Guest Post by Wayne Josephson + Giveaway!

Readable Classics – Helping Teens Appreciate Great Literature

When I was in high school, I was assigned Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter in English. I glazed over them, slammed the books in frustration, read CliffNotes instead, and got C’s on the exams.

Last year, history repeated itself when my 10th grade son was assigned The Scarlet Letter. He moaned and groaned and went online to SparkNotes. It was time to break the cycle.

Since I was now a published author, I decided to gently edit The Scarlet Letter to flow more smoothly and make it less frustrating. It still felt like the original because, essentially, it still was the original, retaining Nathaniel Hawthorne’s voice—I just made it more readable.

My son read my version alongside the original, chapter by chapter, and was able to understand and appreciate it. He got an A on the exam.

But something happened to me. I realized that I absolutely loved The Scarlet Letter. It was stunning, powerful, and beautiful. I finally realized why it has been continuously published for 150 years—the book is important. Hester Prynne was the very first female hero in American literature. Prior to that, they had all been men. That is unimaginable today.

I noticed that Nathaniel Hawthorne had dedicated his book to Herman Melville. I did some research and learned that they were best friends. Likewise, Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne.

I decided to take the plunge and tackle my nemesis, the White Whale. As I gently edited Moby Dick, plowing through the murky, arcane language, I discovered that it was much more than a whale tale—it was an amazing, often humorous, satire about life, death, and religion.

I knew I had to share my excitement with others, so I published these two books.

Readable Classics was born.

The reviews on Amazon are glowing—even the literary purists like them. And students are ecstatic.

I gently edited Pride and Prejudice, the first novel to challenge the ridiculous notion that women were second-class citizens. As a result, I fell in love with Jane Austen. I recently published a mashup, Emma and the Vampires, with the intent of introducing Jane Austen to young adult readers in a friendly way, laced with Twilight-type vampires.

Then I edited Jane Eyre. It is the best book I have ever read, hands down. It was the first English novel in which a woman was the hero. Women couldn’t publish books in 1847, so Charlotte Bronte mailed one chapter a week to the London Sunday paper under a man’s pseudonym, Currer Bell. It was an instant sensation.

Jane Eyre is the spellbinding journey of a poor orphan girl who overcomes cruelty, loneliness, starvation, and heartbreak on her quest to find independence as a woman. It is the story of every woman who struggles for equality and dignity in a society that wants to deny her those rights—as true in Victorian England as it is today. It is one of the most important books ever written, and compulsively readable. You simply cannot put it down.

I have just published The Odyssey—the first novel ever written, 2800 years ago, a timeless story of intrigue and adventure. And I am currently working on The Red Badge of Courage—the first novel to portray war as ugly and violent and real, not dreamy and idealistic.

So many firsts—the classics have become classics because they are, in many ways, the first of their kind. They have opened up a whole new world to me, and I am grateful that I am finally able to understand and appreciate these great works of literature.

My work is challenging, enjoyable and satisfying. But the best part about writing Readable Classics? Students and adults have told me that my books have helped them overcome their fear of the classics. And that is the most rewarding part of all.


Thanks, Wayne.

Now for the giveaway....

Wayne is offering up ONE copy of one of his Readable Classics books for ONE winner. The winner will choose which book they would like out of the following:
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Jane Erye
  • Pride and Prejudce
  • The Odyssey
  • Moby Dick
You can find out more about each book here.

To enter, please fill out the following form.

Also, here are the official rules.
  • The contest is open internationally!
  • This contest will close on January 3, 2011.
  • This contest is open to readers 13 or older.


  1. ohh Great interview! This list of books is amazing!

    Kristen H
    My Bookish Fairy Tale

  2. Sounds like a great idea to help teens like me who refuse to read books that are hard to read because of the language used (which is why I have a hard time reading classics)!

    Best of luck!

  3. Readable classics sounds like a great idea and not just for teens. There's a book on that list I've been wanting to read for sometime but I haven't been able to take the plunge. :-)

  4. Great giveaway! People should read more the classics, it's such a shame people are forgetting them this days. I read all of those books except one because I struggle with the writing! This would be great for reading it! Thanks.

  5. I've read classic mostly from Austen and quite like it =)

  6. Oooh great giveaway! I just read The Scarlet Letter in school and loved it!

  7. What a great idea to help encourage reading of great classic literature.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  8. I don't read many classics... I read Moby Dick though, and I pretty much like it! Thank you for this giveaway!

  9. For the last few months I have been dying to read The Odyssey.

  10. This is a great idea. Maybe now more people will be willing to read these books. Thanks for the chance to win.

  11. This is such a good idea, and I love how the Readable Classics came about. I actually loved The Scarlett Letter in high school but I HATED Moby Dick, so I'm impressed that Wayne grew to really enjoy it through a rewriting of the story!

  12. I actually loved a lot of the classics growing up. This was a great post. Thanks! One book I did not read was Jane Eyre, so I'd love a chance to read it

  13. I think this is a great idea! I agree, classics are classics for a reason. I've enjoyed several of them but you can't deny they're hard to read. Specially qhen English is your second language :P

  14. Those are the best book ever!!

  15. I have heard a lot about Jane Erye.Many book lovers recommend this book to me. I hope I have a chance to read it

  16. Love this post. I have been an admirer of the classes for so long and couldn't agree more that more people should be reading them, especially teens! (PS: Might have submitted entry twice because it magically hit send before I was ready the first time. Sorry!)

  17. This is a great giveaway. I love classices and wish i read more of them!Thanks soo muck guyss!

  18. Thank you! :D I uhm have hard times reading classics.

  19. Awesome contests! I love reading classics, but I havent been able to read as much as I would like.

  20. It's wonderful that classics can be appreciated by more. The language used in books written years ago are often convoluted to today's readers.
    Happy New Year.

  21. Thank you! This is a really good way of enabling teens to read classics. Eventhough I'm a fan of classics, sometimes even I find it hard to read them. Sometimes it's just over overwhelming, at other times, I find it too slow or dull. Part of it was because half the time, I have to really concentrate to understand what they're saying.

  22. Emmma & Vampires is interesting , i just read it and really liked it ;)

    Good Job

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