Back to the Classics 2020

So I said no challenges this year. Right. Just call me a lemming, following the crowd, but all the posts about Karen’s Back to the Classics Challenge, and I find I’m somewhat helpless to resist. Especially as there are some fun categories this year (I’m looking forward to “Family” and “Nature in the Title”). It also helps that I have one qualifying title read already and another half-done. So there’s that.

The categories this year, and some possibilities:

  1. 19th Century Classic.Whatever doesn’t fit into any other category and was published between 1800-1899.
  2. 20th Century Classic. Whatever doesn’t fit into any other category and was published between 1900-1970.
  3. Classic by a Woman Author. Too many choices to decide so early. Agatha Christie? Jane Austen? Elizabeth Gaskell? Willa Cather? Edith Wharton?
  4. Classic in Translation. Hmm….well, if I read something else for #11 (Abandoned Classic), Ficciones (Jorge Luis Borges) could slot here. Most likely something translated from Spanish (knowing me), although it’s been along time since I’ve read anything from French. And I’ve never read any Russians (really!), so maybe I should try something there. I do have some Tolstoy on my shelves.
  5. Classic by a Person of Color. I have several possibilities on my Classics Club list: Native Son, Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), or Go Tell It on the Mountain (Or…Go Tell It on the Mountain could go for #9). I also keep seeing Nella Larson’s name, and it’s about time I finally read one of her novels.
  6. A Genre Classic. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. Already finished; I’ll be working on the post next!
  7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title. Karen says plays are okay and I’m thinking some Shakespeare this year, so maybe finally King Lear or Othello. Or Henry VI or Richard III or… Or maybe Jane Austen’s Emma, because rereads for the win?
  8. Classic with a Place in the Title. Is this the year I finally read Cranford? (Why I haven’t yet, I don’t know. I love Gaskell.) Or I might reread Mansfield Park, which I’ve been itching to get to for a while.
  9. Classic with Nature in the Title. I really don’t know what I want to read here. From my shelves, there’s The Rains Came by Louis Bromfield, which I could read as part of my Reading Ohio project as well.
  10. Classic About a Family. This will be a reread of One Hundred Years of Solitude. No debate.
  11. Abandoned Classic. I don’t actually have very many books I could choose from (and I do NOT plan to read both part of Don Quixote this year, even though Part 2 would count). Most likely Ficciones, although I could also finally read The Sound and the Fury (which only got away because of too many library books; I loved what I read).
  12. Classic Adaptation. Another fun category, I’m (currently) reading Far From the Madding Crowd for this. I also plan to watch the 2015 film once I’ve finished the novel, but that’s just for fun.

Of course, 2020 is very likely to be a year of lots of Agatha Christie (I’m on a roll…). She doesn’t count for every category, but I’m sure I could hit #s 2, 3, 7, 8, and 12 just with Dame Agatha alone. Last year, I even contemplated (but did not follow through on) the possibility of completing the challenge with only classic mysteries (I think it would be doable most years, although I’ve never abandoned a mystery, so #11 would be impossible for me this year). Which leads to other tantalizing list ideas…but more on that soon.

So many possibilities, but that’s half the fun of it! But will this be the year I actually read books for every category (and more importantly, write about them)? And do you have any votes for what I should (or shouldn’t read)? Community input always makes reading more fun!

Welcome 2020!

Happy New Year! Sitting here in NE Ohio, I know that it’s already 2020 in parts of the world – a rapidly growing list. This turn of year makes me happy; I’ve long had a fondness for even number years (and the repetition of “20” is particularly pleasing to my brain). Every new year brings with it a chance to reflect on what’s passed, an opportunity to create new plans for the path forward (that new leaf of a new year), and the hope of an unknown, blank slate. (Though in these often troubled, turbulent times, I am not blind to the reality that the new year could also usher in less optimistic options. I prefer to hope for and act to bring better.)

While we didn’t have a white Christmas this year, as I sit here typing, it seems we will have a white New Years—the snow is softly falling and cars are already covered in a fine layer. It seems appropriate; snow often brings with it a sense of newness. I look forward to curling up with a fresh new book tomorrow, starting the new year on literary note.

But what of 2019?

I had goals for the year, and although the blogging fell by the wayside, I never stopped reading.

  • I managed 29 books for the year, short of my goal of 36. Interestingly, I read 19 of those in the second half. There are various reasons why, including which books I read when, but I suspect I simply spent more time reading in the least 6 months than in the first (more time off work in the time frame helps!).
  • Seven of the books—and some of the best—I read this year, were non-fiction. This is down by (1) from 2018; I may have to reconsider my mental image of myself as “not a non-fiction reader.”
  • I also read a novel completely in Spanish for the first time ever! Sure, it was a kid’s book that I’d previously read in the original English (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, translated as Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal), but I read the entire thing and understood it, learning some new words along the way. I hope to build on this success going forward; after all there’s a small stack of books on my shelf in the original Spanish.
  • Other than that, I only read two works in translation this year—and they were also the oldest books I read, Iliad and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (Interestingly, also both poems.) Iliad I struggled with, finding it very slow, but Sir Gawain I quite enjoyed: if I hadn’t been trying feverishly to finish three other books this past week, I probably would have reread it for the Christmas season. (Which I guess technically doesn’t end until the 6th of January, so there’s still time!)
  • Both books were read for my Classics Club list, as was House of Mirth, which also doubled as one of the two readalong titles that I read. (Both hosted by Cleo of Classical Carousel.) Alas, I only just finished House of Mirth, two weeks late, and I never wrote anything (though I finished it on time) for The Four Loves (C.S. Lewis). However, regardless of my level of participation/lateness, I always find readalongs great for pushing me to read books that I might not get to otherwise.
  • Most of the books I read this year were by women: I count 20 books written or co-written by a woman and 11 written or co-written by a man. (Two books I read had a M/F author combo.) This only represents about 14 different female authors—I read a lot of books by the same authors!
  • I also read a lot of books from the past decade, including two from 2019, which skews my reading “younger” that it might typically be. This is in part because most of the nonfiction I read was from the last few years. But also because I decided to toss all other plans aside and read both sequels to Crazy Rich Asians (so much fun!) and books 2-4 of the Comeron Strike series (when’s the next one out?!). Unsurprisingly, mysteries turned out to be the second-largest category for my reading this year (six), after non-fiction.
  • Although the bulk of my reading was by US authors—far and away, with 16 different writers—I did travel  a bit, with books set in Canada; Ancient Troy (Turkey); Scotland; London; as well as hotspot hopping with the characters of China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, most notably Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

