The Classics Club Meme for October 2012 is "Why are you reading the classics?"
"One loses one’s classics. Oh not all. That is what I find so wonderful. A part of one’s classics remains, to help one through the day." --Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days
I am reading the classics because I think they provide a context for other reading (and for movies, and plays, and talking to people). I have read quite a few classics, getting a degree in English Literature made it very hard to avoid them. Some of them I loved and thought were amazing books that I enjoyed reading (The Great Gatsby, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Mrs. Dalloway). Others I didn't really enjoy much (Moby Dick, The Last of the Mohicans, The Red Pony). But whether I liked the books or not, I feel like reading works that are considered classics gives me the ability to have a deeper understanding of the world, of myself, and of the things--classic or not--that I read. When a novel or a movie makes a reference to something from one of the classics I have read I know what they are referring to which gives me a more complete understanding than I would have otherwise. The more classics I read, both in general and in specific genres like mystery or science-fiction, the more I will be able to appreciate the other things I read.
The other reason for reading the classics is that they speak to a universal experience that, as Winnie points out, can help on through the day.