Publishing

Forget About the Classics

An MRI of one of the subjects taking part in a study measuring a person’s brain flow while reading the works of Jane Austen. This particular image demonstrates distinctive increases in blood flow for close reading across multiple brain regions, with strength of activation shown in red for horizontal cross sections of the brain.
An MRI of one of the subjects taking part in a study measuring a person’s brain flow while reading the works of Jane Austen. This particular image demonstrates distinctive increases in blood flow for close reading across multiple brain regions, with strength of activation shown in red for horizontal cross sections of the brain.

If you’re an English major, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve read a couple of classics in your day. You’ll hear time and time again that the classics are a pivotal part of your education. And that’s true. But will the number of classics you read really be important after college?

Reading classics have a lot of benefits. According to a study performed by a Michigan State University Professor, when their subjects read Pride and Prejudice, “‘the whole brain transformed in shifting from pleasure to close reading, and in regions far beyond those associated with attention and executive functions.'” This proves that “core skills in the liberal arts have immense cognitive complexity.”

Knowing the classics has incredible benefits for hard skills needed in the work field, and I don’t imagine any employer would doubt that.

However, there is a time and a place to acknowledge that you are well versed in the classics.

If you’re looking for a job in publishing, in the interview you’re going to be asked a question along the lines of: “What are your top 3 favorite books?” or “What were the last 3 books you’ve read?” If you answer either of those with a classic book, you missed the point of the question.

When you’re interviewing for a job in publishing, and you’re an English major, the employer can automatically assume you’ve read numerous classics books. However, by asking you these questions, the interviewer is really looking to know that you understand the market.

If you list classics as books you’ve most recently read, the publisher will assume that you either don’t read books outside of class requirements, or you are not aware of popular books at the moment. A big part of publishing is understanding the trends and predicting what will sell.

Classics will always be a constant in the market, mostly because of the large benefit they offer readers. Yet, it is more important in an interview to highlight your ability to see trends and know the popular books.

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