Tuesday, 8 November 2011

All about how I read 12 Classics in 2011

So I feel like I’m allowed to be a bit smug at the moment because I’ve totally managed to cross something off my Not Really Resolutions list. Namely that I would read 12 Classics this year.

The debate as to what constitutes a Classic continues to rage on, both in my head and with the people that I talk to about it but I have decided to take a stance that it’s not up to me to decide what makes a Classic, I’m leaving it firmly in the hands of the publishers and if they call it a Classic then far be it from me to argue with them.

So here they are in all their glory. Yes you are right there are only 11 in this pile but that’s because I read Treasure Island on my phone remember? (See yet another argument against eReaders – I wouldn’t have been able to take a cool picture like this one if I’d read them all in eBook form!)

The final twelve
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
- Midnight's Children
- The Moonstone
- The Picture of Dorian Gray
- Wuthering Heights
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles
- Things Fall Apart
- Go Tell it on the Mountain
- Treasure Island
- The Great Gatsby
- Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
- The Dud Avocado

So I figured that really I should do a bit of reflecting on my list and see what I thought of them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a literary dunce, I do my fair share of reading and I try to read quality stuff, but I decided to undertake this because I didn’t feel like I was getting enough of the heavyweight stuff in my diet. Think of this as the literary version of getting more fibre in my system.

I feel the list is pretty representative of all that’s out there under the banner of Classic at the moment – there’s some old stuff, some more modern stuff, and a bit of obscure stuff thrown in for measure.

(I apologise for the overuse of the word “stuff” in this post but my brain is fried now and it’s either less eloquent blogging or no blogging at all at the moment.)

As a very wide and sweeping generalisation I would say that I think I’m a fan of the older Classics than the Modern Classics, the Classic Classics, or CCs, if you will. They seem to be much more character and plot driven than Modern Classics (MCs) which tend to be a little more abstract and thematic, requiring the reader to work much harder to discover what the bloody hell it is they’re banging on about it.

So yes, basically I like the CCs that are a little easier on the brain, hence negating the whole concept of this idea in the first place.

But that has in turn thrown up kind of an interesting observation. If someone said to me they were reading a CC I think I would probably be very impressed and nod my head sagely and think how terribly clever they are. Having now read a few of these CCs I think I would be slightly less impressed because really I know that you’re just reading an earlier version of Marian Keyes. The myth has been blown people.

And the people who say that they’re reading a MC – well I know that there’s more than the slight probability that they’re erring on the pretentious side. And if not, they’re simply too clever and intelligent to want to converse with me.

There have been a few surprises along the way – namely Wuthering Heights which I read, waiting to be bowled over by the tragic love story....I’m still waiting. I just cannot see what the fuss is about that book. And then I picked up Tess of the d’Urbervilles almost shaking in my boots such were the awful things that I’ve heard about Hardy and it actually turned out to be one of my favourites of the bunch, it almost broke my heart.

My Dad’s wife had snipped out a brief article from a Sunday paper a while ago that said that there is some ridiculous percentage of people who have books on the bookshelves purely for the reason that they look good to other people. Never fear, I have kept these books for the purposes of the photoshoot for this blogpost and some of them will not be staying with me, much as I would like to keep them to point at them and say “LOOK HOW CLEVER I AM EVERYONE.” However, I am ruthless with the books I read and anything that didn’t really really really get me will not be staying. What’s the point in me filling my shelves with books I’m never going to read again?

The article also said that people will lie about reading Classics. I can also confirm this is true. The reason why is totally beyond me. Because they’re jerks?


The favourites?
The Moonstone – I really loved this and The Woman in White is on my Christmas list if anyone happens to be taking note.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles – I’m flexing my muscles and I reckon I’m ready to take on another Hardy. Yes he isn’t the cheeriest of chaps but he can’t half tell a story.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – One word. Charming. But it’s fluff.

The not so much favourites?
Midnight’s Children – This still makes me shudder when I think about it. Begone with you confusing pretentious book.

Wuthering Heights – A victim of hype? Maybe I expected too much?

