This is me, Pete Halewood. I don’t like writing about myself, but I do love reading classic literature. In fact, I love reading and talking about classic literature so much, that I decided to create this website ClassicReaders.com, so that really I could just talk about classic literature and life more. I guess I am artistic; I’ve always needed to have a creative output in life, which is why as well as writing about classic books, I also love photography and songwriting. I live in the beautiful south of England, with my beautiful wife and daughter.
So I’ll use the rest of this about me page to explain how I became a classics reader.
It started in 2011. At that time I was very interested in making more of life (as of course I always am) and was listening to a lot of personal development CD’s.
It was during the summer of 2011 that I came across a series that changed my life called ‘The Art of Exceptional Living’ by Jim Rohn.
Jim Rohn was regarded as the foremost business philosopher within the United States and his advice and wisdom on leading an exceptional life is timeless and memorable. The chapter in the series that I loved the most though was the session called ‘Filling Your Reservoir of Knowledge’ which was all about how to gain wisdom.
Rohn spoke passionately of the books you must read, which I did read but would not regard as a classic (Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill) and how your reading must be balanced – “You got to have a book on Gandhi, and you have got have a book on Hitler”.
It was a book recommendation in this section that was life-changing, as Rohn suggested reading ‘How to Read a Book’ by Mortimer Adler. He suggested that book because not only does Adler give advice on how to get the best out of a book, but it also contains a list of the greatest works ever written.
I bought a copy of How to Read a Book and fell in love immediately with the idea of reading the great books. Adler and the co-writer of the second edition I read, Charles Van Doren, write convincingly about how reading the classics leads to growth of the mind and increases our understanding.
I do love lists, and kept reading the list of great books within the book again and again and again. Towards the end of 2011 I had committed to the idea of reading as many books as possible on the great books list, and began 2012 by reading the first book on the list – The Iliad by Homer.
Now, if I was advising someone where to start on reading the classics, I would not start with The Iliad. It is undoubtedly a timeless epic, but it is a difficult read as well, especially the translation I read by E.V. Rieu (one of the first Penguin Classics that existed).
But I did not know any better at the time, and wasn’t thinking about enjoyment anyway, I had to read books like this, if I wanted to grow as a person. And I still believe that to be true, but the next book I read, The Odyssey, also by Homer, was truly an enjoyable read and is perhaps my favourite book.
So I was already hooked on reading the classics after reading The Iliad and The Odyssey, but I learnt that it would not be automatic that I would persevere at reading a classic, just because I felt like I had a duty to.
The next book I read after The Odyssey was Early Socratic Dialogues by Plato, but I gave up about two thirds of the way through. It wasn’t that I lost interest in Plato, I just found it difficult to read, as the book was mixed with running commentary in between the passages that just does not sit well with me.
I did not give up on Plato though, and the next book I read was The Last Days of Socrates, another book that became a favourite of mine.
Since then, I continue to be enthralled, fascinated and overwhelmed by the magnificence of reading the classics. I have been to Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, the war of 1812 in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the battlefields of England in Shakespeare’s history plays, and Paris in the 1860’s through one of my favourite recent authors, Emile Zola.
I do not need to be sold on reading the classics, I have loved every year I have been a classics reader. But I still wonder why more people do not the read the classics, and what can be done to encourage more people to read them. That is another quest I have with this website – to encourage more people to read the classics.