The last flight

Waterstone’s bookshop, Edinburgh (photo: C A Lovegrove)

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.

  1. Petronius Arbiter: The Satyricon RR
  2. Frances Hodgson Burnett: A Little Princess
  3. Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist RR
  4. George Eliot: Middlemarch
  5. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game RR
  6. Charles Kingsley: Hypatia
  7. Rudyard Kipling: Kim RR
  8. D H Lawrence: The Princess and other stories
  9. Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince
  10. L M Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables
  11. Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast
  12. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer RR
  13. 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?

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The best-laid plans

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Each year recently I’ve resolved to either eschew reading challenges altogether or make them manageable by calling them goals or wishes. And each year I find myself sorely tempted by shiny new-to-me memes.

It will surprise none of you that 2021 seems to be the same old same old. In 2016 I succeeded in completing the quantity of books I’d aimed (in the Goodreads Reading Challenge) for by year’s end simply by underestimating the number I was certain to finish, and that’s continued to be the case for five years. But other goals have been more elusive: the fifty titles I listed to be ticked off for the Classics Club challenge ending 2020 remained unachieved, even though I changed some of my choices.

So, Twenty-Twenty-one, how goes it?

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Twelve classics

Karen (who blogs at Karen’s Books and Chocolate) is again hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge, a year-long challenge in which participants are encouraged to finally read the classics they’ve always meant to read — or just recently discovered. “At the end of the year, one lucky winner will receive a prize of thirty US dollars in books from the bookstore of their choice.”

Karen asks readers to read from twelve categories in 2021. She offers one entry to the prize to anyone who reads from six categories, two entries to a reader from nine categories, and three entries to a reader from all twelve categories. Now while I’m not too fussed about the prize (I’m already hemmed in by surplus books, despite my credo that ‘you can never have too many books‘) I do like the look of the options; and much as I keep repeating that I don’t ‘do’ reading challenges, I think I can manage the categories from titles I already have on my shelves.

And as I have yet to complete the list of fifty titles for Classics Club which I originally committed to finish by 31st December 2020 (I’ve extended the challenge to the end of 2021) most of my Back to the Classics list will be drawn from there.

Here are the categories for 2021, with my choices:

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