Admit it, you thought you were going to really cut into the list of books-you-always-meant-to-read-but-never-did-and-yet-still-pretend-to-at-parties, but here we are, two months in and you’re mostly scouring the house for old Far Side compilations and reading the back of cereal boxes like when you were 8. Well, here’s a primer on how to thematicize (?) your schedule and get yourself started on that pile of classics that looms over you like your-impending-mortality-after-a-life-of-failure. Enjoy!
If you are the kind of person who likes to embark upon a project in times of stress, there are worse choices during quarantine than trying to read your way through a bunch of the classic great books. Reading a book can take you out of yourself and your situation for a while, and nourish your mind in a way that more passive entertainment might not. Plus, finishing a book you’ve always meant to read but never quite got around to will give you a warm glow of virtue.
(It’s also absolutely fine to decide not to do anything productive right now. It’s a global emergency! Do whatever you have to do to get by! This article is just for people who respond to anxiety by giving themselves homework.)
But if your only plan is to read books you vaguely understand to be classics, the idea of starting can be overwhelming. Where to begin? How much work are you committing to? Do you even have the attention span to read right now? So I’m here to offer you a strategy.
I’ve organized some of the go-to great books into a few different categories, based on how much work they’re asking of you. Decide what level of concentration you’re ready to commit to right now, and then work from there.