Saturday 19 November 2011

A Classics Challenge

My mother always tells me I should finish one thing before starting another, and if I followed her advice I would post my three remaining reviews in the Ireland Reading Challenge being run by CarrieK at before committing to another reading challenge – but where’s the fun in that? I’m signing up for a new venture, even though I’ve still got two completed books to write up, and one to finish and review before the end of the month.  Anyway, the upcoming project, which involves reading seven classics (of which three can be re-reads) in 12 months, doesn’t start until January, so there’s no problem – other than that of deciding exactly what constitutes a classic, which demands more time and space than I have available today.

In case you’re wondering, the ‘classics challenge’ is being organised by Katherine Cox at and she aims to make it interactive, a little like a blog hop. Although participants can still write reviews on their chosen books, the idea is that Katherine will post a ‘prompt’ on the fourth day of each month. This will, she says, be general enough for everyone to answer, no matter what they are reading, or how much they have read. There will be a form for people to link to their own post and, hopefully, to see what everyone else has written.

And what will I be reading? Well, my favoured reading matter inclines towards English speaking 18th and 19th century novelists, with a few 20th century female authors, so I have tried – not entirely successfully – to move away from this.

Charles Dickens
First up is Barnaby Rudge, one of the few Charles Dickens’ novels I haven’t read, but I have a copy given to me by my mother (who seems to feature a lot in this post), which I have been saving for next year, to celebrate the bicentenary of his birth. 

Next, Castle Rackrent, by Maria Edgeworth who was, apparently, Jane Austen’s favourite author, but somehow I’ve missed reading any of her work, so I’m looking forward to catching up.  

Now for one of my own favourites: I read my original paperback copy of Middlemarch so many times it fell to pieces, and I had to buy another edition. I was going to re-read this for the Dove Grey Reader’s 2012 team read, so I’ve included it here as well, if that’s OK.  And I’m planning a kind of pilgrimage of local places with connections to George Eliot – she was brought up in and around Nuneaton and North Warwickshire, just a few miles from where I live, and I’ve always meant to explore ‘Eliot sites’ and visit ‘her’ exhibition in Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery.

Number Four is Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, which has been sitting on a book shelf for years and years and years. Like the Bible, it’s one of those iconic books I feel I know, because it has become part of our national culture. However, I’ve never read it, although I have dipped into it on odd occasions (usually when checking a reference found elsewhere).

I wanted to include one children’s classic, and this was a really difficult choice, but in the end I plumped for Huckleberry Finn, mainly because I’ve recently re-read Gone with the Wind, and Twain, whose writing I always enjoy, offers another view of slavery in the American South.
Since I was trying to broaden my horizons, and English speaking authors dominated my original ‘long list’, I decided to include Columbian novelist Gabriel García Márquez. A copy of Love in the Time of Cholera has been languishing unread on a shelf for several years, and I feel it is high time this situation was remedied.

Finally I selected Graham Green’s Brighton Rock. He’s a writer who seems to have passed me by, with the exception of Travels with my Aunt which, I gather, is unlike his other novels, so I don’t quite know what to expect here.

So there we are. Seven novels in 12 months. Easy. Just as long as I don’t get side-tracked by other books...


  1. Thank you for joining, Chris. Great selections! An Eliot pilgrimage sounds exciting, I hope you'll write a post about it! I'll be reading my first Eliot next year (Middlemarch); loved all the BBC adaptations of her works and the novels are always even better.

  2. What great choices.....I need to get more classics in my reading stack.

    I just found this challenge but am not going to join in.

    It is wonderful seeing everyone's answer, though.

    Silver's Reviews