I recently received this question from someone on Goodreads:

Good evening. I am Ken from New York. I have no preference in reading any book as long as they are entertaining. The last couple of books I read were graphic novels. Some light and easy reading. I’m ready to jump into the classics again. I’m not sure which classic to read next as I passed by Barnes and Noble while on the way to the office earlier. It was interesting to note there were several Barnes and Noble customers by the classics section and were reading mostly Jane Austen books. I am not familiar with her work, and decided to ask here at Good Reads before buying the book and reading it. I wanted to try out Pride and Prejudice.

I see that you rated this book book recently this year. I hope you don’t mind me asking you two questions about the book and its author.

1] What do you as a reader get, from reading a classic novel like Pride and Prejudice?

2] May I ask your opinion on the story of this book, and what about Jane Austen’s storytelling and writing appealed to you as a reader?

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my message to you. Your time is very much appreciated. Have a good week, and happy reading on your side.

Best Regards,
Ken

I responded:

Hi Kenny:

I have never read Pride and Prejudice because it is a classic. I read it–and re-read it–because it is beautifully written, funny, and engrossing. In my view, that’s the only reason to read anything, unless you are going to school.

Jane Austen’s books are beloved because they capture the foolishness and comedy of society with great characters and wonderful stories. And just in case you think it’s just for women, my very manly (and very smart) husband loves Jane Austen, too.

Jane Austen’s books are among those I return to again and again as an escape, but they always sharpen my insight into human behavior. When I come to the end, I always feel as if I’m returning to the world from a dream.

My advice is to try it and see. And if you don’t like it, put it down and try something else. There are too many great books in the world to waste time on something you don’t enjoy.

One caveat, however: If you don’t like it, try it again a few years from now. You owe it to yourself. I once heard a teacher say to a frustrated student “If you don’t like Shakespeare, the flaw is in yourself.” I think she was probably right. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it now. I have certain writers I have grown into, and I am so happy that I went back and tried them again.

Incidentally, I have just written a book called “North of the Tension Line”. I hope you will try it and see if you enjoy it.

All best of luck,

J.F. Riordan