My Classics List

I’m joining The Classics Club’s Classics Spin #5 on Monday. The Classics Club is for readers who pledge to read at least 50 classical works within five years and the idea behind the Spin is that you have to make a list of 20 unread books from your larger list and they will help you pick out your next book. Next Monday, they will randomly choose a number and participants have to read the book on their list that corresponds to that number. I’ve been too intimidated to make a 5-year reading plan (and of the classics, no less!) in part because I’m too scared to look that far ahead (five years from now I’ll be XX years old and my baby will be halfway through his freshman year in high school) but I’m working on it…Anyway, I hope I’m still allowed to participate because 20 is a comfortable number for me. Below is my list for Monday, which is made up of books from my shelves. (My goal this year is to whittle away at the books I already own.) I want to read some books slightly more than others and I’ve tried to be “strategic” about where I place them on this list, but it’s a bit like trying to guess what numbers will show up in the lottery, isn’t it?

1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

2. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

3. Beloved by Toni Morrison

4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

6. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

7. American Pastoral by Philip Roth

8. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

9. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

10. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

11. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

12. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

13. A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

14. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

15. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

16. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

17. Stoner by John Williams

18. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

19. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

20. Howards End by E.M. Forster

I can’t wait to see what I’ll end up reading. I don’t know why I find it so much more fun to leave my fate in the hands of a website than to choose a book on my own. ;-)

I also think they only do the spin four times a year, so after I’m done with this one I’m going to give my 9-year-old the honor of picking out my next classic.

Are you participating in this or any other reading challenges? What’s on your classics to-read list?

48 comments on “My Classics List

  1. Naomi says:

    I think this sounds like fun! And your list seems to be made up of many different types of books. I like other people to pick out my next book sometimes when I can’t decide. I often ask one of my kids to choose between 2 or 3 book covers. It usually works out great! :)

    I have been tempted by this and a couple other challenges that looked like fun. I like reading the classics, but I’ve decided to put it all off until I’m further into my own CanLit challenge. I don’t want to slow myself down any further than I already have. But maybe someday soon… I’ll be interested to hear what your first book is!

    • Cecilia says:

      That’s funny that you let your kids help choose as well (and based on the cover)! I only came up with the idea yesterday but think it’s a win-win thing (my son is already excited to help me choose) ;-).

      You are smart to stick to your CanLit challenge for now! It’s easy to overbook oneself with these things…

  2. This sounds like such fun! I hadn’t heard of this challenge until now, so, yeah, I would definitely like to join in! I just joined a gym and I’m finding it’s the perfect time to read in peace!

  3. whatmeread says:

    Hi, Cecilia, I might try to do this, too. Do they have a master list of what they consider classics, or do you just make up a list yourself? I think I had better look at your link.

    • Cecilia says:

      You are allowed to define “classics” as you see fit. I did wonder about this, as there are some more modern classics that I’d like to read as well. But yes, you can come up with your own list. I think Carolyn’s doing it too (the big 50-book one).

      • whatmeread says:

        There is a list on their site, I saw. You also said something about being allowed to do it. Do you have to join the club to participate? I couldn’t tell from their page, although it was addressed to club members. Not that I have any problem with joining the club. 50 classics in 5 years certainly seems doable.

        • Cecilia says:

          I don’t think so (about being “allowed”) – they seem friendly enough and I’m sure they’re happy to have as many people participate as possible. I follow their blog but have yet to submit my list…

          I’ll have to check out their list. I must have missed it.

          • whatmeread says:

            It’s on one of their menus. They said they made it from other lists. I feel like it’s missing some people, but I don’t know exactly who. Unless you have a list in mind, making one is pretty hard. I’ve been poking around for ideas. I finally have one, but I wouldn’t call it my ideal list.

