Monday, December 17, 2012

Reading The Classics

I was one of those odd young adults who enjoyed reading the classics in school.  Except Shakespeare at least.  Still don't care for his work.  I rarely minded an assigned reading assignment, although I preferred it when I got to choose what to read from a provided list.  Unfortunately, I think the "assigned reading" status given too many classics while we are in school has given them a bad rap.  Many of us expect them to be difficult reads, and sometimes even boring.  And even though I enjoyed most of the assigned books I read in school, I still find myself hesitating to read them now for my own pleasure.  They intimidate me.  I was never good at seeing the individual fibers stitching the words together, and so I worry I will miss something, that the book will be too smart for me.  I don't have the classroom experience these days to help me through.

I love the idea of classic read-alongs, but often I am too busy or too involved with something else to participate.  I would have loved to join in the Les Miserables read-along that took place in November/December, but it was over such a short period of time . . . I knew I would never be able to finish it in time.  Not even close. 

When I first heard about the The Classics Club, I felt a little bubble of excitement creeping up.  It soon was dashed when I read the requirements.  Fifty plus classics in five years.  To some of you that may seem very doable.  And on the surface, it does for me too.  However, the more I got to thinking about it, the less enthused I became about the idea of trying to fit in 10+ classics a year.  Taking into account my reading rate, and my shifty reading moods, trying to read a classic a month--or close to it--seems like an awfully big commitment.  One I am not willing to make.  I might be willing to try one every other month--but I'd never make it to 50 in five years that way.  

I do want to read more classics, however, and I don't think my not qualifying for the Classics Club should keep me from doing so.  I have several classic titles on my list that I know I want to read, and quite a few of those titles are already on my shelves.  I am not going to make a goal to read a certain amount of classics in a set amount of time.  I don't need that kind of pressure.  Instead, I am simply making a list of of the classics I would like to read in my lifetime.  It isn't a complete list, by any stretch.  Just a list of titles I can think of off the top of my head.

A few of these authors probably don't quite qualify as classic authors in terms of the passage of time, but they've appeared on many lists as if they are (including the The Classics Club website), and so I am adding them in here because I think it's fair to count them as having written modern classic novels.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Margaret Atwood (just about anything by this author, really) 
Jane Austen (I have read three Austen novels and would like to eventually read her other books as well.)
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Agatha Christie (whatever I haven't read yet!)
Wilkie Collins (No Name & The Moonstone immediately come to mind)
Charles Dickens (Bleak House & The Mystery of Edwin Drood)
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (I managed to get through half the book in college, but I'd like to try again.)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (maybe the 2nd time will be the charm?)
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montegomery
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (listening to currently)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Leo Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilyich & War and Peace)
Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five & Mother Night)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Conte of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells  
Have you read any of these titles?  What classics would you like to read that you haven't read yet?
  

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

32 comments:

  1. I am pretty horrible about reading classics. I never read them as a youth (what were my English teachers doing???) and now I'm limping along and mostly being intimidated by them. I have read The Moonstone, and some Austens, and I have The Good Earth loaded on my iPod! This is one area of reading that I need some work.

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    1. Sandy - I am too. For me it's the intimidation factor combined with wanting to read so much of the newer stuff too.

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  2. Classics are real hit-or-miss with me. The Bell Jar and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn are AMAZING. Very high on my all-time favorites list. On the other hand, Middlemarch is one of only 2 books I have ever DNF'ed. It is so, so, soooo painfully slow (although apparently many people disagree with me, given that it's a classic and all). Good luck on your quest to read more!!

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    1. Kelly - I am really looking forward to reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. That one doesn't scare me at all--like some of the others do. I am glad you liked it and The Bell Jar so much! You're the second person to mention not finishing Middlemarch recently.

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  3. Oh do join the Classics Club if you want to! As far as I remember (and I was the same as you, worrying I couldn't read 50 in 5 years) you can extend the time. So you say 5 years now, and change it later if need be.

    I think the problem with school is it makes you think the books are difficult, and that makes sense because school age isn't the target age the author had in mind. As an adult they are a lot easier.

    A very good list! I've several of them on mine, too. I've read Rebecca, which is very good and most of Jane Austen's work.

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    1. Charlie - I'd have to come up with 50 classics too though and I have yet to manage that. LOL I think I'm better off just going at my own pace and not putting a deadline on it, however flexible. My brain is still not in a place where I want to take on too many serious reads. Maybe something to consider down the road, however.

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  4. I'm not a huge fan of the classics, but I loved Brave New World and almost every Vonnegut I've been able to get my hands on. Slaughterhouse-Five is one of my favorite books. I recently re-read it. I also recently re-visited several Jane Austen works (including Northanger Abbey, which is where the title of my blog comes from) and the Anne of Green Gables Series. I enjoyed many of these books more as an adult than I did as a child/teenager, making me think we "waste" these books on the young, who dislike being forced to read them in school and then never pick these books up again.

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    1. A.M.B. - I failed terribly when I tried to read Brave New World all those years ago. It was the only assigned reading I couldn't bring myself to finish. I do want to try again and see if I fare better the second time around. I've loved the Jane Austen novels I've read and can't wait to read more by her.

