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Friday, April 6, 2012

Five-Year Reading Challenge: The Classics Club

Jillian at A Room of One's Own has created a Five-Year Reading Challenge.

Here are the details from Jillian's blog:

Here are the guidelines:

If you’re just joining us:

The Classics Club is a club created to inspire people to read and blog about classic books. There’s no time limit to join and you’re most welcome, as long as you’re willing to sign up to read and write on your blog about 50+ classic books in at most five years. The perk is that, not only will you have read 50+ incredible (or at the very least thought-provoking) works in five years, you’ll get to do it along with all of these people. Join us! We’re very friendly. :)

The club basics:

  • - choose 50+ classics
  • - list them at your blog
  • - choose a reading completion goal date up to five years in the future and note that date on your classics list of 50+ titles
  • - come back here and link your classics list to this blog according to these instructions
  • - write about each title on your list as you finish reading it, and link it to your main list
  • - when you’ve written about every single title, let us know here
That’s the quick version!! :)
Specifics follow. Skip ahead to a specific note with the following links, or read straight through, if you’ve got the time.
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Project Details:




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I’ve been trying to think of a way to unite those of us who like to blog about classic literature, as well as to inspire people to make the classics an integral part of life. I thought about several ideas but finally settled on inviting people to make out a list of (at least 50) classic titles they intend to read and blog about within the next five years.
Yesterday I asked what people thought of this idea, and the response was pretty enthusiastic. So here it is. I’m really excited that those of us who blog classics will finally have a central space to find one another. If you’re just joining us — WELCOME!
I’m not an authority on literature or “the classics”, so posts at this blog attempting to define it are those of a lay-reader with a lot of enthusiasm about literature and an inclination to investigate the topic. I just started exploring it all myself two years ago. My motivation with the club is an inclination to inspire more people to explore what I love — certainly not to instruct and limit the exploration. I ask far more questions than I am able to answer.
“There is nothing for it but for all of us to invent our own ideal libraries of classics. I would say that such a library ought to be composed half of books we have read and that have really counted for us, and half of books we propose to read and presume will come to count – leaving a section of empty shelves for surprises and occasional discoveries.”
― Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics?
(I’ve closed the comments below to keep everything organized, but you’re welcome to throw out a “Yay classics!!” comment at the initial announcement, if you’re so inclined.)
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At your own blog, list 50, 100, or 200 (or more, if you’re so inclined) classics that most interest/scare/excite you, alongside your goal date for finishing this list. You can either make a straight list of titles (what I’ll be doing), or explain next to each title why you’ve chosen it. You could also explain a few of your chosen titles, but leave the others explanation-free. It’s up to you.
The goal? To read every classic on your list at your blog, and write about each one at your blog. Each time you write about a classic from your list, hyperlink the discussion post at the main classics list on your blog (The one you will link here to join.)
The outcome? We’ll end up with a big giant feed here where people have linked to lists of classics that will then be linked to their personal discussion of every classic on their list. This will make finding fellow classics bloggers easier. And? It will be fun.
Levels: I’m not going to divide out the project by levels, but when you make up your initial list, keep in mind that YOU set your own goal date (five years from the date you start being the latest date you should probably set, to keep the project manageable.) You can choose to read 50, 100, or 200 books (or more). This is YOUR dream list, so please don’t worry about following some kind of prescribed set of instructions as you choose your books. If you’re not sure if it counts, and it’s an old book (not published within the last twenty-five years*) and you want to read it, go for it. (More on book choices below.)
* A lot of people are picking “modern classics” from after the year 2000, like Atonement. No worries at all on that!! Use your best judgment.


When you compile and post your list of 50, 100, or 200+ classics to read within the next five years at your blog, come back here and link your list to this blog according to these instructions. Every time you write about a classic from your list, link it at your main list at your blog. When you finish your entire list, come back here and “reply” to your original comment that announced your list, to let everyone know you have FINISHED your list.
Prizes: I don’t believe in rewarding people for learning. Your reward is the project itself, and the experience it will offer you. Just for fun though, when you make your lists, you might name a prize you’ll offer yourself, upon completion of the list, and perhaps at milestone points. I’m a big believer in self-motivation. 
From time to time, I may post a discussion question to check in on people’s list progress, or stir up conversation. If I do this, I’ll link the post to the discussion on this page so people can join in as and when. If you have a discussion suggestion, feel free to post it in the comments here. I may not answer, but I’ll see it. I don’t commit to post every discussion question suggested. I’m just saying you can suggest one.


