There they sit, the great tomes of classical literature, taunting you with their length and difficulty, as you ask: which books are the most important and why - and what's actually any good? Why does most writing about the classics have words like 'seminal' or 'oeuvre' in it? What does postmodernism mean? Can I get away with just reading the introduction?Now you can enjoy the classics without fear. This survival kit will guide you painlessly through the Western literary canon, century by century: from Ancient Greek drama to the modern novel, via Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Romantic poetry, Tolstoy and Proust. There are entertaining plot summaries, unpretentious definitions of literary movements and fresh insights into authors' lives. With each work assigned ratings from 1 to 10 on Importance, Accessibility and Fun, you'll discover what's really worth bothering with and what you can safely discard without guilt.This book will make the things you've read clearer, inspire you to tackle the ones you've always meant to and make you sound far cleverer than you really are.
Sandra Newman is the author of Cake and The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, and a memoir, Changeling. She is co-author of the bestselling How Not to Write a Novel and Read This Next. Newman lives in Brooklyn.