Classics Club

Some talented and curious people are organizing a Classics Club for bloggers. Here is the information in case you want to join this great endeavor. I visited some of the blogs by people who have joined the club and they are really amazing folks who love reading. I wish my students could see these blogs and realize how silly their “I hate reading!” sounds.

The first step of the Classics Challenge is to make a list of 50+ classic work of literature you pledge to read in the next 5 years. The beauty of the project is that nobody will dictate to you what should go on the list of classics, so you can create your own canon. And you have an excuse to read books you always wanted to read but never got around to doing it. I always feel so guilty for reading anything that is not research-related that it’s good to be part of an initiative that will take the guilt away.

I’m putting the bulk of this post under the fold to avoid cluttering people’s Google reader feeds.

So here is my list of 70 classics. I will be crossing off books after I finish them and posting reviews or short opinion pieces. I never read any of these books, so all of my readings will be very fresh. I’m very ashamed of not having read any of these books but I’m confessing my ignorance freely. There is almost nothing shameful in being ignorant as long as you are willing to learn.

1. From what I understood from a long discussion on the subject, Patrick Rothfuss is a classic of the fantasy genre, so I will be reading his The Name of the Wind since I promised this to my readers anyways.

2. I never read anything by Truman Capote. Here, I said it. My dark secret is out. I will read Breakfast at Tiffany’s as one of my classicsDone!

3. I bought Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance at a sale recently, so I’m definitely reading it.

4. Doctorow’s Ragtime sounds like a promising classic.

5. I’ve read most of Dickens except for Our Mutual Friend, so I will be reading it.

6. Love Thackeray but his History of Henry Esmond has somehow escaped my attention until now.

7. Trollope’s The American Senator. Oh, how I love TrollopeDone!

8. Edith Wharton’s Bunner Sisters.

9. Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. Volume I and Volume 2. Delightfully long.

10. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley. Done!

11. Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Yes, I know, whatever. Like you’ve read everything under the sun. At least, I’m woman enough to confess that I haven’t read a word of Kundera. And you have no idea how violently I’m blushing right now.

12. I love Sinclair Lewis, so it will be a joy to read his It Can’t Happen Here.

13. Francois Mauriac is definitely a classic. I will read his Viper’s TangleDone!

14. Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.

15. Do you love C. P. Snow as much as I do? That’s not very likely. I will be reading his The Affair. Done!

16. Nancy Milford’s Zelda is a classic biography of F.S. Fitzgerald’s wife. Done!

17. Aravind Adiga is definitely a living classic and I will read his Last Man in Tower.

18. I hear that Peter Nadas’s A Book of Memories is a modern Hungarian classic.

19. I’m not a Latin Americanist, OK? Which is why there is nothing hugely wrong about me not having read Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives just yet.

20. Elizabeth Bowen’s The House in Paris.

21. Nelida Pinon’s Republic of Dreams is a Brazilian classic.

22. Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. I read everything else by him, though! Or at least the important stuff. So don’t judge me too harshly.

23.Contempt by Alberto Moravia. I’m so ignorant of Italian literature that you wouldn’t believe itDone!

24. Can’t wait to read Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor.

25. Moacyr Scliar is Brazil’s most important Jewish writer, so how can I not read his Collected Short Stories?

26. Viktor Pelevin is considered a classic of Russian postmodernism, so I guess I should be reading his Generation P. N. tells me it’s not bad at all. Gosh, what wouldn’t I do for my husband? Even reading Pelevin is not that much of a burden if it brings me closer to N.’s culture.

27. Is there anything more fun than reading Balzac? I’m putting his Petty Troubles of Married Life on this list.

28. The History of Emily Montague by Frances Brooke. It’s about Quebec in the XVIIIth century!

29. Samuel Butler’s The Way of all Flesh.

30. George Gissing’s Odd WomenDone!

31. White Oleander by Janet Fitch is a classic female Bildungsroman.

32. Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. Done!

33. Penguin Island by Anatole France.

34. I’ve had George Meredith’s The Egoist on my Kindle forever. Now it is time to read it.

35. Godwin’s Caleb Williams.

36. The Line of Beauty by the amazing Alan Hollinghurst.

37. A Modern Instance by Howells.

38. The Europeans by Henry James. For some reason, I never got into Henry James, so maybe this novel will redeem him for me.

39. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.

40. The Complete Stories by David Malouf.

41. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is definitely a classic of the historical novel genre.

42. Who can deny that H. L. Mencken is a classic of American journalism? I will be reading his Prejudices.

43. Myerson’s The Nervous Housewife.

44. Love love love Joyce Carol Oates and will be reading her Expensive People.

45. Is Nnedi Okorafor a classic? Well, maybe her Who Fears Death? should be.

46. Margaret Atwood is a literary genius, people. So I will be reading her The Blind Assassin. (Please don’t recommend The Handmaid’s Tale because I know it by heart already.)

47. Turkey is represented on my list by Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. This is also an opportunity for me to reiterate that I met Pamuk in person several years ago.

48. Thomas Love Peacock’s Gryll Grange. (It’s free on Kindle, so why not?)

49. Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple.

50. Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. Done!

