap.

Animal Farm: This one is simple: hit up a farm and hang out with the animals. Talk to them respectfully from time to time, and if they show interest, try to teach them the alphabet. Find a smart-looking pig and softly whisper “four legs good, two legs bad.” Don’t let the farmer see you, because, obviously.

Gulliver’s Travels: This one can be done in conjunction with Animal Farm. Go to the same farm, but just hang out with the horses the whole time. Place very small dolls all around yourself, and give the dolls thumbtacks to poke you with. DO NOT let the horses eat the dolls. Even if you are having the time of your life (which, let’s be honest, you will be), don’t stay at the farm for too long, lest you emerge with an irreversible disdain for humanity.

Jane Eyre: You know that one friend who has a dog that doesn’t like you very much? Ask to borrow the dog, and put it in a cage in your room that is easily escapable. Then, read with your back to the cage, and wait to see what happens. Feel free to fall asleep as well.

The Crucible:  As you’re reading, intermittently check mainstream news media outlets as well as President Trump’s Twitter page to witness a “witch hunt” unfold in real time! Just kidding—what you should really do is go deep into the forest at midnight during the full moon, and drink a concoction of dead leaves, seaweed, and rotten eggs, all while incessantly texting your crush.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Buy a bunch of pool noodles and string them together with rope, creating a makeshift raft. Put your best work into it. We’ll know if you don’t. Then, read the book while floating down a winding river. Optional: Bring fireworks, so that there’s something illegal going on.

The Great Gatsby: Buy an enormous, tacky house across the street from your crush, and put a green light on their front lawn. Stare at it, unblinkingly, while sipping on some sparkling cider. Try to look both wistful and wealthy. Every so often, shout, “WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T RECREATE THE PAST, OLD SPORT?!”, and throw a fistful of chocolate money into the air.