  • What is a classic? (Click to find out.) But for the purposes of your project list, it’s your choice, really. Modern classics, ancient classics, Eastern canon, Western canon, Persophone, Virago, African literature, children’s classics… You make your own goal, and you decide what is “a classic.”
  • Does the club exclude works outside England and America? No. The Classics Club is not intended as a statement on what counts as a classic, or an English-exclusive club. It’s an effort to encourage people to read and write about the classics. (As defined by each reader individually.) ALL classics are welcome, though I lack expertise outside the Western Canon and cannot thus make recommendations outside Western Literature. (Most of which I don’t know anyway, since I only started reading classics myself two years ago.) Please make suggestions for titles/authors classics club members might explore outside England and America here. Further discussion of the Western canon and its issues can be found here.
  • Is this just another challenge? I don’t want to limit myself to a strict fifty titles, or plan ahead five years. There is so much to read. The idea is to create living lists. It’s assumed these lists will adapt to our exposure to literature. My list might be entirely different by the time I hit 2017. (Or it might stay the same. Who knows?) The point isn’t to challenge people to read by a strict list — but to create for ourselves a habit and a curiosity about literature. The idea is to grow together — to learn from one another and literature. It’s great if our lists reflect that growth throughout the event — changing and adapting as we become exposed to more literature, insight and feedback. So absolutely –  switch up the titles on your list after you post it, at any time during the duration of your challenge. My lists tend to develop and grow as I read, so mine will probably evolve throughout the project.
  • Can I include short stories and novellas on your list? Of course! Just let everyone know in the comment when you join if your list is comprised of short stories, novellas, novels, or all three. If you want to combine short stories with novellas and novels on the same list, just separate them by the appropriate headings on the list at your blog: “short stories”, “novellas” and “novels.” Anthologies, non-fiction, essays and books of poetry also count, but make them classics (as defined above). I’m thinking, for the purposes of numbers, four novellas could count as one book, and fifteen short stories could count as one book. (Give or take, obviously. I’m hardly a stickler for rules myself, so just use your best judgment.) A short essay would be like a short story for the purposes of numbers. This is a very carefree event, so don’t worry about being perfect.
  • Are re-reads allowed? A thousand times yes!! I talk about my love of rereading here. Your classics list should be YOUR dream list. If you want to fill up the whole thing with re-reads, sprinkle in just a few, or go completely for works you’ve never read, it’s up to you.
  • What if I want to read 75 books? Or 202? No problem at all. You set your own book count. We just ask that you start with at least 50 for your project to be read within the next five years.
  • Can I participate twice if I finish my list early? Yup! Just link to the next list when you re-join.
  • How thorough do my posts on the books have to be? That’s up to you. The point behind this club is to promote the reading and exploration of the classics. How much you intend to discuss the book is up to you, though I encourage you to try to come up with three or four paragraphs at the very least, in your blog posts. If you feel uncomfortable/unqualified writing about the classics, please see this post.
  • Can I combine my chosen book titles with other challenges? Yes, you can mix your list with other challenges — that’s no problem. In fact, check some out at our events page.
  • Can I simply link to a classics list I’ve already finished reading for your blog? I’m going to go with no, because the purpose of this event is to encourage you to read more. So read another 50 to 100, eh? (But feel free to include a link to a list of the classics you’ve already read on your Classics Club list. That’s no problem at all.)
