"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Re-thinking My Classics Club list

Sometime in 2011 I joined the Classics Club. As instructed I created a list of 50 books considered classics I'd like to read and hoped to finish my list in five years, as the club suggested. Instead of finishing the list in five years, I kept adding to the list. It now contains 95 titles and though I have read 45 books on it, I am clearly not making progress, as I'd hoped, on finishing the task. Each time I come across a list of must-read classics, I go back and add titles willy-nilly. See my Classics Club list here.

Prior to the Classics Club, I had launched into a personal project to read all the novels in the textbook room assigned by the English department. Most of these books I should have read when I was in school myself but somehow didn't. I never finished that project either, though I made a lot of progress. I read familiar titles like Nineteen Eighty Four, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Bless Me, Ultima, Great Gatsby, and Things Fall Apart before I slowed down. Obviously I hadn't read many classics when I was in school. Ha!

To increase the likelihood that I would actually read the classics on my lists, I have joined the Classics Club Spins several times. Unfortunately the last four spin books have left me feeling flat. I hated one of them, Wide Sargasso Sea. I struggled with another, The Name of the Rose. I was unimpressed by a third, My Brilliant Career. And I am stuck in the first fifth of East of Eden and can't seem to make myself read it. Clearly I haven't done a good job picking books to add to my list.

This week I purchased a lovely book Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount. Ms. Mount, an artist, creates lovely pages of book covers on topics like: favorites, best children's books, cult classics, etc. As I have begun to look over her pages and illustrations it struck me that I should reorganize my list of classics into categories, rather than by titles only, so that I am not always reading books from the same time periods or same types of themes. Based on lists from Bibliophile I would create the categories, then list a few titles within that category I'd be willing to read, but I wouldn't be tied down to those only, just to reading a few books from that category.

Let me see. Where could I start, if I decide to reorganize my list? Here are some suggestions from Bibliophile:

  • Cult Classics: The Princess Pride; Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; Geek Love; Invisible Cities
  • Novels of the 1800s: The Picture of Dorian Gray; Frankenstein; A Tale of Two Cities
  • Novels of the early 1900s (Disenchantment): The House of Mirth; Siddhartha; Metamorphosis; Grapes of Wrath
  • Mid-1900s (Losing It): Invisible Man; On the Road; Franny and Zooey; The End of the Affair; The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
  • Novels of the late 1900s (Greed and Growth): The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Lonesome Dove; The Joy Luck Club; White Noise
  • Novels of the Millenium: Cloud Atlas; Bel Canto; The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; The Fine Balance; The Hours
  • Southern Lit: As I Lay Dying; Known World; Interview With a Vampire; The Member of the Wedding; Savage the Bones
  • Love and Romance: North and South; Giovanni's Room; Romeo and Juliet; Anna Karenina
  • Mysteries: The Big Sleep; The Talented Mr. Ripley; Sherlock Holmes; Murder on the Orient Express
  • Fantasy and Sci-Fi: The Mists of Avalon; The Dark is Rising; Howl's Moving Castle; Foundations; Dune; The Martian Chronicles
  • Dystopia: We; The Parable of the Sower; The Red Rising
  • Technothrills: To Say Nothing of the Dog; The Time Machine; The Illustrated Man; Necromancer; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; The Day of the Triffids
  • Historical fiction: The Scarlet Letter; Wolf Hall; The Pillars of the Earth: Silence
  • Short Story Collections: Nine Stories; This is What We Talk About When We talk About Love; Dubliners; the Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
  • Around the World: Under the Tuscan Sky; The Inheritance of Loss; Seven Years in Tibet; A Room With a View; The Sheltering Sky
  • Memoirs: Just Kids; Wild Swans; The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • War: Catch-22; The Killer Angels; All Quiet on the Western Front; The Art of War
  • Mortality: The Death of Ivan Ilyich; A Separate Peace; A Grief Observed; History Is All You Left Me
  • Finding Meaning: Man's Search for Meaning: Siddhartha; The Tao of Pooh; The Happiness Project
  • Sports: A River Runs Through It; End Zone; Fever Pitch
  • Formative Favorites: The Westing Game; James and the Giant Peach; Are You There God? It's Me Margaret; Hatchet
  • Girl Stars: The Secret Garden; I Am Malala; Pippi Longstockings: Harriet the Spy
  • Coming-of-Age: Dear Martin; Go Tell It On the Mountain; Annie John; Weetzie Bat
  • Picture Books: The Night Kitchen: I Want My Hat Back; The Lion and the Mouse
The list of books within each category are not the full lists that Ms. Mount listed in her book, Bibliophile. They just represent examples of books I haven't read yet and have heard of before. I can think of some categories she didn't name: Russians; Pulitzers; Westerns; Animals come to mind. And I didn't list some of the categories that she did because I wasn't interested in reading the books on her lists: Essays; Nonfiction; Science and Nature.

So if I were to reorganize my Classics Club list I could incorporate the titles into these and possibly other categories. I suspect I will find a lot of the titles fit into just a few categories. By doing this I could vary my classic reading more. If I participate in another CC Spin, once the number is selected I would match it up with the category and then make my selection of a book from within that category which would help me find a book which matches my mood at that time.

I'm liking that idea.

What do you think? Do you think this is a workable plan? I would no longer have a definitive list to work off of when selecting my next classics book but would have many more options. Hopefully I will select some good ones.



  1. More options is always good. I like the sound of this new classics plan. Good luck...and happy reading! :)

  2. That's a great idea! Some of the books are longer (or heavier) than others. I enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I read a long time ago.

    1. It has been on my TBR list for years. I should just read it!

  3. I like this idea, but maybe it's because we're librarians :-) Seriously though, I think this new idea gives you more freedom in your class reading choices. Sometimes we're just in the mood for a certain type of book.

    1. I wonder if this would just extend my whole Classics list by adding MORE books to it. Sigh.

  4. I think this sounds like a good plan. My mood is so important to my reading choices. I’ve quit on some really good books (I think?) because I wasn’t in the right mood. I also like to change it up and not read too many of the same genre in a row or I get tired. So I think your plan would help that.

  5. I think this is an excellent idea. I have modified my list several times. I've even modified my second CC list, and I only created it a few months ago. I like to add books that currently have a read along (Moby Dick, in August) and delete books I've changed my mind about reading.

    I also tried to have a few long books on my list as well as a few short books. I think that also keeps me motivated.

  6. The thing I've always loved about the CC is that there is no right or wrong way to collate reading lists. I've also adjusted my cc lists numerous times over the years. After fluffing around with cc list #1 too long, I finally drew a line under what I had read and started cc list #2.

    Sorry you're not enjoying East of Eden - it's my favourite Steinbeck (to date) nut that's the thing with classics (& all books I guess) we all have our preferences. Your category system may make it easier for you to filter out those ones that don't work for you.

    Your new method may also inspire others who need a more flexible approach as well :-)


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