            • Carolyn O says:

              I’m a member of the Classics Club, and I can’t imagine them minding if you do a spin! Making a list was really fun for me — I used their master list as a guide, but included a bunch of sci-fi classics I’ve never read, too. Because the timeframe is so long, I don’t feel too much pressure, actually.

            • whatmeread says:

              That’s what I was thinking. I just went through Virago’s list to add a bunch of lit by women, since I have noticed a preponderance of lit by men on their lists. Can you suggest a few poetry volumes I could try? Nothing really long (I have trouble reading epic poems, although I did read The Iliad a few years ago), but maybe collections of short poems?

            • Carolyn O says:

              I’d think about Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot, Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, maybe some Frost? Frost is underrated. Oh, and a nice selection of Emily Dickinson. That’s just for starters, of course.

            • whatmeread says:

              Hmm, I believe I still have a book of Frost, left over from college. I haven’t read Edna St. Vincent Millay, but I love My Candle Burns at Both Ends. I’ve read quite a bit of Emily Dickinson. I have an uneasy relationship with Eliot, but two of his poems were some of the first ones I liked, Prufrock and The Hollow Men. Thanks!

            • Carolyn O says:

              If you liked The Hollow Men, The Wasteland (& Other Poems) is the next step. Definite classic. Millay is very easy to read, but she’s spiky, in a good way.

            • whatmeread says:

              OK, I am going to look at what I have at home, and then I’ll finish my list tomorrow. I think I read The Wasteland long ago. Oh these many years. I also have a book of Yeats at home, I believe.

            • Carolyn O says:

              Yeats is great! I have the collected works, so I’m not sure which shorter volume I’d recommend.

            • whatmeread says:

              I think the one I have is about 200 pages long. If I still have it! It would have been since 1972! I have a coffee table book as well that combines Yeats poems with pictures of Ireland, so I guess I could read that one. I’ve just read a few of the poems and looked at the pictures. It looks like it has quite a few poems in it.

            • whatmeread says:

              BTW, are you the person who was recommending the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf? I put that on my list.

            • Carolyn O says:

              It sounds like something I would do, but I don’t remember recommending it. I will now, however: it’s excellent.

            • whatmeread says:

              I thought you wrote something about it on your blog, because a friend mentioned it to me, and I was sure I had heard of it before that, from you. Maybe I’m wrong.

  4. Is Anna Karenina at the top of your post because that is the book you are hoping to read? It is one of my favourites! I also just LOVED The House of Mirth. Wharton’s writing is brilliant in this book.

    Yes, isn’t it odd how we have trouble choosing but are fine with someone/something choosing for us? I really like this challenge because sometimes it will force me to read books that I might naturally avoid (such as Aristotle —- can you believe he turned up on my list?!!).

    Best of luck on your Spin!

    • Cecilia says:

      Ha ha, I am secretly hoping Anna Karenina or The House of Mirth will get picked! I have heard so many superlative things about The House of Mirth in particular! Middlemarch too, but I don’t own a copy and I’m trying to prioritize the books that are collecting dust on my shelves…

      You are brave to include Aristotle! I have to admit to being cowardly and only including the books that I really am looking forward to reading. I do have others that I feel I “ought” to read but am feeling intimidated about.

      Good luck to you too! Thanks for stopping by :-)

  5. Ariel Price says:

    I have so many unread books at home that sometimes I wish someone else would pick for me, too. Sometimes I have my husband pick. I’m looking forward to your reviews on these. You have some really good ones!

    • Cecilia says:

      Thanks, Ariel! I’m quite excited for Monday. I think it’s a good idea to get your husband to choose – or maybe pick a book out of a “hat” (box/bag)? ;-)

  6. Ngan R. says:

    What a fantastic list! I should draw up a classics list to read too, as they are so timeless and are great reads. I am currently reading a nonfiction book, The Lowland, and a legal book, The Oath. Both are hard to get through at the moment….

    • Cecilia says:

      I assume you don’t mean The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (though you did say it was non-fiction)? Are they work for work?