In the end, I finished the year with several new favorites (listed in order read):

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – Anonymous – I really need to read more Medieval lit.
  • Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates – which as Toni Morrison is quoted as saying, should be required reading. I want to read more of Coates’ writing.
  • The Comoran Strike series – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) – I simply enjoy these so much.
  • How to Do Nothing – Jenny Odell – A very thought-provoking extended meditation on resisting the “attention economy” of social and traditional media.
  • The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton – it took me a while to get into it, but definitely a finely drawn portrait of a specific time and social milieu.

What I did NOT do this year was complete any of my challenges/goals. Only three books for Adam’s TBR Challenge and five for Karen’s Back to the Classics Challenge. And the only book I posted about at all for either was Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Oops.

So what does this all mean for 2020?

Just keep reading. Specifically, average 5 hours of reading time a week. (It doesn’t sound like a lot when you know a week is 168 hours, but based on everything else on my schedule, is realistic. And better than nothing.) And write about anything I might read for Classics Club or readalongs.

That’s it. My only hard and fast goal/challenge for 2020.

Sure, I have other ideas of what I might read. Tentative plans. More mysteries. Some Shakespeare, I think. Some books I’d like to clear off my shelves. And of course, I’d like to join in on readalongs that catch my eye:

  • Cleo has a The Odyssey readalong planned for April-May.
  • I’m also tempted by a March-April readalong of One Hundred Years of Solitude planned by Ruth and Silvia (it would be a reread, if I join in).
  • Richard is hosting “Argentine Literature of Doom,” which fortunately just means read something Argentinian (see his post for the “doom” explanation). I’m planning to join in so that I finally read Jorge Luis Borge’s Ficciones (in English).

I’ve also signed up for Erica’s Reading Classics Books Challenge, but it’s designed to be low-stress and fun, so honestly, I’m hoping it acts more as a way to choose which book I’m reading next rather than a challenge to conquer. The first book for it will be my Classics Club spin title, Far from the Madding Crowd.

But as the old year turns to new, I’ll be starting here, with a small library stack tying in to my 2019 reading – more mysteries and non-fiction. A good place to start, I think.

What are your 2020 plans?

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!

And the Spin is…

Lucky number 19!

Sir Gawain first page 670x990

It never fails – the book that I get for a Classics Club spin is never one of the ones I had my fingers crossed for–or even one that the comments discuss! No one mentioned Sir Gawain and the Green Knight at all – apparently not very popular? Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of my own, so it’s translation selection time. As I’ve been doing some quick research, I’m becoming more excited about this title, though–can’t wait to have it in my hands!

Did you spin? Are you looking forward to–or dreading!–your selection?

Happy reading!

Classics Spin #20

Question Mark - cover place holder

So there’s another Classics Spin? And I still haven’t finished my book from the last spin? And there’s a pile of library books still waiting to be finished?

Well, sign me up, of course!

It’s a mark of my consistent bookish optimism that I keep signing up for the spins, but there’s just something so irresistible about letting a “roll of the dice” decide my next read – at least, when dozens of other readers are playing along! And so, I present my semi-randomized list of twenty:

  1. Carson, Anne, translator – An Oresteia (Greece, 5th century BCE)
  2. Poe, Edgar Allan – Tales of Mystery and Imagination (U.S., 1830s-40s)
  3. Radcliffe, Ann – The Italian (England, 1797)
  4. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de – Three Exemplary Novels (Spain, 1613)
  5. Gaskell, Elizabeth – Cranford (England, 1853)
  6. Brontë, Anne – Agnes Grey (England, 1847)
  7. Anonymous – The Epic of Gilgaesh (Sumerian, c. 2150-1000 BCE)
  8. Huxley, Aldous – Brave New World (England, 1932)
  9. Wright, Richard – Native Son (U.S., 1940)
  10. Baldwin, James – Go Tell It on the Mountain (U.S., 1953)
  11. Cather, Willa – Death Comes for the Archbishop (U.S., 1927)
  12. Anonymous – Beowulf (Anglo-Saxon, between 8th-11th centuries)
  13. Camões, Luís Vaz de – The Lusiad (Portugal, 1572)
  14. Bolaño, Roberto – 2666 (Chile, 2004)
  15. Bromfield, Louis – The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
  16. Woolf, Virginia – Mrs. Dalloway (England, 1925)
  17. Lawrence, D.H. – Sons and Lovers (England, 1913)
  18. Wharton, Edith – The House of Mirth (U.S., 1905)
  19. Anonymous – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (England, 14th century)
  20. Anonymous – Nibelungenlied (Germany, 13th century)

I’m most hoping for The Farm (#15) as I’d like to read it this spring. Or there’s Gilgamesh (#7) which is one of those library books that I should be reading anyways… But really, I won’t complain (I don’t think…) if I get any of these.

Any favorites you hope I get?

Happy spinning!

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.