I’ve just got thirteen titles left on my original Classics Club list of fifty classics I opted to read in, um, the Cretaceous period and which I subsequently revised to exclude books I never would read. About half of these would be rereads (RR) of works I read before this century, with at least one example — Kipling’s Kim — first completed way more than a half-century ago!
Here are those 13 laggards, in author alphabetical order.
- Petronius Arbiter: The Satyricon RR
- Frances Hodgson Burnett: A Little Princess
- Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist RR
- George Eliot: Middlemarch
- Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game RR
- Charles Kingsley: Hypatia
- Rudyard Kipling: Kim RR
- D H Lawrence: The Princess and other stories
- Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince
- L M Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables
- Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast
- Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer RR
- Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto RR
A fair old mish-mash this, with children’s classics, short stories, a couple of Gothick romances, a statesman’s handbook, tales set in the Roman Empire, and a couple or so written when Britain still had its own ill-gotten empire. Where to start on that final flight of literary stairs?
What I really needed were prompts to get me settled down to whittling this list down as close to zero as possible, so I, erm, zeroed in on Back to the Classics 2022, a meme that Karen (of Karen’s Books and Chocolate) devised. Could I fit some of my titles into her categories?
1. A 19th century classic. Any book first published from 1800 to 1899. Hypatia perhaps?
2. A 20th century classic. Any book first published from 1900 to 1972. “All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1972 and posthumously published.” Maybe The Glass Bead Game?
3. A classic by a woman author. A couple of titles leap out immediately: A Little Princess? Anne of Green Gables?
4. A classic in translation. Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. “You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer.” The Satyricon? It’s in Latin, a language I only just passed an exam in when I was 16.
5. A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author. ???
6. Mystery/Detective/Crime classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction (true crime). ???
7. A classic short story collection. Any single volume that contains at least six short stories. “The book can have a single author or can be an anthology of multiple authors.” The Princess and Other Stories? The pieces are all by D H Lawrence, an author I’ve never really got down to reading.
8. Pre-1800 classic. Anything written before 1800. “Plays and epic poems, such as the Odyssey, are acceptable in this category.” The Castle of Otranto? I’ve been intending to revisit this 18th-century classic, the first ‘Gothick’ novel, ever such a long time.
9. A nonfiction classic. “Travel, memoirs, and biographies are great choices for this category.” The Prince? It fits the bill, and it’s short…
10. Classic that’s been on your TBR list the longest. Hmm… Kim? My copy was given to me by my parents when I was a kid.
11. Classic set in a place you’d like to visit. “Can be real or imaginary — Paris, Tokyo, the moon, Middle Earth, etc.” Gormenghast? I did so enjoy its precursor, Titus Groan.
12. Wild card classic. “Any classic book you like, any category, as long as it’s at least 50 years old!” Oliver Twist? Tom Sawyer?
What I’m missing are titles for numbers 5 and 6. It’s not been long since I read Black No More by George S Schuyler for the Vintage SciFi Month so technically I could also count that as as a classic by a non-white author. I’ve also got a policier by Georges Simenon from the library so, since he ceased writing fiction in 1972, that also fits into Karen’s criterion for a classic, being more than 50 years old.
Anyway, these works are now all listed in my Classics Club page where I’ll keep a tally of how I’m doing should you be interested. Step by step, slow and steady, I hope to get there over the months left to 2022. Just this final flight of stairs…
I know many of you have your own personal challenges, goals or prompts to get you reading those few recalcitrant novels or nonfiction works that give you a guilty stare. Do you have a strategy to tackle them which works for you?