      I agree about "wasting" many of these books on the young. I think sometimes it turns them off of not just the classics, but reading too, which is such a shame.

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  5. Ooo, ooo, ooo - three of these are listed as possibilities for my "I've Always Meant to Read That Book!" Challenge! Hint, hint.... ;)

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    1. Carrie - Haha! I saw that! I may try to fit a couple in. We'll see how I feel when the time comes. :-)

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  6. I've probably read about half the classics on your list, including everything by Jane Austen. Assigning these books to students is tricky. We want kids to expand their horizons, but by force feeding literature, one can easily ruin some really great books for people. There are loads of wonderful classics I didn't get around to reading 'til I was in my 30s, and I probably wouldn't have appreciated them in high school or college. :-)

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    1. Steph - I know I much preferred when the teachers gave me a list of books that I could choose from. It made group discussions impossible, but at least then everyone could read what they wanted(more or less) and still gain something from it. Whatever that may be.

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  7. I have Name of the Rose and Les Mis on my list as well. I'm planning to tackle Count of Monte Cristo in 2013. Anne of Green Gables, War and Peace, and Middlemarch are all awesome.

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    1. Word Lily - Everyone seems to love Anne of Green Gables. I admit I'm holding off on those books until my daughter is older. I want to explore them with her, I think.

      I read half of Les Miserables years ago and hope to revisit it again one day--when I can actually finish it. I know I'll have to start over again, but that's okay. :-)

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  8. I know exactly what you mean, as I went through the same thoughts at the beginning of 2012. Classic club? cool. 50 books? never gonna happen. I made a list of classics that I want to read, and will possibly read and it came to 30ish. I read 4 this year. I'm going to keep reading from my little list.

    We have some overlap - I put Kurt Vonnegut (no title), Les Mis (I read some, once), Daphne, The Good Earth, and a Jane Austen (I've read 2).
    As I look your list over, all I can say is - read that Anne of Green Gables! pronto! And Winnie the Pooh (and the rest of the books, including the poems.)

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    1. Elizabeth - I think I'll do that too. Go at my own pace. My list clearly didn't make it to the 50 mark, although I'm sure more books will come to light as time goes on.

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  9. no! I did a whole comment, and it didn't publish, and then it disappeared.

    summary = me too on the Classic Club. I've got some of your list I want to read too, Read Anne of Green Gables! and Winnie the Pooh!

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    1. Elizabeth - I use comment moderation and so your comment was awaiting approval. Sorry about that! I get so much spam, it's the only way I've been able to keep it from posting to my blog.

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  10. I think you have compiled a great list and going at your own pace is what will make this an enjoyable experience for YOU!!!

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    1. Staci - I agree! I think this is a good no pressure way of going about it. :-)

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  11. Great list! I'm looking at your list and it hits me that one of the reasons that classics are so intimidating is that so many of them are so long. Just the idea of picking up a book that's over 600 pages long is enough to put off a lot of people!

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    1. Lisa - I think you are right. Length does play a part in it. War and Peace, for example. :-S

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  12. When I first read about The Classics Club, I was intimidated by the need to have 50 books on my list. But when I realized I had 5 years, and I could change my list anytime I felt like it, that took a lot of the pressure off. Whether you join or not, I hope you have fun reading classics!

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    1. Laura - Thank you. The goal is to have fun, so I'm sure going to try!

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  13. Whether you join or club or not taking on the classics is a great idea :)

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    1. Jennifer - While there is a part of me who wants to read them because they are classics, the bigger reason is because they sound interesting to me--at least the ones I plan to read. I think if more people read classics that way they'd enjoy them more!

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  14. I love your approach. I tend to have hit or miss results with the Classics but I think what you're planning is a great no-stress way to read what you want.

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  15. You've got a lot of great books on your list that I've read and several that I hope to read in 2013. I'll be reading "Les Miserables" in the Spring and I have "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" on my TBR pile challenge. I read "The Count of Monte Cristo" for the first time recently as one of the free books on my Kindle. I can't believe I waited so long to read this. It's quite wonderful and relatively quick-moving for such a think bookk.

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    1. Donna - How fun! Good luck with your reading this year! I'm tackling War and Peace this year so think I'll put off Les Miserables, but it's so tempting what with the movie just coming out. I love the story, having seen the musical on stage a couple of times.

      I will have to move The Count of Monte Cristo up on my list to read.

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  16. I loved Shakespeare so much in college that I took a few classes just about him :) I have found that I love seeing his work on stage so much more now. Of those on your list I've read six. Loved Anne as a kid and Lolita when I read with my post-college book group. I also really liked The Time Machine, it's quick and very accessible. Hated Slaughterhouse in college and liked Bell Jar and Rebecca well enough.
    I was tempted by the Classics Club last year too, but knew it wasn't going to happen when Gage was a toddler!

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    1. Stacy - I tried to like Shakespeare, but he and I never got along no matter how hard I tried.

      I can't see joining the Classics Club with Mouse being so young either. And my brain can't handle 10 classics a year. I like the idea of going at my own pace though--and not worrying about having a list of 50 books.

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