CRP: Checking In

The Classics Reclamation Project is my personal challenge to read and enjoy the classics. Each Wednesday, I post about the classic I’m reading at the moment.

The Classics Reclamation Project

I’m giving myself a break this week. Between Reading Buddies, the large number of review copies currently on my plate, and more traveling than usual, I didn’t make enough progress with any classic to post about it here. I’m okay with that–I know it’s temporary, plus this project is supposed to be fun. So, instead of stressing about reading a classic for this week’s post, I decided to take a look at how my project is going so far.

Since I launched my Classics Reclamation Project at the end of last year, I’ve read a total of twelve books (more if you count each book of The Chronicles of Narnia separately!). They are:

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Part 1 | Part 2)
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (audiobook)
3. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (audiobook)
4. Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (audiobook)
5. The Epic of Gilgamesh (audiobook)
6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
7. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke (Part 1 | Part 2)
8. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré
9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
10. Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney (audiobook)
11. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (audiobook)
12. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

A few observations about the list so far:

  • The earliest book on the list is The Epic of Gilgamesh, written over 3,000 years ago.
  • The most recent was The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, published in 1963.
  • Most, though not all, of the others came out in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • My favorites so far were The Epic of Gilgamesh and Jane Eyre.
  • The ones I enjoyed the least were Carroll’s Alice stories and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.
  • I chose to listen to half of my classics, a statistic that surprised me a little but an approach that’s been working well.

I look over this list of books and I realize there are only two I would have read had it not been for my project. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge was a selection for my IRL book club; The Chronicles of Narnia I started for Clare from the Literary Omnivore‘s Narnia Week. Without my classics project, the rest would have languished on my shelves for years to come, or perhaps never have crossed my radar at all. Classics now make up a much larger proportion of my overall reading than they did before I began my project. In these respects, I consider my project to be successful so far.

As I peruse the list of what I’ve read so far, I find myself wondering whether these books have been worth reading. I haven’t loved all of them; there are a few I’ve actually rather disliked. Yet I do feel the benefits of reading each have outweighed the annoyance/struggle/boredom/etc. that some have provoked in me. I feel like my general reading experience has been enriched by these cultural touchstones, both works and authors. Including these classics has given depth to my reading, adding the beginnings of a literary history to the contemporary works I choose. It’s so rewarding to have those twelve books under my belt, to realize I’ve gone from someone who avoided classics at all costs to someone who’s enjoying including them in my general reading diet.

Looking ahead, I’ve tweaked my original plan of reading more Ibsen plays next; instead, I’ll be starting I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It might be a two-part book, as I struggle to catch up with all the other books on my plate, but the classics will be back next Wednesday!

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7 Comments

  1. “As I peruse the list of what I’ve read so far, I find myself wondering whether these books have been worth reading.”

    I have a tendency to avoid classics as well, and some classics I have read haven’t been all that enjoyable to read. But I do think they’re worth it as classics create a common literary background for people. When someone references Jane Eyre, I now know what they are talking about. I’ve also found that I can discuss books with a wide-range of people including those with vastly different reading tastes than me. And that’s always fun.

  2. You are doing such a wonderful job with your project, and are totally inspiring me to continue on with my goal to read a classic a month. Way to go, Erin, and good luck with your continued adventure!

  3. Since I started my not-too-focused attempt to read the classics I’ve found myself actively wanting to read more, whereas like you if I hadn’t actually made a point to read them I wouldn’t have got round to it. I feel the same rewards too, classics have enriched my reading life in a way no other genre could, and that’s forgetting the fact that I am now able to talk about famous books. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a book I had never heard of before reading your thoughts on it and it’s certainly not a book I would have picked up before, but you’ve made me want to read it.

  4. I’m glad that even though you haven’t loved all the books you’ve read, you’ve found the project is still a rewarding one. I’ve found the same with reading classics, so much so that I’m not feeling interested in many modern books lately. Maybe I”ll get burned out at some point in the future, but I’m still trying to read some of them, and I personally like the balance I have now. Anyway, as always I’m looking forward to your future reads, even though I don’t always comment (I’ve been bad the last few months!!)

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