51. Mark Rutherford’s Clara Hopgood.

52. The very first novel by the amazing Jose Saramago. It’s titled Manual of Painting and Calligraphy.

53. I’m living in the US now, so I should be reading my American classics, such as Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons.

54. John Updike’s Early Stories.

55. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. No, I haven’t seen the movie either.

56. Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows.

57. Ellen Wood’s East Lynne. Done!

58. How come I never read anything by Margaret Oliphant? Here comes her Miss Marjoribanks.

59. Mary Elizabeth Braddon rocks, so I will be reading her Aurora Floyd. Done!

60. Wilkie Collins is great, so reading his No Name definitely makes sense. Done!

61. Nikolai Leskov is an important Russian writer of the XIXth century and a total anti-semite. Well, welcome to the Russian literature. Don’t want to read anti-semites? Forget about reading in Russian altogether. I will be reading Leskov’s novel Na nozhah. I hear it’s good.

62. Winifred Holtby’s South Riding.

63. J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.

64. Fidelity by Susan Glaspell.

65. The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard.

66. Eudora Welty’s Collected Stories.

67. Henry Fielding’s Amelia. How come I never knew this novel by Fielding existed?

68. The Lover by Marquerite Duras is available on the Kindle! Yippee!

69. Ian McEwan’s Saturday.

70. Dog Years by Gunter Grass, one of the best writers ever.

71. Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End is a classic I didn’t even know existed.

This is a 4 year challenge. It starts on March 23, 2012 and will end on March 23, 2018.

The prize that I will give myself when I finish will be a trip to a tropical paradise. I’m completely serious.

30 thoughts on “Classics Club

  1. ll I love many of the novels on this list and you inspired to read the (many) others I haven’t read. But I just wanted to say that I LOVE _East Lynne_. I couldn’t put it down when I first read it! One of those novels that made me laugh and cry and tingle with anticipation. (Plus it’s interesting culturally!) So I heartily second that decision! 😉


  2. You might want to try Mencken’s Chrestomathy instead of Prejudices. A lot of what’s in Prejudices is dated and would appeal only to an ardent Menckenian.
    Also you might want consider The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W. Baldwin. It’s one of a kind classic literature..


  3. Hello Clarissa! I just wanted to drop by to welcome you and offer good wishes as you read. I’ve got The Magnificent Ambersons on my list as well. I’d never heard of it until recently. I love the way you’ve set up your list, describing your selection with every title. Anyway, cheers. 🙂


  4. Yup, and a lot of classics are old enough to be out of copyright, so even poverty is no excuse. I’ll start with classic books I’ve already acquired but not read, which themselves probably number more than 50.


  5. This is such a beautiful challenge. I also want to come up with my list. Reading my list you will see that I have much more reason to blush because of m literary ignorance than you.

    I will try to include classics from literatures about which I do not know anything at all: China?, Japan??, Australia???, UKRAINE????


    1. I’m useless with China, unfortunately. That’s a huge lacuna in my knowledge.

      In terms of Japan, I can only recommend Kazuo Ishiguro’s amazing The Unconsoled. Since the, he hasn’t been doing as well as during his best years.

      As for the Ukrainian authors, there are many but almost none in translation. I can recommend:

      Lesya Ukrainka,

      Oles Honchar, whose best novel The cathedral, is unfortunately not available in translation.

      This is a translated collection of short stories by Ukrainian writers, including the greatest writer ever ever ever Volodymir Vynnychenko. I don’t think there is another word of him translated into english which is a crying shame. He is the guy who started the sex revolution in Ukraine in 1910. The prime-minister of the Independent Ukraine, a passionate Communist and a beautiful Modernist writer who wrote ultra mega bestsellers.


      1. Thanks for the recommendations! I have wanted to read Vynnychenko for a couple of years now, because of you. He seems like the kind of writer I will like.


  6. Okay, now I’ve got to go to the Green Valley Book Fair this weekend and add more books to the pile of unread books I bought there last time. It’s all your fault! 😉


  7. I want to recommend one of Israeli classics:
    Amos Oz’s memoir “A Tale of Love and Darkness”
    Oz chronicles his childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel, and his teenage years on Kibbutz Hulda.


  8. Well, that’s a nice list of authors and books that I haven’t encountered yet. I have read exactly four of the listed books. I suggest that you read James before Hollinghurst.

    I am curious about Pamuk’s My Name is Red.


  9. I forgot another great classic – Arthur Miller’s “Incident at Vichy” (“about a group of detainees waiting for inspection by German officers during World War II”). Truly good play.


  10. What a great idea! I am going to start as well, as soon as I cook up my own list. I haven’t heard of a good portion of the books you listed, so I added those to my Amazon wish list, but will try my hardest to refrain from copying your reading list. >.<


  11. This is a really great list, and I’ve only read a very few of them, so I might take it as a cue. 😀

    I greatly recommend ‘Disgrace’, though, and do persevere with Henry James a little longer. He’s one of my favourites, although sometimes he irritates the heck out of me!


  12. I hope you have not forgotten about this project – I have been waiting for your reviews on some of these books for three years!


  13. I’m very glad to hear it! I just started The Unbearable Lightness of Being for my own Classics Club list, and have been very curious to as to what your opinion of the book might be.


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