It is not fair to say that I have never read any of the classics. However, my interest was often just in finishing the book for a class or for the benefit of being able to say I have "read" it. Now I have a more academic interest in reading and I earnestly hope to derive something of value from the experience. It would be ideal to be able to discuss these books with someone else reading them. In the absence of that, I do have other resources.
The GBWW collection comes with a comprehension guide which summarizes each literary work, provides questions and offers suggestions for further reading.
A second option is online resources. Besides Wikipedia, there are also Sparknotes and Cliff Notes.
Reading consumes time. To maintain my reading schedule, I have had to limit my other activities and I try to read at every available moment. I have curtailed my TV viewing, which is an easy sacrifice. However, I am also not reading my periodicals, which is something that I do not want to give up. I have a stack of twelve magazines that I need to read, which will surely be outdated by the time I finish them.