  • Can bloggers who are already working on their own classics projects join? Absolutely!! I don’t consider it “cheating” to join this event even if you’re already in the middle of a classics project of your own. The idea is to unite us so we can all find each other and motivate one another (as time permits.) So please, feel free to develop a list of 50, 100, or 200 (or more) works you’d like to read for this event, and join in. I plan to post mine in a day or so, and I’m probably going to include a lot of titles I already intended to read, before I developed this project. The point is to share our appreciation of the classics, so there’s no problem at all with linking up to what you would have read anyway.
  • Do I have to be a classics blogger to join? Nope. Just a blogger.
  • What if I don’t have a blog? The idea behind this project is to promote discussion of the classics among bloggers, to get them out there in the media and make them an integral part of today. While you are most encouraged to read along with some of us, if you don’t have a blog where you can list, post and link your reading thoughts, you probably can’t officially take part. However, you’re encouraged to check out the lists as people join, and if you find people who click with you, participate and join in over at their blog! I really encourage you to start a blog, though, and start reading and posting. It’s lots of fun! (Sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing are great for reviewing, discussing, list-making and interaction about books, but the purpose of this project is to encourage blogging about the classics, so while I encourage non-bloggers to join a reading site like the ones listed above, lists there will not be transferrable to this project.)
  • Is there a time limit for joining? Nope! Join us as you please. Though I don’t intend to blog forever, so if you happen to join right before I decide I’m done blogging, it might be a short project for you. :D
  • Can I join with ten or twenty titles on your list instead of fifty? Please do not link up with the group unless you’re linking to a page with at least fifty classics on it. Sorry!! I’m excited so many people are joining, but to link up with ten or fifteen classics doesn’t count. There are other challenges available for folks who prefer to read a handful of classics rather than tackle a list of 50 or more. While I’m very, very happy you’re stirring to read the classics, the purpose of this event is to link together the bloggers who blog classics voraciously (50+ at least in five years).
  • Can I announce a readalong or mini-challenge somewhere for the rest of the group? I’ve opened a separate page for this purpose. If you have a readalong, discussion, or would just like to announce that you’re reading a classic and want to see who else in the club has read it, comment at this page. Members can (optionally) decide to sign up for email notification of comments there. This way we can all keep track of announcements.
  • Is there a place where I can seek or offer resources for building a classics list for this event? I’ve opened up a separate page where people can ask for or offer possible resource lists to help people build their classics lists. I’d love it if people offered suggestions. We’re especially bereft of resources outside the Western canon. (Since I’m a very new reader and have no knowledge on the topic, yet.)
  • Is there a place to discuss a book with other club members? I’ve opened a page where members can discuss books. This again provides members an opportunity to subscribe to comments and receive notification of discussion. Please feel free to hold discussions at your own blog and simply use this space as a place to organize or make note of a blog link where discussion is happening.
  • Why isn’t my comment showing up? If you post a comment that goes to moderation, and a few days go by and you still haven’t seen it show up yet, don’t panic. I’m a busy, busy person with all kinds of other projects and may have left the blog alone for a few days to attend to other life stuff. If you see me interacting around the blog and your comment still isn’t up, drop me an email. Your comment probably went to SPAM for some reason. (I think it does so automatically for comments with two or more links.) It’s likely I won’t answer the email, but when I see it, I’ll pop over and look for your comment in the SPAM file.
    What if I don’t finish reading my list by my set goal date? Again, this is a living list. If you don’t feel like you’ll finish in time, feel free to change your goal date. This club is intended to inspire, not make you sweat. If you need to change your goal date, find your initial list comment that you posted when you joined and “reply” to it with the new date for finishing your list. That’ll make it easy for members to see changes to your list. You can assume this is the plan for any list change you may need to make.
Like this:

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More questions?

Click to ask a question.

Goodreads Group?

Clarissa asked yesterday if I planned to form a Goodreads group on the side. My knee-jerk reaction was no, because I don’t intend to host a lot of discussions and readalongs. The purpose of this club was simply to tie us all together so we can find one another. (I prefer to read and write in my free time, rather than hosting and moderating discussions.) However, on second thought, I decided to go ahead and open one, because it will give members (who happen to be on Goodreads) a place to further connect and share. I set the group to require a hyperlink to a classics list for the club before members can join.  I still don’t intend to be heavily present there, but I hope it’s of use to those craving a place to chat and gather. :)
One thing I disliked about the idea of a Goodreads group was that it would exclude members who are not part of Goodreads. For that I apologize. If anyone opens a similar group at Shelfari, Library Thing or elsewhere in connection with this club, please let me know. I’ll be happy to post the link on this page for fellow members.

My involvement in this project:

I’m excited to take part in this project! But due to school, work, life, my own reading, my writing, etc and so forth :) I refuse to commit to letting this project take a great deal of my personal time. I’ve done my best to make the project user-friendly, and I definitely don’t mind offering help now and then, but (having run projects before and seen how often they take over a person’s life by becoming paired with questions that are repeated, complaints about the way things are run, administrative details, etc), I want to lay out from the very start what I am and am not willing to commit to.
With that in mind:
  • I will: I will happily host this club and answer questions now and then, as is reasonable. (Up to the point when I retire either the project or this blog.) At some point, I might organize the participant lists on a separate page, in a more orderly fashion — but for now, I’m trying to keep it all very self-operational so that maintaining a place for classics bloggers to gather requires as little of my time as possible.
  • I will not: Be endlessly available for questions and administrative duties. Because I’d way rather read, write and work on my own projects. But I do hope to make this is a functional place where classics bloggers (or those newly diving in to the classics) can gather and share our love of literature.
  • If you have any kind of technical question about how to do links or widgets, start a blog, create an image, or etc, as you operate your blog, I will not be helping on that. If you ask anyway, I probably won’t answer. Whoever hosts your blog usually offers a help forum or has an email posted somewhere for support questions. I encourage you to go there with all of your tech questions.
  • I probably won’t answer the same question over and over. ;) If you ask something and don’t get an answer, try searching the bullet points above and the comments here. It’s very likely someone already asked and received an answer.
  • I’m not a big fan of dealing with complaining, so unless I consider a complaint valid, I’m very likely either to not post it or to ignore it entirely. Sorry if that sounds rude! But I am all about a positive atmosphere and don’t take part in a negative atmosphere or endorse it by interacting.
  • Valid questions are understandable, but again, I may leave those from time to time up to other group members to answer. Five years is a really long time for a project, and while I’m excited to unite us, I absolutely refuse to commit the next five years to administrative detail.
  • I will not tolerate snobbery or unkindness at this blog. Comments that go against this policy will be removed at my discretion. ‘Nuff said.
  • If this becomes an overwhelming project, I may eventually close it to new participants. This would likely only happen if school or work becomes overwhelming, if I intend to quit blogging, or if I go on some kind of blogging hiatus that would make it impossible for me to moderate comments.
  • I reserve the right to delete my blog at any time without warning. Hopefully this won’t happen, but I don’t intend to remain tied to this project if it no longer interests me. If you find me gone, you’re welcome to recharge the club at your own site. ;)
  • I’m pretty laid back, but: if I happen to stop by your blog/list at any time during this event and feel it isn’t a match for what I’m trying to set up here, your link will be deleted from this site. That’s not to be elitist, but because I prefer to not fill the list with a lot of spam, which would defeat the purpose. I won’t explain myself or post your complaints if you object to this. My rules, my blog.


If you would like to join me in the challenge, just click on the challenge badge at the beginning of this post.
My challenge period will run from April 6, 2012 to April 6, 2017 2022.
Reading Goal: 50 books

Here is my list of some classics from my bookshelves:

  1. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
  2. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving 
  3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy 
  4. The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Christmas Books, Book #1)
  6. The Perilous Road by William O. Steele
  7. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (Caddie Woodlawn, Book #1)
  8. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  9. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie
  11. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  13. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  14. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  15. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  16. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  17. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  18. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  19. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  20. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  21. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  22. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  24. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  25. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  26. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  27. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  28. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, Book 1)
  29. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2)
  30. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, Book 3)
  31. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  32. Emma by Jane Austen
  33. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  34. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  36. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  37. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  38. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
  39. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  40. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  41. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  42. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  43. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  44. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  45. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  46. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women Series, Book 1)
  47. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women Series, Book 2)
  48. Joy’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women Series, Book 3)
  49. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  50. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  51. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  52. Lord of the Flies by Sir William Golding
  53. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  54. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  55. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  56. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  57. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  58. Dante's The Inferno
  59. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  60. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  61. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  62. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  63. Night by Elie Wiesel
  64. Macbeth by Shakespeare
  65. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  66. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  67. Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
  68. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  69. The Lost World by Arthur Donan Doyle
  70. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


  1. I'm excited by so many of your picks!! But most especially Gone With the Wind. I love that your prize is another list. Welcome, and enjoy these, Darlene. :D

  2. This is a great list of books! I'm currently reading The Count of Monte Cristo (it's so I have read 11 on your list and most of them are on the list that I found of the "100 Top Novels" which my friend and I challenged ourselves to.

    We are 2 years in and 20 books done. I have been holding us back by procrastinating on Monte Cristo, but I have just started reading it more today. And am going to try and finish it by the end of the weekend. We don't have a time frame to finish though!

    Good luck on your list :) If you're curious about what our list is, you can see it here


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