Serial App Lets You Conquer the Classics in 10 Minutes a Day

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Kareem Shaheen

Staff Writer

A journalist and cat-owner living in Beirut, Kareem Shaheen covers the Middle East in all its contradictions for the Guardian newspaper. An Egyptian raised in Dubai, with stints in the Hague (not as a war criminal) and small-town Nile delta, he studied journalism and electrical engineering because that's what you do in Egypt in order to not be a disgrace to the family, and holds a master's degree in war studies from King's College London. He lives in Lebanon with his girlfriend, who is always right, and who comes from the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo, and gets to travel around this wonderful and now broken region on account of his job. Twitter: @kshaheen

I’ll admit it, I often pretend I read classics that I have not nor ever will read. And you do it too.

But I’m here for you.

Bookish beach towels - this classic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy towel will remind you not to panic no matter what situation arises.

I openly mock Moby-Dick and Finnegan’s Wake despite never reading past the title pages. And can I tell you a secret? I never did finish The Grapes of WrathI couldn’t get past the dense first chapter (I have a similar relationship with The Wire where I got too bored during the second season to pursue the series further, to the grave distress of numerous friends).

But no more! I resolved this year to read more of the classics (as they are generally understood). Enter Serial Reader, an app that has been a godsend, allowing me to fit in daily installments of classic literature and literary fiction that are sent to my iPhone every morning without having to abandon my more contemporary reading interests.

The way it works is that once you’ve downloaded the app (here it is on iOS), you pick out of the dozens of classics whatever you want to read next, set the time that you want to receive the installments every day, and then start reading. These usually take about 10-15 minutes to complete. Pride and Prejudice is split into 40 sections, Wuthering Heights into 43. Crime and Punishment will take you 79 days to complete, and Ulysses, 109.

I’ve always struggled to sit down and open one of the dozens of Penguin classics lining my bookshelves in favor of more recent fare, but you can fit in these readings while waiting at the doctor’s office, on a bus or taxi ride, or during a coffee break at work.

I use the free version of the app, but you could shell out $2.99 for the premium version, which lets you sync your book subscriptions on multiple devices, read future issues of the classic you’re subscribed to (if you’re too impatient to wait for the next day’s chapter) and highlight text while reading.

It’s a pretty painless way on the path to being well-versed in those canonical works and to finally cross off that New Year’s Resolution, so give it a spin and let me know what you thought in the comments.