That's the question, isn't it?NileCat wrote: So, my suggestion/question is "isn't there any way for you to enjoy those pieces without 'studying' it?"
I hope that there is! I think that you're right and if I can focus on the prose and the style of writing, instead of trying to get through a book as fast as I can, that might be a better experience for me. But I also wonder if it's always going to feel like work until my vocabulary is better, because really, my vocabulary is still not that great. Just looking at the first page of 「坊っちゃん」, I don't know:
I'd guess that only those last two are really old-fashioned, but when you add up the words that aren't commonly used any more plus the ones that I should know but don't, that's when it gets difficult.
I have editions of 「走れメロス」and 「坊っちゃん」that have furigana put in, and that might be a good place to start.