Joining the Classics Club

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 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

Shahnameh                                    Ferdowsi

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

Mahabharata                                Vyasa

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                          Virginia Woolf


A Vindication of the Rights of Woman     Mary Wollstonecraft

See you on the other side!


6 thoughts on “Joining the Classics Club

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