If you’re looking for context and/or my definition of a classic (for purposes of this list), keep scrolling!
My List: TBR Pile Meets Classics Club
All of the following titles are both on my TBR shelves and worthy of (or worth considering for) the classics label for me.
Read to Date: 4 of 60
Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings[finished May 2015; not reviewed]
- Atwood, Margaret: Alias Grace
- Austen, Jane: Emma
- Calvino, Italo: The Baron in the Trees [finished April 2015]
- Camus, Albert: The Stranger
- Cather, Willa: My Antonia
- Davies, Robertson: The Cornish Trilogy
- Delafield, E.M.: Diary of a Provincial Lady
- Dickens, Charles: David Copperfield
- Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo [finished April 2015]
- Eliot, George: Middlemarch
- Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying
- Forster, E.M.: Aspects of the Novel
- Forster, E.M.: The Life to Come and Other Stories
- Gardner, John: Grendel
- Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D’Urbervilles
- Hesse, Herman: Siddhartha
- Hugo, Victor: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Hulme, Keri: The Bone People
- Hurston, Zora Neale: Dust Tracks on a Road
- Huxley, Aldous: Jesting Pilate
- Ibsen, Henrik: Four Major Plays: Volume I
- Irving, John: A Prayer for Owen Meany
- Kesey, Ken: Sometimes a Great Notion
- Laxness, Halldor: Independent People
- Maugham, W. Somerset: Cakes and Ale
- Maugham, W. Somerset: Of Human Bondage
- Maupin, Armistead: Tales of the City [finished April 2015; not reviewed]
- McCullers, Carson: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
- Melville, Herman: Moby-Dick
- Mitchell, Margaret: Gone with the Wind
- Montgomery, L.M.: Anne of Green Gables
- Morrison, Toni: Beloved
- Morrison, Toni: Song of Solomon
- Nabokov, Vladimir: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight
- Nabokov, Vladimir: Speak, Memory
- Narayan, R.K.: Waiting for the Mahatma
- Rostand, Edmond: Cyrano de Bergerac
- Seth, Vikram: A Suitable Boy
- Sharma, Vishnu: The Panchatantra
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: Cancer Ward
- Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays
- Stegner, Wallace: Angle of Repose
- Steinbeck, John: East of Eden
- Thoreau, Henry David: Walden
- Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Hobbit
- Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace
- Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina
- Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories
- Turgenev, Ivan: Fathers and Sons
- Twain, Mark: The Prince and the Pauper
- Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Vonnegut, Kurt: Slaughterhouse-Five by
- Wharton, Edith: The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
- Wharton, Edith: The Age of Innocence
- Wharton, Edith: The Short Stories of Edith Wharton
- White, E.B.: Essays of E.B. White
- Wilder, Thornton: The Bridge of San Luis Rey
- Woolf, Virginia: Moments of Being
- Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own
Read ’em all by April 1, 2020!
- This is not quite my ideal list — for instance, there are definitely not enough female authors, and the diversity is pretty nonexistent — but the TBR aspect keeps me somewhat constrained.
- A few of these will be rereads, but where that is the case I first read the book long ago (like, high school or earlier) and basically remember nothing.
- Even though I have all of these in print form, sometimes I like classics (and, let’s be honest, all books!) in audiobook form. So I am totally fine with counting audiobook “readings” for purposes of this list.
- I’ll link up reviews to each book as I finish and blog about it.
- If you have any interest in tackling something I’ve not yet read together, let me know!
A Bit of Context
Once upon a time, back in 2010, I decided I wasn’t reading enough classics. To remedy the situation, I started my Classics Reclamation Project (CRP), with the goal of reading and reflecting on books I considered classics in a casual, low-stress way. (For more context, you can read about the original intent behind the project or peruse the list of books I covered during its year-long course.)
I’m far less frightened of classics than I used to be, thanks to the CRP. But my reading of them has definitely dropped off since I ended the formal project.
Time to remedy that situation! Enter: The Classics Club.
The Classics Club is a self-proclaimed “community of classics lovers.” The way you join? Commit to reading a list (of your choosing) of at least 50 classics in the next five years. On this page (as you’ve seen), I’ve done just that.
What counts as a classic?
The Classics Club leaves it up to individual readers to decide what constitutes a classic. I did a lot of thinking about what the term meant to me back when I laid out the guidelines for the CRP, but I think my definition has evolved a bit.
Here’s what I’m going by this time around:
- Age: Often, though not always, classics have stood the test of time. To me, that generally means they were published at least 50 years ago. There are certainly modern classics that I believe deserve the label and will prove themselves worthy in terms of staying power; however, for the purposes of my list, I’m focusing mostly on the older type of classic. 50 titles are at least 50 years old, while just 10 are more recent.
- Author: Lesser-known works by well-known authors count, for me. They may not be widely recognized as classics, and I may end up agreeing with public opinion, but I won’t know until I’ve read them. Usually this situation arises when I’ve read most of an author’s better-known works and want to delve into the more obscure titles. Reading a little off the beaten track, if you will!
- Personal Sense: Just because a book is old doesn’t mean it’s a classic, so I’m relying on my own sense of what makes a classic as well as age. Books that are well known, widely read, have survived at least a generation, or have a sort of cultural resonance count.
- Literary Gaps: Books I’ve always meant to read, cultural touchstones, books from the Western canon, etc. are fair game.
So yes…I’m being somewhat subjective here. But no one at The Classics Club seems to mind!