      • Ngan R. says:

        It is Jhumpa Lahiri; the book is fantastic, but it’s sad and tense and making me feel a bit tense myself. Lol. I shouldn’t take it so seriously, but I can’t help it. I’m reading The Oath out of interest for the Supreme Court. Returning to the classics (Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors) might make me less tense!

        • Cecilia says:

          I really liked The Lowland but I know what you mean. Would you be willing to take a break and read something lighter?

          I’m glad to hear that you love Edith Wharton! I read Ethan Frome in school and can’t remember a thing about it…but now I can’t wait to read her other books.

  7. Justine says:

    This is my goal this year too – to read the books I already own, waiting for me on my shelves! “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is one of my all-time favorites, and so is Toni Morrison so I hope you’ll let me know what you think of them someday. As for my own list, I don’t even know where to start. Trying to challenge myself with the books on my shelves, but at the same time, there are so many I want to pick up from the store right now!

    What a great idea though, the Classics list. I really want to read one soon. love all of Austen’s books, “Middlemarch”, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, and Garcia Marquez’s book, but I’m afraid Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t do anything for me… With that in mind, what would you recommend to me? No pressure, hah!

    • Cecilia says:

      (oops, I had somehow missed your comment earlier) Thanks, Justine! I kind of enjoyed Fitzgerald and didn’t like Hemingway but this was years and years ago back in school. I am thinking of trying Hemingway again to see if my tastes have changed. Have you read Catcher in the Rye? I didn’t read that one until a few years ago and I loved it. Also enjoyed East of Eden very much. This was a while ago but I remember loving Rebecca, Gone with the Wind…anything by the Bronte sisters. I also liked Thomas Hardy.

      I remember that you had loved One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’ve never read anything by him so am looking forward to it! Toni Morrison too. I started and stopped and hope that I can get into her now.

  8. whatmeread says:

    I like Howard’s End better than A Passage to India, but they’re both good!

  9. A good idea! I’d participate, but I’ve already drawn up the list of books I’m planning to read this year (which includes several that I’ve owned for years but never got around to picking up). I adored Anna Karenina and I bet you will, too! P.S. – the cover is a hint; pay attention to the use of lilac throughout the novel.

  10. I am so guilty of not reading a classic for years now – more into the most recent offerings of books out there. I just might have to crack a classic open again. Happy Reading – Happy Day:)

    • Cecilia says:

      No pressure! I know how it is. I think I may have had too many bad memories associated with school assignments. But I read Catcher in the Rye and East of Eden most recently and loved them both, which led me to try and tackle some more classics.

  11. I love this classic book challenge, Cecilia. So many of us have tortured experiences regarding our English classes in the past when we weren’t old enough to appreciate what we were reading. This is a great way to revisit meaningful passages with the eye of a more lived life. I cannot wait to hear about the book you read.

    You’ve also inspired me read the books that I already own.

    • Cecilia says:

      Yes, thank you for saying that! There were some books that I enjoyed in my high school and college classes but overall I do feel that my experience was closer to negative. I’m hoping that by revisiting classics at my leisure and at this point in my life I will be able to appreciate the merit in those stories.

      Good luck tackling your to-read pile!

  12. What a fun idea! There are so many classics I haven’t read, including (hanging my head in shame) Anna Karenina from the top of your list, which my mom calls her favorite book. Oh, the embarrassment! :)

    • Cecilia says:

      Oh Kristen, I haven’t read it yet either! And I feel very behind on reading the classics, which is even more shameful for me since I was an English lit major :-( I feel that I read classics at an age at which I couldn’t appreciate them enough. Anyway, it is never too late!

  13. Anna Karenina is also on my list! :-) Good luck! :-)

  14. […] rolled out is #20. Boy, I didn’t see that one coming. So I got Howards End. When I posted my list last week I couldn’t decide between Howards End and A Passage to India. Those of you […]

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