Why You Need to Read Classic Literature

Classic literature gives us mental models for understanding human nature.

Why You Need to Read Classic Literature
Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust 

Why do I need to read classic literature?

The contemporary philosopher, Alain de Botton, gives the argument well in this YouTube video.

In short, literature gives us mental models for understanding human nature.

What authors are the best to read?

These are my favorite authors: Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Oscar Wilde, Carl Jung, and Alain de Botton. They're separated by as much as 400 years but they all have similar models for human nature.

My favorite books:

  • Macbeth by Shakespeare
  • Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Red Book by Carl Jung
  • On Confidence by Alain de Botton

Herman Melville, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Ken Kesey, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius are a few more of my favorite authors. There are probably hundreds more great authors I haven't read or am forgetting.

Update: A full list of my favorite books on human nature can be found here:

The 55 Best Books on Human Nature
The best books on human nature from psychology to philosophy to literature.

Can fiction really teach us about the real world?

Absolutely, Carl Jung, the famous psychotherapist, frequently read and referenced fiction. In his book, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Jung said that Moby Dick by Herman Melville was the greatest American novel and that it can be used to better understand human nature.