Well, hello again. It’s been a while.
In the last month-and-a-bit there have been various reasons for my not feeling it appropriate, necessary or even just remotely appealing to write anything here. But now, here I am again.
One reason for the hiatus was that after finishing my travel posts about Norway, I wanted to start a new series of posts before jumping straight into the Sweden entries. They’re coming up too, but given that this was supposed to be a blog about more than just travel adventures, I needed a new project. There wasn’t supposed to be a hiatus; it just took a bit of a while to find.
Contrary to my own first impressions, the Classics Club is not a means of making up for the missed opportunities to learn about the Romans at school. It isn’t even anything to do with the ancient world. At least, not exclusively.
The deal with this particular Classics Club is that one identifies at least 50 of the literary ‘classics that most interest/scare/excite you’, and sets a goal date within five years to finish reading them all, blogging about them as one goes. Beyond that, the rules – what constitutes a classic, what countries the books are from, even whether or not the list remains static – are the reader’s to set. The only set aim is to learn and grow as a reader, and each individual reader is the best judge of what they need/want to read in order to do that.
So, here is my own list. I’ve picked 50 titles that I would like to have read by 31 December 2018. As a classicist by trade, I tried to keep my own definition of a Classic exceptionally vague, but I don’t think there’s anything on the list written more recently than 25 years ago. (Inevitably, in imposing this restriction I found myself making other supplementary lists to get round it, so they may feature on here too eventually.) It’s mainly novels, but there are a few short story collections and non-fiction works on there too. Each title will be hyperlinked to my review of it when it is written.
There are a few strands of logic running through it:
- Ancient (often epic) poetry, from some places about whose existence western classicists have a tendency to forget
- Mythology and folk tales
- Works by women and PoC
- Generally, works from countries whose literature I haven’t read before
That said, I tried not to think too hard about every single title. Some are things I’ve wanted to read for ages. Some are just there because I’d been dimly aware that they, or their authors in general, were things I should probably read at some point. Some of them are probably over-represented on other reading lists. They may not still be on this list by the time I get through it. We’ll see.
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
The House of the Spirits Isabelle Allende
Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov
The Outsider Albert Camus
Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer
The Divine Comedy Dante
David Copperfield Charles Dickens
Rebecca Daphne du Maurier
The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
Daniel Deronda George Eliot
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
Effi Briest Theodore Fontane
Dead Souls Nikolai Gogol
The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
Catch-22 Joseph Heller
The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
Ulysses James Joyce
The Trial Franz Kafka
On the Road Jack Kerouac
Sons and Lovers D. H. Lawrence
Solaris Stanisław Lem
The Iron Heel Jack London
The Kalevala Elias Lönnrot
Le Morte d’Arthur Thomas Malory
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez
Beloved Toni Morrison
Doctor Zhivago Boris Pasternak
Cry, the Beloved Country Alan Paton
The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath
Eugene Onegin Alexander Pushkin
Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys
Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie
The Tale of Genji Murasaki Shikibu
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Scoop Evelyn Waugh
The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton
Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin
Germinal Emile Zola
The Secret History of the Mongols
Short story collections
Fairy Tales Hans Christian Anderson
The Aleph Jorge Luis Borges
The Bloody Chamber Angela Carter
To the Lighthouse Virgina Woolf
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman Mary Wollstonecraft
Between making the list and posting it here, I’ve actually finished a couple of these already, so the first individual book posts should be up soon. See you on the other side!