The Great Gatsby – Erm.....I don’t geddit. Sorry.

The surprises?
Treasure Island – How this was aimed at small children I don’t know. And it apparently was, it was originally serialised in a children’s magazine between 1881-82 (thank you Wikipedia) and hats off to those kiddlywinks because this was kind of boring at times. But then it would be oh my goodness so incredibly exciting that I almost couldn’t bear it. I still couldn’t really tell you if I liked it or not.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Proof that you don’t need to write a tome to write something that’s incredibly affecting.

If you missed out on all the fun that has been the reviews of each of these Classics (and let me tell you, it was quite a treat, go and feast your eyes on the literally 1s of comments) then you can find them all by clicking on the Not Really Resolutions of 2011 page.

I am most definitely going to carry this on into 2012 because it’s been an interesting little treat for my brain. Also I’ve been going mad all year buying Classics so I now have a shelf full of them and need to get through them.

Now I really must go and rest my gigantanormous brain down somewhere.


  1. I'm slightly ashamed to admit it but I've not read ANY of those 12, isn't that awful?! Although I suppose neither had you until a few months ago. I'm more ashamed to say that I don't think I've even read 12 books of any description this year! I think I need to stop driving to work and get the bus again because I definitely read more then.

    Sounds as though you got a lot out of the challenge though and it's interesting to see which you liked and which disappointed - always good to step out of your comfort zone with anything. (Sorry I think that was a bit of an incoherent ramble...) x

  2. Nice work reading all of those~!!!

  3. Oh, oh, yes, read Woman in White. Sooo good. I read it for a Brit lit class last year and was easily my favorite of the bunch. It's one of the first mystery novels and the PoV shifts are fascinating.

    I rather liked the Great Gatsby, mostly because of the diction. It's beautifully written, but the plot is a bit lacking, it's true.

  4. Yay go you!!!!!!!!!!! I think this is a GREAT idea! I shall make a list of books I must read for 2012 I haven't done that with my book targets before- I think War and Peace needs to be on there- it's been wearing down the classics section of my shelf for several years because it looks so blooming looooong! This would be good because I read too many frivolous books!
    Oh and you say you want to read the woman in white. Also read Wilkie Collins' 'No name' it's brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!
    (Oh and I'm having a little giveaway if hats float your boat at all- pop over if you like!)

  5. I'm with you on Wuthering Heights - read it at school and all the girls were swooning over Heathcliff and wanting to be Cathy - all I could see was a deeply unhealthy relationship between too fantastically unlikeable people!

    Also, totally agree on the MC vs CC thing :)

  6. I very much like your The Not Really Resolutions idea. I think it takes the pressure off having resolutions that need to be rigourously stuck to every day. Yours are much more realistic. Without making a resolution, I too have tried to read a few more 'classics' and trying to get through some of the many unread books on my shelves.
    I agree alot on what you say, I must comment however on the point you make about people who read the modern classics being either pretentious or too clever to want to converse with you...where does that place you reading a mc then? ;
    Kier x

  7. I think I might try this too. I'm absolutely with you on Wuthering Heights. I read it at school (in my last year so I wasn't too young for it or anything) and just didn't get it at all. It was all too fevered, and the characters were horrible! I couldn't even empathse with them, let alone sympathise.. I've tried re-reading it but have never got anywhere with it. But I should give some other classics a go!

  8. I have really enjoyed this resolution and reading all your posts about it. really. Really really.

    In fact, I'm thinking of resolving it myself next year.

    I'm currently enjoying Trollope's The Way We Live Now if you fancy CC tome it's not bad! Or you could try Jude The Obscure. But don't say I didn't warn you...

  9. I really like Hardy...not sure what people say about him...but Wuthering Heights - maybe you needed to study it? It was my first classic and at first it was hard going with Lockwood but then I grew to love it. I think it is all the imagery, metaphors and pathetic fallacy etc and little details the teacher pointed out...who knows? xxx

  10. Oh I am pleased you enjoyed Miss Pettigrew. I'm very fond of that sort of pre-1950s fiction. It's not demanding and I find it very soothing.


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