There is a unique feeling that accompanies a deep delve into a great work of literature. Not only do you receive a feeling of accomplishment, but also powerful emotion of independence. You have just read something required of you, but you have examined some of the greatest ideas humans have produced. This should inspire independence of thought and open a new world of ideas otherwise unavailable to you. Here are three simple reading strategies I have found helpful:

First, find a quiet, secluded place to read. Often times this requires a late night or an early morning. This uninterrupted time will not only enable you to read a book but ponder it. Literature is written to have a steady flow of thought similar to the rush of a river. If we build a temporary dam this will significantly slow the flow of the water and we will reach our destination at a slug-like pace. That being said, this does not mean you have to read a book in one sitting, but the fewer dams you build the faster the water flows. This steady stream pouring into your mind will coalesce into a launching pad for thought.

Second, keep a reading log. A reading log is a place where you can record any thoughts you have while reading. It is entirely personal and can be done however you choose. The principle is this-write your thoughts down as you read, any connections, or awakenings you experience should be included in your reading log. This is perhaps the most challenging of our strategies to implement because it takes time outside of reading to complete, but I believe it will greatly enhance your reading experience. Knowledge, like Legos, is designed to be built upon more knowledge. If you are just beginning the dive into classics you are starting from scratch and it will be difficult to get going, a reading log can help you build a strong foundation, that will benefit you the more you peruse the great ideas of history.

Third, make observations. There is a method used by field instructors to develop curiosity about nature. The principle applies to classics as well. While reading, or after, answer these three things “I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of…” Doing this will help you make connections between what you are reading, things you already know, and inspire some curiosity. It would be a good idea to include these observations in your reading log.

We cannot read classics and great works of literature the same way we would Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson. The more you read the greater your capacity will be to understand and make connections with the ideas and thoughts triggered by classic literature.