First up, Seneca. Here’s a good piece that summarizes some of the consolation letters he wrote to people close to him. Though they were written centuries ago, they are timeless and worth reading.
Second, Suetonius. Here’s a good piece on why you want to read him: The Consolations of History. Essentially, good histories like those of Suetonius give you perspective that help you deal with your own time. Sometimes they do that by showing you things are fundamentally the same. Other times they do that by showing how much things have changed since that time. Either way you come away with a deeper understanding of your own time even as you learn about another time.
During the pandemic I have been noticing this frequently. People are looking back at the pandemic of 1918-19 and trying to draw lessons from it. That’s a good thing, I think. We can all gain perspective by looking to the past, which is never really past.
Well this advice is fraught with assumptions, but if you are hankering to read the classics and have an open idea of what “the classics” are, I recommend this: So you want to read classic books during the coronavirus pandemic – Vox
Basically, there are quite a number of books that are considered classic, but not all classics are approachable. You might pick up one in anticipation, get stuck, and abandon the idea of ever reading such books. To prevent that from happening, read the advice given in Vox. Start slow, and go from there.
Finally, there has always been a debate over what consists of the classics. Many of them will not appeal to you. And other books not considered “Classic” by many might just be old enough for you to fill your appetite for something you consider classic. (e.g. A fan of science fiction might consider Jules Verne classic. ) I consider it good to read from different times: it gives you a better appreciation of your own time, among other reasons. So put down those contemporary writings and go find your own classics to read and love.
It’s always tricky posting a list like this, for the minute you do, many people will go over it and disagree with it. They will say, “but The Ambassadors is my favorite book”. Fine. Read this list and decide for yourself: 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read | GQ
Many of these books you will be familiar with. (Ahem, The Bible.) You may have them somewhere in your house. Perhaps on your nightside table. Hopefully this will save some of you from spend time struggling to read a book you shouldn’t even be reading.
Life is short. There is an endless list of books you can read. Read the ones you want to.
Can be found here: Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 130, Italo Calvino.
Paris Review interviews are generally good, and this one of Calvino is no exception.