This month I am thinking about novels for next year and also creating a free diary that will motivate you to follow along in 2019 and keep track of your reading. Next year will be very exciting for lostinclassics!
So now is a good time to remind ourselves why we are here and what the benefits of reading classic novels are, based on what we have learned together already this year.
1. It's a challenge!
In my private lessons, it is always more motivating to work with students who have a clear goal or objective (an interview, a meeting, an exam, being able to talk to visiting English speaking friends) simply because they are more focused. In life challenges are important to stimulate us to improve. At first glance we can feel overwhelmed by the size of a task, but if we know where we are headed, we can break the journey up into smaller, more reachable stages. Reading a classic novel can seem daunting but every day in the Lost in Classics Group I post on a different aspect of the novel so that, breaking the job down, step by step, each month you can become more familiar with at least one author, some useful language issues and some thought-provoking themes, one novel at a time. If you have followed me this year, you may have noticed that we started in January with a short story of four thousand words and have worked up slowly to seventy-four thousand words with Frankenstein this month. That's a great achievement! Is there a book that you have always wanted to read? Tell me and we can do it together next year!
2. The Book Club!
The book club is the perfect way to bring everything together and also share the reading, as each person in the meeting takes on a different role. Read as much as you can, enough to find something to share for your chosen role; practise speaking in a relaxed way in the company of fellow book lovers.
3. Reality is stranger than fiction!
I must say that the authors we have seen this year have been a fascinating bunch! Their personal lives have seemed like novels themselves, not the least the wonderful Agatha Christie who, as we saw last month, once disappeared for 11 days provoking a huge man hunt! We have seen the scandalous existence of George Eliot (who had a relationship with a married man), Lewis Caroll (accused of pedophilia), Edgar Allan Poe (thought to have been an alcholic and drug addict) and George Orwell (whose writing is still banned in some countries). We have also met the well-connected Edith Wharton (from a rich, old New York family), Mary Shelley
( from a literary family, married to Percy Shelley, friend of Byron) and Scott Fitzgerald (part of the Lost Generation along with Ernest Hemingway). Is there an author that you would like to get to know better next year?
4. Novels are full of language you can use yourself!
Each writer has his own writing style, influenced by the social and historical context he is living in. Since March I have looked for lessons to be learned from each novel we have read in terms of vocabulary and grammar. In this way we have learnt about informal versus formal language, semantic changes, idiomatic expressions, etymology, slang, inversion, archaic and obsolete language, phrasal verbs and much more. Following my Group you could now be more confident in these language and vocabulary questions. Not bad for nine months, huh? That means a lot of acquired vocabulary to use in your own speech or writing, or grammar structures that you will recognize in other contexts. If you sign up for my newsletter, I can also send you my infographics that can serve as quick, visual reminders.
5. You can reflect on life's themes
People who read classic novels have better empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. It's true, there is actually a study on that! (read here). Reading allows us to experience the lives of others or see our own from another point of view. The sad fate of Ethan Frome taught me the importance of doing what you want without worrying about the opinion of others. In Silas Marner and the Black Cat we saw what a devastating effect drugs and alcohol can have on people's lives. Both Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) and Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's) sought to improve their situation in life, but could not escape their past. This month in Frankenstein, we will face such themes as the ethics of recreating life! Plenty of interesting reflections and discussions can be had here. Do you ever comment on an online news article? It's a great way to practise expressing your opinion. Why not share your ideas in the comments to my blog articles here or in the Group.
6. Emotional connection aids long term memorization!
If you have been trying to improve your English for years without success the reason could be lack of emotional connection. When you read constructed dialogues in a text book you may understand the vocabulary and grammar immediately but you won't remember it long term because you don't care about the speakers. But if you read...
'And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.'
...ok it's the third conditional and that is difficult to get your head around in any case, but this is Jane Eyre, speaking to Rochester. She has no money and no connectionsbut she can imagine a different situation for herself and because it's Jane Eyre it's personal, you have seen her grow and you feel for her situation and that makes it all the easier to understand.
This is basically a summary of what I am trying to do with Lost in Classics. I would love to have your feedback so please look out for my questions on Facebook and in my newsletter this month or let me know directly if there are any books you would like to read together this year.
What is this?
When I started lostinclassics I looked for language lessons in the books I was reading, such as for example the use of phrasal verbs or inversion in conditionals and I explained them through examples found in the text. I also did reviews of the books I read and tried to give some advice on how to read classics using the various resources I know of. Then I switched to just reviews and lately I have been doing a bit of creative writing inspired by my reading. Who knows what I will come up with next!