Back to the Classics 2021

Button: Back to the Classics Challenge 2021

Although I have some semi-ambitious goals for how much I will read in 2021, I don’t feel compelled to attach myself to any particular challenges–except for Karen’s Back to the Classics challenge! This one is always fun, and after finally reading all 12 categories last year, I want to see if I can do it again. I’m also hoping to improve on 2020 in one way: reading more books that are actually on my Classics Club list. Of course, the way these things go, some shiny classic will probably pop onto my radar and distract me from my good intentions, but as long as I’m reading, it’s good!

This year’s categories:

  1. A 19th century classic.
  2. A 20th century classic. and posthumously published.
  3. A classic by a woman author.
  4. A classic in translation.
  5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author.
  6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read.
  7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author — a new book by an author whose works you have already read.
  8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title.
  9. A children’s classic.
  10. A humorous or satirical classic.
  11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction).
  12. A classic play.

I don’t have any specific plans at this point – there’s so many possibilities!

If I’m to stick to my Classics Club list, the play would likely be from Anne Carson’s translation An Oresteia, which I was supposed to read for a Classics Club spin in September, but didn’t get to. I don’t think I have anything humorous or satirical on my list, but I do have several P.G. Wodehouse on my shelves, so that’s a good possibility. Several people have listed The Leopard as their likely classic about an animal or with an animal in the title, and it’s on my Club list, so possible.

The category that’s a new-to-you classic by a favorite author is interesting. I still have several unread Elizabeth Gaskell I could read, or, there’s The Sound and the Fury, which I think I’ve pledged to read the last two years. Maybe this will be the year?

More likely than not, the 2021 challenge reading will be like 2020: I’ll end up reading books that strike my interest and slotting them in where they fit. And hopefully that only means one or two books to deliberately seek out at the end of the year.

Looking forward to a new year of classic reading!

Back to the Classics 2020, Wrapped

There’s nothing like pushing it to the last minute, but I did it! For the first time, I’ve managed to read books for all 12 categories in the Back to the Classics Challenge AND write about them (for 3 entries in the challenge).

I actually read more than 12 classics in 2020, but that ones listed below are the books I felt best fit Karen’s categories. Other than #5, I didn’t have to make a deliberate plan for any of these categories, in fact, for some of them I had finished the book before I realized that it was a perfect fit (such as The Wind in the Willows).

It feels like it’s been a long time since I read some of these: did I really read The Nibelungenlied this year?

As far as the books, I enjoyed most of them. (I don’t think “enjoyed” really applies to a book like Native Son, but I’m happy I read it.) I can’t believe it took me until this year to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Jane Austen is always a treat, and Cranford was a wonderful treat. But if I had to pick a top read, it would probably be the short story collection Ficciones. There’s no good reason it had been previously abandoned; sometimes I just do that.

My biggest disappointment with this list? Most of them aren’t on my Classics Club list – something to work on for next year!

  1. 19th Century Classic. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (1811)
  2. 20th Century Classic. Appointment in Samarra – John O’Hara (1934)
  3. Classic by a Woman Author. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe (1794)
  4. Classic in Translation. The Decameron – Giovanni Boccaccio (Italian, 1350-53)
  5. Classic by a Person of Color. Native Son – Richard Wright (1940)
  6. A Genre Classic. The Secret Adversary – Agatha Christie (1922)
  7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain (1876)
  8. Classic with a Place in the Title. Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell (1851-53)
  9. Classic with Nature in the Title. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame (1908)
  10. Classic About a Family. The Nibelungenlied – Anonymous (c 1200)
  11. Abandoned Classic. Ficciones – Jorge Luis Borges (1956)
  12. Classic Adaptation. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy (1874)

(simplerpastimes [at] gmail [dot] com)

Reading Classic Books Challenge

Erica at the The Broken Spine is hosting what looks to be a fun, low-stress classics challenge in 2020, the Reading Classic Books Challenge. Books may count for up to two categories, and merely have to be at least 50 years old (well, and fit one of the prompts!). Knowing that I already have at least two books lined up in the queue for January(ish), plus some other classics I hope to get to this year, I think it will play nicely with my low stakes reading plans.

The Prompts:

1) Read a classic over 500 pages
2) Read a classic by a POC and/or with a POC as the main character
3) Read a classic that takes place in a country other than where you live
4) Read a classic in translation
5) Read a classic by a new to you author
6) Read a book of poetry
7) Read a classic written between 1800-1860
8) Read a classic written by an LGBT author and/or with an LGBT main character
9) Read a classic written by a woman
10) Read a classic novella
11) Read a classic nonfiction
12) Read a classic that has been banned or censored

I could probably hit all these just off my bookshelves, but we’ll see where 2020 leads me! If you’re looking for prompting to read more classics in 2020, you should consider joining in!

Classics to Read, A Shorter List

January and February turned out to be even busier than I had anticipated (and I knew they might be a bit), as I found myself dumped into an unexpected (but surprisingly educational) work deadline that of course led to a domino effect of other difficult deadlines, and so forth. All that to say that I’m not even close to having my “chunkster” Classics Spin read finished. Just not enough reading time (sad face)…or maybe too much Netflix and knitting. Oops. (On the other hand, my sweater is finally coming along swimmingly…only been working on that for a year!)

I realized late last year, though, that I don’t actually have a proper, registered with the club, list. I have A List: 125 titles long, I’ve been reading from it, using it for Spin title selections. But after my first list expired and I posted a second list, I never actually informed the Club. So. Looking at my list—and at reality—I decided it was time for Classics Club v2b. I’m finally ready to acknowledge the truth of my reading habits, so it’s been pared down to just 50 titles. Although it’s now March (where does the time go?!), since I started reading in January, I’ll say my reading dates are January 1, 2019-January 1, 2024.

