How can classic literature give young students an enquiring mind for the rest of their lives?

Two days ago I got somewhat fed up when I heard that global warming had now passed a tipping point such that within a couple of months (or was that a couple of decades – I may have got confused) the earth would be too hot for humans.

Yesterday, however, the news said that the “next year is doomsday scenario” was at the extreme end of the scale of predictions, and I was probably safe to book my Christmas holiday to visit my daughter without worrying that the plane would melt en route.

Today, I learn that the Arctic Ocean used to be covered in a tiny fern called Azolla filiculoides that absorbed far more carbon dioxide than we put into the atmosphere now, and so created the cool planet. And with the genome having been sorted, it can be re-introduced so we’re all going to be safe after all.

Which is quite reassuring.

But here’s a thought. I studied the arts at A level and thereafter and never returned to science. So how come I can appreciate this story about the salvation of humankind and follow it with some degree of understanding?

I’d put that down to the fact that I read a lot. Not science books, but classic fiction which I started reading at school. Because through that classic fiction I met thousands of characters each of which had their own way of seeing the world, and that made me think.

Heathcliff got inside my head as did Sherlock Holmes, Fezziwig and Robin Hood, and all the time I kept asking “Why?” “Why is the character doing this?” “Why is the world like this?” “Why doesn’t one character see the the other’s perfidious nature?”

Yes perhaps it would have been good if I had had a broader scientific education, but I didn’t, and yet literature gave me the sort of enquiring mind that scientists often extol as the virtue of their subject.

Which is why my colleagues and I started Wordsworth Editions – reprints of the classics from as little as £1.88 each (with no delivery charge and no minimum order) covering authors from Conan Doyle to Oscar Wilde, Jules Verne to James Joyce.

If you would like to see what we have added new in 2018 those details are here. For a selection of the 50 texts most regularly bought by schools, taken from our full range of 400 titles, please do click here.

And we also have our offer of a free book just in case you have not come across Wordsworth Editions before. To receive a free sample of one of our classics without any obligation please do email with your name and the school address, and we’ll put it in the post to you with our compliments.