The Classics You Just Don’t Get

There are a lot of books that are, by and large, regarded as classics. They’re the ones you just have to read—and if you don’t, you’re depriving yourself of great literature.

But are you really depriving yourself?


I’ve read a number of books that are considered classics (whether modern or legit), and some, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, are absolutely worthy of being called classics. But then there are others that I just don’t get the appeal.

I have at least two examples.

I cannot stand Moby Dick. Cannot stand it. I know that Melville is supposed to be the greatest novelist that America has produced, but I really didn’t find it to be that engaging a read. I first read it in high school as part of an independent study project, and nearly every time I picked it up, I fell asleep.

A few years later, I did give it another shot. I didn’t want to assume that I didn’t like it simply because I had a bad experience with it in high school. The experience reading it as an adult was not unlike pushing a boulder up a steep hill.

In a snowstorm.

Without pants.

“Call me Ishmael.”

Next one: Some time ago, I attempted to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. I say attempted, because, this devotional classic kept putting me to sleep. I think I managed to get 150 pages in before I put it on the de-read pile. I have not, as of yet, taken another stab at it. In fact, I think I finally purged it from my library.

Now I’m not saying these are bad books… they’re just books that I just could not get into, no matter how hard I try.

No doubt we all have them.

So what about you, dear reader?

What’s the classic you just couldn’t get into?

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  • Jennifer Ekstrand

    I listened to an audio book of Moby Dick, and I think the scholarly analysis I’ve read about it was more interesting than the book itself. Come to think of it, my husband and I once attempted The Imitation of Christ too.

    For many of the classics I haven’t enjoyed, I have appreciated other works by the author; I couldn’t get into The Old Curiosity Shop or Romeo and Juliet despite enjoying most Dickens and Shakespeare.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Glad to know I’m not alone in my distaste for Moby Dick. Shakespeare’s always been tough for me. I’m not sure if I don’t like his work simply because everyone always tells me I should?

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  • Emily

    I just couldn’t do LOTR. I tried but there were just too many rolling hills and stops for lunch in the first part for me to really care enough to continue.

  • Aaron Armstrong

    I read LOTR when I was 11; it took me powering through the first 100 or so pages before Fellowship of the Ring really grabbed me. The other two were easy after that. But yeah, Tolkien’s descriptions can be rather dense.

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  • Nate

    5 months ago, I read ‘The Brothers Karamazov.’ Then I told a friend:
    “‘Karamazov’ was like trudging through a bog, uphill, in the rain, at night, alone.”

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Best description ever. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Jojo Agot

    Would I sound “unChristian” if I admit I couldn’t bear to finish The Pilgrim’s Progress? I tried many times, I just can’t. And it’s supposed to be one of the greatest books outside the Bible.

  • KevinHalloran

    Same exact experience with Imitation of Christ, except everything happened 5x faster because I unwisely picked up a cheap Kindle version in Spanish 😉

  • Kaitlin Ruiz

    Call me delusional…but I’ve never been able to choke down “Don Quixote.” And I’m so very sorry, “y’all,” but I just can’t get into Flannery O’Connor. (I’m sure she was brilliant, and it’s just my unheightened mind.)