My priorities in selecting my 50 titles (all of which came from the previous list) were:

A) Books I was already planning to read this year / next year
B) Books already on my shelves
C) Books I feel every other classics lover has read but me
D) Books that bring diversity of authorship or thought

The bonus, of course, was where any of these priorities overlapped! A couple rereads sneaked in because they were already on my read-soon pile, but otherwise, I avoided those as well.

  1. Anonymous: The Epic of Gilgamesh (Sumerian, c. 2150-1000 BCE)*
  2. Homer: The Iliad (Greece, c. 8th century BCE)
  3. Homer: The Odyssey (Greece, c. 8th century BCE)*
  4. Carson, Anne, translator: An Oresteia (Greece, 5th century BCE)
  5. Virgil: The Aeneid [Aeneis] (Rome, 29-19 BCE)
  6. Boethius: The Theological Tractates and Consolation of Philosophy (Rome, 523)
  7. Anonymous: Beowulf (Anglo-Saxon, between 8th-11th centuries)*
  8. Anonymous: Njal’s Saga (Iceland, 13th century)
  9. Anonymous: Nibelungenlied (Germany, 13th century)
  10. Anonymous: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (England, 14th century)
  11. Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales (England, 1380s)
  12. Camões, Luís Vaz de: The Lusiad (Portugal, 1572)
  13. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: Don Quixote (Spain, 1605, 1615)
  14. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de: Three Exemplary Novels (Spain, 1613)†
  15. Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels (England, 1726)
  16. Radcliffe, Ann: The Italian (England, 1797)
  17. Poe, Edgar Allan: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (U.S., 1830s-40s)
  18. Stendhal: The Charterhouse of Parma (France, 1839)
  19. Brontë, Anne: Agnes Grey (England, 1847)
  20. Dickens, Charles: Bleak House (England, 1853)
  21. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Cranford (England, 1853)
  22. Trollope, Anthony: Barchester Towers (England, 1857)
  23. Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables (France, 1862)
  24. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Wives and Daughters (England, 1865)
  25. Eliot, George: Middlemarch (England, 1871-72)
  26. Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd (England, 1874)
  27. Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina (Russia, 1877)
  28. James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction (U.S., 1878-1908)‡
  29. James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady (U.S., 1881)
  30. Zola, Émile: Germinal (France, 1885)
  31. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Russia, 1886-1912)§
  32. Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth (U.S., 1905)
  33. Lawrence, D.H.: Sons and Lovers (England, 1913)
  34. Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway (England, 1925)
  35. Kafka, Franz: “Metamorphosis” and The Trial (Bohemia, 1915, 1925)
  36. Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop (U.S., 1927)
  37. Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury (U.S., 1929)
  38. Faulkner, William: Light in August (U.S., 1932)
  39. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (England, 1932)
  40. Bromfield, Louis: The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
  41. Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls (U.S., 1940)
  42. Wright, Richard: Native Son (U.S., 1940)
  43. Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man (U.S., 1952)
  44. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (U.S., 1952)
  45. Baldwin, James: Go Tell It on the Mountain (U.S., 1953)
  46. Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe: The Leopard [Il Gattopardo] (Italy, 1958)
  47. Borges, Jorge Luis: Ficciones (Argentina, 1962)
  48. Cortázar, Julio: Hopscotch [Rayuela] (Argentina, 1963)
  49. Morrison, Toni: Beloved (U.S., 1987)
  50. Bolaño, Roberto: 2666 (Chile, 2004)

Now, just to get reading!

* Indicates a reread.
† Vicente Llorens, ed., 1964. Includes El Licenciado Vidriera, El Casamiento Enganoso, and El Coloquio de los Perros
‡ Includes The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller*, Washington Square, The Beast in the Jungle, and The Jolly Corner
§ Includes The Prisoner of the Caucasus, The Diary of a Madman, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, The Devil, Master and Man, Father Sergius, After the Ball, The Forged Coupon, Alyosha the Pot, and Hadji Murat

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Back to the Classics 2019

Button: Back to the Classics Challenge 2019

They say (whoever “they” is?) that success breeds success, so in the spirit of having finished 8 books for this in 2018, I’d say it’s only appropriate to join in on Back to the Classics for the fourth year in a row. Right?

Hosted by Karen from Books and Chocolate, the categories this year are (all books must be at least 50 years old):

1.  A 19th Century Classic
2.  A 20th century classic
3.  A classic by a woman author
4.  A classic in translation
5.  Classic Comic Novel
6.  Classic Tragic Novel
7.  Very Long Classic
8.  Classic Novella
9.  Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean)
10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia)
11.  Classic From a Place You’ve Lived
12. Classic Play

(More details/rules at Karen’s original post.)

I have some ideas (based largely on my TBR list), but most likely selections will be determined as I finish books. 19th and 20th century classics will be whatever I read first that doesn’t fit another category. A Classic by a Woman will most likely be something by Elizabeth Gaskell or Edith Wharton. I have sooooo many translations planned for next year, that #4 will be whoever’s first up!  On the other hand, #10 will definitely require planning (nothing on my shelves at the moment fits the bill) and I may have to do some thinking for the comic and tragic novels. The one book I know for sure – Place I’ve Lived. I’ve been working on an Ohio-reading project off and on for a few years, and next up on the list is The Farm by Louis Bromfield. (Really, “Ohio” is too easy to find books for this challenge–if I wanted to make it difficult, I’d have to narrow it down to my hometown or its general region. That might be hard to find!)

Thanks again to Karen for hosting. Now what to read first…?

My participation tracking page.