A bibliophile addicted to the smell and feel of a book in my hand, I finally broke down and bought a Kindle, not because I planned to do all my reading electronically, but because I needed a copy of a particular book for an article I was writing and I needed it quickly. Later, after a much considered electronics purchase, I was able to download another book within sixty seconds at no cost to me. Although this no-cost business is obviously a serious advantage in the strain of these economic times, it is the least of the reasons to read, or in many cases, reread the classics. The enduring themes, the eloquent diction and structure of the language, and the knowledge accumulated toward building your own cultural literacy should be enough to convince you to continue reading the classics with uncommon enthusiasm. If you haven't picked up a classic in years, let me urge you to add at least one to your summer reading list. Here's why.
Enduring themes, those ideas about life that transcend time, repeatedly permeate and extend their wisdom throughout the whole of literature today. In essence, they continue to teach us not only that some things never change but also that we have much to learn from them. People everywhere understand these themes on the level that currently relates to the issues with which they are coping. Thus, when we identify with both the problems and the ideals of fiction that essentially illustrate our own familiar dilemmas, our losses and gains, we somehow feel more prepared to make sense of our own lives. In 1624 the English poet John Donne wrote, "Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind," which is precisely why enduring themes strike a chord with all of humanity. Our lives share common threads that bind us together.