When you’re reading one of the great classics, are you suspicious that you might be missing something? The story is enjoyable, but these are supposed to hold deep meaning, some of which is tough – or perhaps impossible – to discern without some context or specific knowledge.
Maybe the idea that you won’t completely understand a novel has kept you from even attempting it.
While there are times I want to just enjoy a novel as I receive it – without looking anything up or trying to find meaning that isn’t immediately apparent to me – other times I want all the details. I want the deeper understanding of a text that you can get from
- historical context
- connections to previously published literature
- biographical information about the author
- anything that helps further clarify the piece and its possible interpretations
This is why I love annotated editions. They give you the expertise of a professor. Right on the page. For free. And without forcing you to read at a particular time or speed. You could even tackle a great tome in just 10 minutes a day if that’s all the time you can spare.
To get you started, here’s a list of free online annotated classics. I’ve only included resources that are easy on the eyes – no clicking on links that will take you to the bottom of the page and back again.
Click on the first lines to start reading the free annotated editions listed below.
Then show off your own professorial knowledge by adding to the collaborative annotations of poetry, novels and nonfiction at Poetry Genius.
Check out these resources from around the Web…
Book One of The Iliad by Homer
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Encantadas or Ennchanted Isles by Herman Melville
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
…and this long list of novels from BookDoors.
Emma by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Evelina by Fanny Burney
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley